Historical Lectures and Addresses/The Teaching of Ecclesiastical History
The most agreeable part of an inaugural address under ordinary circumstances is that in which a new professor pays a well-merited compliment to him whom he succeeds. No task can be more pleasant than a retrospect of past progress, a careful appreciation of the results of a careful method, an enumeration of the fruits of a life of study and a picture of its quickening influence upon the lives of others. Such a survey is gratifying to all, for it serves in some degree as a measure of the contribution of the University to the advancement of human knowledge. It is above all things useful to one who is beginning his labours as a teacher, for it enables him to estimate soberly the ground which has been already occupied, and to mark out the lines along which he proposes to advance.
In my own case such a survey is impossible. The thought that I am the first occupant of this Chair gives me an increased feeling of responsibility, because there is no one in whose steps I can claim to follow, or whose work I can profess to carry on. But though I have no direct predecessor in this Chair, I have great traditions in this University to guide me. Cambridge in our own day has fostered a school of theologians who are strong in the use of the historical method. I will not attempt a survey of their labours, but will only say that they have done much to substitute for unprofitable controversy a fruitful search for truth. They have set themselves soberly and steadfastly to sift the evidence of Christian antiquity. They have gone far to dispel difficulties and to settle problems by reducing them to definite proportions, by regarding them in strict reference to the circumstances which gave them birth. The traditions of theological teaching have been thoroughly leavened by the historic spirit. So far as regards the origins of the Christian Church, its organisation, its doctrines, its rites, its liturgies, the existing staff of teachers need no further help. They are all historians within their several spheres. Theology has become historical and does not demand that history should become theological.
I think, therefore, that I am not merely following the direction of my own studies, but am also consulting the needs of the teaching of the University, if I say that I do not at present purpose to turn my attention to the earliest period of the history of the Church. I think that I should be doing a more useful work if I tried to carry on the subject to later times, and aimed at kindling a greater interest in the nature and influence of the ecclesiastical organisation when considered as a factor in European civilisation. I should like to work from the historical rather than from the theological side. I should like to chronicle the actual achievements of the Church and follow the record of its activity through the changes of time.
It has long seemed to me that England has contributed unduly little towards this important branch of historical study. Many reasons may be assigned for this. Foremost among them is the fact that the peculiar character of the English Reformation tended to narrow English interests and to isolate English thought. When once the severance from the Roman Church had been accomplished, Englishmen did not care to look back upon centuries of decadence and corruption. Attention was almost exclusively given to the history of the primitive Church and the writings of the Early Fathers. From these alone were materials drawn for the controversy with Rome. The Bible and primitive antiquity were the foundations on which the English Church claimed to be built. It rejected the authority of the Bishops of Rome and passed over in disdain the period in which that authority had been recognised. When the Romish controversy ceased, the controversy with Nonconformity took its place, and was conducted with the same weapons and by the same evidence. As against the Church of Rome, the Church of England insisted that what she had discarded was discarded because it was without sufficient warrant of Scripture or primitive usage. Against the Nonconformists, the Church of England insisted that what she retained was retained because it had sufficient warrant. Neither of these lines of controversy led to historical investigation beyond the limits of early times. The very title "ecclesiastical history" till recent years suggested to the ordinary hearer only the history of the first five Christian centuries.
Moreover, little need was felt of history for the purpose of dealing with the internal organisation of the Church. The English Reformation in one sense did not go nearly far enough. The Roman jurisdiction had broken down the machinery of the Church, had destroyed its organisation for self-government. The Roman jurisdiction was swept away, but the disordered machinery was left unamended. Questions affecting the fundamental basis of the English Church were eagerly discussed and zealously maintained by skilful disputants, while its internal organisation was never definitely settled. The union between Church and State depended on mutual alliance against those who were supposed to be common foes. Not until the present century, when the State had gradually given equal rights to all its citizens without distinction of religious belief, did the question of its relations to the Church become serious. Historical learning was then hastily enrolled in the service of preconceived theories, and a fitful glamour was thrown over an uncertain past. The facts brought to light by the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission were almost entirely forgotten. Again, the national life of England has in modern times given the Englishman strong political instincts of a decidedly practical kind. He has been concerned with problems as they arose, and he has dealt with them as they presented themselves before him. The Englishman studied history, if he studied it at all, to find in it guidance for a definite purpose. The study of war-like glories in the past was always popular, for it was an encouragement of national aspiration in the present and the ground of hope for the future. The outburst of strong national feeling which marked the sixteenth century made men forgetful of an older England which counted itself as a member of the great Commonwealth of Christendom, of which intimate union the unity of ecclesiastical organisation was the symbol and the warrant. The records of the activity of the Mediæval Church were left to the same fate as the ruins of the mediaeval monasteries. The memory alone remained of the abuses which had led to violent reform. The centuries of beneficent usefulness were forgotten. The whole life of the past was misunderstood, because the action of the chief power which moved it was neglected or misrepresented. Only in recent times has the importance of the ecclesiastical side of mediæval history been recognised.
Perhaps the study of ecclesiastical history is still looked upon with some suspicion. It is considered as likely to be adverse to secular history, as having a tendency to exalt the Church, to revive obsolete principles, and awaken controversies which had better be allowed to rest. One point cannot be too clearly stated, though it is almost superfluous to state it; that science knows no difference of methods, and that ecclesiastical history must be pursued in exactly the same way, and with exactly the same spirit as any other branch of history. The aim of the investigator is simply the discovery of truth. Ecclesiastical history is precisely like constitutional history or economic history: it deals primarily with one aspect of the time, but it deals with it in a spirit of absolutely free inquiry and entire independence of judgment. It is true that ecclesiastical partisanship is strong in many cases; but I am not sure that it is stronger in distorting the truth than is political partisanship. It is true that very different estimates are formed of the characters and aims of such men as Anselm, Becket or Laud; but men are not agreed about Cleon or the Gracchi or Caius Julius Cæsar. It is true that different minds have different conceptions of the progress of the Church; but there are different conceptions of the progress of secular affairs. In fact all differences of historical judgment resolve themselves into differences of the conception of progress. Historians mainly differ according as their conception of progress is historical or political. By a political conception I mean one which is directly derived from the political movements or political theories of the present day, which takes as its starting-point ideas which are now prevalent, or problems which are now pressing for solution. According to this view the student of history knows exactly what he wants to find in the past. He wishes to trace the development of the principles which he himself holds and which he believes to be destined to success. To him the past was a failure so far as it did not follow those principles. He turns from the main current of events to seek out streams of tendencies which were to swell till their flood prevailed. He looks for those in the past who were like-minded with himself, and makes them the prominent figures in his picture. He has no doubt that the perspective of the present is the true perspective, and draws the sketch according to its rules.
The historical conception of progress is founded on historical experience of the evolution of human affairs. Its object is to understand the past as a whole, to note in every age the thing that was accomplished, the ideas which clothed themselves with power. It tries to estimate these in reference to the times in which they occurred. It knows no special sympathies, for it sees everywhere the working of great elemental forces which are common to human society at all times. It strives to weigh the problems of the past in their actual relations to their times; it tries to strip them of their accidental forms and show their fundamental connexion not merely with present ideas but with the process of man's development. Thucydides in one sense was mistaken in supposing that the events which he recorded were likely to occur again in such or similar shape. Greek life admitted of no second Peloponnesian War. Yet we still turn to his pages for instruction in the nature of the enduring conflict of man with his surroundings, of the struggles between the different organisations which political societies from time to time invent.
I will not defend, but will only state my own preference for the historical rather than the political view of progress. I turn to the past to learn its story without any preconceived opinion what that story may be. I do not assume that one period or one line of study is more instructive than another, but I am ready to recognise the real identity of man's aspiration at all times. Some episodes in history are regarded as profoundly modern; others are dismissed contemptuously as concerned with trifles. In some ages there are great heroes, in others the actors are sunk in indolence and sloth. For my own part I do not recognise this great distinction. Men's minds were always active. Great struggles were always going on. Great principles were always at stake. At some periods it takes more care and patience to discern them than at others. In some periods they set all Europe in a blaze, at other times they were mooted in a corner. I am not sure that for the purposes of study the smaller scale does not present the problem more intelligibly. I am by no means certain that what are called the great periods of history are most full of instruction to the beginner.
It must, however, be admitted that ecclesiastical history lends itself more easily than any other branch of history to what I have called the political mode of treatment. This is inevitable from the nature of the subject. The Christian lives by faith. He believes that the teaching of the Gospel, which it is the work of the Church to spread, is divinely appointed to transform the world. His belief in the power of the ideas which the Church teaches, passes on to a belief in the organisation by means of which they have been taught. Partisanship gathers round the very name of the Church; and men strive to trace an ideal unity for the system to which they themselves adhere. The belief in the power of the Gospel to transform the world leads men to demand in all periods of history, definite proofs of its influence. They ask that its influence should have been exerted as they wish to see it exerted in the questions of the present day. Consequently some set to work to show that the work of the Church was continuous and was always advancing on its own lines amidst various untoward conditions. Others denounce the organisation of the Church in the past as hopelessly corrupt, because it did not produce the results which they demand from it at present.
If ecclesiastical history is to be studied historically all such preconceived opinions must be dismissed. The Church and the world must be studied together, in their mutual relations. All forms in which the ideas of Christianity clothed themselves must be regarded as equally important. The question about them all is the same, what influence did they exercise on man's civilisation? The Church must always be regarded as a factor in the history of man's development. It did not always work for the same ends: it was affected by the society around it: its zeal, its purity wavered at different times. I think that even in its worst times it did not cease to uphold a standard of Christian principles, and keep alive whatever purity of heart remained. When I say that ecclesiastical history must be studied in the same way as secular history, I do not mean that the student must lay aside the belief in a Divine purpose accomplishing itself by human means. All history alike teaches that. For this very reason greater care is necessary to discover the truth. The more the study is approached with a spirit of reverence and seriousness, the less danger there ought to be of partial judgments and the blindness of partisanship. The more we appreciate the greatness of the issues, the more care ought we to take in considering them fully, in pausing before we condemn, in exercising sobriety.
I will notice a few points of detail in which the study of ecclesiastical history seems to offer peculiar difficulties to the temper of the student. First of all it particularly lends itself to a kind of picturesque and flippant treatment, for it has the elements of satire readily at hand. To one who looks at the matter from an outside point of view, the work of the Church, the lives of Churchmen, easily invite ridicule. It is easy to point to the failure of the organisation of the Church to embody for its own guidance the principles which it tries to enforce on others. It is easy to collect examples of the difference between the lives of Churchmen and their professions, the perversion of Scriptural phrases to ungodly purposes, the assertion of a worldly power for a kingdom which is not of this world. There is truth in all this and the error lies only in exaggeration. The perpetual contrast between endeavour and attainment is the central feeling inspired by the great drama of human affairs. All history is deeply tragic; it tells a ceaseless tale of failure, sacrifice and sorrow. It sets forth the smallness, the shortsightedness, the inadequacy of man to deal with the problems with which his path is strewn. The sense of pain is rarely absent from the generous mind which follows the record of man's changes. All this is true. Still feeling, however righteous in itself, cannot be given the chief place in a study which claims in any way to be scientific. Yet it lies so near the surface of the reader's heart that it can be appealed to at any moment and is relieved by the appeal. This nearness of emotion supplies a dangerous rhetorical weapon which it is easy to wield in accordance with preconceived opinions. Moral indignation is skilfully enlisted on one side only, and a partial standard of judgment is applied. It is easier to point out this danger than to say how it can be avoided. We cannot altogether omit moral judgment without degrading the subject and losing the sense of its real issues. Especially in ecclesiastical matters ought our moral standard to be lofty. All that we can do is to apply it impartially, and regulate our judgment fairly by a view of all the conditions of the time. Generally this method leaves us a sense of disappointment. Heroes are dwarfed and great events seem robbed of their greatness. It is hard to admit that if we cannot level up, fairness demands that we should level down. But this is the first part of a process which will lead to the discovery of deeper truths. Better than hero-worship is the discovery of great principles. If truth requires us to admit grave defects and serious errors, let us then in all charity attempt to discover what good remains. The history of the Church too often tells the story of human imperfection and frailty—of the passionate pursuit of unworthy or trivial ends. This ought not to turn our eyes from the good which was mingled with the ill, or make us forget that the good, whether great or small, would not be fostered by any other means.
I turn to another point Ecclesiastical history is necessarily concerned with the growth of opinions; and the process of tracing the application of ideas and their gradual spread is one which admits of great latitude. There is a temptation to exaggerate the importance of opinions which seem to agree with our own, and to claim for them an occult influence extending through ages. It seems to me that on such a point especially we cannot too resolutely stand on the requirement of actual proof. The question that history asks about opinions is simply, how far did they influence events?
A man's utterances are valuable historically, for the effect which they produced when they were uttered, for the meaning which they had at that time. It is one thing to believe fervently that truth never dies, and that noble ideas are always fruitful. It is another thing to elevate these ethical convictions into principles which are of themselves enough to explain the growth of human affairs. History requires an apparent connexion, an organised arrangement of events: otherwise it is a shapeless and unintelligible record. But this connexion is one that runs on continuously through the ages, and ought to be made manifest by the movement of events themselves. The same truths, the same ideas are repeated age after age, when the same sort of difficulty is before men's minds.
Again, ecclesiastical history has suffered as a science because it affords the materials for so many biographies. The lives of isolated individuals are profitable for edification, and thereby they are unduly exalted into historical personages. A hero is immediately created—and when once a hero has gained a hold upon the popular imagination, it is an ungrateful task to try and remove him from his pedestal. It is often found easier to construct for him an ornamental niche and treat him with outward marks of deference. Perhaps nothing is more capricious than the selection of worthies who are supposed to have prepared the way for the Reformation. The continuous effort for the reform of ecclesiastical abuses is one of the chief features of mediæval history. The attempt was made in various ways and was supported by various arguments. The prevalence of corruption was acknowledged by all serious men; the extent of the corruption was exposed often in exaggerated language; the causes of the corruption were fearlessly attacked. It is hard to see in some cases the line which distinguishes those who are exalted as reformers from those who are passed by unnoticed. The tendency of an age as a whole is frequently misrepresented through a desire to elevate unduly some prominent figure into a prophet of the future.
I pass on to consider the general bearings of the subject of ecclesiastical history.
If we regard the course of events since the first appearance of Christianity as an organised system in the world, we see how large, how very large a part it has played in history. In the decline of the Roman world, Christianity was the only influence which bound society together, and afforded the only possible basis for a reorganisation of the imperial system. When the decline of population and energy within the borders of the Empire invited the settlements of the German tribes, the fortunes of those tribes depended upon their power of assimilating the principles, and respecting the organisation, of the Christian Church. Christianity preserved all that was preserved of old civilisation, and preserved all that was preserved of the simpler life and manners of the new peoples. The Church was strong when nothing else was strong. It moulded the ideas, and gave a pattern of the political system, on which Europe was slowly built up. Christianity became for centuries the bulwark of Europe against invasion from the East. When the wanderings of the peoples were over, it was chiefly the industry of Churchmen which brought the wasted land under cultivation, and opened up the beginnings of industrial life. The Church was the guardian of knowledge, the only source of education. The need of preserving some sort of order had led to a system of social organisation in which the freedom of the individual was more and more disregarded. The Church afforded the only escape from the grinding tyranny of feudalism. Churchmen may appear selfish or arrogant in the history of the Middle Ages, but the objects for which they strove were not entirely concerned with the elevation of their own order. The Church had no military force to support her. She was strong only in the moral force which is given by popular approbation. Her voice was effectual only so far as it was re-echoed by popular opinion. Her penalties were enforced only where their justice was recognised. With all its defects the Mediæval Church uttered the only possible protest against the tyranny of an unruly oligarchy. Beneath the protection of the Church the people became conscious of their strength. But in the course of this struggle against oppression, the organisation of the Church itself had grown monarchical; and an organisation which might be useful in time of conflict was destructive when the battle was over. "Rome only you will have, and Rome will destroy you," was a prophecy early made to the English Bishops. The authority of the Pope was a useful refuge against the overweening power of the King and lords. But the Papacy, which had grown strong as the defence of the Church, undertook its entire government, and so ran counter to the rising spirit of national consciousness. It was in opposition to the claims of the Papacy that the theories of the modern state were first distinctly formulated. But political theories could afford no practical remedy till the foundations of the ecclesiastical system were shaken by a doctrinal revolt. The theology of the Middle Ages was a massive structure which might well enthral men's minds. Proceeding on a method of deduction, it gave scope for bold speculation, while it slowly built up a powerful system which seemed impregnable. But the rise of the New Learning turned men's minds to new fields of discovery. Theology was no longer the only important science, and the criticism which was at first applied to other subjects was carried to the foundation of theology itself.
Ecclesiastical history is concerned with the ideas round which mediæval civilisation centred, and from which modern ideas took their rise. It is not too much to say that till the end of the seventeenth century, ecclesiastical history is the surest guide to the comprehension of European history as a whole. After a long period of religious conflict the State asserted its unity and supremacy on principles which were independent of the Church. After a long period of criticism, science advanced to the investigation of the universe with a new method of induction. Christianity did not lose by this revolution, but history no longer centred round the organisation of the Church. The spirit of the Gospel perhaps became a more powerful influence in society when the claims of an authoritative explanation of its letter to mould civil society were put aside.
In the study of history of any kind one caution is necessary. A study which has for its subject-matter the experience of the past must beware of seeking too direct results. The aim of all study is the education in method. It ought to develop the power of observation rather than supply opinions. It ought to fit the student to discern between what is plausible and what is true. The aim of the study of history should be the formation of a right judgment on the great issues of human affairs. The work of the present is carried on perforce amid the tumult of conflicting opinions. When we stand aside and watch for a moment, it is almost painful to observe on what a scanty fund of real knowledge the strongest and most decided opinions are accepted and upheld. The study of history can give no mathematical certainty, but it can create a sober temper, which is the basis of all true wisdom. It can give a sense of the largeness of problems, of their complexity, of the dangers of overhaste, of the limits of man's power over his surroundings. The study of history rightly pursued ought to be the most useful means of forming a capacity for dealing with affairs. It shows us great ideas prevailing at all times; it shows us repeated failure to give these ideas effect; it shows the conditions under which these ideas influenced political action; it shows us seeming triumphs which ended only in disaster; it enables us to judge of the qualities which led to permanent achievements; it points out the nature and limits of man's foresight. These are the important lessons of history, and they are lessons which may be learned from any period, and from any field of man's activity. For my own part, I think that they are best learned in periods which do not challenge direct comparison with the present. We are calmer and more impartial when the conditions of the problem are somewhat remote, when there is no danger of awakening our own feelings of partisanship, when we are not misled by similarity of names and terms which we have adopted as our own.
I have said more than enough on these general topics. How is this study of ecclesiastical history to be promoted in this University, for what objects, and by what means? On this point I, as a stranger, can only speak with imperfect information. I would have preferred not to have spoken at all, but it occurred to me that my inexperience would perhaps enable me to say what otherwise I should not venture to say, and which might be worth saying. The fact that I am unfettered by any positive knowledge of possibilities allows me greater freedom in drawing an ideal picture of the functions which a professor of ecclesiastical history might conceivably discharge. I will express some considerations which have occurred to me.
First of all the study of ecclesiastical history is naturally of real importance to those who are preparing for clerical life. The early period is so interwoven with the rise and organisation of the Church that it is indistinguishable from a knowledge of theology. But beyond this, the development of the ecclesiastical system throughout the Middle Ages has left its traces on the organisation which still exists. The clergy should understand better than they do their own ecclesiastical antiquities. It is surprising how little is known about the history of cathedral establishments, ecclesiastical courts and ecclesiastical officials, or even of such a body as Convocation. Proposals for the reform of all these institutions are common enough: it is a truism to say that nothing can be wisely remodelled until the steps by which it came to its existing form are fully understood. Much misapprehension exists about ecclesiastical revenues, and the clergy cannot always give accurate information on the subject. But more than this, I think that every clergyman ought to be ready and able to learn the ecclesiastical history of the district in which he labours. It would afford him an excellent means of giving instruction to his people. Great truths are to be taught in many forms, and many valuable lessons are to be learned from the history of places. Simple folk can learn much from things before their eyes. They are interested in the place where they have been born and bred, and there are few ancient churches whose fabric would not furnish the text for many instructive sermons. Our churches are as a rule our most ancient buildings; their architecture was influenced by local circumstances; their growth tells the story of local progress. Dean Stanley set an excellent example by making Westminster Abbey serve as a record of England's history to many who before had passed it by with scarcely a glance. In every place where stands an ancient church, it is as full of memories that can be made intelligible to those who dwell beneath its shadow, as is the great Abbey of the Confessor. A little knowledge of history, a little interest in the subject gained in this place, would enable an intelligent man to understand his church wherever it might be. Moreover, the clergy are by virtue of their office the guardians of their churches and the keepers of the records of their parish. It is urged, with some truth, that they have not always shown themselves intelligent guardians in the past. It is, I admit, a small part of their duty, but it is none the less a part of it, and it is one which they should be fit to discharge with scrupulous care. Still further, it is well for every clergyman, for the sake of his own mind, to have an interest outside his professional studies. Any one who has felt the burden of parish work will at once admit the necessity of some intellectual pursuit to restore his mental balance when overborne by details. A taste for ecclesiastical history gives an object for reading which is at once large and ennobling and not alien to his immediate duties. A clergyman sees much and picks up interesting local knowledge as he goes on his daily round of visits. If he has been so far trained as to be capable of appreciating evidence, he may glean much incidentally if his eyes and ears be open. Many valuable records of the past are daily lost because no one understands them. Parochial histories, the results of the leisure of busy clergymen, are amongst the valuable contributions to local history.
Many of these considerations apply with equal force to laymen as to clergymen. The study of history is popular in this University and will, I trust, grow still more popular. It attracts many young men who have no direct object in studying for a definite literary career, or for professional advancement, but who turn to the subject which has the greatest connexion with life and with affairs. It should be the object of their teaching to give them as large a view as may be given of the general course of history. The end in view is that they should understand their political and social surroundings, that they should have the temper necessary to form a right judgment, and that they should at least know what is the knowledge necessary to make that judgment valuable, and where that knowledge is to be found. For this purpose a study of ecclesiastical history can certainly claim a place. It exhibits a clear continuity of events. It is intimately connected with constitutional and social history, while it is the centre of the history of European thought. Its records in early times are fuller than any others: it is more intimate and more picturesque. It is easier to reconstruct the life of the past round ecclesiastical questions than round any other. It has, moreover, the advantage of readily kindling an interest in local history, which I consider to be a point of great importance in inducing a man of leisure to pursue his studies in later life. My experience has led me to the conclusion that the study of history in the universities is useful to many different classes of minds. Some use it as a direct training for a political or administrative career, to others it gives an interest for serious reading in the intervals of a busy life; to others again it has given a genuine interest in their own locality, and has put them in the way of fruitful research.
There is yet another class which it should be the special purpose of a university to create. I mean the class of students who devote themselves to the furtherance of knowledge. While we do our utmost to train young men for active life, we must also aim at fostering learning in every branch. There are few branches of study which open a wider field than does that of ecclesiastical history, and it is a subject which an Englishman of to-day is specially qualified to treat. Much that has been done in the past is disfigured by partisanship. I think that a fair-minded English Churchman at present is more likely to take a large and sympathetic view of past problems, and is more free from those motives which lead to partisanship, than is a writer in any other country. It is in his power to sympathise with every form of religious endeavour, for the system to which he holds has elements in common with all. He lives in a State where religious tolerance is complete, and where no Christian body is regarded as a political danger. He has nothing to uphold which requires him to modify the strict application of the historical method. But the subject has not for those reasons become to him cold and dead. It is no mere question of antiquarianism, but is full of living interest. In the history of Christianity he sees the traces of God's working in the world: he feels the need of setting forth against unbelief the plain unvarnished story of the work which the Church, however hampered by faults or corruptions, has nevertheless been enabled to work in the world. He burns to show how the Church has, through strange vicissitudes, knit together European society in the past, and must be its bond in the future. How that bond can best be made firmer, how the organisation of the Church can best be fitted for its work, these are momentous questions on which the experience of the past may well be consulted with eagerness. The opinions, the organisations of all religious bodies, the successes attending on various manifestations of religious zeal, these are points which demand careful consideration. The relations between Church and State open up an endless field of inquiry and present a problem which has no logical solution, but which each age has solved in its own fashion, and which each age needs wisdom and moderation to solve aright.
On all these points and many more than these, Englishmen of to-day look with a singularly impartial spirit. It will be my aim in dealing with them to show no clerical or Anglican bias. Ecclesiastical history is common to all religious bodies, and the time is, I trust, past and gone when any man thinks that he can best defend his own opinions by blackening those who opposed them in the past. Our political life is vigorous enough to enable us to understand that ideas or systems prevail because they meet some pressing need. The essence of fruitful investigation of the past is to discover how men's wants arose and how they were met. Every system has its place and serves its purpose. No system prevails universally, because no system is large enough to supply all needs. We look to the growth of a wider charity to remedy our evils in the future. It is a first step towards this end to allow the light of that charity to shine upon the past.
It remains for me to suggest in what ways it is possible for a professor to help in attaining the objects which I have put before you. The position and work of a professor is by no means easy to define. It is his first duty to represent his subject, to urge its claims on attention, to do what he can to promote its study. But the method by which this result is best to be attained must depend on the relations of that subject to the examinations of the university, and on the relation of the professor to other teachers in the same subject. Ecclesiastical history is recognised in the examinations for the theological and the historical triposes. But a glance at the lists of lectures issued by the Boards of Study for those faculties, shows that direct teaching for the subjects of examination is at present adequately supplied by college and university lecturers. It is well that this should be so. Yet, though direct preparation for examinations be left to others, a professor ought to be able to do something even for examination purposes. He may choose portions of his subject which are connected with the examinations, and may treat them with greater fulness and clearness than a college lecturer would be justified in attempting. Many undergraduates learn more from a detailed view of one period than they could learn from a general sketch. A nucleus of information, an insight into method, a grasp of important principles, these, when once gained in any field, give to many minds a living interest which rapidly spreads, and forms a starting-point for independent work. I am speaking from my own experience. My attention was directed to the study of ecclesiastical history by the fact that I accidentally attended a course of lectures given by Dr. Shirley on the life and works of Anselm. I went in absolute ignorance of mediæval history, while I was engaged in other reading. Those lectures made the Middle Ages real to me, and gave me a source of interest which I have never since lost. I am of opinion that it should be the ideal of a professor to produce such results.
My object then will be to lecture on subjects which are cognate to those recognised in the University examinations, and to treat them as largely and fully as I can. I shall aim at making my lectures a training in historical method and in the temper necessary for historical judgment. I shall hope that a fuller grasp of principles, a fuller experience of the working of institutions, and a familiarity with the sources of history will react upon the general course of reading prescribed for an examination, and will make it more interesting and more life-like. I shall make each course complete and self-contained. I shall try to make no demands on previous knowledge, and to deal with subjects which possess general interest. My reason is that I think the subject of ecclesiastical history is one of general interest, and that it is of great use to students to wander sometimes outside their own special study, and I would not deter any by an appearance of technical abstruseness.
According to my conception the objects which a professor might reasonably set before himself in his lectures are, first, to give a stimulus to those who are reading for examinations, so as to widen and deepen their views; secondly, to give general instruction in such a way as to bring his subject into greater prominence and excite more interest in it. How he is to accomplish these ends must be left to himself. I know that plans are under discussion for the regulation of the number of a professor's lectures. I wish I thought that any such plan was likely to produce good results. In these days of organisation one is ashamed to plead, "Do not organise me: leave me alone". But a regulation about the number of lectures to be given by a professor seems to me to have two dangers. It supposes that the great duty of a professor is to lecture, and so may tend to create a view that the most popular lecturer will make the best professor. Moreover, it introduces a numerical standard which confounds quantity with quality. Different subjects differ greatly in the nature of the teaching which they require. Now the study of history does not require much teaching, but it requires good and careful teaching. The great danger to which it is liable is that of cram. The knowledge required for examination is contained in books which are easily accessible and are easily read. The difficulty of the subject lies in its vastness, and in the multitude rather than the complexity of its details. The young student needs to have clearly marked out for him the course which he has to follow. He needs a map for his guidance, but he should make his going for himself. Many lectures are a dangerous snare. Instead of reading for himself and thinking for himself a young man runs from lecture to lecture, fills notebook after notebook with jottings which are inaccurate because they were not understood, reads very little and scarcely thinks at all, but tends to learn by rote the contents of his voluminous notebooks for the last few months before his examination. This, which is the common danger of all examinations, is especially a danger in the case of history. The books are plain, the subject is not intricate, but the books are many and the subject is large. If the study of history is to be in any way a training for life, it must be because a man has learnt to extract from a number of details what is of permanent importance. If this has been done for him by a series of dictation lessons, he has learned nothing.
But these questions of the organisation of professors are for wiser heads than mine to decide. I have already apologised for my boldness in speaking at all. My aims and my opinions are founded upon the best of my present knowledge, and I am ready to change them if cause be shown. Appeals were common in former times from a Pope ill-informed to a Pope who was to be better informed. I rather think that Popes resented that form of appeal. I trust I shall be always ready to receive it with all humility. But there is one consideration of paramount importance. However widely a professor may spread the net of his lectures for the purpose of giving an impulse to some, or quickening the interest of others, his ultimate object should be to catch a few who may become genuine students. There is much to be done, much to be investigated, there is room for labourers of almost every kind. In the field of history I think that there are some amongst those who go forth from this place who might be encouraged to devote their leisure to work that might be fruitful. The highest result of a professor's labours would be the formation of a small class of those who were willing to prolong their university course, that they might study methods of research, that they might begin some work which would be capable of expansion into a worthy contribution to historical literature. There should be no part of his work more gratifying to himself than that of giving counsel and advice to such students in later years, suggesting subjects, revising their pages for publication, encouraging them by all means to persevere. I need not say that for this purpose a professor must be above all things a diligent student himself. Perhaps the most powerful influence that he can exert is the example of a life devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. Nor should he put any narrow limits upon his possibility of usefulness to other students. This great University forms a part of the great commonwealth of letters, and its professors should feel themselves bound to promote literary comity, and be a connecting link between fellow-workers wherever they may be. Many a retiring student labours on in ignorance of what is being done by others, and is glad of information about books or manuscripts, which it should be a professor's task to acquire and disseminate.
I have spoken more than enough about the ideal which I would wish to keep before me. I am conscious of my own inadequacy to attain to any part of it. Yet I would wish to live and labour with these objects in view, and the more calls that are made upon my time and care to satisfy any one of them, the better I shall be satisfied.