TOPICS OF THE DAY.
PROFESSOR MATTRICE AND THE LIBERTIES OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
THE Council of King's College have dismissed Mr. Maurice from his Professorship, on a charge preferred against him by Principal Jelf, of heretical teaching in reference to the doctrine of future punishment. Mr. Maurice asserts, that neither Scripture nor the l'ormularies of the Church of England contain, implicitly or ex- plicitly, the dogma of the "endless duration" of such punishment; but that this dogma is an arbitrary, interpretation of certain pas- sages and phrases of Scripture and the Formularies, which, though current in the popular theology, the Church has more than once formally refused to adopt, and which is therefore not binding upon the consciences of those who sincerely accept the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, and sign the Articles as the guiding marks of their systematic theological teaching. The King's Col- lege Council, in expelling Mr. Maurice for the publication of his
inion have therefore decided, that the Church of England does insist upon the belief of this dogma of the endless duration of the punishment of those who depart this life without "regeneration," "conversion," or whatever other name may be given to that act, state, or process, which is in the opinion of theologians essential to man's salvation. So ; ' tends the question at present. That it cannot rest there, both the importance of the question itself, and Mr. Maurice's position as a clergyman—to say nothing of his zeal as a preacher of what he believes to be vital truth, or of the sym- pathy and admiration his character and talents have won for him on every hand—sufficiently indicate. The Council have brought to a head symptoms that have long been spreading ; and a contest is begun, perhaps more important to the Church of England than any which our age has witnessed. We are precluded by our function as political journalists from entering the theological arena. The weapons of that warfare are not fitted to our hands. But there are points in which theological controversy, especially when it proceeds to acts affecting indivi- duals' 'comes within the range of ordinary political discussion. We hold, that any acts of the Church of England, or of bodies or individuals invested with power in virtue of a representative or offici4ehaiticter derived from the Church of England, are amenable teiAat Aspussion, just because the Church of England and its ve corporations are related to the State by a settled corn- past, whose conditions cannot be altered without the consent of both parties. The act of any individual or corporation included witkiii.oe connected with the organization of the Church assumes polificalimportanoe in exact proportion as such act can be fairly or even popularly taken to be the act of the State Church itself. New the Connell of King's College is certainly not a legal organ of the Church of England ; but a glance at its composition will be sUfficient to show that any formal act emanating from it implicates the highest dignitaries of both Church and State. It is for this reason that so great an importance attaches to its expulsion of Mr. Maurice. Only twenty out of nearly fifty members of the Canal were present at the meeting which judged his opinions al decreed his expulsion ; but the act of the majority must be held to be the act of the whole body, unless those who differ from the decision disavow their participation in it and protest against it. Till that be done, King's College Council must bear the responsibility of having taken upon themselves to affix an. in- ferpretation to the Formularies of the Church of England, for the:purpose and with the effect of excluding a man whose ad- hesion to those Formularies has been given as emphatically and solemnly as that of any Bishop or Archbishop on the bench, and, who at this moment maintains that his sense" of the Formularies is based upon philosophical, philological, theological, and historic grounds. Of course we are not prepared to argue for or against any interpretation of Church Formularies. But it must be evident, that if the Council of King's College has the right to demand assent of their Professors not to the Formularies of the Church but to private or official interpretations of those Formu- laries, something much more political than a theological dogma is in question; both the rights of the Church and the rights of the State are, it seems to us, audaciously invaded, and the authority that belongs to both is assumed by a committee of gentlemen whose function is not to interpret Church Articles, but to super- intend education on the very principle that those Church Articles are complete and fully sufficient for their purpose. If the teach- ing at King's College is not to be Church teaching, but Church teaching according to the private interpretation of the Principal or Council of King's College, that is an intelligible principle, but it is not the principle upon which the College was founded, and the nation and the Professors , and the students have reason for com- plaining that their rights of intellect and conscience are tyran- nized over, if not by one sect in the Church, at least by what a writer in the Guardian cleverly terms "a synthesis of sec- But, kwill be said, are the Council of King's College to take no netiee o;,Aheological teaching on the part of one of their Professors, whm tb4Pincipal of the College brings it before them as hereti- ed,:eint4laerefore dangerous to the students over whose faith he and they are jointly bound to watch ? or are they to be content 'With the assurance of the inculpated Professor that he believes his tea .ohitgt to be in accordance with the Formularies of the Church ? CertgislY tweisheuld insist on no such abnegation of judgment an& duty. '° They sire in .suoh a case bound to examine the evidence for the charge, and to decide whether there are grounds for further proceedings. If they decide that the charge is groundless, the complaining party can on his own responsibility bring the question before a legally-constituted tribunal : if, on the contrary, they find the charge well-founded, their business is not to usurp the function of judges in matters ecclesiastical, but to refer the question to those whom the law of the land has invested with judicial authority ;n such matters. We would not even deny them the right of su. pending the Professor from his active duties while the question is pending. That is the utmost limit to which their right of decision should be extended. A step beyond this, and they alike do wrong to the individual and arrogate authority dishonour- able and detrimental to the Church. If we are told that pro- ceedings in Ecclesiastical Courts are expensive, and that the College would be injured by the presence of a suspected Professor, we reply, that with the privileges and advantages of a State Church, they assume its burdens and obligations ; that one of those burdens. is the right of an accused clergyman to be held free frota heresy tall he has been pronounced heretical by a competent au- thority; and that no expense, or alleged inconvenience to an educa- tional institution, can be weighed in the balance against the legal rights of an English subject. Let the law be altered, let ecclesias- tical courts be reformed, but let no man be "Lynched" because the law is in an unsatisfactory state. So far we have spoken of the general features of this case. They seem darker when we examine them more in detail. The chairman of the meeting which expelled Mr. Maurice was the Bishop of London, his diocesan. If Mr. Maurice teaches here- tical doctrine, the Bishop of London needs not to be told by 1:s that he, as Bishop of the diocese, not as a member of King's Col- lege Council, ought to have been the first to notice it, especially when the heresy complained of was not taught at King's College, but preached at Lincoln's Inn. We hope the Bishop is too manly to have been influenced by the notion that as one of a Council he only shared a divided responsibility, and too honest to have dwelt upon the thought that doctrine which it would be impossible be- fore a legal tribunal to prove heretical might yet be voted so by the "synthesis of sectarianisms " composing King's College Coun- cil. The Bishop of London is on judgment quite as much as Mr. Maurice.
But again and lastly, Mr. Maurice has published the doctrine, for which he is now condemned, in other works than the volume of Theological Essays brought before the Council of King's College. It is indeed latent or patent in every work of his ; we might say without exaggeration that no intelligent reader of his works could be in doubt as to his opinions on this question. But, with every allowance for the tendency of men even of acute intellect to find in books what they put into them rather than what the author puts into them, and every allowance also for a certain obscurity in Mr. Maurice's speculations, such allowance cannot affect the plain declaration of his opinions on the meaning of the words "eternal life," contained in his letter entitled "The New Statutes and Mr. Ward," published in 1845, the year before he, at the solicitation of Dr. ley', accepted a Divinity chair in King's College.