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There was, however, one other great body of Christians towards whom, after a time, the nonjuring separatists turned with proposals of amity and intercommunion. This was the Eastern Church. Various causes had contributed to remove something of the obscurity which had once shrouded this vast communion from the knowledge of Englishmen. As far back as the earlier part of Charles I.'s reign, the attention of either party in the English Church had been fixed for a time on the overtures made by Cyrillus Lukaris,[133] patriarch, first of Alexandria, and then of Constantinople, to whom we owe the precious gift of the 'Alexandrian manuscript' of the Scriptures. Archbishop Abbot, a Calvinist, and one of the first representatives of the so-called Latitudinarian party, had been attracted by the inclinations evinced by this remarkable man towards the theology of Holland and Geneva. His successor and complete opposite, Archbishop Laud, had been no less fascinated by the idea of closer intercourse with a Church of such ancient splendour and such pretensions to primitive orthodoxy. At the close of the seventeenth century this interest had been renewed by the visit of Peter the Great to this island. With a mind greedy after all manner of information, he had not omitted to inquire closely into ecclesiastical matters. People heard of his conversations on these subjects with Tenison and Burnet,[134] and wondered how far a monarch who was a kind of Pope in his own empire would be leavened with Western and Protestant ideas. In learned and literary circles too the Eastern Church had been discussed. The Oxford and Cambridge Platonists, than whom England has never produced more thoughtful and scholarlike divines, had profoundly studied the Alexandrian fathers. Patristic reading, which no one could yet neglect who advanced the smallest pretensions to theological acquirements, might naturally lead men to think with longing of an ideal of united faith 'professed' (to use Bishop Ken's familiar words) 'by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West.'[135] Missionary feeling, which at the beginning of the eighteenth century was showing so many signs of nascent activity, had not failed to take notice of the gross ignorance into which many parts of Greek Christendom had fallen.[136] Henry Ludolph, a German by birth, and late secretary to Prince George of Denmark, on his return to London in 1694 from some lengthened travels in Russia, and after further wanderings a few years later in Egypt, Asia Minor, and the Holy Land, persuaded some English Churchmen to publish an impression of the New Testament in modern Greek, which was dispersed in those countries through the Greeks with whom Ludolph kept up a correspondence.[137] In 1701 University men at Cambridge, when Bentley was Vice-Chancellor, were much interested by the visit of Neophytos, Archbishop of Philippopolis, and Exarch of Thrace. He was presented with a Doctor of Divinity's degree, and afterwards made a speech in Hellenistic Greek.[138] About the same time the minutes of the Christian Knowledge Society make report of a Catechism drawn up for Greek Churchmen by Bishop Williams of Chichester, and translated from the English by some Greeks then studying at Oxford.[139] This little colony of Greek students had been established in 1689, through the cordial relations then subsisting between Archbishop Sancroft and Georgirenes, Metropolitan of Samos, who had recently been a refugee in London. It was hoped that by their residence at Oxford they would be able to promote in their own country a better understanding of 'the true doctrine of the Church of England.' They were to be twenty in number, were to dwell together at Gloucester Hall (afterwards Worcester College), be habited all alike in the gravest sort of habit worn in their own country, and stay at the University for five years.[140] Robert Nelson, ever zealous and energetic in all the business of the society, would naturally feel particularly interested in the condition of Eastern Christians on account of the business connection with Smyrna in which his family had been prosperously engaged. We are told of his showing warm sympathy in the wish of the Archbishop of Gotchau in Armenia to get works of piety printed in that language.[141] Similar interest would be felt by another leader of the early Nonjurors, Frampton, Bishop of Gloucester, who in his earlier years had served as chaplain at Aleppo, and had formed a familiar acquaintance with some of the most learned patriarchs and bishops of the Eastern Church.[142] The man, however, who at the beginning of the eighteenth century must have done most to turn attention towards the Eastern Church, was Dr. Grabe, who has been already more than once spoken of as held in great esteem by the Nonjuring and High Church party. He had found the Anglican Church more congenial to him on the whole than any other, but it shared his sympathies with the Lutheran and the Greek. He was a constant daily attendant at the English, and more especially the nonjuring services, but for many years he communicated exclusively at the Greek Church. He also published a 'Defensio Græcæ Ecclesiæ.'[143] Thus, in many different ways, the Oriental Church had come to be regarded, especially by the more studious of the High Church clergy, in quite another light from that of Rome.

In 1716 Arsenius, Metropolitan of Thebais, came to London on a charitable mission in behalf of the suffering Christians of Egypt. It will be readily understood with what alacrity a number of the Scotch and English Nonjurors seized the opportunity of making 'a proposal for a concordat betwixt the orthodox and Catholic remnant of the British Churches and the Catholic and Apostolic Oriental Church.' The correspondence, of which a full account is given in Lathbury's History of the Nonjurors,[144] although in many respects an interesting one, was wholly abortive. There appears indeed to have been a real wish on the part of Peter the Great and of some of the patriarchs to forward the project; but the ecclesiastical synod of Russia was evidently not quite clear from whom the overtures proceeded. Their answers were directed 'To the Most Reverend the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Great Britain, our dearest brothers,' and, somewhat to the dismay of the Nonjurors, copies of the letters were even sent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to Archbishop Wake. Above all, the proposals were essentially one-sided. The nonjuring bishops, while remaining perfectly faithful to their principles, were willing to make large concessions in points which involved no departure from what they considered to be essential truths. The Patriarchs would have been glad of intercommunion on their own terms, but in the true spirit of the Eastern Church, would concede nothing. It was 'not lawful either to add any thing or take away any thing' from 'what has been defined and determined by ancient Fathers and the Holy Oecumenical Synods from the time of the apostles and their holy successors, the Fathers of our Church, to this time. We say that those who are disposed to agree with us must submit to them, with sincerity and obedience, and without any scruple or dispute. And this is a sufficient answer to what you have written.' Perhaps the result might not have been very different, even if the overtures in question had been backed by the authority of the whole Anglican Church--a communion which at this period was universally acknowledged as the leader of Protestant Christendom. And even if there were less immutability in Eastern counsels, Bishop Campbell and his coadjutors could scarcely have been sanguine in hoping for any other issue. Truth and right, as they remarked in a letter to the Czar, do not depend on numbers; but if the Oriental synod were thoroughly aware how exceedingly scanty was 'the remnant' with which they were treating, and how thoroughly apart from the main current of English national life, it was highly improbable that they would purchase so minute an advance towards a wider unity by authorising what would certainly seem to them innovations dangerously opposed to all ancient precedent. It must be some far greater and deeper movement that will first tempt the unchanging Eastern Church to approve of any deviation from the trodden path of immemorial tradition.

There was great variety of individual character in the group of Churchmen who have formed the subject of this chapter. They did not all come into contact with one another, and some were widely separated by the circumstances of their lives. The one fact of some being Jurors and some Nonjurors was quite enough in itself to make a vast difference of thoughts and sympathies among those who had taken different sides. But they were closely united in what they held to be the divinely appointed constitution of the Church. All looked back to primitive times as the unalterable model of doctrine, order, and government; all were firmly persuaded that the English Reformation was wholly based on a restoration of the ancient pattern, and had fallen short of its object only so far forth as that ideal had as yet been unattained; all looked with suspicion and alarm at such tendencies of their age as seemed to them to contradict and thwart the development of these principles. They were good men in a very high sense of the word, earnestly religious, bent upon a conscientious fulfilment of their duties, and centres, in their several spheres, of active Christian labours. Ken, Nelson, and Kettlewell, among Nonjurors--Bull, Beveridge, and Sharp, among those who accepted the change of dynasty--are names deservedly held in special honour by English Churchmen. Their piety was of a type more frequent perhaps in the Church of England than in some other communions, very serious and devout, but wholly free from all gloom and moroseness; tinged in some instances, as in Dodwell, Ken, and Hooper, with asceticism, but serene and bright, and guarded against extravagance and fanaticism by culture, social converse, and sound reading. Such men could not fail to adorn the faith they professed, and do honour to the Church in which they had been nurtured. At the same time, some of the tenets which they ardently maintained were calculated to foster a stiffness and narrowness, and an exaggerated insistence upon certain forms of Church government, which contained many elements of real danger. Within the National Church there was a great deal to counterbalance these injurious tendencies and check their growth. The Latitudinarian party, whose faults and temptations lay in a very opposite direction, was very strong. Ecclesiastical as well as political parties were no doubt strongly defined, and for a time strongly antagonistic. But wherever in a large body of men different views are equally tolerated, opinions will inevitably shade one into another to a great extent, and extreme or unpractical theories will be tempered and toned down, or be regarded at most as merely the views of a minority. Among the Nonjurors Henry Dodwell, for example, was a real power, as a man of holy life and profound learning, whose views, although carried to an extreme in which few could altogether concur, were still in general principle, and when stated in more moderate terms, those of the great majority of the whole body. As a member, on the other hand, of the National Church, his goodness and erudition were widely respected, but his theoretical extravagances were only the crotchets of a retired student, who advanced in their most extreme form the opinions of a party.

But, Jurors or Nonjurors, the very best men of the old High Church party certainly exhibited a strong bearing towards the faults of exclusiveness and ecclesiasticism. It was a serious loss to the English Church to be deprived of the services of such men as Ken and Kettlewell, but it would have been a great misfortune to it to have been represented only by men of their sentiments. Their Christianity was as true and earnest as ever breathed in the soul; nevertheless, there was much in it that could not fail to degenerate in spirits less pure and elevated than their own. They were apt to fall into the common error of making orthodoxy a far more strait and narrow path than was ever warranted by any terms of the Church apostolic or of the Church of their own country. Its strict limits, on all points which Scripture has left uncertain, had been, as it appeared to them, providentially maintained throughout the first three centuries. Then began a long period of still increasing error; until the time of reformation came, and the Church of England fulfilled its appointed task of retracing the old landmarks, and restoring primitive truth to its ancient purity. Allowing for such trifling modifications as the difference of time and change of circumstances absolutely necessitated, the Anglican was in their estimation the Ante-Nicene Church revived. If, in the doctrine, order, and government of the English Church there was anything which would not have approved itself to the early fathers and to the first Councils, it was so far forth a falling short of its fundamental principles. They were persuaded that at all events there was nowhere outside its borders such near approach to this perfection. As for other religious bodies, the degree of their separation from the spirit and constitution of the English Church might be fairly taken as the approximate measure of their departure from the practice of primitive antiquity. Romanism, Latitudinarianism, Mysticism, Calvinism, Puritanism--whatever form dissent might take from what they believed to be the true principles of the English Church, it was, as such, a departure from Catholic and orthodox tradition, it was but one or another phase of the odious sin of schism.

The High Anglican custom of appealing to early ecclesiastical records as an acknowledged standard of authority on all matters which Scripture has left uncertain, necessarily led this section of the English Church to repeat many of the failings as well as many of the virtues which had characterised the Church of the third and fourth centuries. It copied, for instance, far too faithfully, the disposition which primitive ages had early manifested, to magnify unduly the spiritual power and prerogatives of the priesthood. No doubt the outcry against sacerdotalism was often perverted to disingenuous uses. Many a hard blow was dealt against vital Christian doctrine under the guise of righteous war against the exorbitant pretensions of the clergy. But Sacerdotalism certainly attained a formidable height among some of the High Churchmen of the period, both Jurors and Nonjurors. Dodwell, who declined orders that he might defend all priestly rights from a better vantage ground, did more harm to the cause he had espoused than any one of its opponents, by fearlessly pressing the theory into consequences from which a less thorough or a more cautious advocate would have recoiled with dismay. Robert Nelson's sobriety of judgment and sound practical sense made him a far more effective champion. He too, like Dodwell, rejoiced that from his position as a layman he could without prejudice resist what he termed a sacrilegious invasion of the rights of the priests of the Lord.[145] The beginning of the eighteenth century was felt to be a time of crisis in the contest which, for the last three or four hundred years, has been incessantly waged between those whose tendency is ever to reduce religion into its very simplest elements, and those, on the other hand, in whose eyes the whole order of Church government and discipline is a divinely constituted system of mysterious powers and superhuman influences. It is a contest in which opinions may vary in all degrees, from pure Deism to utter Ultramontanism. The High Churchmen in question insisted that their position, and theirs only, was precisely that of the Church in early post-Apostolic times, when doctrine had become fully defined, but was as yet uncorrupted by later superstitions. It was not very tenable ground, but it was held by them with a pertinacity and sincerity of conviction which deepened the fervour of their faith, even while it narrowed its sympathies and cramped it with restrictions. A Church in which they found what they demanded; which was primitive and reformed; which was free from the errors of Rome and Geneva; which was not only Catholic and orthodox on all doctrines of faith, but possessed an apostolical succession, with the sacred privileges attached to it; which was governed by a lawful and canonical episcopate; which was blessed with a sound and ancient liturgy; which was faithful (many Nonjurors would add) to its divinely appointed king; such a Church was indeed one for which they could live and die. So far it was well. Their love for their own Church, and their perfect confidence in it, added both beauty and character to their piety. The misfortune was, that it left them unable to understand the merits of any form of faith which rejected, or treated as a thing indifferent, what they regarded as all but essential.