Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
and rules of faith and conduct with the Church and religion of the Gospels and Epistles; and what was the identity, beyond certain phrases and conventional suppositions?  He could not see a trace in English society of that simple and severe hold of the unseen and the future which is the colour and breath, as well as the outward form, of the New Testament life.  Nothing could be more perfect, nothing grander and nobler, than all the current arrangements for this life; its justice and order and increasing gentleness, its widening sympathies between men; but it was all for the perfection and improvement of this life; it would all go on, if what we experience now was our only scene and destiny.  This perpetual antithesis haunted him, when he knew it, or when he did not.  Against it the Church ought to be the perpetual protest, and the fearless challenge, as it was in the days of the New Testament.  But the English Church had drunk in, he held, too deeply the temper, ideas, and laws of an ambitious and advancing civilisation; so much so as to be unfaithful to its special charge and mission.  The prophet had ceased to rebuke, warn, and suffer; he had thrown in his lot with those who had ceased to be cruel and inhuman, but who thought only of making their dwelling-place as secure and happy as they could.  The Church had become respectable, comfortable, sensible, temperate, liberal; jealous about the forms of its creeds, equally jealous of its secular rights, interested in the discussion of subordinate questions, and becoming more and more tolerant of differences; ready for works of benevolence and large charity, in sympathy with the agricultural poor, open-handed in its gifts; a willing fellow-worker with society in kindly deeds, and its accomplice in secularity.  All this was admirable, but it was not the life of the New Testament, and it was that which filled his thoughts.  The English Church had exchanged religion for civilisation, the first century for the nineteenth, the New Testament as it is written, for a counterfeit of it interpreted by Paley or Mr. Simeon; and it seemed to have betrayed its trust.

Form after form was tried by him, the Christianity of Evangelicalism, the Christianity of Whately, the Christianity of Hawkins, the Christianity of Keble and Pusey; it was all very well, but it was not the Christianity of the New Testament and of the first ages.  He wrote the Church of the Fathers to show they were not merely evidences of religion, but really living men; that they could and did live as they taught, and what was there like the New Testament or even the first ages now?  Alas! there was nothing completely like them; but of all unlike things, the Church of England with its “smug parsons,” and pony-carriages for their wives and daughters, seemed to him the most unlike:  more unlike than the great unreformed Roman Church, with its strange, unscriptural doctrines and its undeniable crimes, and its alliance, wherever it could, with the world. 

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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