An anonymous Anglican clergyman (who reads uncannily like a cross between Edward Gibbon and P.G. Wodehouse's Reverend Heppenstall), penned the following Preface to an 1838 reprinting of the Authorised Version of the Bible. [Not, repeat not, a parody.] It begs to be read aloud, from a carved pulpit, by a scholarly divine in lawn sleeves. Oh for the optimism of those sublimely confident days!
Accustomed in the present day to the highest degree of civil and religious liberty that man perhaps can ever expect to enjoy, free to express our opinions without the terrors of the stake or the tortures of the rack to awe us into silence, or force us into dissimulation, it is with a mixture of curiosity and indignant surprise that we cast back our glance over a space of centuries, and see our ancestors struggling in all the mazes of ignorance and the labyrinths of superstition, alike passive under the mental tyranny of their monkish rulers and the bodily servitude of their despotic Lords. But every thing in this world changes, and excessive tyranny only more effectually prepares the way for perfect freedom. The minds of men in some degree induced to reason by the measures of Henry the Eighth were no longer to be blinded by false pretenses or intimidated by impotent threats, and the commencement of the Reformation dawned steadily and beautifully through the mists of papistic craft that the mental sloth of ages had permitted to accumulate. It is difficult for us to imagine the despotic control at that time exercised over the whole faculties, whether physical or mental, of our ancestors, and it requires some effort to picture to ourselves the revivifying effect that must have attended the spreading of the reformed doctrines. Men, who had seldom exerted their reasoning powers, were at once invited to discuss theological difficulties, and to solve the deepest mysteries of religion: and as by the reformed tenets every matter was open for discussion, there were few bounds set to inquiry; but various tenets and various opinions were as quickly spread, as eagerly adopted.
At this critical moment a translation of that Book, by all allowed to be the only proper guide of conduct, the only safe chart by whose aid man could hope to steer through the stormy seas and dangerous shoals with which his course is surrounded, was published and set forth: and its effect in hushing controversy and silencing factious clamour, may not unaptly be compared to that of the sun, when he breaks through the fast flitting clouds, and shining forth, dispels them by his brightness; and day, beautiful day, reigns in all its splendour.
The light that thus broke through the mental darkness of the reign of Henry the Eighth, fed as it was by the Holy Word of God, burnt purely and steadily; and although adverse winds and hostile gusts shook its flame for a time during the reign of Mary, they could not extinguish it, but left it to throw its calm and heavenly rays on our own and future ages.
The translation of the Bible is now for the first time reprinted, and words of ours are not necessary either to point out its worth or to extol its merit, or cite it for its interest or celebrate it for its rarety -- but it goes forth once again into the world as the labour of a man eminent for his piety and his learning, as a faithful version of the original Scriptures, and as one of the means to which we may gratefully ascribe the establishment of our present national religion.
Well, that certainly puts your Uncle Di in his place. What called to mind that superb gasconade was the following snip from the current Church Times (UK):
AN ANGLICAN CLERIC who converted to Hinduism has had his permission to officiate as a priest in the Ely diocese renewed for three years.
The inclusive approach. Were time-travel made available to our nameless Prefator, so that he could pop up today at Lambeth Palace to view his national religion in its 2006 condition, would he, I wonder, be tempted to modify his judgments of 1838? Or would he fit into our present age as comfortably and uncritically as he fit into his own?
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Posted by: -
Sep. 14, 2006 1:11 PM ET USA
These various non-christian antics which are being performed in church confines are the natural result of an evolving process to achieve a one-world religion, a homogenized religion blending us all into one. Consequently, there will be no need for individual religious sects. That is the vision of the fuzzy thinking theologians of modern society. for them, there is no one true church. They want no restrictive rules or limitations on man's choices. It is all to be so lovely and inclusive.
Posted by: Convert1994 -
Sep. 14, 2006 10:15 AM ET USA
Just talk to your Episcopal friends and urge their conversion. Their souls are in danger.
Posted by: MM -
Sep. 11, 2006 9:34 AM ET USA
Misplaced confidence in the improved nature of modern existence. I can't help but think of Pope John XXIII's opening speech to VCII: "Nowadays [The Chuch] prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than the arms of severity....fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts...are so obviously in contrast with the right norms of honesty...that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law."
Posted by: -
Sep. 09, 2006 5:25 PM ET USA
What would he say, were he here today? I've often wondered that about many figures in Church history, and not just the "Reformers." What would the apostles, Augustine, Chrysostom, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory the Great, Innocent III, Aquinas, either Ignatius, Pius V or Pius IX tell us? What do Pius XII or John XXIII think about where we've ended up? What would Christ say? I suspect we will learn soon enough.
Posted by: Fr. William -
Sep. 09, 2006 1:08 PM ET USA
Altar Boy, yes, your examples are of unorthodox things that are not officially sanctioned by the RC Church. When brought before The Church, such actions/words would not be blessed nor codified (shamans; naked lectors; cardinals invoking Muhammad, etc.). We have room for improvement, including implementing Vat.II correctly. e.g. Pope Benedict XVI recently criticized the "Assisi" relativists/syncretists. WIth the Anglicans, however, their church leadership sacramentalizes sodomy & pagan worship.
Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY -
Sep. 09, 2006 5:53 AM ET USA
I do recall the sheer horror of several High Church Anglicans, friends of mine, when the liturgy became the Novo Ordo, in the language of the people. They had worked so hard to bring back Latin for the Anglican services. Historical note, Pius XII gave direct permission to lay Catholics to read the Bible without seeking advance permission of the local ordinary. Sic tempora, sic mores.
Posted by: -
Sep. 08, 2006 5:17 PM ET USA
What about what’s happened within the Catholic Church, special ops? A few examples: Hindu priests conducting pagan worship services on the altar at Fatima; the “ecumenical” travesty (x 2) at Assisi; JPII kissing the Koran and an Orthodox prelate’s ring; a cardinal of the Church invoking Islam’s god; a bare-breasted female reader at a Solemn Pontifical High Mass; an American archbishop offering Mass assisted by an Indian shaman. So who’s moving away from Chrisitianity? Vatican II… thank you.
Posted by: Fr. William -
Sep. 08, 2006 3:10 PM ET USA
The Anglicans are fading further & further away from Christianity: The Anglican cleric, the Revd David Hart, 52, now lives in India, where he carries out Hindu priestly duties in the temple in his village of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Mr Hart, who has taken the Hindu name Ananda, blesses the daily congregation of about 60 with fire that has previously been offered to Nagar, the snake god. The ritual, he said, was normally performed only by Hindu priests. Luther, Henry VIII... thank you.
Posted by: -
Sep. 08, 2006 1:24 PM ET USA
"The light that thus broke through the mental darkness of the reign of Henry the Eighth...." As I recall this "light" of Henry's was lust - pure and simple lust. Married to one, lusting for another he put aside his wife, taking up his mistress only to falsely accuse her of adultery and have her murdered. Then embarking on a marry-kill spree that remains infamous. This is the sorry start of Anglicanism. I have never understood how ANYONE who knows this origin can remain Anglican.
Posted by: -
Sep. 08, 2006 1:13 PM ET USA
I'm afraid the writer would be forced to deny the facts and insist that the Church of England had been corrupted by 'papists.'
Posted by: FrPhillips -
Sep. 08, 2006 11:23 AM ET USA
This is the "free to be me" School of Theology. See where it's led the Anglicans, and give thanks to God for the "mists of papistic craft."