26 FEBRUARY 1921, Page 7

T HE Dean of St.' Paul's three or four weeks ago

addressed the Islington Clerical Conference , about " fellowship with other communities." All the Dean's utterances are important because he always thinks independently and speaks clearly. And it is possible that this particular utterance may have even more importance than is derived from his great talents and distinguished station in the Church, for it may be that his speech represented the opinions not only of himself but also of a section. of Churchmen, not very numerous, indeed, but influential and able. Ile began by an observa- tion which is most just and valuable and is often forgotten— namely, that disunion among Christians is nowadays limited to a separation in respect to public worship. In religious study and in good works, as well as in ordinary life, Christians are perfectly in harmony. This is true, though the Dean perhaps hardly emphasizes enough that it .is largely a new. phenomenon._ Schism no longer pro- duces the bitterness of personal, relations of which it was the cense -even so. recently as seventy or eighty years ago. Such a picture as is drawn in Shirley of the relations between Churchman and, Dissenter •would be impossible to-day, We have, great ground for thankfulness in this, that already our prayer may be said to be heard and that Christians do now in fact live in unity of spirit and, in the bond of peace, The. Dean goes on still very interest- ingly, though not, as it seems to me, quite so correctly, to say that denominational cleavages no longer correspond to real differe,nces.-in religious convictions.. It is true that- the correspondence is no longer exact ; but when the Dean- says that .the differences are now temperamental, whereas the denominational distinctions are not founded on temperamental differences, he surely is seeing things, askew, And he becomes extravagant when he goes on to. say that it is chiefly " the mutual jealousies. of rival practitioners that keep. the .denominations .apart." The Dean cannot really think that Dr. Gore and Dr. Clifford, for example, are kept apart by mutual jealousies.. The truth is doubtless that the original theological and ecclesiastical, quarrel is largely obsolete. But, some points in, it are still alive, and other differences of religious opinion have grown up between the various religious commimions of our country. which have - created obstacles. to, reunion in addition, to those which originally existed. Certainly what may be called the vested interest. of separate organ- izations is a most powerful obstacle to reunion, . But-it -is an exaggeration, to- say that, there is no religious disagree7. ment giving vitality to schism.

The Dean next proceeds to lay .down a third proposition, apparently in contradiction to- what he had just said.; For he , affirms, that the :Anglican Church and the other Protestant bodies have- grown much farther apart during. the last three reigns—presumably that means. the reigns of William IV., Queen, Victoria, and. Edward VII., And the, Dean goes on to complain that few people know how con- sistently_ English.,, Churchmen recognized- the , reformed Churches of the Continent as sister, Churches until. the. Oxford.- lilovement., Again, it is doubtless true that opinion amongChurchtnen, has modified in the last eighty years. But we cannot recover, even if we desired to,., the mental,. attitude . of our ancestors. For example, whatever_ may have been the, attitude of Churchmen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries towards foreign, Protestants,. their attitude towards Nonconformists was immensely less charitable and friendly than is ours to-day. And since there is no immediate question of reunion with foreign Protestants, many of whom have degenerated in the direction of theological heterodoxy, one hardly sees why the Dean referred to the subject at all. What he has in his mwa is reunion with English Nonconformists. If we imitated onr ancestors of the seventeenth century we should persecute such Nonconformists. If we imitated our ancestors of the -eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries we should look down upon them with contempt. Surely the Dean has,, on the whole, more reason to rejoice than to lament over. the modification of opinion among Churchmen in the last.sighty years, which, if it emphasizes some grounds of, disageement founded– on conscientious opinion, has Cast Aside the harsh, intolerant, and arrogant attitude of the Churchmen of a former age. He does, indeed, quote Arohdeacon Churton as referring to Wesleyan as " Church- goers," as they doubtless were then in greater numbers than they are now ; but he strangely mistakes the. attitude of Churchmen generally in the early nineteenth century if he supposes that it was more kindly or tolerant towards Dissenters than is our own.

The Dean then says that he will repeat his three pro- positions in different words. But the repeated proposition' seem to differ from the originals not only in words but in substance. The first becomes the highly disputable saying thatall disruptions of Christendom have been mainly political, not religious. I am not competent to dispute with the Dean about the separation of East and West ; but I should certainly say that nothing could be more untrue than to deny the reality and power of sincere religious disagreement, either in the Reformation or in the Puritan movement of the seventeenth century.. The. Dean thinks that ' no form of Christian piety has separated itself. from Christ, and therefore there is nowhere any real obstacle to prevent Christians from returning -through their fellowship with Christ to fellowship with each, other." This proposition certainly suggests that the Dean's gift of clearness of expression does not correspond with any similar clearness. of thought. It is of course quite true that no form of Christian piety has separated itself from Christ, or for that matter can possibly, separate itself from Christ, if it be truly Christian piety. But what is true -of the abstract quality is not at all true of the Christians who possess that quality unhappily mingled, with many other less Christian qualities, 'Undoubtedly. all devout Christiana have in their minds a common element. But it does not follow in the least, and it is indeed utterly untrue, that devout Christiana cannot sincerely disagree about strictly religious questions. This, like some other things that, the Dean says, in the course of his speech, suggests, that he sometimes speaks without really. thinking of the meaning pf his words ; for he is assuredly,much too intelli- gent and much , too fair minded a man_ to Lelieve that good Christians do not now sincerely, disagree about religion.

The. Dean's second proposition states correctly that many schisms which were once inevitable have now lost their justification ; but makes .the contentious• exception of Churches which are so, intensely institutional ,es to claim a monopoly of divine favour—a saying, which seems in short compass to contain a great deal of disputable matter. The third restated proposition, brings us to what is really the, main theme of the ..Dean's speech, Already in passing references and- turns of phrase the. Dean has ,displayed his hostility -to- High Churchmen, and _their beliefs.; But he now more elaborately develops the attack. It is of course an excellent thing that the Dean should criticir4 the. Opinions with which he, disagrees, and point out to his, fellow- Christians what he regards as their errors. But he certainly adopts a tone which, though lively and incisive and not at all inappropriate to a secular controversy, seems rather harsh and uncenciliatory, in a speech dealing with the prospects of strengthening fellowship among Christians. After all, High Churchmen are the. Dean's Christian brethren ; even the Pope of Rome, is a sincere believer in the religion: of Jesus Christ ; and since the Dean vividly sees and strongly maintains the. essential ,bond of union which binds together all Christian believers, it is surely surprising that he should speak of a large number of those believers in terms which he -cannot think likely to conciliate them or to make them listen to his admonitions in receptive frame of mind. Nevertheless, forms of expression ,are not, after all, very important, and it will be more profitable . to deal with the matter of the Dean's speech than to com- plain of its manner. And perhaps before entering upon a detailed criticism of what he says it will make for clearness , if I first try to state what I suppose to be in the main the position of those whom the Dean attacks. And yet I must not speak—for I have no right, to—for, anyone except myself ; I will therefore say for, myself (ignoring, the reproach of egotism) what are the opinions, of one of those whose secession from the Church of England the. Dean would apparently not regard. astoo ,high a price to pay for reunion with the Presbyterians and the Wesleyans. I very earnestly and sincerely , desire the reunion, of all Christians in a single organized Church. I desire it partly because of the greater strength that it would give to religion and the greater efficiency for all sorts of religions purposes which it would bring to the Church. But still more I desire it because it appears from the New Testament plainly to be the wish and intention of Our Lord, and because the Church in disunion cannot perfectly fulfil the function of the body of Christ guided by His Spirit, and expressing that Divine Spirit's will and mind. In endeav- ouring to restore the complete unity of the Church—and I fully agree with the Dean of St. Paul's that for many purposes and in many relations unity already exists—I think Christians should be ready to do anything which is not wrong. Especially no consideration of personal dignity or of loyalty to any local Church or other religious organization, still less to any party of religious thought, should stand in the way of reunion. But in carrying out reunion Christians must conscientiously act in obedience to the Holy Ghost, and, clearly, obedience to the Holy Ghost cannot include doing what is wrong. Next, I believe that the structure of the Christian ministry as we receive it in the Church of England has been arrived at under the guidance of the Holy Ghost ; and that while it is by no means true that He does not work through ministries otherwise appointed and organized, this is the plan most conformed to His mind and purpose. In particular it seems to me clear that whether in the last days of the Apostles or in the time immediately following their deaths there were in the various Churches they founded two Orders in the ministry or three, the highest Order, whether of the two or of the three, must have been an Order which from the original foundation of that local Church had received power to ordain from the founders. For it cannot be reasonably supposed that any minister in that age assumed to himself a ministerial' function like ordination which at the time of his own ordination it was not intended he should receive both by the minister or ministers ordaining him, by himself, and by the worshipping Church whose intercessions invoked the power of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, unless all ministerial succession and all gift of divine grace by the imjosition of hands in ordination be denied, it seems plainly to follow that in the essential point on which Episcopalians insist, they are obedient to primitive rule and custom which must have been based upon Apostolic teaching.• That essential point is that only persons should ordain who at their own ordination have received power to ordain. The Episcopalian contention is confirmed by the undisputed and enormous authority of the unbroken tradition of the centuries that intervened between (let us say) 150 and 1520. I should find it hard to believe in the Church being guided by the Holy Spirit at all if I denied the principle that those only should ordain who had been given power to ordain. The fatal defect in the Presbyterian and Methodist position was summed up in the quatrain attributed to Charles Wesley :- " How easily are Bishops made By man or woman's whim ;

Wesley his hands on Coke bath laid, Nit who laid hands on him ? "

If there be succession, that succession should be episcopal ; if there be gift of grace at ordination it should be given by those who have authority to give. HUGH' CECIL.

(To be concluded.)