3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 15

[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR,—The letters which

have appeared lately in the Spectator on this subject from the pen of Canon MacColl are ingenious and clever. He speaks of sacerdotalism, and rightly, as having "its root idea in mediation "; "it is," he says, "God's work to bestow his gifts, not immediately, but through indirect agency, through outward means, on the condition of our doing certain prescribed acts," and he specifies certain of those means, naming the intercession of our friends, our own prayers, the sacraments and other ordinances, the Christian ministry, and many others. But this is not all -that sacerdotalism is generally understood to mean. If it were all, the most uncompromising Protestant, no less than the most bigoted of our Roman Catholic brethren, would tie a sacerdotalist, and that instinctive aversion to sacer- dotalism, which you acknowledged the other day to be generally entertained by our people, when you used these words— " Englishmen dislike, and rightly, every- thing in the shape of sacerdotalism "— would be, as Canon MacColl represents, unreasonable. But those who feel this dislike or aversion would give a very different definition of sacerdotalism from that which he has given. What they mean by it is a system which encroaches on our liberty in the use of those means, through which God bestows His gifts, takes them out of our awn hands, so far as that be possible, and insists upon our receiving them through priestly hands, as infants receive food or medicine at the hands of their nurse. Would we confess our sins to God, it must be through a priest. Would we join in public worship, the prayers and praises are offered by a priert, and perhaps in a tongue which we do not understand. Sacerdotalism is not a mere ghost to frighten children. It had a real existence in earlier days, or the Epistles to the Galatians and to the Hebrews would never have been written. It has a real existence in the present day, or we should not speak of the Maltese or Irish as a priest-ridden people. Whether it be a present and real danger to ourselves I will not venture to say. We could not have a better definition of sacerdotalism than that supplied by Green ("History of the English People,"

Vol. II., pp. 226-27) in words which were quoted the other day in the controversy now raging on the subject of "Lawlessness in the Church":—" The name of ' Common Prayer,' which was given to the new Liturgy, marked its real import. The theory of worship which prevailed through Mediaeval Christendom, the belief that the worshipper assisted only at rites wrought for him by priestly hands, at a sacrifice wrought through priestly intervention, at the offering of prayer and praise by priestly lips, was now set at aught. ' The laity,' it has been picturesquely said, were all called up into the chancel.'

"- I am, Sir, &c., C. W. GIBRALTAR. Waresley Court, Kidderminster, August 31st.

[We cannot continue this controversy further, but in closing it we desire to express our agreement with the Bishop of Gibraltar's thoughtful letter.—En. Spectator.]