Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before

View of nave of Iona Abbey from the sanctuary.
View of nave of Iona Abbey from the sanctuary.

To the most superficial observer it is too apparent that Ritualists cannot remain in their present abnormal position. They cannot possibly continue to minister in the Anglican Establishment, which naturally has no sympathy at all with their so-called Romanistic proclivities. They must of necessity, if consistent, either walk in the broad way of Anglicanism, or in the narrow way of Catholicity. They must, if consistent, hold by the Establishment of the sixteenth century, or enter into the communion of that one — that only true Church of Christendom which is coeval with the existence of Christianity — which is Catholic and Roman — which walks under Apostolic guidance — which attaches a meaning to every rite, and which breathes the breath of life into the least as well as the greatest act of religion. Apart from this Catholic Apostolic Roman Church, these mystic rites are dead — these religious ceremonials are devoid of vitality — these gorgeous vestments are a snare — these confessionals are a sham — these celebrations are a delusion of the wicked one, and the whole system of sacramental acting in the present Ritualistic Churches is an egregious hallucination which may please but not satisfy; which may amuse but not console — which is superficial and not substantial — which is a painted cobweb devoid of all reality — which perhaps may not unhappily be assimilated to those deceptive apples which grow with such luxuriance on the banks of the Dead Sea, that are beautiful without, but utterly empty within! This indeed is a most disastrous state of things for immortal souls. Prayers earnest and persevering have been long offered to bring about a change — that change, blessed be God, has come. The dove with the green branch of hope has returned to the ark, signifying that the deluge of heresy, which for 300 years had inundated the whole island, is rapidly subsiding. The times, therefore, are full of augury — “Coming events cast their shadows before.” An altar for Iona, and High Mass in Westminster Abbey! J. Stewart M’Corry, D.D., The Monks of Iona; in Reply to “Iona, by the Duke of Argyll”; London (1871).

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).

The Priceless Charms of Iona

Iona Abbey.
Iona Abbey.

Surely his Grace of Argyll ought to know, that the fascinations of Iona are by no manner of means attributable to the present ducal proprietor. They are by no means attributable to the climate, nor to the soil, nor to the rocks, nor to the neighbouring mountains; they are not attributable to modern architecture; they are not, therefore, attributable to any natural or artificial, but rather to a supernatural, nay, to a celestial agency! The priceless charms of Iona are to be ascribed to the incomparable genius of the Catholic religion, which his Grace of Argyll sets down as “mediæval superstition;” and the matchless treasures of Iona are to be ascribed to those devoted men, whose hearts throbbed with that heaven-born religion, and whose hands erected to God those beauteous structures which are, forsooth, “the monuments of the dull and often corrupt monotony of mediæval Romanism!”

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