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CHURCH QUARTERLY REVIEW
NO XCI. APRIL 1898.
ART. 1.-MOBERLY'S MINISTERIAL
Ministerial Priesthood. Chapters (preliminary to a study of
the Ordinal) on the rationale of Ministry and the meaning of Christian Priesthood. With an Appendix upon Roman criticism of Anglican Orders. By R. C. MOBERLY, D.D., Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology in the University of Oxford, Canon of Christ Church. (London, 1897.)
The history of Christian Theology is full of instances of particular aspects of truth being so exclusively insisted upon as to become unbalanced and partly untrue. When this is the case, the danger of reaction is always present. An undue emphasis on one part of the truth provokes a similar treatment of the opposite part. Forgetfulness of one element is avenged by exaggeration of it. When once the harmonious proportion of true Catholicity has been disturbed, it is no easy matter to restore it.
The doctrine of the priesthood has suffered greatly from unbalanced emphasis and from reaction. Valuable truths about it have been held and taught in such a way as to obscure essential elements. A strong belief in the reality of the Divine commission and the supernatural powers of the Ministry has sometimes led to a distorted idea of separation between the clergy and Christian laymen. A firm hold on the objectivity of grace has not always been accompanied by an equally clear recollection of the need of personal spiritual life. On the other hand, the realization of the necessity of inward faith has sometimes impaired the sense of the value of external means of grace ; and the knowledge that the VOL. XLVI.—NO. XCI.
whole body of Christians forms a 'priestly nation' has tended to destroy the truth that there are ordained ministerial priests with special functions and powers which are the gift of God. The true doctrine of Sacerdotalism has on the one side been distorted and on the other side been denied.
A great service to truth and morals is rendered by any competent teacher who makes a serious effort to maintain an existing balanced belief in important truth or to bring back to full consideration elements in it which have been partly or completely obscured. And the service is greater than it would be under some other circumstances if writers of acknowledged learning and power have carefully accumulated particular groups of facts without a sufficiently clear idea of principles which co-ordination of all the facts involves, or have supposed that the refutation of a distortion is destructive also of the doctrine which it misrepresents.
There are three sections of the study of the doctrine of the priesthood. There is the evidence supplied by the facts and teaching in the New Testament. There are the affirmations of doctrine and the history of the Christian Church. There are considerations based upon the general truths of Theology in its philosophical aspects.
Of these three sections it is the third which is chiefly discussed in the work recently published by the Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oxford, entitled Ministerial Priesthood. The other two sections are, indeed, never out of sight. When there is occasion Dr. Moberly shows how full and careful his study of the evidence from the New Testament and Christian antiquity has been. But the main subject of the book is that which is indicated in the preface when the author speaks of 'the supreme importance, for the insight of real understanding, of the underlying postulates or principles which ordinarily precede conscious argument' (p. x).
The task of considering these 'principles ' in the matter of the priesthood, evidently a 'congenial' one to Dr. Moberly, has been undertaken by him partly in view of Bishop Lightfoot's famous dissertation on The Christian Ministry. That essay has long been felt to be unsatisfactory, if for no other reason, because the interpretation most readily placed upon it is one which its distinguished author on more than one occasion repudiated. He described Dr. Langen's 'account of the origin of episcopacy' as precisely similar to'his own,' and regarded it as possible that. Cardinal Newman would agree with' him 'in' his `historical investigation.' 1 He wrote to Canon MacColl to express his pleasure that he had not mistaken the purport of' his ' essay on the Christian Ministry, as so many have done,'? and told the same writer that “the study of the early records of Christianity had left no doubt whatever in his mind as to the Apostolic—which, in fact, meant the Divine--origin of Episcopacy.' 3 In the preface to the sixth edition of his commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians he stated :
While disclaiming any change in my opinions, I desire equally to disclaim the representations of those opinions which have been put forward in some quarters. The object of the essay was an investigation into the origin of the Christian Ministry. The result has been à confirmation of the statement in the English Ordinal, “It is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scripture and ancient authors that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” But I was scrupulously anxious not to overstate the evidence in any case ; and it would seem that partial and qualifying statements, prompted by this anxiety, have assumed undue proportions in the minds of some readers, who emphasized them to the neglect of the general drift of the essay.' 4
In the preface to Ministerial Priesthood Dr. Moberly endeavours to account for this strange failure on the part of a writer who did not lack the power of lucid expression'to
express perfectly what'he ‘had in mind.' He believes that the explanation of the 'ambiguity' is to be found in the mental presuppositions, the unchallenged assumptions, the hypotheses or postulates with which' Bishop Lightfoot'approaches the examination of the evidence,' and that 'flaws in
account both for the superficial ambiguity,' and also for the really unsatisfactory character of his argument upon the evidence. Accordingly, he proceeds to 'formulate some half-dozen propositions, several of them of an abstract character which seem to belong to''the unconscious substructure of the Bishop's essay. The underlying propositions' which Dr. Moberly thus supposes to have in this matter without his knowledge warped the judgment and
1 Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, II. i. 376, note 1.
2 MacColl, Christianity in Relation to Science and Morals, 3rd edit. preface, p. xxv. 3 Ibid.
p. Xxxvi. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, preface to the sixth edition, p. x.
impaired the power of clear writing which were as a rule characteristic of Bishop Lightfoot, are as follows:
'Ends are greater than means, and means exist for ends ; therefore whatever belongs to the category of means can in no case be regarded as essential. Again : the outward represents the inward, and the inward which is represented is far higher than the outward which represents it ; therefore while the inward is essentially necessary for the reality of the outward, the outward is only conventionally necessary for the reality of the inward. Again : the literal and real meaning of the words sacrifice and priesthood is that which they bore in the Old Testament; by this all other applications of the words must be measured and judged. Again : if ministry is representative of the Body as a whole, then the Body as a whole, and every member thereof, must implicitly possess the right to minister. Again : a corporate or universal priesthood and a divinely and exclusively specialized priesthood are mutually incompatible ideas. Again : it will follow as a corollary that if there is for convenience a separated ministry, it cannot be matter of any crucial moment whether the ministerial authority of new ministers grows by a sort of evolution out of the life of the general Church Body, or is devolved ministerially through the action only of those who themselves have been similarly accredited as ministers before. Again : the Church is, in the first instance, a plurality of individual units, and by aggregation of these it becomes, in the second instance, subordinately, and as it were accidentally, an articulated unity' (Preface, pp. vii-viii).
From a similar point of view Dr. Moberly criticizes the recently published posthumous work by Dr. Hort entitled The Christian Ecclesia. A characteristic of that book is the attempt made in it to formulate the results of a purely critical investigation of the New Testament. Against the principle involved in this method Dr. Moberly energetically protests :
'It would be hard,' he says, 'to find a scholar of graver or more solid judgment than Dr. Hort. Often there is upon his words the touch of a living and illuminating enthusiasm. Yet even Dr. Hort appears sometimes so to interpret the history as if the narrative detail of historical passages could yield their fullest meaning apart from the doctrinal verities which underlie, and find partial expression in, historical detail : as if, that is, the true exegesis of Church history could be non-theological. This comes most clearly into view, when he draws negative conclusions from his text, and offers, by them, to correct traditional belief. If, for example, by this method, he claims to show that the Apostles received from our Lord no authority to govern in the Church ; that there were no “ecclesiæ ” as a result of St. Paul's first missionary journey in Europe ; that a diákovos had nothing to do with teaching ; or that the connexion between “laying on of hands” and “ordination to ministry” was rather accidental than important; is he not, so far, misunderstanding the scope of his own