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the controversies of the West began. All this led to minute and scarcely perceptible changes of diction (Archbishop Tenison reckoned them no less than six hundred) at the revision of 1662, which have imparted to the Prayer-Book, according to a high authority, a deeper catholic tone than it previously possessed.* From that time there has been a strong Greek element latent in the Liturgy and Rubric, which it requires all the ingenuity of an ecclesiastical mind to reconcile with the Augustinian and thoroughly Western tone of the articles.
To any one who has well considered this peculiarity of our Establishment, it will not appear at all surprising that the first fruit of the appointment of Dr. Stanley to the chair of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, should be à volume of Lectures on the Eastern Church, and that these should avowedly be given to the world as preparatory to a course on the Church of England.t The choice of the subject may be regarded as a fair index of the theological position and catholic spirit of the author. We are glad that he has taken it up. His work is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the fortunes of Eastern Christendom. Though he has not, so far as we have observed,-at least in the earlier and larger portion of his volume,-brought to light any fact not already known, or even suggested any view which has not been anticipated by previous writers, yet such is the charm of his narrative, that he has contrived to invest an old subject with a new interest. He traverses paths, trodden again and again almost to weariness, with such a ready and genial appreciation of types of character and forms of thought long passed away, and with an eye so quick to catch whatever is picturesque and significant, that he imbues the reader with his own vivid enjoyment of the scene, and makes him feel sure for once that he is dealing, not with abstractions, but with realities. He throws a deep vitality into his subject, by showing how it grows out of principles that are the same through all time, and indicating its contact at innumerable points with questions which are still vehemently agitating the minds of men. In his concluding lectures,—the most interesting and original of the series,—on the Russian Church, he raises a strange undefinable emotion in the reader's mind by his prophetic outlook into a possible future, which has hitherto engaged but little attention in Western Europe. Like Herodotus, he combines the traveller with the historian; and much of the delightful interest which he has infused into his narrative, results from this circumstance. The manners and customs of the East, its forms of speech, and its peculiar garb, are familiar to him; and the sites of many of the old cities which he has occasion to describe, he has examined with his own eyes.
• Remains of Alexander Knox, vol. i. pp. 59, 60. + Preface, p. v.
His descriptions of Constantinople reflected in the Bosphorus, with its innumerable minarets shooting up amidst groves of cypress,—and of his descent by lingering moonlight from the chestnut-wooded slopes of the Bithynian ridge upon the remains of the ancient Nicæa, as it lay beneath him on the shores of the quiet lake, enveloped in the mists of early morning, are beautiful pictures, which we are almost startled to meet with in the usually monotonous dreariness of ecclesiastical history.
As an introduction to the present volume, Dr. Stanley has reprinted three admirable lectures on the nature and objects of his peculiar study, originally delivered by him on first assuming his professorship. He states in them very clearly and unreservedly his own conception of the duties of his office, of the objects to which the attention of the student should be chiefly directed, and of the various sources from which materials should be drawn to surround the study with the attractions of which it is susceptible. The result of what he very wisely and thoughtfully suggests, amounts to this : that the history of the Church, like every other branch of history, must have a new life imparted to it, by being made more human. It must be brought back, out of the sphere of baseless assumptions and forced inferences, into the world of reality. It is a human record which lies before us, and we must read it with human feelings. It is one chapter-and that not the least interesting and instructive-of the wonderful history of man. To understand it, we must not separate it from the nature of man. We must look at the phenomena which it presents to us truthfully, and not allow the arbitrary constructions of theologians to come between us and the veritable facts of the case. Hence, not dogmas alone and rites, and the controversies which have sprung out of them, are the exclusive subjects of this study,—for these form, as it were, the mere osteology of the living system,-but, as Dr. Stanley has well argued, equally, and perhaps even more, whatever in the contemporaneous condition of the world has indirectly affected the belief and practice of Christians, or been affected by them,—the products of art, local traditions, and the usages of sects, every vestige of former times or memorial of distant lands, even the peculiarities of race and the influences of climate,-each contributing some slight revival of human flesh and blood, which helps to clothe the skeleton, and set the past in all the glow of life and action before us. Viewed in this broader light, the moss-grown tombs of the old Covenanters and the faded frescoes of the catacombs are entitled to a place among the authentic monuments of Christian history, by the side of the decisions of councils and the ponderous tomes of Fathers and Schoolmen. Dr. Stanley has thrown himself entirely into this aspect of the subject. He has done for the Eastern Church, what Lord Macaulay had already done on a larger scale and in a more unbroken sequence for the era of our English Revolution--selected a few of its more salient features, and made them the subjects of a series of brilliant historical pictures. This is another proof of the new spirit in which all history is now beginning to be written : of its abandonment of theories for facts, of the abstract for the concrete. There is even some danger of this tendency being pushed too far; and we cannot say that our author has wholly escaped it. He appears to us to affirm too broadly, that “the proper material for ecclesiastical history is, after all, not institutions or opinions, but events and persons."* For there is an inner and an outer history of the Church; and he has confined himself almost exclusively to the latter, as if it exhausted the subject. But the concatenation of events can never be thoroughly understood without tracing the thread of ideas on which it is strung. The history of Christianity is surely the history of human mind, fully as much as the history of human action. It records the workings of the invisible and spiritual life as they outwardly manifest themselves; and the permanent result of such manifestation fixes itself in opinions and institutions, which are the most powerful agents on manners, and determine with a resistless force the type of the civilisation. If the Hegelian school has ventured presumptuously to assign the law of historical development by the principles of an à-priori logic, we run into the opposite extreme, and deprive history of its highest function, if we limit it to the simple narration of events and delineation of character, without attempting to penetrate through both to the deeper principle which underlies them, and by the aid of these external phenomena to trace in the ideas and beliefs of one age, the predisposing conditions of the state of manners and opinion which followed them in the next. This view of the subject is all but ignored by Dr. Stanley; and its absence we cannot but regard as the weak side of his book, taken as a model for academic teaching. We miss in it the reflective depth and philosophic insight which enters into all our conceptions of the highest treatment of the great theme which he has chosen. His forte is narration; and in that he is surpassed by no historian of the present day with whom we are acquainted.' He does not pretend to the digested mastery of sources possessed by Gieseler. He has not Neander's wonderful familiarity with all the forms of theological thought through the whole course of Christian history, nor his rare gift of discerning and bringing to view the spiritual element that exists in all. Nor can he be compared with Milman for a vast and comprehensive range of multifarious literature. The two former
were German men of learning, thorough, reliable, exhaustive, and dull-writing for students only, with utter indifference to the general world of readers. With them it is almost absurd to contrast so agreeable and popular a writer as Dr. Stanley. They belong to different spheres of influence, and have little in common but the name of their subject.
He has more affinity with the polished and scholarly mind of Dean Milman, but is superior to him in the power of telling a story, and of throwing a graphic vividness into narratives which in most hands become oppressively tedious. He will probably be the first English writer that has succeeded in making ecclesiastical history popular; and in this way he will have rendered immense service, by opening a new field of liberalising thought and interest to the general reader. Even the defects of his volume, judged scientifically as an academic manual,its fragmentary composition, its taking up only one or two periods, separated by wide intervals of time, and the disproportionate space allotted in his pages to mere description, will add to its popularity with the public at large. In his professorial chair, like certain members of the House of Commons, he seems to have spoken quite as much for the press as for the audience immediately before him. But he has done, what is a matter of the utmost importance in opening a new field,—far more important in the first instance than any effort of more original research or deeper thought ;-he has drawn attention to his subject, and excited an interest in it, and shown how conducive it may be rendered to the general instruction and entertainment. In this, as in other cases, Oxford has recently given evidence, how truly she now sympathises with the popular tendencies of the age, and how willingly she lends a hand, through the most distinguished of her sons, to help forward the mental and moral progress of the world.
Dr. Stanley's History of the Eastern Church embraces only three periods : its condition at the time of the Council of Nice; its relations with Mahometanism; and the growth of a modern branch of it in the empire of Russia. It is possible, he may have been guided to the choice of them by his personal acquaintance with the countries where the scene of action in each is laid; and this circumstance has certainly been of great service to him in communicating an unmistakable air of reality to his narration. But, independently of that, all these periods are in themselves remarkably suggestive, and cannot be traversed without giving rise to abundant reflection, and bringing home many present applications.
At Nicæa, A.D. 325, the first ecumenical council of Christendom was held. In every point of view it was a great event, making an era in the history of the human race and the spiritual development of our little planet. As a precedent for future meetings of the same kind, and as a basis and starting-point for the subsequent determination of controverted points of doctrine, it possesses, with the vast majority of Churches, to this day all the authority of a primary court of theological judicature, whose decisions have governed the course of human thought for centuries, and are recognised by thousands as binding still. It was, further, the first collective act and utterance of Christianity, after it had overthrown heathenism and stepped into its vacated seat, and so stands as a boundary-stone on the great highway of the ages, to mark the transition from the old world to the new. We complain of councils and creeds; we perceive their utter failure to accomplish the end proposed; we are suffering even now from the discord and persecution which they have caused. But viewed historically, it may be a question whether they could have been avoided; whether they were not forced into existence by the necessities of the age which produced them. The old religions of the earth had lost their vital force; they had perished with the nationalities that were successively absorbed in the ever-extending dominion of Rome. In some cases, it is true, they lingered on as forms which no longer gathered round them a healthy, genuine faith, but only perpetuated a mischievous and degrading superstition. The toleration of the Romans partly resulted from their natural reverence for all traditional faiths and worships, and partly was a concession to the demands of their political position. But the effect of it was a general loosening of the old bonds which had once held society together, and which furnished a rude but effective sanction to the simple morality of early times. The best of the emperors who preceded Constantine, deplored this state of things, and foresaw its consequences, and endeavoured to counteract them, by appointing in all the principal cities of the empire teachers salaried by the State, whose office it was to guide and form the public sentiment, in discourses inculcating the highest philosophy of the age, with supplementary illustration from art and poetry and mythology. The institution of the Sophists formed a kind of state-establishment of heathenism, which offered the strongest resistance to Christianity during the first centuries of our era. But they prepared the way for the operations of the Christian pulpit. Dion, Polemo, and Aristides were the precursors of Basil and the Gregories of Nazianzum and Nyssa. This scheme of public instruction, already wrought into the framework of society, Christianity inherited with its ascendency, and had to provide for. In succeeding to heathenism, it accepted its liabilities, but at the same time introduced into them