Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/192

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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