Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.

And for his success in this part of his work—­in making the crowds in Manchester feel that their Bishop was a man like themselves, quite alive to their wants and claims and feelings, and not so unlike them in his broad and strong utterances—­his Episcopate deserves full recognition and honour.  He set an example which we may hope to see followed and improved upon.  But unfortunately there was also a less successful side.  He was a Bishop, an overseer of a flock of many ways of life and thought, a fellow-worker with them, sympathetic, laborious, warm-hearted.  But he was also a Bishop of the Church of Christ, an institution with its own history, its great truths to keep and deliver, its characteristic differences from the world which it is sent to correct and to raise to higher levels than those of time and nature.  There is no reason why this side of the Episcopal office should not be joined to that in which Bishop Frazer so signally excelled.  But for this part of it he was not well qualified, and much in his performance of it must be thought of with regret.  The great features of Christian truth had deeply impressed him; and to its lofty moral call he responded with conviction and earnestness.  But an acquaintance with what he has to interpret and guard which may suffice for a layman is not enough for a Bishop; and knowledge, the knowledge belonging to his profession, the deeper and more varied knowledge which makes a man competent to speak as a theologian, Bishop Frazer did not possess.  He rather disbelieved in it, and thought it useless, or, it might be, mischievous.  He resented its intrusion into spheres where he could only see the need of the simplest and least abstruse language.  But facts are not what we may wish them, but what they are; and questions, if they are asked, may have to be answered, with toil, it may be, and difficulty, like the questions, assuredly not always capable of easy and transparent statement, of mathematical or physical science; and unless Christianity is a dream and its history one vast delusion, such facts and such questions have made what we call theology.  But to the Bishop’s practical mind they were without interest, and he could not see how they could touch and influence living religion.  And did not care to know about them; he was impatient, and even scornful, when stress was laid on them; he was intolerant when he thought they competed with the immediate realities of religion.  And this want of knowledge and of respect for knowledge was a serious deficiency.  It gave sometimes a tone of thoughtless flippancy to his otherwise earnest language.  And as he was not averse to controversy, or, at any rate, found himself often involved in it, he was betrayed sometimes into assertions and contradictions of the most astounding inaccuracy, which seriously weakened his authority when he was called upon to accept the responsibility of exerting it.

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