Зображення сторінки

and you will approach the conception of the unity of the race. Of all these ideas, we could not bear to lose one. There is not one of these representations of human thought which has not done its part in the growth of the main idea. We want every conceivable phase of human nature to be embodied in the history of the race; and the more numerous and complex are these embodiments, the nearer we are getting to the conception of the united whole of the complete man. We get nearer to it when we look at modern Europe. Almost every form of social organisation, every variety of political systems, every kind of Christian creed, every phase of intellectual activity, every type of human feeling, every form of literature seem to coexist in Europe, and to coexist in a thousand modifications, and in ceaseless conflict—the antagonism bringing out day by day the noble and human ideas and rejecting the base and unhuman ones—and in the whole progress the idea of the perfect man of humanity becoming richer and more developed in proportion as its parts become more various and its complexity greater. Instead of mourning over what seems to us confusion, or regretting the simplicity of Asiatic organisations, we should rejoice in knowing that the more every possible phase of human thought, feeling, and life is represented, the higher is the inner unity of Europe, and the less chance is there of that decay which follows on any one particular form of government, or any particular direction of thought becoming dominant. If all the countries of Europe were governed by England, in accordance with the English system, the result would be stagnation. Europe would become like China. If the French character, or the German, or the Italian were to disappear from Europe, the loss to the progress of the race would be incalculable. We

need them all and more in order to conceive and complete our ideal Man—in order to move forwards to the realisation of Humanity.

But, you may say, certain characteristic national types, such as the Roman-certain great ideas, such as that of the feudal system-have disappeared. True; but only when they had left that which was good in the type and the idea so deeply impressed on humanity that it became an integral part under other forms of every future type, and lived in the whole being of the race. The form under which it had grown up vanished, for its work was done—but the idea remained.

Now, preserving in our minds this conception of the unity of the race, we can go on to represent the unity of a nation. Take England, for example. We must conceive of the nation as one Being, growing into perfection by the slow formation and accretion of great ideas. The unity of this organism will have within it an infinite variety of parts, each representing some idea or feeling or mode of life, and all bound together by a common spirit-love of the idea represented in the being whom we call England. The more diversified the ideas and the systems of thought, the more manifold the forms of feeling, the more varied the literary, artistic, political, and religious life, and the more these are all in a state of active action and reaction one on another, the richer and the more developed will be the national unity. The real danger to the progress of the nation will be when there arises the possibility of any one system, or class idea, or mode of feeling becoming dominant, and like Aaron's rod, swallowing all the rest. Simplicity will produce monotony, and monotony stagnation. · It follows from this that the nation will be tending to the

true unity of a living organism only when every man in it has power to develope himself freely within certain limits chosen by general consent, and has power to do so in every possible variety of situation. Of course, these individuals freely developing themselves will group themselves into bodies agreeing together in main principles, but reserving freedom of action and thought on points of opinion. Some of these opinions will be wise, others absurd, others absolutely deleterious ; but, as we saw in the case of the history of the whole race that the ideas which were evil were eliminated by time and rejected, so in the case of the nation it is absolutely necessary that the absurd and harmful ideas should be expressed, in order that they may be seen to be what they are, and that time and conflict may destroy them. Hidden, repressed, they exist as an inward disease. Freely expressed, they are seen and burnt away.

With us there is a body which claims to represent the nation, the Parliament of England. It should be a miniature of the national life. It should have its complexity and its one spirit of devotion to England. Its members should represent, notacertain isolated and selfish interests, nor certain classes of men, but the leading ideas of the nation; and all these ideas, absurd, good, evil, wise, or romantic, should be represented. All the tendencies of thought in England which have sufficient force to become streams of thought should all flow, in the form at least of one representative, into the river of the British Parliament. The only class of ideas which are banished are those which are fundamentally subversive of the Constitution. No one would be elected or, if elected, admitted to Parliament who put forward his intention to overthrow the provisions of the Bill of Rights, or refused to take the oath of allegiance to the sovereign. But within certain broadly-traced limits he is free to express the views he represents, even though every other man in Parliament may think those views absurd, or even evil.

Any new phase of national thought may be good or it may be bad; whether it be one or the other, the very fact of its being new will be a good in the end, as it will disturb the waters and produce conflict; and if evil, will throw the opposite idea, which is good, into sharper outline; and if good, will make its converts, and subvert some existing evil. The only unmixt evil is to silence it by intolerance. One of the main duties, then, of the nation and the representatives of the nation is not only to tolerate as far as possible every form of opinion, but to try and get into Parliament representatives of each phase of national thought.

Having now got some principles of thought, let me turn to the unity of the Church of England. I pass over the great subject of the unity of the universal Church of Christ, merely saying that the same principles which we have laid down with regard to the unity of humanity apply, without alteration, to the true conception of its unity.

In closing to-day the series of sermons which I have preached on topics suggested by the judgment of the Privy Council, I wish to speak of the idea of the Church of England as I conceive it, but more especially of the position of the clergy in the Church.

The Church of England claims to be a National Church, and consists, in idea, of all the laity of the nation without exception, and of a body of men who represent, within certain necessary limits, the religious thought of the laity.

It does not, however, in fact, consist of all the laity. There

are many who refuse to belong to its communion on account of ecclesiastical differences : there are others who deny the whole of its religion. But by right every Englishman is a member of the National Church. It is of his own free choice that he rejects his right.

Within its actual boundaries, however, it ought, on the principles already laid down, to permit of every phase of religious thought possible to Englishmen, within certain limits wbich demand belief in a few cardinal doctrines.

In the assent of all to these doctrines, and in the common love of all to God in Christ, and in the common love of the body to which they belong coexisting with an almost endless variety of individual views about these doctrines, consists the unity of the Church of England. The more various the shades of religious thought, the more complex the varieties of religious feeling, the more these act and react on, oppose, and unite with one another, the greater and richer will be the unity. The loss of one religious idea is the loss of so much material for growth, and any tendency to bind its members down to any detailed scheme of opinions in the matter of doctrine is the introduction of an element of decay, the, subversion of a living unity by a dead uniformity, the replacing of a Church by a Sect.

Any decision, then, of the Judicial Committee which should, as the late Judgment seems to many to have done, bind upon the clergy, and through the clergy on those of the laity who receive their teaching from the clergy, any one particular theory of the Atonement or of Original Sin, or should, by denying freedom of Biblical criticism to the clergy shut away from the churchgoing laity this whole class of subjects, has a tendency, if not more than a tendency, to deny the idea of the

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »