Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/97

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Creighton
Creighton
85

moderate churchmen to regret that men of enthusiasm and genuine devotion should be unable to avoid indiscretions, they were beginning to rouse in extreme protestant sections deep suspicion and indignation. The bishop, by his strong common-sense and intellectual acuteness, his wide learning combined with tolerance, his knowledge of character and persuasive manners, and not least by his sense of humour, was eminently qualified to deal with this difficult situation. He had formed no definite conclusions before his arrival in the diocese, and he took time to familiarise himself with its conditions ; but after about a year of residence he came to the conclusion that steps must be taken to prevent the mischief from spreading further. During 1898 the public mind was still further excited by Sir William Harcourt's letters to the 'Times,' in which endeavour was made to convict the episcopate of neglect of duty in failing to restrain the excesses of the extreme high church party. The bitter feelings thus excited on both sides did not facilitate the task of compromise and conciliation to which the bishop had set himself. He pursued his course, however, without yielding to clamour on one side or obstinacy on the other, and upheld the true principles of the Reformation and the church of England between the two extremes. By the wisdom and moderation of his charges and addresses, no less than by their clearness and decision, he inspired confidence and reasserted episcopal authority. But it was rather on private conference and gentle persuasion that he chiefly relied in his endeavours to bring back the recalcitrants within legal limits. In these efforts he was almost completely successful, and before his death he had, with rare exceptions, restored order and obedience throughout his diocese.

His view of the position of the English church was that it was neither the mediæval church nor a church of the continental type, nor yet a mere compromise between two extremes of religious opinion ; but that it was a church holding a unique position, as 'resting on an appeal to sound learning.' This he further explained to mean that the English reformers, learned in the scriptures and in history, and undisturbed by influences which distorted the movement elsewhere, were able to strip off mediæval accretions in doctrine and ceremony, and to restore primitive simplicity, based upon the bible and the early fathers of the church. Consequently, while willing to allow all possible latitude and even welcoming divergences as natural and stimulative, he insisted that 'a recognisable type' of service should be maintained, and that no doctrine should be publicly taught which indicated any tendency to return to Romanism or mediævalism, or to depart from the distinctive features of the English church, as agreeable to the national character. In maintaining this rule he made it clear that the episcopal authority must be obeyed, while at the same time he recognised that, in the case of an established church, the state must have the final voice in determining the nature of, and in giving authority to, ecclesiastical courts. He approved the proposal to submit differences as to ritual and ceremony to the informal decision of the two archbishops, and supported the judgments given at the 'Lambeth hearing' of 1899. In the last year of his life, at the request of the London Diocesan Conference, he summoned to Fulham a meeting of leading divines and laymen—subsequently known as the 'Round Table Conference'—for the purpose of discussing different views of the holy communion. He did not anticipate that this would lead to an agreement, but he was satisfied with I having done something to clear up the points at issue and to produce a better mutual understanding.

In addition to the work entailed on him by the ritualistic crisis, and to the heavy duties which ordinarily fall on a bishop of London, Creighton was active and assiduous in other directions. He was a member of the commission which drew up the statutes of the new university of London. He regularly attended the meetings of the ecclesiastical commissioners and of the trustees of the British Museum. He was in great request at all sorts of public functions ; he went much into society ; and he spoke on many occasions and on a large variety of topics. Nor did he altogether give up his literary pursuits, though his work during this period was mainly confined to the reissue of sermons and addresses, and the writing of prefaces or introductions to volumes composed by others. Perhaps the most notable publication of this period was 'The Story of some English Shires,' a collection of papers previously published in the 'Leisure Hour,' on sixteen English counties through which he had travelled, mostly on foot. The strain of such an active and absorbing life told eventually upon a constitution rather nervous and wiry than robust. Chronic dyspepsia undermined his strength, and at length induced internal ulceration and hæmorrhage, to which, after an illness of some four months, borne with great courage and patience, he succumbed at Fulham Palace on Monday, 14 Jan. 1901. On the