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not a few of our more clear-sighted Churchmen, to extend the principle which had been adopted in regard to Maynooth, and which he had himself defended in his Charge of 1848 as an
act of justice' which he viewed with the deepest satisfaction, and to adopt a policy of concurrent endowment. Hardly less important in its bearing upon another controversy was the part taken by him, in the Charge of 1872, in reference to the proposal to relieve the consciences of those who were oppressed by the necessity of having to read the damnatory clauses of the pseudo-Athanasian Creed. In this, as in every dispute in which he took part, he went straight to the root of the question, and did not attempt to evade the difficulty by speaking the smooth things of compromise and concession. As in the utterances of every true judicial mind, the immediate controversy leads him to the great principles which are really involved in it, and so we have not merely what have been called the obiter dicta of the judge, but the great ethical laws which formed the grounds of his conclusions. Thus, it is worth noting, that in this instance we find him bold enough to proclaim his conviction, that the assertion, without any • qualification, that unbelief itself is sin,' is 'subversive of the ' first principles of religion and morality;' that the freer use * of unscriptural metaphysical terms which distinguishes the " Athanasian from the earlier creeds' was a sign of progres• sive deterioration ; 'that all Christians would agree that eves • which are closed against the truth by an honest doubt will be • opened to it in the light of the Last Judgment;' and that the question therefore is whether it is more agreeable to our conceptions of Divine justice to believe that the final disclosure ' will be accompanied with a sentence of eternal perdition,' or to shrink with horror,' as he shrank, from the thoughts of such a decree as possible. With a courage which stands almost alone in the history of the English Episcopate since the days of Jeremy Taylor, and in which even he was not always consistent, he declares his belief that
Strangely as it may sound to those who have been accustomed to have heresy described as the most atrocious of crimes, there is no fair pretence for doubting that the errors of Arius and Apollinaris, of Nestorius and Eutyches, whatever may have been the weakness and faultiness of their characters in other respects, were purely intellectual, and that they were only misled by their zeal for the glory of God and the honour of Christ into taking one part or side of the truth as if it had been the whole.'*
* Charge for 1872, pp. 43-47.
It remains that we should pass to the consideration of Bishop Thirlwall's acts and language in relation to the disputants of what may be called, in the language of the French Chambers, the Extreme Left' of our ecclesiastical parties. Standing before the world and the Church as he did, as the leading representative of what, in the same language, may be called the Left Centre, it might have been expected that they would have rallied round their leader, and that he, in his turn, would have thrown round them the ægis of his protection, even if they were not able always to act in entire concert. As it was, in two memorable instances he was led to separate himself from them. The Life of Dr. Rowland Williams shows that he felt aggrieved by the Bishop's action, or inaction, in the controversies that were roused by the volumes of sermons which he published under the title of Rational Godliness.' Some of the admirers or defenders of Essays and Reviews,' in particular the Dean of Westminster, whose chivalrous nature leads him to undertake the often thankless office of counsel for the defendant in all causes ecclesiastical where the counts of the indictment charge heresy or rationalism, have expressed their regret that the name of Bishop Thirlwall should have appeared in the list of signatures to the Pastoral or Encyclical Letter which, under the form of an answer to an individual clergyman, was issued by the Episcopate of England. Each of these points calls, it seems to us, for separate consideration.
It is clear, we think, both from Dr. Williams's account of his first interview with the Bishop, and from the whole tenor of the Charge delivered by the latter in 1857, that it was his strong desire, at the outset, here also to allay the panic which had been created by the new and somewhat startliny phraseology in which Dr. Williams had expressed his convictions. His tone (as the passages we have already quoted will have shown) is throughout that of an apologist. He saw how little the accusers knew of the difficulties of the problems with which they were disposed to deal so summarily, and he sympathised with the earnestness with which the accused had pursued studies so congenial to his own tastes. The temperaments of the two men were, however, antipathetic. The Vice-Principal of Lampeter, with all his excellence-earnest and devout, leading, more than most men, a life of prayer, pouring out his soul in openly uttered speech, or committing its secret yearnings to his journal, and yet, it would seem, too often, in the energy of his enthusiasm, making answer to himself-belonged to the class of the irreconcilables' of Church politics—impetuous, excitable, delighting to startle men by new phraseology, and pouring out the vials of his wrath not only on his opponents, but on candid and judicious friends. The Bishop had learnt by the long experience of a life that the way to lead men on to wider thoughts is to bring the truth before them as they are able to bear it, to correct each prejudice and misconception as it arises, to soothe their fears, and to lead them to look on the silver side of the shield as well as the golden, till they learn that even religious truths have many different sides and may be stated in many different forms. As in the preface to his History of Greece' he had, under protest, acquiesced in a system of orthography which he felt, as a philologist, to be full of anomalies and absurdities, so from quite another point of view than Dr. Newman's, he was content to work with and under an ecclesiastical system which must have seemed to him to include 'ambiguous for
mularies and inconsistent precedents and principles imper• fectly developed.' To him therefore the petulant defiance which marked Dr. Williams's writings was altogether foreign and distasteful, and he felt that if anything was calculated to throw back the progress of true criticism and exegesis for half a century, it would be this extravagant display of what were produced as its results. To this too we must add, that his calmer and more discerning intellect saw (what indeed Dr. Williams's diary and correspondence amply prove) that there was a real risk lest this recognition of the working of the Divine Light, even in what have been thought the times of ignorance, and in systems which have been hastily branded as altogether evil, might lead, if it were not balanced by other truths which Dr. Williams and his followers were at least in danger of forgetting, to a denial of any special supernatural revelation in the faith of the Christian Church, and therefore of any distinctive pre-eminence over the other religions of the world.
The same strong feeling shows itself in the Charge of 1863, in his treatment of the memorable · Essays and Reviews, and had probably led him to take the step-so unlike his usual plan of acting singly and stating definitely on what grounds he acted—of signing the Encyclical Letter to which we have already referred. There were, indeed, some circumstances, more or less mysterious, connected with that document which may one day, when all the interest that attaches to them is gone, be brought to light; some Bishops, it may be, holding back until they knew whether others were going to sign, some exerting their of fascination to overcome all reluctance, and we have before us a letter from Bishop Thirlwall to a friend, in which he speaks of
• its secret history as known only to some two or three, and that of those few one only' (obviously himself) • would wish all the facts to be brought into the clear light of day.' It is clear, however, from the fuller discussion in the Charge,' that what alarmed him in the book was not the freedom of its criticism as to the authorship of particular books of Scripture, nor its language as to the human element in the Sacred Writings, nor the doubts which it expressed as to the nature and duration of the punishment of evil in the world beyond the grave. The very Charge which condemns the Essays and Reviews'
" shows, in its treatment of the kindred teaching of Bishop Colenso, that he did not hold the absolute identity of the • Bible' and the Word of God’ which was assumed by those who were eager to condemn the Bishop, but distinctly taught that there was not one passage in the New Testament in which the latter phrase occurred ‘in which it signifies the Bible, or in which that word could be substituted for it without manifest absurdity '(p. 105). In words which even Dr. Williams could have accepted, he taught that if the Word of God is to be
found nowhere but in Holy Writ, . . . the Bible itself would 'be degraded to a dead and barren letter.' He reminds those who were eager to pass a sentence of condemnation that our * Church has never attempted to determine the inspiration of * Holy Scripture; and that whether such a determination is 'desirable or not, no friend to Convocation would wish to see it undertake a task of such perilous moment, and so far
beyond its legitimate province.' So, in speaking of the questions raised by the Bishop as to the authorship of the Pentateuch, he entirely rejects the notion that the casual references in the New Testament to Moses as the writer are conclusive, any more than the casual references to David as the writer of the Psalms; warns those who were eager to assert that the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch were 'gua' ranteed to all men' by Our Lord's citations from it of the danger they were in of rushing into a labyrinth of mysterious and insoluble problems, and cites a passage of marvellous power and beauty from Jeremy Taylor (here, as in other instances, the theologian with whom he found himself in closest sympathy), as sanctioning that warning.
It is, we think, a matter for regret that Bishop Thirlwall did not speak with equal clearness and boldness on the last great question as to the nature and duration of the punishment of evil-doers after death, on which the · Essays and Reviews' had been attacked; one which sooneror later will swallow up in its VOL, CXLIII. NO. CCXCII.
momentous awfulness all the miserable trivialities about which we are at present wrangling. Few more precious legacies could have been left to the Church of England—may we not say to Christendom at large ?—than the expression, at once bold and reverential, of his convictions on that question; and we cannot refrain from the hope that even now some such expression may be found among the posthumous papers which are promised us. Meanwhile we are able to state from personal
. knowledge something as to their general nature. Some five years ago a sermon was sent to him dealing exclusively with that question, and maintaining a modified purgatorial theory (modified, that is, as compared with the Romish doctrine), representing partly Dr. Newman's teaching in his · Dream of Geron“tius,' and partly that which Professor Maurice had put forward in the last of his · Theological Essays,' and which led to his expulsion, as the proto-martyr of the wider hope, from the chair he held at King's College, London. In acknowledging the receipt of it, the Bishop, in language which for him was singularly fervent, expressed his entire and unqualified acceptance of the views which the writer had maintained as to the possibility of discipline, progress, amendment, and even of repentance, in the state that follows death.
On the other hand, that which Bishop Thirlwall did condemn with an unsparing though not unloving severity, in the teaching of some of the writers in • Essays and Reviews,' and of Bishop Colenso, was their use of language which denied, or seemed to deny, the existence of any distinctly divine, supernatural element, in the religion which has been received as a revelation from God through Christ, and the assumption expressed or implied, especially in Dr. Williams's and Mr. Wilson's papers, that men who sat apart, holding no form of • creed and contemplating all,' could honestly continue to be ministers in a National Church calling itself Christian. The very temper of judicial equity and truth which made him so tolerant of all other errors and speculations made him of necessity righteously severe in this. It was, therefore, a singular instance of the ignorance or recklessness in which many of the rumours that float in literary and theological coteries have their birth, that in spite of all this there were found some who, on the appearance of the work on 'Super
natural Religion,' which was hailed by some and struck terror into others as the most formidable attack yet made on the claims of Christianity to be a Divine Revelation, did not hesitate, to circulate the wild conjecture that Bishop Thirlwall was the author. Mysterious allusions appeared in this or that