Historical Lectures and Addresses/Laud's Position in the History of the Church of England
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|Historical Lectures and Addresses. A lecture given at All Hallows, Barking, on 10th January, 1895, in connexion with the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the beheading of Archbishop Laud.from|
We turn to the records of the past with a desire to escape from the perplexities which beset our judgment of the present. We long to find principles, clearly marked, working themselves out to a triumphant end. We pine for characters of majestic simplicity, whose integrity and wisdom are alike beyond dispute. It is sad to confess that the search for heroes is fruitless; that there are few characters which defy criticism; that the forms of controversy have changed rather than their nature; that men and women are still sons and daughters of debate; that the issues of the activity of those who played a great part in affairs are strangely complicated, and still make demands on our charity in judging them.
It is not my purpose to-day to eulogise the character of him whose memory we are met to celebrate. My object is to put before you the task which he undertook, and the difficulties which beset him. The judgment of history is necessarily stern; it can make no allowance for good intentions: it must pass beyond immediate success or failure, and must estimate all the results of action which it has the penetration to perceive. First, then, I should say that William Laud has an unfailing claim upon the homage of English Churchmen, because he did much to fix the character of the system of the English Church. Some explanation is necessary to show how and why such a task devolved on him; and for this purpose I must ask you to follow me in a brief survey of the actual conditions which Laud had to face. The great religious movement of the sixteenth century produced a universal change, which affected all countries alike. It marshalled into opposite camps tendencies of thought which had long been antagonistic, though the antagonism had been humoured or suppressed. It swept away the dominant theology which had formed the groundwork for the abuses which provoked revolt. Post-Tridentine theology in the Roman Church owes more to Luther than to his scholastic predecessors of the fifteenth century. Everywhere there were changes, and it was difficult to foresee the final settlement in any quarter.
In England the limitations of change were at first clearly defined. They were—abolition of the Papal jurisdiction, remedy of abuses in the organisation of the Church which were due to that jurisdiction, greater simplicity and intelligibility in public worship. These corresponded with the fuller development of that national consciousness whose watchword had always been "England for the English". They corresponded with the political ideal of England's position, which first took a definite shape in the hands of Wolsey, and has ever since prevailed—that England should use its natural advantages and its large resources to act as an independent arbitrator in European affairs. The conception of an English patriarchate, quasi alterius orbis papa, was as old as Anselm, and was almost realised by Wolsey. It seemed no great innovation to give it practical effect.
But when change is in the air it is impossible to erect barriers beyond which it may not pass. The reigns of Edward VI. and Mary witnessed two forms of reaction, both of them worked by a small party from above, neither of them according with the wishes of the English people. One thing only was obvious to the statesmen of Elizabeth's reign—that Romanism meant the loss of English liberty and England's subjection to the overwhelming influence of the Spanish monarchy. But in England itself men's minds had been stirred by alternate persecutions, and partisanship had arisen on both sides. Parties had unconsciously formed themselves, and corresponded with parties existing on the Continent, where national and social antagonisms had assumed a religious garb. It was difficult to see how the conception which lay at the root of the English Reformation was to be realised, an independent and united England, strong in its union, and able through its strength to mediate in the struggles on the Continent and produce peace by the example of its own moderating influence.
We miss the whole point of what actually occurred if we do not recognise the existence of this ideal, which was the result of England's past experience. England united was safe, and could impose its will gradually but decisively on the Continent; England disunited was helpless, and became the scene of plots, intrigues, and passionate animosities, which would drag it into continental warfare as a feeble ally to one or other of the contending powers. Religious unity was felt by the wisest to be a political necessity; no sacrifice was too great to obtain it. The best hope was that the English people would accept the spirit of the changes made under Henry VIII., and forget after a little time the spirit displayed under Edward VI. and Mary. If the framework were securely erected things might slowly adjust themselves. Hot blood would cool; opinions would modify one another; the general forms of public worship were such as all men might readily agree to accept; on doubtful points of practice and belief there was large latitude.
Such were the hopes of the wise and prudent; but it requires little knowledge of history to know that wisdom and prudence play a very slight part in directing human affairs. The motive power in all things is generally the passionate resolve of small bodies of men to have their own way because it is their own. There was a sufficient number of adherents of the Marian Church to form a party, which intrigued abroad for Elizabeth's downfall and the subjection of England to Spain. This party had little hold in England itself, where Romanism might have speedily been absorbed if the religious settlement had prospered as it was hoped. But the returned exiles from Geneva had adopted the views of the French reformer, and strove to give them practical effect. The theology of Calvin was a weighty contribution towards many questions which had been brought into prominence in recent controversy. The rulers of the English Church regarded it with sympathy, and had no desire to prevent its free discussion or to limit arbitrarily its acceptance. But Calvin was not only the author of a system of theology, but of a new system of Church government and of public worship. His English adherents were not content to hold his theological opinions; they strove to impose his system of worship and government. They denounced episcopacy; they discarded surplices; they objected to the Liturgy; they steadily worked for the purpose of imposing upon England the Genevan system of discipline.
The immediate result of their action was to give force and vitality to the old form of worship. Men were not unwilling to exchange the old services in Latin for those modelled on them which were contained in the Prayer-book. But in the face of the agitation set on foot by the adherents of Geneva, what security had they that these would be decently performed or permanently retained? If England was after all to submit to a foreign yoke, Rome was preferable to Geneva. So some argued; and the pardonable hesitation of many who were not interested in religious controversy deepened into a quiet adherence to the old system, which at least was definite when all else seemed shifting. Thus a Romanist party grew up in England, which was dangerous, not on religious grounds, but because it gave an opportunity for political interference from without.
Thus the prospect of a united England faded away on one side. The question still remained, how could it best be maintained on the other? There can be little doubt that the mass of the people were satisfied with the Prayer-book. But there was a minority who favoured a more radical change. This minority was at first not so much strong in numbers as in resoluteness. It did not represent popular feeling, but consisted of earnest men, many of whom had been in exile, men who took orders in the Church, and claimed to work for the public good according to their own convictions. This body found a home in the desolate universities, where they influenced the minds of the young and built up adherents. To them the Prayer-book was merely a temporary makeshift—a half-way house between the Romanism which they detested and the Calvinism which they soon hoped to establish.
For an understanding of the course of events it is necessary to remember two things which are generally overlooked or misrepresented. First of all, the Puritan party were not struggling for toleration, but for mastery. They did not ask for wider option within the system of the Church, but they wished to substitute another system for it. Every point of concession gained was but a step towards a new demand. Objections were made first to the use of the surplice, then to the Liturgy, then to episcopacy. The aim of the objectors was gradually to introduce the presbyterian system. The minister was to be approved by the classis; ceremonies were to be gradually dropped; churchwardens and overseers were to be turned into elders; the Church was to be administered by classical, provincial, and general assemblies; bishops might remain as chairmen of these meetings till the time came for their disappearance; the Liturgy was to be slurred over, and the congregation invited only to a sermon prefaced by a long extempore prayer. By a judicious perseverance in this policy the Church was to be transformed into Presbyterianism. This was the persistent endeavour of the Puritans; it was consistent and intelligible.
A second point to notice is that the leaders in this movement were found amongst the clergy, particularly in the universities. The Romanists manifested their hostility by withdrawing from the Church, organising themselves apart, and looking for help from abroad to bring back England to their way of thinking. The Puritans entered into the organisation of the Church and strove to change it from within. The first Nonconformists were clergy who refused to conduct their services according to the Prayerbook.
It was this fact which constituted the great difficulty in the way of uniting religious feeling in England on a basis which would give unity and strength. Religious questions were unfortunately also political questions. England, united either with Romanism or with foreign Protestantism, would have sacrificed its independent position and would never have emerged into the England of to-day. If the reign of Elizabeth was the great period in the making of modern England, it was because Elizabeth always aimed at holding a mediating position abroad, and husbanded England's resources while other countries were squandering theirs in warfare. Had the Puritans prevailed, this advantage would have been lost. Taking the largest historical view, I think it must be admitted that England owes a debt of gratitude to those who upheld its struggling Church. We may admire the zeal and the conscientiousness of the Puritans; we may own that they contributed valuable elements to the national character, and largely influenced for good England's subsequent development. But we must say in all fairness that they were not patriotic in their early days, and that their endeavours to make England Calvinistic did not correspond to the best interests of the nation. We may regret that their excellent qualities were deprived of their full influence because they were expressed mainly in resolute antagonism.
Thus the English Church was identified with the English nation alike in its strength and in its weakness. The Church was surrounded by powerful foes, organised on a definite basis, and it seemed almost impossible for it to make good its mediate position. The English State was in a similar position; no statesman, except Elizabeth herself, thought it possible for England to stand alone. Yet Elizabeth succeeded, in spite of overwhelming difficulties. Church and State alike grew into a consciousness of their mission, of their capacities, and of their inherent strength.
It is enough for me to suggest the close connexion between the two. I am concerned only with the Church. There was the system corresponding truly to the needs of the nation's life, and generally accepted; but the difficulty was in working it efficiently. There was no desire on the part of the authorities of the Church to check prematurely theological controversies. Many of the bishops were strongly imbued with Calvin's teaching. But it was necessary to have an orderly and decent service in which all might join. To this the Puritans objected: they would have no remnants of the past; they could not work in fetters; they would be content with nothing less than the system of Geneva. Episcopal visitations, admonitions and injunctions were powerless. Ecclesiastical authority was set at nought. Attempts were made again and again to meet the demands of the Nonconformists: ceremonies were explained, ritual was simplified, trivial matters were allowed to assume importance. Every effort was made to procure peace, but was made in vain.
This period of experiment to discover a basis of unity compatible with the maintenance of the ecclesiastical system was not favourable for the definite exhibition of the system itself. Many bishops were themselves uncertain how far they might go in their concessions. The country parishes were often ill-manned; the ecclesiastical organisation was defective; there was much disorder. It required time for a sense of loyalty to the Church to gather round a genuine appreciation of its system. For this purpose thought and knowledge were necessary. Amid the violent utterances of partisans the real issue was obscured; and the lofty aims of cultivated piety were not immediately attractive in a time of discord. But it was through controversy that opinion developed, and the position of the Church became better defined. First Jewel stated its difference from the Roman system; then Hooker, with still more massive learning, fortified it against the attacks of the Puritans, and indicated the limits of possible concession.The onslaught of Calvinism gradually died away before the appeal to Christian antiquity and the history of the Christian Church. Whitgift, as Archbishop, could exercise stronger discipline over the clergy than Parker had ventured on. Yet Whitgift was content with demanding an acknowledgment that the Prayer-book was unobjectionable. He asked only for outward uniformity and obedience to the law. It was unfortunate that the last demand was so convenient in its form; for it suggested a mass of enlightened opinion, which was not convinced by argument or by reference to strictly ecclesiastical principles, but was suppressed by a system imposed from motives of public policy. However, the influence of Calvinism as a system of Church government and discipline gradually waned. When it assumed a merely doctrinal aspect Whitgift was willing to make large concessions. It was for wiser heads than his to see that the theology of Calvin had already exercised its due influence on the English Church, and that further definition on the dubious points contained in the Lambeth articles was not desirable. The Hampton Court Conference emphasised the fact that Calvinism was not to change the system of the Church; that the Prayer-book stood the test of Scripture interpreted by primitive usage; and that this interpretation was not to be set aside in favour of the private judgment of the most eminent theologians of the sixteenth century.
During this period the system of the Church was constantly on the defensive, and so had little opportunity of putting forth its full strength. There was a genuine desire to make it suitable for the whole mass of the English people. Suggestions for this purpose had been freely made and fully considered. From a period of controversy emerged the conviction of essential principles. It was the old Church, freed from accretions, brought back to its primitive form, recognising individual liberty and consequent responsibility, appealing to the head as well as to the heart, with Scriptural reasons for what it did and what it omitted. All this became increasingly apparent to the new generation which had grown up under the influence of its services, and had caught their meaning.
This developed consciousness found its fitting expression in the formation of characters which were avowedly built on the system of the Church, and which set forth its distinctive features. Controversy, alas! is sometimes inevitable; but, like any other form of warfare, it is in itself unlovely, and is only valued for the peace which follows upon it. Pious lives are more effective than learned disputations; the still, small voice of devotion penetrates farther than the keenest arguments. Bishop Andrewes was the type of a temper which was powerful among the clergy; George Herbert and Nicholas Ferrar were examples of its influence among the laity. Herbert was led to take orders at the age of thirty-seven, and during his brief pastorate of three years was a model of devotion to the duties of his office. Ferrar withdrew from public life that he might live with his family and friends in an atmosphere of quiet and educated piety. These men had common characteristics: they were lovers of peace, they were men of learning, they strove to form their lives by the practice of orderly devotion, they loved the Church, and strove to make its meaning clear by scrupulous care for everything which could make its services intelligible and attractive. Cultured devotion and spiritual sweetness have perhaps never been set forth more cogently and persuasively than in their lives, their characters, and their writings. They indicated splendid possibilities of a religious future, which had been the dream of thinking minds during the weary century of debate through which Europe had disconsolately passed.
For it is well to abandon all illusions about the sixteenth century. There were strong men; there were powerful minds; but there was a dearth of beautiful characters. A time of revolt and upheaval is a time of one-sided energy, of moral uncertainty, of hardness, of unsound argument, of imperfect self-control, of vacillation, of self-seeking. It is difficult in such a time to find heroes, to discover a man whom we can unreservedly admire. The Church of Rome had fortified itself against attack by the Inquisition, and by the passionate zeal of the Society of Jesus, which soon degenerated into unprincipled intrigue. Calvin raised against it a massive system, which bound together the members of his community by an overpowering sense of their direct dependence on God through His particular election of each individual soul. Beside these two great systems all else seemed inconclusive, poor, feeble, and doomed to failure. Yet where in either of them was there place for the aspirations of the devout scholar, of the man who reverenced liberty, who believed in progressive enlightenment, who longed for an intelligent order of things in which the Christian consciousness should seek for spiritual truth? It was not merely by accident that the great scholar Isaac Casaubon ended his days in England, made happy by the society of Andrewes. It is significant of the temper of the times that the Puritans pelted him with stones in the street when they found that he was not a partisan on their side. Still, despite this, Casaubon, with his vast learning and his wide experience of the Continent, found peace for his soul in England, which he called "the isle of the blessed". In it, despite all drawbacks, still lingered a reverence for knowledge, a love of truth, and a sense of the problems of the future.
Now, herein lies Laud's claim to greatness, that he recognised the possibilities of the English Church, not merely for England itself, but as the guardian of all that was best and most fruitful for the future of religious progress. "This poor Church of England," he said in his speech upon the scaffold, "hath flourished, and hath been a shelter to other neighbouring Churches when storms have driven upon them." Laud had at heart the ideal of a united England, with a Church at once Catholic, Scriptural, Apostolic, free from superstition, yet reverently retaining all that was primitive; a resting-place for all men of enlightenment; a model of piety and devotion to a distracted world; strong in its capacity for mediating between opposing systems; full of the zeal which comes from knowledge and large-heartedness. He saw the value of the qualities which Andrewes had quietly and patiently expressed, and he longed to set them forth universally and unmistakably that they might do their work in the hearts and consciences of men. He had a clear conception of the mission of the English Church, and his one aim was to embody that conception in its system with a clearness and definiteness which could not fail to be convincing. Hitherto this conception had been blurred and obscured, had slowly found its way into shape, and had remained in the background amid the din of contending parties. Laud wished to make it positive, to set it in the forefront, and rally England round it.There are two things which must be kept distinct—Laud's conception of the Church of England, and the means which he took to embody this conception. I am endeavouring to judge his conception strictly on historical grounds. The questions which agitated Laud's time still agitate in some degree our own day also. But we must not suppose that they wore the same appearance then, or had the same meaning. What Laud had before him was briefly this: the attempt to substitute the system of Calvin for the system of the Church had failed; but Calvinism was still strong; and there was a desire on the part of politicians to make such a religious settlement in England as suited general convenience. Why, it is often asked, did not James I., Laud and Charles I. fall in with this suggestion of obvious utility, and allow a Church which had room for all?
There is, of course, the answer that an institution must after all be something, and that there are limits to latitude of opinion which no institution can transcend. But this does not, I think, account for Laud's attitude. He was a statesman, and not merely a politician. He recognised that England had a part to play in the world, a duty which it could not refuse to fulfil. He saw that that duty was one of composing differences, of mediating, pacifying, and influencing. It seems to me that this has been, and still is, England's great contribution to European progress. Sufficiently isolated to be able to stand aloof from foreign politics and solve her own problems, she is yet sufficiently near to be receptive of all foreign movements, and to deal with them, both practically and speculatively, in a wise and deliberate way. But it is hard for any nation consistently to hold such an attitude, which, indeed, can only be realised in great crises by great statesmen. Elizabeth, in a time of great danger and difficulty, stood alone among her ministers, and directed England's course, against their judgment of temporary expediency, steadily in this direction. For some time she alone understood the difference between an English Church and an Anglican Church. Owing to her resoluteness there was time for the lesson to be learned; and Laud was the first who fully apprehended its full significance. To him the Church of England was not, as it had been to his predecessors, an arrangement for expressing the religious consciousness of the English people. It was a system instinct with life, full of mighty possibilities, with a world-wide mission peculiarly its own. He asked England to take this view, to recognise its achievements, to value its great possession, to sink minor differences, and put forth its united power for God's glory. The services of the Church, he thought, were intelligible in their simplicity, and had suffered in the past because they had never been suitably displayed. Let them only be fully and fairly performed, and they would of themselves attract and convince. Men would soon understand and love them.
So Laud began his ecclesiastical revival with care for outward things. It was not that he put principles in the background, but he thought that the worship of the Church was the best form of teaching. Argument and controversy had done little; let the voice of devotion be heard, and it would prevail.
"I laboured (he says) that the external worship of God in this Church might be kept up in uniformity and decency and in some beauty of holiness. And this the rather because, first, I found that with the contempt of outward worship of God the inward fell away apace, and profaneness began boldly to show itself."
There was a second reason which weighed strongly with Laud. The strength of Romanism in England lay in the divided condition of the Church."I could speak (Laud goes on) with no conscientious person almost that were wavering in religion, but the great motive which wrought upon them to disaffect, or think meanly of the Church of England, was that the external worship of God was so lost, and the churches themselves suffered to lie in such a base and slovenly fashion in most places of the kingdom."
So Laud's desire was to teach men by the eye and by the heart; to set before them the quiet dignity of an orderly system, and let its teaching gradually sink into their minds. He enforced uniformity, not because uniformity was convenient for the nation, nor because it was enacted by law, but because it was necessary to set forth the strength and beauty of the devotional system of the Church of England. Within that system he was prepared to allow large latitude for difference of opinion. He had no wish to curb liberty of thought, but he aimed at checking what he held to be disorderly and disloyal action. There was the Prayer-book. Let men reverently perform the services therein prescribed, and let them discuss temperately and charitably theological questions in a scholarly spirit Laud was always anxious to remove difficulties which prevented thoughtful men from taking Holy Orders. He was satisfied that Chillingworth should subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles as being articles of peace—i.e., "as containing no errors which may necessitate or warrant any man to disturb the peace or renounce the communion of it". He had no fear of the results of free inquiry, if devotion and reverence held the first place. The system of the Church was to be definite, but it was to be large, sympathetic and liberal.
This in outline was Laud's ideal. Even those who do not agree with it may at least admit its nobility, and confess that it was a worthy object to absorb the energies of an ecclesiastical statesman. But even those who agree with it most entirely must recognise that Laud was wrong in the means by which he tried to accomplish his end. Indeed, it may be doubted if he possessed that first great quality for a practical statesman—instinctive sympathy for the conditions under which his work has to be done. Laud knew what he wanted—that in itself gives a certain claim to greatness—but he took the readiest, the most obvious way to gain his end, and scarcely stopped to consider how he could work most acceptably. His training was academic, his mind was logical; he had all the defects of a purely academic character. He lacked personal dignity and geniality. He did not recognise the large part which is played in popular opinion by prejudice. He thought that if a thing was reasonable the only way of proving its reasonableness was by enforcing it. He was conscious of his personal limitations, and the consciousness seems to have depressed him instead of spurring him to self-discipline and self-improvement. Rarely has a man displayed so much activity with so little hopefulness. He does not seem to have felt the need for enthusiasm, and he did not kindle it in others. His plans came before men's eyes in a mass of details which were not irradiated by an intelligible principle. He treated mankind as if they were children, and he their schoolmaster. "Do this because I tell you, and you will see its use in time," is not a command which is readily obeyed by Englishmen. He did not draw the line between what was of primary importance and what was trivial, between regulating the services of the Church and the demeanour of the worshippers. Men might recogfnise the desirability of the restoration of churches, of the orderly and decent performance of the service of guarding the Communion-table from profane uses by removing it from the body of the church to the east end. But it was a most undesirable extension of authority to prescribe specific acts of reverence as equally applicable to all. He was over-hasty, over-punctilious. He was proud of his prodigious activity, which sometimes degenerated into fussiness. He made men feel unquiet, because they did not know how much farther he was going. He was not content with laying down great lines which could be quietly filled in afterwards.
But more than this, he completely identified the Church with the State. He knew, to quote his own words, "that my order as a Bishop, and my power of jurisdiction, is by Divine Apostolical right, and unalterable (for aught I know) in the Church of Christ"; but he took no other view of his right to exercise his office, either of power or jurisdiction, than as derived from the Crown, and exercisable according to law. He does not seem to have thought of the paternal jurisdiction inherent in his office, and independent of anything that the State could confer. The loss of this conception did more to confuse men's minds about the nature of the Church than any of Laud's measures did to make it clear. His action did much to stereotype the view of a bishop's office as an executor of national laws, passed through motives of expediency, and founded on other than theological reasons. This was the view which rendered Episcopacy unpopular, which gave strength to Nonconformity, and involved the system of the Church in current politics. If Laud had conferred with his clergy and striven to guide and influence them by the authority of his Episcopal office, if he had exhorted his suffragans to do the same, his revival might not have gone so far, but it would assuredly have rested on a firmer basis. It would have been ecclesiastical in a true sense, and would have associated discipline with the system of the Church rather than the laws of the State. If the Church of England claimed to refer to primitive antiquity for its belief and practice, surely its episcopal government should be carried on with reference to primitive methods. As it was. Laud's exercise of authority was an anomaly.
But Laud not only exercised his office as deriving its power from the State, but further held secular office in the State. This was one of the great evils of the mediæval Church, a fertile source of abuses. Yet Laud shut his eyes to its obvious dangers, and believed that civil power was best in the hands of Churchmen. Moreover, the work which Laud had set himself in the Church was more than enough for any man's energies. He could not carry the burden which he placed upon his shoulders. When much work has to be done a man is bound to be niggardly of his time; he becomes impatient of details; he delegates business which he considers unimportant. But spiritual work is all concerned with details; and he who would work for God must learn never to be in a hurry, must curb his natural impatience, must remember how tenderly God has dealt with him, must regard no time wasted which composes differences, or removes scruples, or resolves doubts, which cheers, consoles, or convinces. Laud's visitations and injunctions depended for their effect on the manner in which they were carried out. If their execution was committed to an official, who was only concerned with results, they were sure to give grievous offence. If they were done hurriedly, fretfully, peevishly, they were not likely to be understood. It is impossible not to admit that, as years went on, and the burden of work increased, Laud failed in temper and discretion, grew more arbitrary and less hopeful. He was grimly doing his duty, sensitive to the dislike which he felt to be growing around him, unable to avert the danger which he felt to be impending.
But besides its effect on Laud's own character, his position as a state official identified the Church with a policy which more and more ran counter to the wishes of the nation, and strove to maintain itself by methods which raised serious opposition. The Church under his guidance lost all chance of exercising a mediating influence; it seemed to be an integral part of a particular system of government Opposition to the Government implied opposition to the Church, and the bishops were regarded as the mainstays of a royal dictatorship.
We know the disasters that followed. It is needless to speculate if they could have been averted. So far as Laud is concerned, they only emphasised the truth that he who undertakes to do God's work with the world's weapons will stand or fall according to his worldly prudence, and not according to the excellence of his intentions. Laud chose to work through power rather than through influence; his power failed him, and he fell before his foes. That they were relentless and pursued their triumph to the utmost we can only regret for their own sakes.
You may think that I have dwelt unduly on Laud's errors and shortcomings, that I have not made allowances for the difficulties of the time, that I have applied too high a standard. We learn more, I think, from considering the causes of men's failure than of their success. The important question about great men is not "Why did they accomplish so much?" but "Why did they not accomplish more?" Is not that the question which we need to ask most diligently about ourselves? It is not so hard to have a noble end; the difficulty lies in working it out by worthy means. We can never learn this lesson enough. It is the great moral lesson which history teaches, and only when this lesson is clearly taught does history teach aright. Laud's conception of the Church was sounder, larger, more practical than that of his opponents. Events justified his wisdom. Presbyterianism was tried and failed; Independency was tried and failed; efforts at ecclesiastical combination proved to be impossible. When England again had to consider the matter, nothing was vital except the system of Laud, which was practically accepted at the Restoration. It was after all the most possible, because it was the most intelligible. Laud had laid down its main lines. The Church of England was part of the Catholic Church, holding the Catholic faith, maintaining the historic episcopacy, dispensing the sacraments according to primitive ordinance. "I die," said Laud in his will, "I die as I have lived, in the true orthodox profession of the Catholic faith of Christ, a true member of His Catholic Church, within the communion of a living part thereof, the present Church of England." This was the position of the English Church, and nothing subsequently altered it. Compromises might be urged by politicians, but nothing could be accepted which threatened to destroy the order of the English Church as a part of the continuous Church of Christ. This was the original basis of the English Church. It had been passionately attacked from the beginning. It had been inadequately expressed in practice. Laud asserted it clearly and definitely, and showed how it was to be set forth and what it involved. He won for it deep reverence and profound conviction, which were conspicuously shown by Charles I. Had Charles been willing to abandon the Church and to give up episcopacy, he might have saved his throne and his life. But on this point Charles stood firm; for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future.
Men may differ in their opinions about the form of the Church, or even if any particular form is necessary. But amid the differences which they see around them, they may at least, if they are fair-minded, agree on this—that the Church of England has discharged a special duty in the Christian commonwealth, and has done a work which no other organisation could have done. We who are its faithful children have boundless hopes of its future possibilities for doing God's work in the world. All may combine, without any sacrifice of their own convictions, in recognising what Laud did, and in admitting the services rendered since to God and man by the Church which he maintained at a crisis of its existence. None of us, however much we may be devoted to that Church, can wish to be mere eulogists, or even apologists, of Laud's policy and actions. The cause for which Laud contended is too precious in our eyes for us to associate it with human frailty and want of judgment. We accept Laud's teaching with gratitude; we admire his zeal, his devotion, his courage, his conscientiousness. We commemorate to-day all that was great and noble, all that was lasting, in his life and character. We seek the heart and the head of the man, and rejoice in the clear vision and enlightened insight which saw and claimed the fair heritage which is ours to-day.