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Liturgies more universal in their Language than Creeds. 371

in terms which place it on a level with the Bible, thereby conferring on it a practical infallibility, warranted neither by fact nor Scripture. Carried away by the admitted goodness of what they exalt, they become careless of observing strict accuracy in the expressions which they apply to it. They little suspect the guilt they are incurring by sowing the seeds of idolatry, and are as little aware that the conversion of respect and love into superstition has been the prolific source of most of the corruptions which have marred and disgraced the Christian religion.

It may be said that this necessary admixture of error furnishes. a strong objection against the adoption of a fixed form of prayer. It cannot be denied that the objection has some foundation of truth; the weight, however, to be attached to it is a matter of difficult determination, which must vary very much at different times, and must depend on the particular form of prayer adopted and the temper and circumstances of each church. It is not our object in this article to discuss the relative advantages of a permanent Liturgy and of the extempore ministrations of the prophetical office, as adopted in Presbyterian churches. We are dealing with the Liturgy of the Church of England as an established fact, based on the predilections, or prejudices, if so they are called, of the English people; but in regard to this special objection to liturgies, we may remark that it applies with greater force to creeds and formularies of doctrine, such as all Churches possess, than to public prayer; for the scientific language of such statements is more intimately connected with the intellectual and philosophical development of the age in which they were framed, is more directly local and temporary than the more general outpourings of prayer. The language of the affections of the heart, whether in worship or poetry, is universal; it belongs to all times and places, and is little influenced by the revolution of years; whilst declarations of formal theology, involving of necessity scientific views of philosophy, are sure to be coloured by the intellectual state of those who reason them out from the revelations of Scripture.

It is a very remarkable fact, that the Liturgy, whose participation to whatever extent-in human weakness no intelligent man will dispute, should have withstood unchanged the buffeting winds and waves of human opinion during three centuries of Protestantism, centuries distinguished by restless activity of thought, by violent fluctuations of theological views, by a mighty progress in literary development, and by the boldest challenging of the foundation of all intellectual and religious belief. The amount of gold contained in the Liturgy, when compared with the dross, will partly account for this striking occurrence: the remainder of the explanation will be supplied

by the historical position of the Church of England. That Church is so intimately mixed up with the civil polity of this country as to form a very prominent and integral part of its constitution; and thus it has been protected by the tenacity with which the English have always clung to their institutions, and the vigour with which any organic change in them has been invariably resisted. The prescription of habitual reverence made the people slow to discern blemishes in the natural nobleness of their Liturgy; and even if their existence had been admitted, it would have required the irritation of positive harm created by them to reconcile the bulk of the nation to alterations in services consecrated by long use and devotional tenderness. Moreover, the Church of England is a Church of compromise: she shares the peculiar characteristic of all English institutions. Her constitution was framed with the express design of embracing diverse and antagonistic elements as certainly as the secular polity comprehends Whigs and Tories, Free Traders and Protectionists. History bears witness to the practical carrying out of the intention which animated her founders. The Church of England has ever since her birth manifested herself as a broad and comprehensive Church, chequered by a wide variety of religious opinions. The coexistence of diverse and often mutually repulsive parties within the communion of the Established Church has been recognised and sanctioned by the national feeling. The sense of the country would be as greatly shocked by a proposal to make the Church more homogeneous by the ejection of one of its elements, as by an attempt to render the nation more uniform by the suppression of a political party. This comprehension of conflicting views within one Church is doubtless a matter open to much debate: its propriety has been vehemently questioned on theoretical grounds, but its practical existence is indisputable. The people of England have been long habituated to hear opposite doctrines from the same pulpit, to see bishop arrayed against bishop, and to have High Churchmen and Evangelical succeeding each other in the same parish: such was the Church which their fathers handed down to them, and if only moderation will repress extravagance and exclusiveness, they do not desire that it should be otherwise. Hence the forbearance and respect shewn towards a minority by the majority of the day; hence also the reluctance to make innovations in the Liturgy. No portion of it, however offensive to the views of many, has ever been destitute of the support of sincere defenders; and invincible has been the unwillingness to remove what was thought erroneous at the cost of expelling a large body of members from the communion of the Church. To give absolute predominance to one set of religious opinions by the

Parliament averse to Church-Reform.

alienation of all others would be felt to be a revolution amounting not to a reform but to a total reconstruction of the Church of England.


But even if changes had been desired by the Church at large, the machinery for accomplishing them was wanting. The Church of England came forth at the Reformation, like Minerva from the head of Jove, of full-grown stature: no means for subsequent development were provided. The Parliament became the legislature of the Church, and that legislature has ever shewn itself to be most averse to entertaining any project for the modification of that Church. The sentiment is natural. Indisputably it has been the ægis of the establishment, and the chief instrument of its preservation. At no time has Parliament been a suitable arena for the discussion of doctrine; and the difficulty has greatly increased in later times. Who that loves the Church and values the services which she renders to religion, could desire to see her constitution the subject of incessant debate in the House of Commons? Which of her friends would not mourn, if every ecclesiastical theorist in Parliament, every enthusiast of every party, every nonconformist of the many sects who now have seats in the legislature, could raise unceasing motions on her articles, her creeds, her worship, and her institutions? Who is not conscious that her dissolution would be close at hand? But if this deeply rooted feeling works good, it has also its alloy of evil. Its tendency is to stereotype every part of the Church's constitution, to render all change impossible, to prevent improvement, however urgently it may be needed, or however innocent it may be of interfering with a single vital principle of the Church's doctrine. It requires almost as strong an effortthere are almost as many obstacles to be surmounted-to make an alteration in a service, or to omit a phrase in a prayer, as would be required to abolish or remake the Liturgy. Can it therefore be a matter for surprise that the Liturgy should retain unchanged the stamp which was impressed upon it in the 16th century? The Restoration offered a rare and valuable opportunity for introducing modifications, and also for providing some means for amelioration of detail from time to time; for the whole Liturgy had to be re-enacted in Parliament: but the fury of the political reaction clamoured blindly for the simple restoration of those old forms both in Church and State which had been swept away. It refused to see defects: it hated every improvement that savoured of recent progress. Such as the Church had been for a century, such it was decreed it should continue for ever! and, with a few slight alterations, the Liturgy of Queen Elizabeth was reincorporated into the English constitution.

It cannot be denied that the Church of England is hereby exposed to a very formidable danger. An institution which

never varies is doomed by the law of mutability which acts on everything else to get out of harmony in some of its parts with the world that surrounds it: and thus one or other of two consequences is wont to occur. It more commonly happens that the parts which have ceased to be applicable to the wants and feelings of a new generation grow obsolete-their existence is ignored-words, if required to be used, are evaded by the help of a non-natural sense, or are looked upon as simply unmeaning sounds: the concurrent interpretation of society being held to be authorized to change and even reverse the ordinary meaning of language, though avowedly and intentionally employed in the most binding strictness. By such a process men have reconciled themselves to take oaths, whose obligations they had no intention whatever of observing, and have subscribed formularies whose import they repudiated. Whatever may be thought of the morality of such acts, when universal consent has ratified the perversion, and the animus imponentis may be said to justify the accepting of the obligation as either wholly nugatory, or as reversing the pledge, it is at least clear, that whilst the change of opinion is in progress, and before all are agreed as to the virtual repeal of the natural sense, much stress must be laid upon individual consciences, much temptation to untruth brought to bear on many, much damage inflicted on the moral character, (and that just in proportion as the conscience is tender,) and much hardship and loss entailed on those who refuse to take a pledge which they still understand to mean what its words set forth.

This, however, is not the usual course with religious services. The language of daily prayer can hardly ever grow dead; the feelings of every thinking man recoil from addressing words to God, which do not mean what they seem to say. The hardening of the conscience, though not wholly unavoidable, will seldom be the chief evil produced by a long unchanged liturgy. The sense of the unsuitableness of the offending portion will remain awake; it will gradually strengthen into dislike, and dislike into hostility, and thus, the healing hand of reform being withheld, the dammed up waters of revolution will ever threaten destruction in the back-ground. Those who have seen this peril averted in secular affairs by an amount of change which fell little short of a revolution, may yet live to see a similar danger, but we fear with a surer and more ruinous catastrophe, assail the Church of England. Symptoms of internal fermentation, of that commotion of mind which usually precedes a national convulsion, have already been neither few nor insignificant. The religious and intellectual characteristics of our time are peculiarly calculated to bring on and augment this danger. We live in an age of great intellectual activity and great religious earnestness. In

An age of religious earnestness adverse to compromise. 375

dividual men of more towering understandings have existed at other periods of our history; but never before has mental energy been so universally developed, or first principles explored with such acuteness and daring fearlessness. Never before were the results of thought diffused so quickly through the community, or carried out in action with such ready power and accumulated support. On the other hand, highly as the religiousness of other epochs has been vaunted, we doubt whether deep religious earnestness was ever so general among the upper classes as it is now. Respect for religion has increased on every side. Religion is now honoured where it was wont to encounter ridicule. No character is so damaging, even for mere worldly objects, as to be accounted irreligious. Religious motives, religious feelings are daily avowed in Parliament, and instead of exciting ridicule or being denounced as cant, meet with sympathy and confer credit on the speaker. Infidelity itself has ceased to sneer: it has become religious. A contemptuous and mocking unbeliever, a Voltaire or a Diderot, would be banished from all good society. Religious questions engage the attention of all classes. The religious aspect of all our social institutions is examined with the liveliest interest. Religious convictions are followed up with the noblest exhibitions of self-sacrifice. The seductions of a luxurious civilisation are inadequate to suppress the swelling ebullitions of missionary self-denial. Honoured men are seen every day to renounce wealth, rank, influence, and worldly prospects at the bidding of religious persuasion, and they are not sneered at as fools. Churches are burst asunder by the violence of religious commotion; and vast establishments of clergy are driven forth from their pulpits and their homes by the irresistible force of conscience, and confederate in new churches.

In an age like this, amidst such irrepressible impulses of conscience and intellect combined, the anomalies produced in the Liturgy by the circumstances of its origin and the lapse of time were sure to excite awakened attention and uneasiness. The founders of the English Church built her communion upon compromise; many of the reasons which guided them to select such a foundation are unimpaired in strength; but the circumstances which surround the Church are altered. An age of general thoughtfulness and earnestness is adverse to compromise. A common danger compels men to sink subordinate differences for the sake of obtaining common security; when the danger is removed, concessions made under the pressure of alarm lose the motive which prompted them, and in religious matters soon wear the appearance of abandonment of principle. Irritation and internal conflict are speedily engendered; the repulsive forces of the heterogeneous elements combined in the compromise acquire strength under the heat of religious zeal; and dis

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