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and other Sermons

(1902–1904)

With a Letter to

a

The Lord Bishop of London

BY

H. HENSLEY HENSON, B.D.

CANON OF WESTMINSTER AND RECTOR OF ST. MARGARET's, WESTMINSTER

SOMETIME FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE, OXFORD

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1

TO

Tbe Lord Bisbop of London

MY LORD BISHOP,

36 x 690

You already know the reason why these discourses are now published. They form the only answer I can consent to make to the numerous attacks, public and private, to which my teaching and my character have been for some months exposed. It had not been my intention to add any preface, but I feel that it would indicate a measure of disrespect for the Bishop, within whose jurisdiction one of the great churches which I serve is situate, if I made no reference to your Lordship's recent sermon in Ely Cathedral.

It is of course scarcely possible for me to discuss
the public utterances of one who is not only superior
in hierarchical office, but also bound to me by the
ties of close and long-standing friendship. Apart
from other considerations, the regard and affection
which I entertain towards

you
render even the

appear-
ance of public conflict between us extremely odious;
and, accordingly, I shall take leave to confine myself
to a simple re-statement of the positions, so sum-
marily disallowed by your Lordship, and yet, as I

needs must maintain, so just in themselves, and so indispensable at the present time. If even to do this may seem to argue an undue indifference to ecclesiastical etiquette, I can but plead two considerations. On the one hand—as your Lordship, in selecting Ely Cathedral for the scene of your discourse, must be supposed to recognise—I hold an exceptional position among the clergy of London. As Canon of Westminster I am extra-diocesan, and as Rector of St. Margaret's I neither receive institution from the Bishop of London, nor take with respect to him any oath of canonical obedience. On the other hand, the interests at stake are of such importance that their faithful wardship transcends the trivialities of hierarchical convention. Both your Lordship and I are subject to the Law; and neither of us has the right to alter the legal limits of theological liberty, whether by restriction or by enlargement. I do not understand your Lordship to dispute the legal validity of the claim which, not for the first time, I have advanced. Assuredly no doubt on the subject has ever visited my own mind. Obedience to the Law is with me almost a religion ; and I would never wittingly demand for myself, or for others, the right to break the Law. It is because, as I believe, the Law secures to the English clergyman a sufficient liberty in the matters of faith and teaching, that I am able to hold office in the National Church, and to give my life loyally to the work of the Christian Ministry.

What, then, are the positions which have been maintained in what I suppose must be called my incriminated Articles and Sermons ? Perhaps they may be sufficiently stated under five heads.

1. I have maintained that the Creeds have no independent authority apart from the Scripture. This would seem the plain teaching of Article VIII., and it is thus stated by the Bishop of Worcester in his well-known Bampton Lectures :

“ In the view of ancient and Anglican orthodoxy, the creeds are simply summaries of the original Christian faith as it is represented in Scripture. They are summaries such as are necessary for the purposes of a teaching church, to serve as introductions to the study of Scripture and guides to its scattered, but consistent, statements and implications : summaries which always refer us back to Scripture for their justification or proof, it being the function of the church to teach,' as the phrase goes, the Bible to prove.

Some of the expressions here employed by Bishop Gore are not free from ambiguity, but substantially I think it will be allowed that his statement accords with the teaching of the Article in the Hibbert Journal, where I write thus : “ It must be laid down as an axiom of discussion that the Creed can add nothing to the weight of the testimonies contained in the New Testament, which are not only prior in point of time, but also are admittedly the basis upon which the affirmations of the Creed ultimately rest.” 2 It accords also with the teaching in the sermon entitled “ St. Luke's Prologue—The Charter of 1 P. 81.

2 P. 484.

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