Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of Henry VIII., it was the Saxon spirit which was surely and progressively modifying our feudal institutions, delivering the Church and State from one after another of the Norman innovations, and insuring that when a great change came, it should prove not as in some other countries, a revolution, but a true reformation; not indeed an unmixed blessing, but a change which left Church and State substantially what they were before, and capable of passing on to future generations all that was of essential value in either.'

This is the main drift of the argument, and it is consistently kept through both the lectures. The lecturer deduces the regale, as regards its exercise on the Church, from the imperial precedents of Christianized Rome and Byzantium :

*This claim of the State to appoint or nominate, or at least sanction or confirm, the appointment of Bishops, has been made in all ages, in all branches of the Church, and within all countries. It is not in the least peculiar to England. The popular election and confirmation by the Metropolitan, with which the Church started in her career, began practically to fall, but only occasionally, into the hands of the Emperor soon after State Connexion commenced

He seems to incline to the opinion, though he does not absolutely express it, that the rights on either side of the regale, or of Church independence, were never, in fact, defined until the twelfth century. He shows how, in the Eastern empire, the decay of faith within the Church was accompanied by tyrannical encroachments, till, "in its prolonged decrepitude, this particular abuse obtained almost the dignity of a law. But he cautions his hearers, at the same time, that these later ages of Byzantine history will scarcely be quoted except for warning. Under Charlemagne, 'who left his mark on everything, the emperor retained from the Roman imperial model the right of nomination ; but the clergy, as guardians of the Church, kept their ' full share of influence through the nomination.' The direct voice of the laity' was lost, but their influence, indirectly exercised, was exceedingly powerful. In the Anglo-Saxon Church, although the king often appointed to vacant bishoprics, yet the lecturer shows, by references to Soames and Lingard, who agree on the point, that a control over such vacancies was recognised as existing in the See of Canterbury, while he considers that

the bishops in the Witan managed ecclesiastical affairs pretty much as they wished.'

This lack of any definition of rights brought about the war of Investitures, resulting in the compromise that the pope was to invest with the ring and staff; the eirperor was to receive homage for the temporalities. This, of course, made the pope the visible centre of paramount spiritual authority, and tended to repress the development of spiritual forces within the nation. Further, as this exercise of the pope's authority tended to stir up the national jealousy of foreign interference, spiritual autho

[ocr errors]

rity was unpopular on the whole for the sake of those accidents of foreign sway by which it was thus inseparably attended. Under the Tudor and early Stuart princes, 'the regale was somewhat more tightly pressed than before;' but then, as a compensation, the force of the Tudor prerogative carried the Church essentially safe, although in externals sorely suffering, through the crisis of the Reformation. He thinks that, all things considered, especially the moral guarantee dictated to those princes by the necessity' under which they lay to preserve the discipline of 'that Church in which they had embarked their fortunes,” the "Reformed Church started on her course substantially free, or at least as much so as she was in the Roman times; the

precautions taken at the Reformation were in intention, however they ‘might be afterwards twisted, rather anti-papal than pro-regal; so that her relations with the State were only changed in form, ' and those forms were in the main a recurrence to an earlier state of things.' And here we must say that we do not quite see our way

with the writer. We will briefly state our view. When, in the twelfth century, the struggle between the spiritual independence of the Church and the rights of the Crown drew to a head, the forces on the former side could only support themselves by rallying round the Papacy. It was pope and king who divided the ceremony of investiture between them, not king and national primate, between whom the struggle or the rivalry had lain in the days of the Witan. When, therefore, the papal power was by king and by clergy alike declared null in the sixteenth century, the forces in favour of spiritual independence lost their rallying-point. The pope's interference had tended to check the encroachments of the Crown, and to establish a balance of power.

At the Reformation that balance of power was lost. We are not saying now that it was or was not a wise, a happy, or an inevitable step, but, in point of fact, it left the forces of the spiritual estate without any rallying-point as against the king. The power and influence of the bishops in the Witan, and of the primate in the Saxon realm, were gone, and could not be brought back, and what else was there now on which the rights of the spirituality could rely? The powers which the Papacy had assumed to wield, however grossly abused in practice, were theoretically defensible, as maintaining a recognition that the Church possessed liberties which might be maintained against the possible and often actual tyranny of the Crown, by the protest or the judicial sentence of Christendom at large. Those powers were either absorbed by the Crown itself, or returned to be vested in the national spirituality. If the former, all check upon the Crown, even in theory, was lost ; if the latter, it was plain that none could ever be exercised. The spirituality had no weapons for effectual struggle ; it could only, as in the case of the seven bishops against James II., suffer the persecution of the tyrant with passive fortitude. The bishops, indeed, only suffered arrest and prosecution. But that was because there remained in the administration of justice temporal powers beyond the king’s control. Popular sympathies, expressed in the verdict of a jury, rescued the prelates from the king, because it was felt that he was the common enemy of both.

The same principle seenis to us to apply also to the case of appeals on points of doctrine. Here, quoting the words of Hooker, Professor Burrows says :

“ If the cause be spiritual, secular courts do not meddle with it.” The Crown was to see justice done by ecclesiastics in the ecclesiastical courts. The Crown, in ihe last resort, was to hear appeals from the Archnishop's court, those apprals which, though temporarily stopped hy the Constitutions of Clarendon, used up to this time (the Reformation) to go to Rome; and it heard them ibrough delegales chosen by the Lord Chancellor. Now, as the appeal could no longer go to Rome, it must rest somewhere; and so long as the delegates were faithfully selected, with a view to mere cases of ordinary discipline, a good deal might be said for this Court of Appeal. It was probably only intended as a temporary arrangement, and was no doubt liable to abuse, yet for a long period it was not abused. But the great point is that it went side by side with the active existence of Convocation regularly sitting, and acknowledged as the proper court for questions of doctrine.'

Now regarding the question of final appeals on doctrinal points as it appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, it must be admitted that such an appeal when carried to Rome was a call upon the central power of Christendom to prevent corruptions of doctrine in one of its constituent churches. Assuming, for argument's sake. a Papacy uncorrupt in its own dogmatic views and pure in the administration of justice, such a power of appeal was a factor of valuable strength against possible corruptions of the faith in England. It was the support of the Catholic body given to Catholic truth as against a rebellious member. This support, impossible even in theory at a later period, when opposite standards of doctrine prevailed in England and at Rome, was swept away in Henry VIII.'s time, while those standards were ostensibly the same.

The Court of Appeal was evidently the kiny's court, and the delegates could be packed by royal authority whenever the temptation arose. in fact ‘for a long period not abused,' that was probably because no such temptation did in fact arise. Further, as regards any possible check maintained, as Professor Burrows thinks, by Convocation against corruptions of dogmatic truth, the same fact meets us.

Convocation was ultimately dependent on the

If it was

Crown; the Papacy had been independent of it. There was, therefore, no independent check left. The power of Convocation to legislate depended on the king's summons. Would he be likely to summon it in order to check himself ? We think, then, that in two important particulars it cannot be correctly said that 'the Reformed Church started on her course 'substantially free, or at least as much so as she was in Roman "times,' since in the appointment of her chief pastors and in her dogmatic decisions the encroachments of the Crown were left, even theoretically, without redress.

The Professor is more successful in showing that the arrangements of the Reformation, tolerable while the Crown was strong and the prince had the interests of the Church at heart, have become intolerable since, when the Crown has become emptied of political power, and a chain of precedents has been formed under a series of princes, hostile, or indifferent, or but lukewarm in their constitutional duty of protection. The latter part, indeed, of the second lecture seems to us so excellent that we are sorry we cannot quote it consecutively throughout. We will, however, select a few striking passages. Speaking of the period of the Restoration, the lecturer says:

“Silently and unobserved, one important outwork of the Church vanished into the past. Taxation was to undergo an entire change, a process of centralizatiou: the clergy were to relinquish their must ancient privilege of taxing i hemselves. They had scarcely any choice in the matter; they made no remonstrance; they seem not to have foreseen the natural consequence, but that consequence was most momentous. Convocation lost its chief guarantee for a place in the constitution. There was no longer now the same cogent reason for summoning it as before; and i he kings who would have summoued it for Church purposes, had passed away.'

The fact above stated is at once a reproach to our sovereigns and an ample plea in excuse of any shortcomings of Convocation either in adequately representing the clergy or in perforining the proper functions of a deliberative body. The reproach, indeed-in proportion as modern theories of ministers responsible to Parliament and a sovereign who reigns but does not govern, have prevailed-has ceased to rest in any moral sense on the royal head. But the reproach cleaves to the governing power in the State wherever that power may reside.

The fixed resolution of every Government from Charles II.'s downwards appears to have been to baffle and elude, save on rare and exceptional occasions, the rights of the Church, from the moment when they found they could do so without loss to the exchequer. They have sold her paramount spiritual interests for a mess of pottage. Whilst there were taxes to be got by the clergy from the clergy, the Convocations mightmeet; when

[ocr errors]

that method was superseded, the Convocations were suppressed. Commenting further on this iniquitous denial of constitutional rights, Professor Burrows says:

Her (the Churchi’s) rights were indeed recorded in plain language enough, for in the first money bill by which the clergy were taxed along wish the laity, a clause was inserted to the effect, that “nothing herein contained shall be drawn into example to the prejudice of the ancient rights belonging to the Lords spiritual and temporal and clergy of this realm.” But the rights, however protected in words, were not used in fact. Grievances were now unredressed because the sense of justice was no longer quickened by the want of money

The rulers of the land cared little enough for the State, but for the Church still less, and her relations to the Siate, thus mutilated by the unconstitutional suppression of her synods, were not readjusted. Can it be said with truth that they have been properly readjusted since those days ?

It has been often remarked, but will bear frequent repetition, that these successive Governments dealt with the Convocations of the Church exactly in the same spirit as Charles I. dealt with his parliaments. To procure supply and stave off redress of grievances, is the brief formula which suffices for either policy. It miscarried in the latter case because Parliament in the last resort appealed to the sword. Having no fear of such an issue before their eyes in the former case, the Crown and its advisers have tyrannized at discretion, and continue the practice to this day.

As regards the effects of this policy on Convocation itself, they form, as has above been said, a plea in bar of any charge against it. Of all results to a deliberative body those are the most fatal which prevent it from keeping pace with the time, and open a chasm, slowly widening in each successive age, between the body representative and the body represented. Habits of supineness and neglect creep in systematically. Mischiefs excused as exceptional establish themselves as rules of evil. Temporary expedients grow into precedents, and gradually eclipse the principles for which they profess to apologize. Then, too, as regards the neglect of work that needs to be done, and which no Church can long neglect with impunity, the enforced silence of Convocation caused a dead-lock of the vital forces of action. The people rapidly outgrew the means of the Church to superintend their education, and to provide for the diffusion of the most elementary truths of Christianity at home,-how much more to propagate it abroad! It was left to irresponsible societies with voluntary organization to prosecute the work of extending the area of Christianity, of providing for the spiritual wants of English colonists in their new country, and even of securing pastoral care and church-room for the increase of population at home. Gross abuses of non-residence, plurali

« AnteriorContinuar »