17 APRIL 1880, Page 7


THE appointment of the not yet installed Dean of Salisbury to the new Bishopric of Liverpool is not a very wise exercise of the outgoing Ministry's privilege. Dean Ryle is not, indeed, one of the narrowest and most violent of the Evangelical party. As we said concerning him, when he was nominated to the Deanery of Salisbury, he is a sensible man, especially when he is not dealing with theology ; and though we have no doubt from his writings that, in his opinion, Roman Catholics can only be saved by that invincible ignorance by the help of which Catholics find a loophole for the salvation of Protestants, yet he is not one of those Evangelicals, who love to go about brandishing the terrors of Hell in the face of all Roman Catholics, talking of Rome as the "Scarlet Woman," and flavouring his preach- ing by those various delicate little dishes of compliment which adepts in the use of Scripture metaphor are so clever in serving up for appetites of an artificial kind. The Bishop Designate of Liverpool will, no doubt, have the com- mon-sense to discourage, so far as he consistently can, exciting the Protestant fanaticism of Liverpool against the large Catholic population with which it is so desirable that they should live not only at peace, but if possible, in cordial harmony. Still, Dean Ryle is not the man for the place, and whether his appointment be clue to the Lord Chancellor's Evangelical bias, or Lord Beaconsfield's desire to reward the Orangemen of Liverpool for the defeat they so lately inflicted on the Liberal party, the appointment is a bad one, which we sincerely regret. Not that we would have had the Government appoint a Bishop of Liverpool who was entirely out of sympathy with the reigning Evangelical spirit of the place. What was wanted there, was a Bishop with enough of the genuine Evangelical fervour to carry the Evangelical Clergy with him, but enough also of large common- sense and lucid intellectual vision to see the mischief of virulent attacks on the Church of Rome as "a huge, organised idolatry,"—Dean Ryle's own phrase,—and the wisdom of trying to discern what there is of true piety in the Roman Catholic Church which Protestants may well envy Roman Catholics, and emulate in them. Dean Ryle is not the man from whom it would be reasonable to look for any work of reconciliation of this kind. He is willing to be charitable to individual Roman Catholics,—especially if they be very ignorant,—but only on condition that he has a fair excuse for believing that they are "in heart inconsistent with their profes- sion," and "are better than the Church to which they belong." "I believe," he said, in a book first published, we believe, in 1875, "that many a poor Italian at this day is worshipping with an idolatrous worship, simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him, he has no faithful minister to teach him, he has the fear of the priest before his eyes if he dares to think for him- self. He has no money to enable him to get away from the bondage he lives under, even if he feels a desire. I remember all this, and I say that the Italian eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion. But this must not prevent my saying that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church." "My own conscience would rebuke me, if I did not warn men plainly that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church, and that if they will join her, they are 'joining themselves to idols.'" Now, that is not the utterance of a man likely to be of real use in Liverpool. It is, on the contrary, the utterance of one who, however his natural sagacity and prudence may counteract his doctrinal views, will hardly feel it warrantable to put any restraint on the fanaticism of controversialists who may be inclined to mistake vituperation for argument, and insult for evangelisation. We are well convinced that Dean Ryle is far too able a man to be at all happy in setting the Protestant part of his Liverpool diocese against the Catholic part, and we sincerely hope that he may let moral and political sagacity get the better of his doctrinal theories. But that there will be a great deal to get the better of, there is no doubt at all. Dean Ryle's ideas are almost all narrow, and almost all inapplicable to the present state of religion. The mere notion of calling the Roman Church in any exclusive sense idolatrous—a Church of idols—is in the last degree narrow. All Christian Churches, all thristian men, are idolatrous in the true sense, so far as they put anything lower than their highest vision of God in God's place. The languid Churchman, who hardly ever asks himself what his vision of God is, or whether he has any ; the bigoted ration- alist, who will see nothing in true piety but benighted superstition ; the enlightened universalist, who is so busy preaching his religion of humanity, that he has no time to find out the evil in his own heart ; the comprehensive Broad Churchman, who is so delighted with himself for the breadth of his svmpathies, that he forgets how easy it is to be both broad and shallow,—all these fall into idolatry, in the true sense of the word, at least as often as the Catholic who, in his reverence for saints, often forgets to look beyond saints to the source of saintli- ness. We venture to say that it is much easier to be guilty of idolatry through deficiency in personal earnestness, than by virtue of any particular creed. There is no form of the Christian religion under which a man may not worship God without idolatry, so long as he believes his creed to be true, and retains the power to lift up his own mind to the highest level to which his faith reaches. There is no form in which idolatry, in its true sense, is not the easiest thing in the world, and one of the most common. Especially, we believe, the substitution of a pharisaic and unctuous delight in dogmatic orthodoxy, for the spirit's worship of God, is one of the commonest forms of Protestant idolatry.

We say all this merely to illustrate what seems to us the danger of appointing as Bishop of Liverpool a man so given to the old stereotyped phraseology about the Roman Catholic faith. as Dean Ryle. It would have been possible, we think, to find men with the heartiest possible sympathy with all the old Evangelical fervour of heart, yet without that narrow habit of doctrinal iconoclasm with which Dean Ryle's writings are too much infected. We wanted at Liverpool a man who should feel to the bottom of his heart the utter narrowness and falsehood of the Orange attitude of mind, who,—whatever his sympathy with the creed of the Thirty-nine Articles,—was profoundly convinced that there is no Christian creed in the world good enough to save a man, and no Christian creed in the world bad enough, of its own unassisted strength, to destroy him. We wanted a man whose first desire would be to impress on his diocese that however mischievous some of the Roman Catholic doc- trines may be, none of them is so mischievous, so utterly un- Christian, as the hatred which Protestants feel for Papists, and Papists for Protestants. We cannot well hope that Dean Ryle will even deeply feel this desire. He holds that to belong to the Armenian and Greek Churches, or worse still, to the Church which in corruption he esteems far more depraved than either, the Church of Rome, "brings tremendous peril on anybody's soul." But he does not think that it brings tremendous peril on anybody's soul, to get into the habit of judging men more by the character of their faith, than by the way in which they hold it, and apply it to their own life and conduct. We fear, therefore, that he will widen the chasm, already far too wide, between the Protestants of Liverpool and the Irish Catholics. And if he should do this, it will prove to be not an advantage, but a great disadvantage to Liverpool, that we have established a separate Bishopric there at all. Such a Bishop as the Bishop of Manchester is a great blessing to the nation. But bishops are, in some degree, superfluities, unless they are very good indeed of their kind. We might do without some of them, at least as well as we do with them. And it is not for such a Bishop as this that we had hoped in Liverpool.