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or the true position of the Church at the present moment, it may be necessary to take a preliminary survey of a considerably earlier period of the present century, and to recall to our readers' minds the difference between the space which the Church of England now occupies in the public eye, and that which it occupied some forty years ago.

Before the repeal of the Test and Corporation Aets, and of the Roman Catholic Disabilities, the Church of England was regarded as one of the fixed institutions of the country even hy those who dissented from her. We mean that whatever their speculative opinions, they no more thought of attempting any change in the organic constitution of the Church, than in the House of Lords, the monarchy, or the general administration of justice.

In those days there was a great deal of violent invective against all our institutions. Much more than we hear now; but that was because their power was really felt, and men

never dreamed of questioning the foundations upon which it rested. The Church was very copiously abused. Bishops were sneered at like dukes, rectors like squires, and so forth; but never under the impression that any material change could be effected except by a regular revolution. The Church, in fact, seemed embedded in the national constitution—to be one of the bones of the body politic; and men, while they grumbled at some of its abuses, regarded them nevertheless in the light of natural imperfections, from which nothing human was exempt. But after the repeal of the aforesaid statutes had secured for all Dissenters alike an influence in the State which had been quite unknown to them before; after the passage of the Reform Bill, which gave a parliamentary voice and a practical authority to what had been previously the mere speculative opinions of a few writers; and last, but not least, after the decision of the House of Lords in the Braintree case had taught men to scan more narrowly the tenure by which she held her property, the Church of England, though legally and constitutionally what she ever had been, was unquestionably dislodged from that position which she had hitherto maintained in the popular imagination. Her prestige of inviolability was gone. The separation of Church and State became a comparatively familiar idea ; and it was promoted even by those very writers into whose hands the defence of what were called “ Church principles" had almost exclusively fallen - we mean the Oxford Tractarians.

Still the idea which had flourished in the popular heart for so many centuries was not to be uprooted in a moment. The influence of the old belief was, and is still, plainly discernible in much that is written about the Church even by hostile critics. It is, indeed, not impossible that the Church may in time reconquer for herself that position on



were among

which the said idea depended. But however this may be, its influence for many years after the Reform Bill was still very strong, and is to be traced in the “ Times

newspaper at least as late as the dissolution of Sir Robert Peel's government. No doubt other causes of a purely human and private character contributed to the same effect. The management of the “Times” was in those days supposed to be well affected towards the High Church party. The administration of Sir Robert Peel, whom the “Times” consistently supported, numbered numerous young statesmen in its ranks whose views were of the same kind. Mr. Sidney Herbert, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Lincoln, and others

his most efficient officers, and they were all declared High Churchmen. Beyond, therefore, the policy of avoiding extremes, the “ Times” had not only no inducement to favour the enemies of the Church, but every inducement to the contrary; the personal predilections of its proprietor and the composition of the ministry with whom it was thoroughly at one. Thus we shall find during this period a total absence of that contemptuous and uncivil tone which has of late years distinguished its articles on the clergy, even when practically favourable to them. The “ Times” is far too good a judge of public feeling not to write warmly, and sometimes even unctuously, in favour of religion. But in those days it wrote decisively in favour of “ Church views,” as a very few specimens, all taken from the year 1844, will be sufficient to prove.

Upon the 30th of March, 1844, a letter was printed in the “ Times," which contained some rather severe strictures upon the late Bishop of London's method of dispensing his patronage. A leading article was written on this letter, which, after commenting on the inevitable nepotism of men in office, with a good deal of humour, but not a spark of malice, proceeded to a formal confession of faith in the orthodox doctrine of Episcopacy. “In our judgment,” said the writer, “the Episcopal office is of apostolic origin.” Only a few days after this-upon the 3rd of April—the “Times”

more gave utterance to sentiments calculated to gladden the hearts of all the High Churchmen of the day. We know not if our readers recollect a question which raised a great commotion in its time, and has indeed acquired treble interest for us lately by reason of the case of Mrs. Yelverton. The ceremony of marriage as performed by the Irish Presbyterian ministers is an exceedingly simple business, and fenced round by none of those forms which the Church requires of her members. As the law stood, no marriage between a Presbyterian and a person of any other persuasion was valid if celebrated only according to this rite. But the Presbyterians chose to kick against the law, and used to urge as many couples as they could to set its provisions at defiance. A man who in compliance with their advice had married in this illegal way, afterwards married another woman according to the rites of the Church, and being put upon his trial for bigamy, was acquitted. The Presbyterian ministers resented this verdict most violently as a negation of the validity of their orders. The “Times” wrote an article on the subject, in which the “orders” of Dissenting preachers were held up to ridicule. The Church of England and the law of England knew of no orders but those of bishop, priest, and deacon. The Presbyterians were asked “what they wanted,” and were told "it was impossible to please them.” And after a lecture on their impertinence, which might have become a cardinal, they were dismissed like beaten hounds.


A fortnight after the publication of this article, Mr. Hume brought forward a motion in the House of Commons for admitting the public freely to the cathedrals; and something was said about their being national property. Nothing could exceed the indignation which this phrase excited in the orthodox critics who then filled the columns of the “Times.” National property forsooth! Parliamentary dictation to the Church! The Deans and chapters would treat it with contempt, and serve it quite right too. The cathedrals were the property of the Church as a corporate body. They were not given by the State ; nor had the State any right to interfere with them. We are very far indeed from any wish to traverse the assertion. But it wears a very singular aspect in a column of that clear large type, and surrounded by all those accessories which still constitute the “Times” as we receive it every morning at our breakfast table. Were such language to appear

in it now, one would fancy the whole staff had been indulging too freely in strong waters, or that in the spirit of an Eastern caliph, the veiled prophet of Printing-house Square had made Dr. Phillpotts or Mr. Liddell Grand Vizier for one day, just to see what he would do.

Perhaps, however, the next expression of opinion that we have to record is even still more unlike the tone of the “ Times" subjects as we know it at the present day. On the 25th of April a proposal was made by Mr. Borthwick for restoring its ancient functions to Convocation. In its article this subject the upon

» indeed

Times congratulated the House of Commons on being counted out, and deprecated the revival of powers which had been so long in desuetude ; but, at the same time, went so far as to assert that it would have been a very good thing for this country if Convocation had never been suspended. It would, thought the writer, have prevented many scandals in the Church ; have secured more unanimity; and have altogether sustained a higher degree of piety and efficiency in the clergy than they exhibited after its suspension.

Thus we see that within a space of twenty-six days the “ Times"

upon these

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had declared episcopacy to be an apostolic institution; had laughed
out of court the idea of a Dissenter “in orders as a kind of sec-
tarian jackdaw, or a religious flunkey playing at "High Life Below
Stairs ;" had claimed for the Church exclusively the control of eccle-
siastical property; and had lamented the stoppage of Convocation in
the reign of King George I.
After this we think our readers will



to this date there was no disposition on the part of the leading journal to show any hostility to the Church. Not only was it a regular supporter of the Church both as a part of the constitution, and the embodiment of the religion of the country, but it took up the very particular view which represented especially the parti prêtre of our Church. We do not, of course, mean to say that the “Times” at this period would have backed up the extreme opinions of Mr. Newman, Mr. Faber, or Mr. Oakley; but simply that in discussing ecclesiastical subjects, its point d'appui was the High Church theory. And this circumstance is worthy of remark, because the “Times” then as now was supposed to represent the popular opinion of the day, and the question is whether it was a more trustworthy exponent of the national sentiment then than

it is now.

After the break up of Sir Robert Peel's administration in 1846, there was no immediate change in the tone of the “ Times” on these subjects. But it is worthy of remark that the leading articles treated far less frequently than before of ecclesiastical questions.

In the month of December we find an article on the appointment of Dr. Hampden to the see of Hereford, decidedly unfavourable to the new bishop, and criticising Lord John Russell very sharply for disturbing the peace of the Church by the promotion of a condemned heretic. But in the two following years we observe a remarkable silence upon matters relating to the clergy. This was not for dearth of topics, for in 1849, at all events, the church-rate contest was inaugurated by Mr. Trelawny; a Clergy Relief Bill was introduced by Mr. Bouverie ; and the subjects of national education and ecclesiastical jurisdiction afforded many opportunities for comment if the journal had been disposed to seize them. But it appears studiously to have avoided this whole class of topics.

No doubt during these two years public attention was much occupied with other matters. The fight between free trade and protection at home, and the revolutionary wars which were raging on the continent, supplied food for reflection and for comment, without the intervention of Church questions. At the same time these questions were agitated in Parliament: and what is more, in 1854 and 1855, when the nation was still more pre-occupied, the “ Times” found leisure to discuss them. It appears to us, then, that its reticence at this particu. lar period had some kind of meaning in it; and it is susceptible, possibly, of more than one explanation.

But it seems probable that the managers of the “ Times," so far wise enough, must as early as 1848 have begun to apprehend what for some years afterwards was the actual condition of Parliament, namely, so great a confusion of parties as to give a fatal advantage to the compact Radical minority which soon began to win divisions upon church-rates and other kindred subjects. Up to 1846 the Conservative organization had been so compact, the confidence in Sir Robert Peel was so universal, that the “ Times” could write fearlessly in favour of all Conservative sentiments. But after his resignation it soon became apparent that the party, though not destroyed, had received a heavier blow than was at first believed, and that it must be many years before it could regain its strength sufficiently to control Parliament. It was necessary then for the “Times” to wait and see what turn affairs were likely to take before continuing, in the same decisive spirit, its old advocacy of the Church.

Still its change of tone was very gradual. As late as 1850, the tone of its articles on a great variety of Church questions was both friendly and catholic. On the great Gorham case, especially, the most pointed assertions of High Church doctrine are to be found in its columns. On the 9th of March, a very remarkable article was published in which, while liberty was claimed for the party which thought with Mr. Gorham, the party itself was spoken of throughout simply as a respectable minority, which had sat indeed within the pale of the Church since the Reformation, but had no claim to represent her. The Bishop of Exeter, said the “ Times,” “rests on the broad ground of orthodoxy," and Mr. Gorham only on an exceptional interpretation of the Church's formularies which commends itself to a special class of minds. It was impossible, we were told, for impartial men to doubt that baptismal regeneration was the doctrine of the Church of England. In some articles, which followed this one, on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and its reversal of the judgment of the Court of Arches, the “ Times” still displayed a spirit to which no fair Churchman could very much object. It is to be remembered indeed that at that time the extreme High Church party was more numerous and influential than it is at present, and that they one and all vociferously demanded an exclusively ecclesiastical tribunal for the decision of doctrinal questions. To these, it may have seemed that the “ Times” was taking part against the Church. But the Times

never ceased to point out that what the case of Mr. Gorham involved was a question not of doctrine, but of fact. Had the evangelical interpretation of the baptismal service been allowed a locus standi within the Church, or had it not? That was the

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