To Dress Out the Corse of the Anglican Religion

This very circumstance of the daily-increasing interest in Christian archaeology is abundantly significant, and full of happy augury. It reveals an improved state of the public mind, and leads to the hope of the dawn of better days. It is not only by word, but by fact, that our fellowmen in England, and in Scotland too, have begun to study some thing more than mere Christian antiquities, that they have begun to test the character of Christian aesthetics, that they are no longer content to view the outside of religion, but that they must penetrate within — that they are no longer satisfied with contemplating the old walls of our venerable cathedrals and ivy-covered abbeys, but that they are pushing their inquiries after the doctrines that were preached, and the sacraments that were administered, and the sacrifice that was immolated in the parish church, and the village chapel, during the glorious ages of the faith of our fathers.

But this is not all, for many of the clergy are taking another step decidedly in advance. They are endeavouring to model their religious services according to the full-blown Roman type. Urged on by the high tide of religious sentiment which has now set in, as well as by their own better feelings, they are cultivating religious art, to a marvellous extent. No longer can they endure the cold and vapid worship as by law established, which has completely lost its hold of pious minds; they must have something which is warm and animated, something which is imposing and attractive, some thing that shall touch the heart and impress the soul. No longer can they themselves endure to be regarded as mere state functionaries, as sheer stipendiaries of an institution founded not by the law of heaven, but by the law of the land. They must need rise up to a higher level, and stand upon a nobler platform; they must assert, but in vain, the prerogatives of Christian churchmen; they must declare, but to no purpose, that they are the “messengers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God!” No longer can they endure to be the butt of lay dictation, to be under the supervision of every Low-Church, Broad-Church, or rather, no-Church warden — to be controlled by the Court of Arches, and concussed by her Majesty’s Privy Council. They must proclaim — but it is all moonshine — the freedom of the gospel, and that they, forsooth, are the lineal successors of the apostles! Hence they must retrace their steps, but at imminent peril of being silenced, Romewards, and they must assimilate their services in accordance with the Roman model! They must adopt the rites of the Roman Ritual, introduce the feasts and fasts of the Roman Calendar, propound the doctrines of the Apostolic and Roman Church. They must describe all this religious acting and teaching, as primitive and Catholic, but not Roman — and they must protest against Romanism as well as against Protestantism! Hence they no longer can tolerate the negative designation, “Protestant;” they must, “per fas aut nefas,” be affirmative — they must be out-and-out Catholic. Catholics must be Romanists, or by courtesy, “Roman” Catholics! They must, therefore, in their lately-fledged zeal, be more Catholic than the Catholics themselves. They must outstrip the quiet old religionists of eighteen hundred years’ standing, and in this sensational age, they must create by their recently adopted rites, the most extra-ordinary sensation!

No longer are they therefore content with weekly, they must have daily services; they must have so many fast days and feast days, so many, and so varied, Ritualistic observances. They must have so multiform religious emblems at the Church door, and so diversified decorations on the church walls. They must have so many lamps burning in the sanctuary; so many candles lighted at the altar; so many celebrations during the morning; so imposing vesper services in the afternoon. They must have divers confessionals, with the names of the confessors emblazoned, due notice being given that confessions shall be heard on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as on the vigils of all Feasts. They must still have so many genuflections, despite the Court of Arches, and such profound prostrations, in defiance of the Privy Council. They must have fuming of the sweetest incense, and such ringing of the altar bell, and the vesper bell, and the angelus bell, and, doubtless, by-and-bye, of the curfew bell! They must have beautifully organized processions, headed by the cross-bearers, composed of guilds, and societies, and confraternities, and sisterhoods and brotherhoods, with banners aloft, and vocal and instrumental music, all which have utterly astounded “our own correspondents,” and taken the city of London by surprise, if not by a holy kind of violence!

Now it must in very truth be said, that those rites, however admirable — those religious demonstrations, however beautiful in themselves — nay desirable in public worship, when legitimately employed, are by no means congenial to the nature of the Anglican Establishment which repels them, moreover condemns them, by the law officials, and which declares that they who use them do so at their peril; and that they are guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour against the Church of England. For these Ritualistic ceremonials are altogether alien to the National Church, as they are unmeaning in that Church’s service; they are counterfeit imitations of the Catholic and Roman Ritual. They are not the current coin of the Anglican religious realm; they are not in “use and wont” in the various temples of their fellow religionists. They are no doubt so far successful endeavours in the aesthetic order, but they are transparent fallacies; they are nugatory efforts in the supernatural order, to dress out the corse of the Anglican religion, and to try to resuscitate the body, when the soul has fled; they are disingenuous devices in the mystical order, to employ those spasmodic influences by way of inducing the simple-minded to believe that there is after all some spark of life in that religious system, by law established, when in reality there is nothing but death and decomposition!

— J. Stewart M’Corry, D.D., The Monks of Iona; in Reply to “Iona, by the Duke of Argyll”; London (1871).

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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