The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 665 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.

Perhaps, in the order of that far-reaching Providence which is traced in the history of Churches as of States, it may, after all, have been well that, in the century under our review, the somewhat sluggish stream of life which circulated in the English Church had not sought out for itself any new channels.  A more diffusive activity might be reserved to it for better times.  In the eighteenth century there would always have been cause for fear that, in seeking to embrace more, it might lose some valuable part of what it already had, and which, once lost, it might not be easy to recover.  There were many to whom ‘moderation’ would have been another word for compromise; and who, not so much in the interests of true unity as for the sake of tranquil days, would have made concessions which a later age would regret in vain.  Moreover, the Churchmen of that period had a great work before them of consolidation, and of examination of fundamental principles.  They did not do that part of their work amiss.  Possibly they might have done it not so well, had their energies been less concentrated on the special task which employed their intellects—­if they had been called upon to turn their attention to important changes in the ecclesiastical polity, or to new schemes of Church extension.  Faults, blunders, shortcomings, are not to be excused by unforeseen good ultimately involved in them; yet it is, at all events, an allowable and pleasant thing to consider whether good may not have resulted in the end.  Throughout the eighteenth century the principles of the Church of England were retained, if sometimes inactive, yet at least intact, ready for development and expansion, if ever the time should come.  Already, at the end of the century, our National Church was teeming with the promise of a new or reinvigorated life.  The time for greater union, in which this Church may have a great part to do, and for increased comprehensiveness, may, in our day, be ripening towards maturity.  Even now there is little fear that in any changes and improvements which might be made, the English Church would relax its hold either on primitive and Catholic uses, or on that precious inheritance of liberty which was secured at the Reformation.  There may be difficulties, too great to be overcome, in the way either of Church revision or Church comprehension; but if they should be achieved, their true principles would be better understood than ever they were in the days of Tillotson and Calamy, or of Secker and Doddridge.

C.J.A.

FOOTNOTES: 

[Footnote 301:  Alison’s Life of Marlborough, i. 199.  Seward’s Anecdotes, ii. 271.  Jortin’s Tracts, ii. 43.  E. Savage’s Poems, ‘The Character,’ &c.]

[Footnote 302:  Spectator, No. 116.]

[Footnote 303:  Nelson’s Life of Bull, 329-30.]

[Footnote 304:  Mosheim’s Church History, Maclaine’s edition, vol. v.  ‘Letter of Beauvoir to Wake,’ December 11, 1717, Ap. 2, No. 2, p. 147.]

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