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The biography thus sums up this chapter of the Archbishop's life :

'It is easy to characterise the Public Worship Regulation Act as having proved in practice to be a conspicuous failure from first to last. It is less easy to show that if Archbishop Tait had left the growing strife alone, it would have been possible in the temper, then and since, of Parliamentary Protestantism, to have kept the Church in calmer waters, or to have avoided rocks and shoals even more dangerous than those among which he steered her course.''

If this may be said on the one side it is obvious that facts have conclusively shown that the Act was imperfectly framed, that it has signally failed to accomplish the designed end, and that, so far from appeasing strife, it has tended to aggravate it, whilst it has inflicted the additional grievance upon the clergy whose action it was intended to control, that it has invented a court, in which they feel that they cannot even defend themselves without being disloyal to the Church of which they are ministers.

Probably Archbishop Tait's action with regard to ritualism will be the only point with which his name will be connected in ecclesiastical history. He very much despised the subject, never understanding the importance of it in the eyes of its promoters, or the grounds for their contention in support of it. The consequence of this was that he secured for them the support of moderate High Churchmen, who would have acquiesced in measures for the restraint of the excessive development of ritual, provided that such measures had been upon Church lines. What these lines were Archbishop Tait never comprehended, and consequently he alienated the men whose support he ought to have secured. The temper of his mind which led him to this course may be illustrated by what his biographers say, apparently with the intention of suggesting the special difficulties with which he had to contend, but which picture the light in which the Archbishop regarded the questions at issue.

'In more than one of the controversies which marked the long episcopate of Archbishop Tait it may, roughly speaking, be said that the clergy were ranged upon one side and the laity upon the other. It was not so, indeed, with the Essays and Reviews dispute. It was not so with the strife about Bishop Colenso. Perhaps it was not markedly so with the Burials Bill. But it was so with the major part of the ritual controversies of the time, and emphatically it was so with the long and painful disputations about the use of the Athanasian Creed.'?

Life, ii. 227.



Ibid. ii. 125

Substantially Archbishop Tait represented the lay, not the clerical view of the subjects here named, and consequently the clergy were prepared to oppose his schemes. If he had sympathized more with their point of view he would have been able to accomplish far more in the direction he desired, but it would have been by measures proceeding on different lines. In the dispute about the Essays and Reviews he incurred the severe censure of Dr. Temple and others of his friends for the line he took. He joined in signing a letter from all the bishops in which these words occur :

“We cannot understand how these opinions (contained in extracts from some of the essays in the volume) can be held consistently with an honest subscription to the formularies of our Church, with many of the fundamental doctrines of which they appear to us essentially at variance.'1 The special grievance urged against him by these friends was that two of the writers had been spending a few days with him at Fulham, and that he had given them no idea that he felt so severely against the book or any portion of it, as is denoted by the words just quoted ; and that they were under the impression that he had no serious objection to its contents. They consequently thought that he was sacrificing them to popular clamour. No doubt in this they were mistaken. His own view of the subject is thus given in a private memorandum which he wrote during the height of the storm, and there can be no doubt that it expresses his real views on the subject :

'I feel my own vocation clear, greatly as I sympathize with the Evangelicals, not to allow them to tyrannize over the Broad Churchmen, and to resist that tendency which is at present strong in them to coalesce with the High Church party for the mere purpose of exterminating those against whom the cry is now loudest. I deeply deplore, and indeed execrate, the spirit of much of the Essays and Reviews. . . . What is wanted is a deeply religious Liberal party, and almost all who might have formed it have, in the alarm, deserted. ... The great evil is that the Liberals are deficient in religion, and the religious are deficient in liberality. Let us pray for an outpouring of the very Spirit of Truth.'2

But it was not from his friends only that Bishop Tait incurred blame with respect to this unhappy volume. He was thought inconsistent in his manner of dealing with it, and we must acknowledge that this charge was not without foundation. Thus the Bishop writes :

· Life, i. 282.

2 Ibid. i. 325.


*Certain opinions, quite inadmissible within the Church of England, are asserted in some of these addresses to be distinctly advocated by the book, while other addresses assert that the teaching, taken as a whole, though it may not distinctly advocate, implies these dangerous opinions. The bishops feel themselves bound to declare their condemnation of these opinions.'

Again, in a letter to Canon A. P. Stanley :-

'It seems to me little short of infatuation to fancy any identity between the deeply religious tone of the writings of Arnold and Hare, and the flippant and reckless assault on things universally venerated, which has aroused public indignation against the ill-starred volume in question. It was against the characteristics of some of the essayists, imparting a colour to the volume, that the bishops felt they were called upon to protest as presenting a whole apparently hostile to any generally received and intelligent view of Christianity.'2

But notwithstanding these strong expressions, when the writers of the two most objectionable essays were prosecuted, it was currently reported at the time that the court would have condemned them had it not been for the action of Bishop Tait, as in such a matter the lay judges would have shrunk from opposing the unanimous opinion of the three eminent ecclesiastics joined with them. The Life tells us that:

* From this judgment, so far as the doctrine of inspiration was concerned, the two Archbishops dissented, but Bishop Tait and the lay judges were unanimous, and Dr. Williams and Mr. Wilson were acquitted.' 3

Whilst Dr. Tait's personal responsibility is shown by the following:

'Bishop Tait took the utmost pains during the whole course of the trial, and a comparison of the judgment as finally pronounced with the printed memorandum of opinion which he, like the other judges, had circulated beforehand among his colleagues, shows how large a share he had in shaping the judgment.'4

With regard to the strife about Bishop Colenso, it appears that in February 1863 the bishops, at their usual meeting before the assembling of Parliament, had agreed to these resolutions : '(1) To advise the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to withhold its confidence from the Bishop of Natal until he has been cleared from the charges notoriously incurred by him. (2) To inhibit the Bishop for the present from preaching in their dioceses.'5 To these resolutions · Life, i. 295.

3 Ibid. i. 316.

2 Ibid. i. 309.
5 Ibid. i. 340.

4 lbid. i. 313.


Bishop Tait objected, and he wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury explaining his reasons. In this letter he says

'Looking, then, with as much disfavour as any of my brethren on what I am fain to call the rash and arrogant speculations of the Bishop of Natal, and being ready to take any legitimate opportunity of refuting his arguments to the best of my ability, and of warning the people my care against his errors, and what appears to me the very unbecoming spirit in which they are urged, I greatly regret the decision at which a majority of my brethren has arrived, as likely, in my estimation, to extend the influence of the publication of which we all disapprove, and place many of those who disapprove of it in an altogether false position.'' Bishop Tait's line throughout is described thus :

'Bishop Tait, eager as he had always been in the missionary cause, was so impressed with the importance of maintaining the Royal Supremacy as a bond of union, and even in some sense a guarantee of orthodoxy, among the scattered Colonial Churches, that he repeatedly urged the need of caution in accepting the bold proposals which were made by Bishop Gray, of Cape Town, and others.'2

Throughout the proceedings about Bishop Colenso, Bishop Tait's action was governed by this motive; and there can be no doubt that in his manner of contending for it he came to be regarded, though unjustly, as the defender of Bishop Colenso's opinions, and that as a matter of fact he did more than any one else to thwart the plans of Bishop Gray, and to protect Bishop Colenso. When it was proposed that Mr. Macrorie should be consecrated by the Scotch bishops, Bishop Tait wrote to the Primus of the Scotch Church deprecating such a step, and urging him and his brethren to be very careful on the subject.

“You remember what passed at the Lambeth Conference, and how many of the English bishops feel that such a consecration is unlawful. . . . You may rest assured that the feeling on the subject is very strong in the whole Evangelical and the whole so-called Liberal sections of the Church of England, and that nothing but a strong feeling of the injustice and wrongness of the proposed course would induce men like myself, and the Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and St. David's, to have appeared, by opposing it, to favour Bishop Colenso, of whose proceedings and of whose modes of thinking and writing we so strongly disapprove.' 3 The result was as Bishop Tait desired : the Scotch bishops refused to consecrate, to the great disgust of Bishop Gray, and Mr. Macrorie had to be consecrated at Cape Town. His biographers tell us that Life, i. 341, 342. * Ibid. i. 328, 329.

3 Ibid. i. 384, 385.



no one knew better than Bishop Tait that the time must come when the link would be loosened which united the Colonial dioceses to the Church at home, but he desired to postpone the change as long as possible, in order that these young Churches might have time to settle themselves firmly upon the lines of English law before they should be called upon to stand alone. He had made it clear from the first that he had no sympathy with Bishop Colenso's opinions, and that his resistance to what he deemed the perilous high-handedness of Bishop Gray was no isolated act of merely personal or local significance. It was part of a definite and well-considered policy. The ecclesiastical despotism which he dreaded and opposed might take one form in South Africa and some other form, not less mischievous, elsewhere ; and it was his deliberate opinion in later years that the restraints successfully imposed by himself and others upon the impetuous metropolitan of Cape Town had had a wholesome and reassuring effect upon Colonial Churchmanship in every quarter of the globe.'

We give the biographer's view of Bishop Tait's action, but in fairness we must add that in our opinion it is not quite our own. It seems to us that he was unduly influenced by the Erastian tendencies of his own mind. Bishop Gray might at times have spoken and acted over-strongly, but there can be no doubt that he was actuated by a single-minded resolve to maintain the independence of the Church in all matters relating to her doctrine and discipline, and that underlying the opposition which he had to encounter was dislike for the principle for which he was contending ; it would be easy to say that the dispute was between an exaggerated and a sufficient independence, but it would be difficult to define how the Colonial Church could have an independence which was not complete.

In dealing with the burials question the Archbishop was naturally biassed by his Liberal political opinions, as well as by his desire to regard as large a proportion as possible of the people of the land as in some way connected with the Church. It was as a purely political question that the subject was brought forward, and whilst it was dreaded by the clergy, and regarded by them as a step towards disestablishment, it was made a favourite topic of agitation in the Welsh constituencies. Archbishop Tait thus writes concerning it in his diary S

Made arrangements with Eversley and the Duke of Somerset to keep the Liberals up to the mark. I am convinced that if the matter is not settled by the Church the violent political Dissenters will rejoice. But I think we have managed to take this dangerous weapon out of their hands.'2 1 Life, i. 396, 397.

2 Ibid. ii. 389.

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