The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 807 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.
abolition of subscription was proposed by some, revision of the Articles by others, no one, so far as it appears, proposed the more obvious alternative of modifying the wording of the terms in which subscription was made.  But nothing of any kind was done.  The bishops, upon consultation, thought it advisable to leave matters alone.  They may have been right.  But, throughout the greater part of the century, leaving alone was too much the wisdom of the leaders and rulers of the English Church.

In all the course of its long history, before and after the Reformation, the National Church of England has never, perhaps, occupied so peculiarly isolated a place in Christendom as at the extreme end of the last century and through the earlier years of the present one.  At one or another period it may have been more jealous of foreign influence, more violently antagonistic to Roman Catholics, more intolerant of Dissent, more wedded to uniformity in doctrine and discipline.  But at no one time had it stood, as a Church, so distinctly apart from all other Communions.  If the events of the French Revolution had slightly mitigated the antipathy to Roman Catholicism, there was still not the very slightest approximation to it on the part of the highest Anglicans, if any such continued to exist.  The Eastern Church, after attracting a faint curiosity through the overtures of the later Nonjurors, was as wholly unknown and unthought of as though it had been an insignificant sect in the furthest wilds of Muscovy.  All communications with the foreign Protestant Churches had ceased.  It had beheld, after the death of Wesley, almost the last links severed between itself and Methodism.  It had become separated from Dissenters generally by a wider interval.  Its attitude towards them was becoming less intolerant, but more chilled and exclusive.  The Evangelicals combined to some extent with Nonconformists, and often met on the same platforms.  But there was no longer anything like the friendly intercourse which had existed in the beginning and in the middle of last century between the bishops and clergy of the ‘moderate’ party in the Church on the one hand, and the principal Nonconformist ministers on the other.  Comprehension—­until the time of Dr. Arnold—­was no longer discussed.  Occasional conformity had in long past time received the blow which deprived it of importance.  Again, the Church of England was still almost confined, except by its missions, within the limits of the four seas.  Pananglicanism was a term yet to be invented.  The Colonial empire was still in its infancy, and its Church in tutelage.  There was a sister Church in the United States.  But the wounds inflicted in the late war were scarcely staunched; and the time had not arrived to speak of cordiality, or of community of Church interests.  It was from Scottish, not from English hands, that America received her first bishop.

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