« PreviousContinue »
November 28th. This letter has waited for five days, and I must now manage to finish it. I have been much distressed, also, by the accounts of the alarming agitation which is going on in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire; an agitation not political merely, but social, complaining of the unequal reward of labour, and inveighing against capital and capitalists in no gentle terms. Believing this to be peculiarly our sore spot, any irritation in it always disturbs me; and I have been tempted to write again on the subject, as I did in 1831 in the Sheffield Letters. One man's writing can do but little, I know; but there is the wish, “liberare animam meam,” and the hope that all temperate and earnest writing on such a subject must do good as far as it is read,-must lead men to think and feel quietly, if it be but for a moment. My History gets on but slowly, but still it does make some progress, as much as I can expect here. I am trying to learn a little Hebrew, but I do not know whether I shall be able to make much of it: it is so difficult to find time to learn, and so irksome to remember, the minute rules about the alteration of the vowels. But I should like, on many accounts, to make some progress in it. Is it not marvellous that they can now read the old Egyptian readily, and understand its grammar? It combines, as I hear, some of the characteristic peculiarities of the Semitic languages with others belonging to the Indo-Germanic family, as if it belonged to a period previous to the branching off of these two great families from their common stock. But these Egyptian discoveries are likely to be one of the greatest wonders of our age. What think you of actual papyrus MSS. as old as the reign of Psammitichus ? and these, too, in great numbers, and quite legible.
Rugby, November 9, 1838. 1 thank you very much for your valuable notes on my MS. about the Church. I am sure you will believe me when I say that on such a matter especially, “pæne religio mibi est aliter ac tu sentire.” And in one main point you agree with the Archbishop of Dublin, who is a man so unlike you, and yet so able, that your agreement on any point is of very great weight. You interpret, I think, as he does, our Lord's words, “ that His kingdom was not of this world," and you hold that the Church may not wield the temporal sword. This is undoubtedly the turning point of the whole question; and if you are right in these positions, it follows undoubtedly that the Church never can be a sovereign society, and therefore can never be identical with a Christian state.
Now I want to know what principles and objects a Christian State can have, if it be really Christian, more or less than those of the Church. In whatever degree it differs from the Church, it becomes, I think, in that exact proportion unchristian. In short, it seems to me that the State must be “the world,” if it be not "the Church :" but for a society of Christians to be “the world” seems monstrous. Nor can I understand, if this be so, how any Christian can take a part, otherwise than as passively obeying, in the concerns of Government. If ý norteia ημών εν ουρανώ, then we are in the world as ξένοι or μέτοικοι, and should not be “curiosi in alienâ republicâ.” I think, then, that St. Paul's command to the Christians of Corinth would apply to us, and that we ought never to carry a cause into any other than ecclesiastical courts; for, if the civil courts are not really Church courts, they are not the courts of the you, but of the world, and the world cannot and ought not to judge between Christian and Christian.
When Christ said that His kingdom was not of this world, and forbade James and John to call down fire from heaven, &c., His meaning seems to me to have been this, that moral and religious superiority, i. e. the being Christians, did not confer any title to physical and external dominion 4. The saints, as such, are not to claim to exercise power; and this, I think, is the bar to religious persecution, because it is not the possession of religious superiority that warrants us in exercising physical power over other men. This bars the fanatical doctrine, that the earth belongs to God's saints : it bars also, as I think, all minor phases of the same doctrine; and especially, I think, it condemns the maintaining by force a Protestant Establishment in a Roman Catholic country, as we do in Ireland.
But,-government being in itself good, and declared to be God's instrument for the punishment of evil and the advancement of good,-what possible objection can there be to its being exercised by Christians, when they become possessed of it according to the ordinary laws of human society? And if Christians exercise it they must do it either on the principles of the world, or of the Church; but it can be only on the latter, for otherwise they would be false Christians.
Again, the ēgyov of a Christian State and Church is absolutely one and the same ; nor can a difference be made out which shall not impair the Christian character of one or both; as, e. g., if the ëgyov of the State be made to be merely physical or economical good, or that of the Church be made to be the performing of a ritual service.
It is said that the State can never be kept sufficiently pure to be worthy of being considered as the Church;
“ Was Theodosius right or wrong in changing the temples into churches ? Wrong, if he did it because in his belief Christianity was the only true faith,-right, if he did it because the Roman world was become Christian, and chose to have its public worship Christian also.”—MS. Comments on Archbishop Whately's Kingdom of Christ.
but this to me is a confusion. Purity and extent, whether as Church or State, are to a certain degree incompatible. A large church relaxes discipline, and, for this very reason, F— will not belong to the Church of England. On the other hand, States can and have enforced the greatest strictness of life, as at Sparta ; and the law can always insist upon any thing which is called for by public opinion. To make public opinion really Christian is difficult; but it is a difficulty which exists as much in a Church as in a Christian State ; those who are nominal Christians in one relation will be so in the other. I could add much more on this point; but this will be enough to show you that I do not differ from you without consideration. But, as the book is in no danger of being published yet, there will be ample time to go over the question again fully, and also to add those explanations which the naked statements in the MS. seem to require.
Another point, on which I do not seem as yet fully to enter into your views, relates to what you say of the Sacraments. I do not quite understand the way in which you seem to connect the virtue of external ordinances with the fact of the Incarnation. My own objection to laying a stress on the material elements,-as distinct from the moral effect of the Communion, or of the becoming introduced into the Christian Society,—is very strong, because I think that such a notion is at variance with the essential character of Christianity. I am sure that in this we agree; but yet I think that we should express ourselves differently about the Sacraments, and here I believe that
you have got hold of a truth which is as yet to me dark; just as I cannot understand music, yet nothing doubt that it is my fault, and not that of music.
Fox How, January 12, 1839. When I found how entirely I agreed with your Sermon on Private Judgment, it struck me that I had taken rather too indifferently the sort of vague odium which has been attached to my opinions, or supposed opinions, for the last ten years in Oxford; that I had forfeited a means of influence which I might have had, and which would have been a valuable addition to what I have enjoyed among my own pupils at Rugby. I do not mean any thing political, nor indeed as to the right or the wrong of my opinions on any matter, because I have held them decidedly and expressed them openly, and people who differ from me will of course think me wrong. But I think I have endured too quietly a suspicion affecting me more directly professionally; a suspicion of heterodoxy such as was raised against Hampden, and which would exclude me from preaching before the University; an office to which otherwise, I think I should have a fair claim, from my standing, and from my continued connexion with the University through the successive generations of my pupils. Now this suspicion is, I contend, perfectly unfounded in itself, and at the present moment it is ridiculous; because the Newmanites are far more at variance with the Articles, Liturgy, and Constitution of the Church of England than any clergymen have been within my memory; and yet even those who most differ from them do not endeavour, so far as I know, to hinder them from preaching in Oxford. I am perfectly aware that my opinion about the pretended apostolical succession is different from that of most individual clergymen, but I defy any man to show that it is different from the opinion of the Church of England; and, if not, it is fairly an open question on which any man may express his own opinion peaceably; and he is the schismatic who would insist upon determining in his own way what the Church has not determined. But in what is commonly