Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/27

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27
RATIONALISM IN THEOLOGY.

Articles had now become a matter of grave concern to clerical aspirants with modern views of dogma and ritual and Scripture. The High Church party, though equally distant from their letter, subscribed to them with that easy elasticity of conscience which invariably comes of contact with Rome; but many of the Rationalists were much disturbed by a form of subscription which demanded an "unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained in the book of Common Prayer." Dean Stanley once more came to the front, and had a correspondence with Archbishop Tait on the subject. "If once," he wrote, "we press the subscriptions in their rigid and literal sense, it may safely be asserted that there is not one clergyman in the Church who can venture to cast a stone at another; they must all go out." The statement was only too evidently true, and in 1865 Lord Granville introduced a Bill in which the form of subscription was materially altered. Instead of giving an "unfeigned assent to all and everything" in the articles and book of prayer, the clergyman merely professed: "I believe the doctrine of the Church of England, as therein set forth, to be agreeable to the word of God." By accepting the doctrine (in the singular number) they were dispensed from assenting to individual dogmas, and they had no difficulty in considering that doctrine, of whose moral character they were deeply convinced, to be "agreeable to the word of God" (as expounded and expurged by the higher critics). The change has a very deep significance, and is one of the most tangible of the many signs of the times which permit us to test the strength of the Rationalistic current. As Buxton said, in the House of Commons, the Bill was introduced "to make it possible for men to minister at the altars of the church, though they might dissent from some part of her teaching." The Bill passed into law, 28 and 29 Vict., c. 122.

There is an interesting passage in one of Stanley's own works which illustrates the curious obstinacy of the Rationalists in adhering to the Established Church. "The choice," he says, in his "Essays on Church and State," "is between absolute individual separation from every conceivable outward form of organization and continuance in one or other of those which exist in the hope of modifying or improving it . . . The path of a theologian or ecclesiastic