The Eirenicon;

or, A United Christendom.

1869 206 Dr. Pusey's bold proposition of a united Christendom, published in his "Eirenicon," has been more than welcomed of late by ecclesiastics in the Anglican Church. The silence which prevailed for so many months on the direct proposal, led some to suppose the idea was likely to be confined to the author and the book which developed the scheme. This conjecture deepened in the minds of many, as they heard rude-spoken men take up mere ritualistic observances in their grosser forms, for the purpose of proving modern innovations or practical departure from the Establishment. The Eirenicon, however, has made a path for itself, and opened the way to others far removed from the popular outcry, and the material symbols of worship which excite the multitude. Leaving this region of agitation and strife for the more scholarly interchange of thought and theory Dr. Pusey's Eirenicon is now accepted. The symbolical "olive branch" has been made matter of fact by the encyclical letter to the Patriarch of the Greek Church, by the late Primate of England. True, the Dean of Carlisle (Dr. Close) was roused against his superior, and to the pitch of declaring "rather be my hand withered than I should hold it out to the Eastern and Western Churches," adding a hope "that the Pope would deal with the encyclical, as he dealt with Dr. Pusey's Eirenicon, nail it to the church doors." In spite of this exceptional voice, though a loud one, the Primate, the Patriarch, and the Pope, are no longer confined within their own circles, but may meet each other as the centres of their ecclesiastical systems, but upon the avowed possibility of a united Christendom — the preliminaries are under consideration. The circle narrows, as the Dean of Canterbury (Alford) issues his proposals for union between Churchmen and Non-conformists at home. The original principle is maintained by him, but for the moment to be experimented on within the range of an ordained ministry (no longer "clergy") of England, and to be practically manifested by an interchange of pulpits, and a more mellowed social intercourse between the respective ministers and congregations.

The Dean of Westminster (Stanley), while open to the full width of his primate, yet puts into the picture his own tints and colours; and in this way, artistically illuminates what else would be too much in the sombre grey of pietism. He practically gives up the idea of an existing Establishment, and foreshadows a social revolution — the church itself being civil society. For instance, the Dean would abolish all distinctions between clergy and laity, and would recognize every man a minister who is capable of rendering good service to the community. On the other hand, if the Church and State should continue united, it is because the Church is not more holy than the State. The Politike, or State, he says, is as much invested with "divine authority" as the Church; Paul appealed to the tribunal of Caesar, and in this way recognized the supremacy of the State over the priesthood. Further, the Dean asserts there is an advantage by merging the Church in the State, as it affords scope for the growth of various opinions, and favours such changes as the State may see fit to effect, thus ignoring the existence of a body of revealed doctrine, which it is the Church's privilege to hold and to inculcate as being the ground and pillar of the truth. To crown all, Dean Stanley selects Gallio as the model statesman (though often reviled as a careless libertine), for he shelved the true judicial attitude towards petty sectarian squabbles, of which he would take no cognizance.

The Anglican group in this sketch, though too heterogeneous and contradictory in itself, for any combined and really practical purposes connected with the evangelical party, gathers up strength from this confusion, and in this growth of various opinions finds an advantage over all the old ideas of uniformity and agreement. Scope is moreover demanded for the spread of mind and will thus liberated from the shackles of a revolution, and a corresponding responsibility to divine authority over conscience and faith.

One may well ask, What can be the product of these ideas but uncertainty upon all points respecting which the word of God is definite and obligatory? What is a united Christendom but union on the differences which mark it and have made it what it is? What is fraternization with the Eastern and Western churches but the further abandonment of the modicum of truth which made them different from each other? It is no wonder that national establishments should seek shelter under the covering wings of this Eirenicon, of larger or smaller diameter, in face of the declaration that the Politike is as much invested with divine authority as the Church. Such a fusion is but the embodiment of the prevailing idea of church extension. What is there left, but that civil society in the nineteenth century should boldly take the place of the Church on earth, and that all distinctions should be set aside in the common abandonment of the claims of the truth of God?

Shall we ask such a question as whether Christ can own this confederation? Is civil society what He loved and gave Himself for? or is it what He will present to Himself "a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing?" horrible thought! If so, what and where is the vine of the earth, which is to be cast into the winepress of the wrath of God?

The spirit of sacerdotalism is fast taking the place even of evangelical doctrine; but this change, serious though it is, as regards the effect produced on the masses, is but a consequence. The originating cause springs from the partial (where not complete) denial of revelation, and of the authority of God, by His word and Spirit, over conscience and faith. The masterminds, the guiding spirits of the present movement, which have stepped into this place of divine prerogative, have sacrificed the truth and all certainty between God and the soul to a sliding scale, which accommodates itself to the conjectures or speculations of philosophers and religionists. Fraternization or union is the absorbent of all else: and what can the value of such a unity be which is only successfully reached in the measure of its departure from the truth and from God? By what rule can this abortion be estimated as it lays hold on the two extremes of Popery and Unitarianism at the same moment?

If we drop the National Church (this troublesome excrescence of the State), and look at the schools to be established for religious education, it is only to discover the same turbulence of spirit in debate and action, upon this new problematic question. Strange that in the same country and moment, and by the same legislature, "The Educational Bill" should be announced with a "conscience clause," when the Establishment of the country has grown weary and old under the weight of such restrictions; and only sees liberty and daylight as it cuts its way out from the entanglements, by the surrender of conscience. What can the State do in the double dilemma which the church and the schoolhouse impose upon it, but Gallio-like say, "If it were a matter of wrong, or wicked lewdness, reason would that I should bear with you; but if it be a question of words, and names, and of your law, look ye to it."

Legal obligations were formerly in operation, and members were bound to profess the christian doctrine. Tests and Corporation Acts were also in force; but these have long since been pronounced grievances, and are expunged from the records of the State which inflicted them. Vain are all the bulwarks, and an educational clause besides, which the legislature imposes as a last and puerile attempt to check the infidelity which threatens to carry everything along with it that is even a shade better than itself. The word of God and the relation of conscience to divine authority thereby is set aside: the direct link with what is Supreme has been broken, and the whole world is drifting and at sea.

The real question at issue cannot now be what it was. New forms of old corruptions are developed as the energetic movement of unbridled will rushes onward to its object. For instance, the State Church principle was formerly the antagonism to Nonconformists; but this has in measure ceased and given place to a far graver matter, the question of today being between Christianity and Infidelity. In the education scheme which was lately the subject of a petition from the Oxford University to the then Primate, the thing dreaded was a system which would make all christian teaching in a high sense impracticable, and would hand over even the government of the Universities and of the English youth to those who deny the first principles of the christian faith. What a spectacle was presented as the Archbishop received with one hand this petition from Oxford, begging that the floodgates might not be opened to superstition and infidelity; and with the other holds out a letter of amity to the head of the Greek church, proposing the closest brotherhood.

The solemn word of Isaiah's warning to a similar confederation in Israel's history may well be quoted in conclusion and as a last appeal to a united Christendom. "Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us. For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary." J. E. Batten.