Chapter 7.

{208} CARLTON had opened the small church he was serving for Saints'-day services during the Long Vacation; and not being in the way to have any congregation, and the church at Horsley being closed except on Sundays, he had asked his two pupils to help him in this matter, by walking over with him on St. Matthew's day, which, as the season was fine, and the walk far from a dull one, they were very glad to do. When church was over Carlton had to attend a sick call which lay still farther from Horsley, and the two young men walked back together.

"I did not know that Carlton was so much of a party man," said Sheffield; "did not his reading the Athanasian Creed strike you?"

"That's no mark of party, surely," answered Charles.

"To read it on days like these, I think, is a mark of party; it's going out of the way."

Charles did not see how obeying in so plain a matter the clear direction of the Prayer Book could be a party act.

"Direction!" said Sheffield, "as if the question were not, is that direction now binding? the sense, the {209} understanding of the Church of this day determines its obligation."

"The prima facie view of the matter," said Charles, "is, that they who do but follow what the Prayer Book enjoins are of all people farthest from being a party."

"Not at all," said Sheffield; "rigid adherence to old customs surely may be the badge of a party. Now consider; ten years ago, before the study of Church-history was revived, neither Arianism nor Athanasianism were thought of at all, or, if thought of, they were considered as questions of words, at least as held by most minds—one as good as the other."

"I should say so, too, in one sense," said Charles, "that is, I should hope that numbers of persons, for instance, the unlearned, who were in Arian communities spoke Arian language, and yet did not mean it. I think I have heard that some ancient missionary of the Goths or Huns was an Arian."

"Well, I will speak more precisely," said Sheffield: "an Oxford man, some ten years since, was going to publish a history of the Nicene Council, and the bookseller proposed to him to prefix an engraving of St. Athanasius, which he had found in some old volume. He was strongly dissuaded from doing so by a brother clergyman, not from any feeling of his own, but because 'Athanasius was a very unpopular name among us'."

"One swallow does not make a spring," said Charles.

"This clergyman," continued Sheffield, "was a friend of the most High-Church writers of the day."

"Of course," said Reding, "there has always been a heterodox school in our Church—I know that well {210} enough—but it never has been powerful. Your lax friend was one of them."

"I believe not, indeed," answered Sheffield; "he lived out of controversy, was a literary, accomplished person, and a man of piety to boot. He did not express any feeling of his own; he did but witness to a fact, that the name of Athanasius was unpopular."

"So little was known about history," said Charles, "this is not surprising. St. Athanasius, you know, did not write the Creed called after him. It is possible to think him intemperate without thinking the Creed wrong."

"Well, then, again; there's Beatson, Divinity Professor; no one will call him in any sense a party man; he was put in by the Tories, and never has committed himself to any liberal theories in theology. Now, a man who attended his private lectures assures me that he told the men, 'D'ye see,' said he, 'I take it, that the old Church-of-England mode of handling the Creed went out with Bull. After Locke wrote, the old orthodox phraseology came into disrepute.'"

"Well, perhaps he meant," said Charles, "that learning died away, which was the case. The old theological language is plainly a learned language; when fathers and schoolmen were not read, of course it would be in abeyance; when they were read again, it has revived."

"No, no," answered Sheffield, "he said much more on another occasion. Speaking of Creeds, and the like, 'I hold,' he said, 'that the majority of the educated laity of our Church are Sabellians'." {211}

Charles was silent, and hardly knew what reply to make. Sheffield went on: "I was present some years ago, when I was quite a boy, when a sort of tutor of mine was talking to one of the most learned and orthodox divines of the day, a man whose name has never been associated with party, and the near relation and connection of high dignitaries, about a plan of his own for writing a history of the Councils. This good and able man listened with politeness, applauded the project, then added, in a laughing way, 'You know you have chosen just the dullest subject in Church-history'. Now the Councils begin with the Nicene Creed, and embrace nearly all doctrinal subjects whatever."

"My dear Sheffield," said Charles, "you have fallen in with a particular set or party of men yourself; very respectable, good men, I don't doubt, but no fair specimens of the whole Church."

"I don't bring them as authorities," answered Sheffield, "but as witnesses."

"Still," said Charles, "I know perfectly well that there was a controversy at the end of the last century between Bishop Horsley and others, in which he brought out distinctly one part at least of the Athanasian doctrine."

"His controversy was not a defence of the Athanasian Creed, I know well," said Sheffield; "for the subject came into Upton's Article-lecture; it was with Priestley; but, whatever it was, divines would only think it all very fine, just as his 'Sermons on Prophecy'. It is another question whether they would recognise the worth either of the one or of the other. They receive {212} the scholastic terms about the Trinity just as they receive the doctrine that the Pope is Antichrist. When Horsley says the latter, or something of the kind, good old clergymen say, 'Certainly, certainly, oh yes, it's the old Church-of-England doctrine,' thinking it right, indeed, to be maintained, but not caring themselves to maintain it, or at most professing it just when mentioned, but not really thinking about it from one year's end to the other. And so with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, they say, 'the great Horsley,' 'the powerful Horsley'; they don't indeed dispute his doctrine, but they don't care about it; they look on him as a doughty champion, armed cap--pie, who has put down dissent, who has cut off the head of some impudent non-protectionist, or insane chartist, or spouter in a vestry, who, under cover of theology, had run a tilt against tithes and church-rates."

"I can't think so badly of our present divines," said Charles; "I know that in this very place there are various orthodox writers, whom no one would call party men."

"Stop," said Sheffield, "understand me, I was not speaking against them. I was but saying that these anti-Athanasian views were not unfrequent. I have been in the way of hearing a good deal on the subject at my private tutor's, and have kept my eyes about me since I have been here. The Bishop of Derby was a friend of Sheen's, my private tutor, and got his promotion when I was with the latter; and Sheen told me that he wrote to him on that occasion, 'What shall I read? I don't know anything of theology.' I rather {213} think he was recommended, or proposed to read Scott's Bible."

"It's easy to bring instances," said Charles, "when you have all your own way; what you say is evidently all an ex-parte statement."

"Take again, Shipton, who died lately," continued Sheffield; "what a high position he held in the Church; yet it is perfectly well known that he thought it a mistake to use the word 'Person' in the doctrine of the Trinity. What makes this stranger is, that he was so very severe on clergymen (Tractarians, for instance) who evade the sense of the Articles. Now he was a singularly honest, straightforward man; he despised money; he cared nothing for public opinion; yet he was a Sabellian. Would he have eaten the bread of the Church, as it is called, for a day, unless he had felt that his opinions were not inconsistent with his profession as Dean of Bath and Prebendary of Dorchester? Is it not plain that he considered the practice of the Church to have modified, to have re-interpreted its documents?"

"Why," said Charles, "the practice of the Church cannot make black white; or, if a sentence means yes, make it mean no. I won't deny that words are often vague and uncertain in their sense, and frequently need a comment, so that the teaching of the day has great influence in determining their sense; but the question is, whether the counter-teaching of every dean, every prebendary, every clergyman, every bishop in the whole Church, could make the Athanasian Creed Sabellian; I think not." {214}

"Certainly not," answered Sheffield; "but the clergymen I speak of simply say that they are not bound to the details of the Creed, only to the great outline that there is a Trinity."

"Great outline!" said Charles, "great stuff! an Unitarian would not deny that. He, of course, believes in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; though he thinks the Son a creature, and the Spirit an influence."

"Well, I don't deny," said Sheffield, "that if Dean Shipton was a sound member of the Church, Dr. Priestley might have been also. But my doubt is, whether, if the Tractarian school had not risen, Priestley might not have been, had he lived to this time, I will not say a positively sound member, but sound enough for preferment."

"If the Tractarian school had not risen; that is but saying if our Church was other than it is. What is that school but a birth, an offspring of the Church? and if the Church had not given birth to one party of men for its defence, it would have given birth to another."

"No, no," said Sheffield, "I assure you the old school of doctrine was all but run out when they began; and I declare I wish they had let things alone. There was the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession; a few good old men were its sole remaining professors in the Church; and a great ecclesiastical personage, on one occasion, quite scoffed at their persisting to hold it. He maintained the doctrine went out with the non-jurors. 'You are so few,' he said, 'that we can count you.'" {215}

Charles was not pleased with the subject, on various accounts. He did not like what seemed to him an attack of Sheffield's upon the Church of England; and besides, he began to feel uncomfortable misgivings and doubts whether that attack was not well founded, to which he did not like to be exposed. Accordingly he kept silence, and, after a short interval, attempted to change the subject; but Sheffield's hand was in, and he would not be balked; so he presently began again. "I have been speaking," he said, "of the liberal section of our Church. There are four parties in the Church. Of these the old Tory, or country party, which is out-and-out the largest, has no opinion at all, but merely takes up the theology or no-theology of the day, and cannot properly be said to 'hold' what the Creed calls 'the Catholic faith'. It does not deny it; it may not knowingly disbelieve it; but it gives no signs of actually holding it, beyond the fact that it treats it with respect. I will venture to say, that not a country parson of them all, from year's end to year's end, makes once a year what Catholics call 'an act of faith' in that special and very distinctive mystery contained in the clauses of the Athanasian Creed."

Then, seeing Charles looked rather hurt, he added, "I am not speaking of any particular clergyman here or there, but of the great majority of them. After the Tory party comes the Liberal; which also dislikes the Athanasian Creed, as I have said. Thirdly, as to the Evangelical; I know you have one of the Nos. of the 'Tracts for the Times' about objective faith. Now that tract seems to prove that the Evangelical party {216} is implicitly Sabellian, and is tending to avow that belief. This too has been already the actual course of Evangelical doctrine both on the Continent and in America. The Protestants of Geneva, Holland, Ulster, and Boston, have all, I believe, became Unitarians, or the like. Dr. Adam Clarke too, the celebrated Wesleyan, held the distinguishing Sabellian tenet, as Dodridge is said to have done before him. All this considered, I do think I have made out a good case for my original assertion, that at this time of day it is a party thing to go out of the way to read the Athanasian Creed."

"I don't agree with you at all," said Charles; "you say a great deal more than you have a warrant to do, and draw sweeping conclusions from slender premisses. This, at least, is what it seems to me. I wish too you would not so speak of 'making out a case'. It is as if these things were mere topics for disputation. And I don't like your taking the wrong side; you are rather fond of doing so."

"Reding," answered Sheffield, "I speak what I think, and ever will do so; I will be no party man. I don't attempt, like Vincent, to unite opposites. He is of all parties, I am of none. I think I see pretty well the hollowness of all."

"O, my dear Sheffield," cried Charles, in distress, "think what you are saying; you don't mean what you say. You are speaking as if you thought that belief in the Athanasian Creed was a mere party opinion."

Sheffield first was silent; then he said. "Well, I beg {217} your pardon if I have said anything to annoy you, or have expressed myself intemperately. But surely one has no need to believe what so many people either disbelieve or disregard."

The subject then dropped; and presently Carlton overtook them on the farmer's pony, which he had borrowed.

Chapter 2-8

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