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injured by the party he admires? It is impossible to argue the question here, but a conscientious man may surely believe, and do his best to make others believe, that a practically unchecked Single-Chamber Constitution, modern party discipline being what it is, is likely to be as injurious to liberty, as unjust and tyrannical, as the government of Louis the Fourteenth. Mr. Powell is shocked at the idea of the Church siding with those who desired to maintain what he calls the absurd veto of the House of Lords upon the legislation approved by a huge majority of elected representatives of forty-five millions of people.' Considering how divided the country is on the question-although only six or seven millions out of Mr. Powell's forty-five millions possess votes—these remarks are more like an extract from a violent Radical leaflet than a serious criticism of the Church. More unjustifiable still is his unwarrantable assertion that the Church ‘would rather the food of the poor were taxed instead of the unearned increment of the landed property of the rich.' It must be obvious to anyone not blinded by party spirit that a Tariff Reformer may be as anxious to benefit the poor as the most uncompromising Cobdenite, and that he advocates his policy as the very best method of raising wages and curing the evil of unemployment. Since he has the opinion of nearly the whole civilised world, outside Great Britain, on his side, it is supremely ridiculous to make the Church's support of such a policy—if she does support it, which Mr. Powell does not prove a serious reason for advocating her disestablishment.
Another count in Mr. Powell's indictment of the Church is what he assumes to have been her attitude on the question of Chinese labour in South Africa. Really this is a dangerous subject for Mr. Powell's friends. Has he quite forgotten Mr. Winston Churchill's famous admission as to 'terminological inexactitudes'? The fact that the Liberal party has been remarkably shy of raising the taunt of 'Chinese slavery' of late years, which would have been worked for all it was worth had the Unionist policy been really so immoral as was alleged in 1906, tends to show that Mr. Churchill's phrase was a true but charitable description of an outcry that was none too creditable in regard to the language used.
It is unnecessary to follow Mr. Powell further in the instances he gives of the political obliquity of Churchmen in general. In nearly all his cases the accusation is that they have not supported several of the measures of the present Government.
What plagues and what portents! What mutiny!
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
because a majority, possibly a large majority, of Churchmen cannot see their way to support Mr. Asquith! It is, alas ! true enough that many a time the Church, in the person of her leaders, has advocated, or at least supported, a policy that we now see was mistaken and wrong. No society that has endured for many centuries, no nation either, is there that has not cause to blush for many errors, and that has not many a time, with the best intentions, ' come short of its suppose,'
Sith every action that hath gone before
That gave 't surmised shape. But it may fairly be said that a party which has been avowedly attacking the Church in her schools and--in the case of Walesin her possessions and immemorial status cannot fairly complain if very many Churchmen find themselves driven, sometimes against their will, to support for the time being the opposite party. Nor can that attitude, in view of the admitted zeal, activity, and devotion shown by the Church of England during the last sixty or seventy years, be by any process of reasoning alleged as a sufficient cause for condemning her as incorrigibly wrongheaded and obstructive, and therefore terminating her long connexion with the State.
Mr. Powell, however, does not rely only on the fact that most of the active supporters of the Established Church are hostile to the present Government. He brings a formidable series of charges against the Church for her action in past times, taken from an article in the Times, published, it would seem, some years ago, in which that journal acknowledged that the Establishment was in favour of most of the wrongdoing, and against most of the improvements, of the Governments of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century. These charges are fortified by an appeal to Lord Morley's remarks upon the same subject.
It cannot be denied that this attack is far more justified than the attacks on the Church of our own day which have occupied our notice hitherto. But is Mr. Powell right in charging the Church (' the Church as a whole' is his phrase in one passage) with all these misdeeds? Surely the guilty parties he is thinking of were the bishops in the House of Lords. The bishops are pot the Church. There is no reason to suppose that during the
period in question they paid much attention to the opinion of clergy or laity. They were appointed for political reasons, and what the Government sought for, when bishops were to be appointed, was supporters; and (if the popular phrase may be allowed me) they saw that they got them.' Hence the bishops of those days were as certain to 'vote straight' as the member of Parliament is now. They voted with the party that appointed them. It is a mournful reflection for Churchmen that the State so abused its trust, and could find some clerical accomplices; but surely in this case the State itself, which made the appointments for such reasons, was the guilty party. The voice of the rank and file of the clergy was stifled, and Convocation was not allowed to meet ‘for the despatch of business.' Parliament itself was supposed to represent the laity, but the unreformed Parliament was returned chiefly by the interest and often by the nomination of Whig and Tory grandees. In very truth it was the rank and file of the Church which brought about the reforms enumerated by the Times and quoted by Mr. Powell. It was a soldiers' battle certainly, but the soldiers really are a part of the army. To take some of Mr. Powell's instances: the Parliament that abolished the slave trade was exclusively a Church Parliament; so was the Parliament that repealed the Test and Corporation Acts; so was the Parliament, with hardly an exception, which granted Roman Catholic Emancipation; so was the Parliament, with a few exceptions, which abolished slavery; and William Wilberforce, clarum et venerabile nomen, was a Churchman and a representative of the most living and vigorous Church party of his day. If the Church as a whole' had opposed those reforms, not one of them would have been carried in those days. So in regard to the Factory Acts. Lord Shaftesbury, a typical Evangelical Churchman (who was that first and before everything), was the hero of the fight, and John Bright, the Liberal. and the Manchester school were not absolutely conspicuous champions of that reform.
We might go further and retort upon Mr. Powell that, during the greater part of the time referred to in his extract from the Times, the predecessors of the present Liberal party were in power and had the appointment of the bishops in their hands. For a century after the Revolution of 1688 (except for the latter years of Queen Anne's short reign) the Whigs were in power, the party of progress,' and the leaders of the Church obediently followed them. And that was, strange to say, the century of the Church's most conspicuous failure. It is a retort as fair as the charge. But, in sober truth, neither the one nor the other is very convincing. The fact is that during the eighteenth century the Church, in spite of being established, was
too weak and also too much occupied with the prevalent unbelief to dream of giving a 'lead to the Government of the day. It seemed to the most thoughtful prelates of the time that the best that could be hoped for was that, with pain and difficulty, the Church might keep the banner of Christ still flying. Surely Mr. Powell has not forgotten Bishop Butler's lament that it is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted, by many persons, that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is, now at length, discovered to be fictitious.' Again, in the first part of the nineteenth century, the bloody issue of the French Revolution and its culmination in the career of Napoleon did very much to make people suspicious of the very name of reform. The argument of the 'thin end of the wedge’ is often a most mistaken one, but it is very intelligible and not wholly inexcusable in those who believe that they have already seen the wedge driven home in a neighbouring land with the most disastrous results. Neither the Times writer, nor Mr. Powell, nor Lord Morley appear to have thought of these explanations. They have regarded the bishops of those days (though they did not comprise 'the Church as a whole ') rather as dummy antagonists to be set up and riddled with the shot of Liberal criticism than as human beings, not wholly unintelligent, and not proved to be unkindly, but swayed—as most men are—by the fears and alarms and also by the difficulties and obscurities of their day.
It may be rejoined that, at any rate, all these blunders were due to the fact of establishment, for if the State had not possessed the appointment of bishops, the Church might have chosen leaders who would have spoken with her voice and not have compromised her so gravely. If this be Mr. Powell's contention, he will find that the majority of Churchmen agree with him. But the right of nomination to bishoprics is not of the essence of establishment. In Scotland, too, there is an Established Church. The State, however, does not appoint its General Assembly nor its Moderator. Freedom to choose its own rulers could be granted to the Church in England as well as in the Scottish Establishment, without any interference with its established position or its endowments. Nor need the bishops be members of the House of Lords. The kirk has none of its ministers sitting there by right of office. Assuredly one need not advocate the immediate pulling down of a house because its roof needs repair.
Mr. Powell is well warranted in pointing out the great difficulty experienced by the Establishment in dealing with its own abuses. He must, however, admit that the chief reason for this, during the last thirty years at any rate, is the unrelenting hostility and obstruction on the part of Liberal members of Parliament. What enormous difficulty Archbishop Benson had
to contend with in his struggle for the Act for the removal of evil-living clergy and for the Benefices Act! Even such purely domestic matters as the division of overgrown and unwieldy sees were not allowed to be non-contentious by small knots of Liberals who, for the most part, did not profess to be members of the Established Church. Who is responsible for the failure to pass the Bishoprics Enabling Bill during the last two or three years? To obstruct every effort on the part of the Church authorities to obtain leave to reform abuses, and then to taunt the Church with those abuses, and even make them a pretext for her disestablishment, is flagrantly unjust and ungenerous. If advocates of Disestablishment in Parliament would, as a matter of honour and decency, treat purely Church measures with the same respect and consideration as was shown by the whole House to the Act for uniting the Bible Christians and the United Methodist Free Church, or the Act settling the difficulty between the Free Kirk in Scotland and the 'Wee Frees,' clergy like Mr. Powell would not long have to complain that the Church's most flagrant abuses are left untouched. Mr. Powell is quite justified in expressing disappointment that more was not done in this direction during the ten years that the Unionists were in power. His disappointment is shared, doubtless, by many of those who are strongly opposed to the opinions set forth in his article. Still, it is fair to remember that those ten years included the years of the Boer War, and the schism in the Unionist party caused by the violent differences on the subject of Tariff Reform; and also that what time Parliament could spare to the Church was wasted in absurd and unprofitable discussions on the question of 'Ritualistic practices.' Indeed, the Kensit movement, which began in 1898, by re-enkindling party differences in the Church—which were on the high road to healing-made it very difficult even for Churchmen to unite in urging noncontentious but necessary measures.
One other reason for Disestablishment is alleged by Mr. Powell. It deals with very serious matters indeed. Freedom from State control will enable the Church to 'restate the whole Christian position, and to do away with our narrow, stereotyped formulae which tend to sterilise living thought.' These expressions are so general, and all that Mr. Powell says on this subject is so vague, that one is not quite sure what he means. If by 'restating the whole Christian position' Mr. Powell means no more than doing for this twentieth century what St. Thomas did for the thirteenth, there is no possible obstacle now. The Angelic Doctor neither asked nor needed any change in the Creeds or the Liturgy. Or does he mean such a revolt from the doctrinal teaching of the Prayer Book as Luther inaugurated in