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The Religious Condition of Germany. By Professor vou Schulte
An American Divine : Horace Bushnell, D.D. By Rev. G. S. Drew
THE PROFESSIONAL STUDIES OF THE
"Multo tempore disce quod doceas, et sic non temeritate
quorundam doceus quod nescias, sell ante disce quoi dicturus es."-S. HIERONYMUS, Reg. Monach. vi.
TONE of the changes which have been effected in the Church of
England since the accession of William IV. is more salutary or remarkable than that which has passed over the education of the clergy. It is within the recollection of all elderly men that in their younger days there was practically no professional training at all so much as procurable by the great majority of candidates for Holy Orders. Not only were there no theological colleges in existence, but the Divinity Schools at Oxford and Cambridge did nothing whatever to promote advanced study amongst men with a direct bent towards theological pursuits, far less to insure that the ordinary student should be fairly equipped for beginning a clerical career. Nor was the matter much improved by the examinations for Holy Orders conducted by bishops and their chaplains; for besides that bishops, then as now, were selected by the Crown for any reason save professional erudition (a fact which drew down Mr. Disraeli the novelist's censure a generation ago,* though Lord Beaconsfield the Premier does not seem to mind it), and could therefore scarcely be expected to appoint their own examining chaplains on the score of scholarship; the obvious difficulty presented itself to such Ordinaries as recognized the defect and desired better things, that a strict examination, applied to men who had never enjoyed opportunities of learning, could do nothing except supply additional proofs of ignorance, and cause the desertion of all dioceses where such an ordeal had to be faced. The net result was that the clergy of the English Church, alone of all important Christian bodies having a stated ministry, began their professional education just as officers in the army used also to do, not until after receiving their commissions and entering on the discharge of their duties, but
* See Tancred, book ii. chap. iv. (1845). VOL. XXXV.
with the very important drawback as compared with their military coevals, that they had no such school provided for them as even the least smart regiment with its disciplinary routine necessarily proved, so that, if they happened to spend their earlier years of ministry in an ill-worked parish, as was then only too probable and common, they got into a groove of incapacity from which they never subsequently emerged. How it chanced that the most ignominious collapse did not follow on the pursuit of such a method, and that persevered in ever since the accession of the House of Hanover, is a curious and interesting question, but is beside the present inquiry, which is twofold, namely, whether, after all the unquestionable improvement which has taken place, and the much higher average level of professional acquirements now attained by the main body of the clergy of the Established Church, the existing system of instruction is sufficient in kind and in degree.
One very discouraging fact meets us at the outset of the inquiry, which shows that there is something wrong. It is that, unlike the medical profession, which supports several magazines and journals devoted to its technical pursuits, and to promoting scientific research, and still more unlike the theological faculty in Protestant Germany, which teems with literary productiveness of the same kind, there is absolutely not one magazine, review, or similar publication of repute and ability in England devoted exclusively to theological science and learning.
It is quite true that this is far from being an unmixed evil, for the frequent occurrence of important theological articles in reviews and magazines which are of a general character, appealing to the public at large, testifies to and promotes intelligent lay interest in subjects of the kind, which is exactly what Continental Europe, whether Catholic or Protestant, cannot show; while the free admixture of secular literary papers in such periodicals as are presumably designed to be mainly clerical is a warrant, so far, that a breadth of culture is still maintained which will check over-professionalism, and that tendency to mark off the clergy into a caste separated by interests and pursuits from other citizens, which has wrought untold mischief in countries of the Latin obedience. Nevertheless, it is not well that the higher and abstruser aspects of theology should excite so little interest amongst the clergy as is implied by the fact as stated, though I am not unwilling to think that the institution of honours in the Divinity Schools at the Universities may in a few years cause some improvement in this respect, by gradually creating a body of men who have once given care and time to inquiry of the sort, and will therefore be less likely to neglect it in after-life. And it is at least arguable that additional stimulus would be applied in this direction by the severance of theological studies from any necessary connexion with the clerical profession, by the encouragement of competition for honours in the Divinity School on the part of students who have no intention whatever of taking Orders, and even by the throwing open of theological degrees to laymen, precisely as degrees in law are now obtainable by men who have no purpose of ever practising as solicitors or barristers. At present, however low the standard of theological knowledge may be amongst the clergy, it is yet so far higher than that which even the educated laity have commonly reached, that there is little inducement for the former to push their studies further, in order to lift themselves above the range of a criticism which shall be not merely carping, but intelligent and discriminating. And without pausing to dwell on the room there is in the Church at the present day for any number of Marius Mercators, or to enlarge upon the literary services done to religion by laymen like the late Mr. George Warington and the still living Mr. Romanes, it is sufficiently evident from the attitude of Church Congresses and Diocesan Conferences, that we are probably nearing a crisis which will bring laymen much more directly into contact with Church organization and government than is now the case; and without discussing here the merits of such a change, it is at least obviously expedient that the element so introduced shall be competent to the discharge of any functions intrusted to it, and shall not enter upon its work in that condition of unfathomable ignorance upon every topic even indirectly connected with religion which has marked all save an infinitesimal and uninfluential minority of the lay delegates in the synods of the disestablished Irish Church.
A more immediate reason than even this presents itself for desiring the spread of theological knowledge amongst the educated laity. It is happily becoming common for members of this class to offer themselves for the office of lay readers, with episcopal licence, and their usefulness in this capacity, as also in those of the superintendentship of Sunday-schools, the instruction of higher groups in these same schools, the conduct of cottage-lectures, and the holding of mission services, with permission to preach under licence, would be very materially increased by the qualification which a degree in theology would connote, if invariably made a real test, or recognizing certificate, of attainments, and not, as now, a mere voucher for academical seniority backed by fees, nor. yet a formal ratification, under the plea jure dignitatis, of the nomination by the Minister of the day of some one, perhaps wholly unversed in theological studies, to high rank and office in the Church. It is clear, at any rate to my mind, that one necessary conclusion from the altered conditions of modern society is, that the Universities of to-day cannot undertake the office which the University of Paris discharged in mediæval times, that of being the guardians and arbiters, to a great extent, of theological orthodoxy, and that they can treat theology in no other fashion than as a branch of human knowledge, for whose study they offer special facilities, and in which their diplomas and certificates attest a certain degree of progress. And what might reasonably follow in turn from this
conclusion is, that we should see here, as in Bonn and Tübingen, where a Catholic and a Protestant Faculty of Theology subsist at the Universities side by side, certain chairs and lectures, such as Hebrew, Biblical Greek, Textual Criticism, and Christian Archæology, common to all students in theology, leaving each communion which chose to erect a faculty for itself in connexion with the University at liberty to constitute its own chairs of Dogmatic, Pastoral, and Moral Theology for its members, only requiring that the occupants of such chairs should be men who would compare on equal terms with the ablest of their colleagues. I am persuaded that it would be a gain to the nation if its religious teachers of all the chief denominations had opportunities of receiving the highest intellectual training of the time, under circumstances which, without interfering with their loyalty to their own communions, would lift them out of the narrowness and lack of culture almost inseparable from the seminary system, however worked. This principle is virtually in operation already nearer home than Germany, for the Established Kirk and the Free Kirk of Scotland have each of them Faculties of Theology in Edinburgh, though one only has official connexion with the University; and the Episcopal Church of Scotland has lately removed its Divinity School from the rural seclusion of Glenalmond to the same city. It is not unworthy of mention, too, that some of the most serious additions made of late years to scientific theology by Roman Catholic divines have come from professors at Bonn and Tübingen, such as Möhler, Kuhn, Klee, and Dieringer; while nothing of permanent value has issued from the seminaries in France, where no stimulus of competition and criticism exists; so that it is not altogether unreasonable to suppose that greater activity in this department of learning would be manifested in the English Universities were such a scheme carried out.
It is, I trust, not requisite to argue at length that no study can be adequately pursued even in its lower branches unless a certain number of minds be constantly engaged upon its higher forms, in pushing its conquests further in advance, in working out fresh lines of thought, and in illustrating more fully the teachings and discoveries of former labourers in the same field. This is recognized as eminently true of medical science, and if it had been acknowledged as equally true of law, English jurisprudence would be in a less anomalous and chaotic condition than it now is. Till within these few years past, the pursuit of the higher departments of theology has been left in this country entirely to voluntary, unassisted, and sporadic effort, and so far the professional training of the clergy has been quite inadequate. It is too early to pronounce definitely upon the practical merits of the Honour Schools in theology which have been lately instituted, though they must needs work some improvement; but allowing them to achieve to the very fullest extent all that their promoters dare even to hope, they go but a very short way towards solving the problem of