Friday, April 1, 2011

F. D. Maurice

Today is the Feast Day of Federick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) who was one of the great Anglican theologians of the 19th century. Maurice (pronounced like Morris) critiqued the usual church factions of his day and was seen as suspect by each of them as a result. He was an early proponent of "Christian Socialism" which also made him suspect to both "unsocial Christians" and "unChristian socialists." In our own era of church factionalism, I find refreshing Maurice's ability cut across party lines to engage appreciatively and critically with just about everyone.

Whatever one thinks of the possibility of Christian Socialism, Maurice remains among the great "worthies" of the Anglican tradition. Along with the two volumes of his magnus opus, The Kingdom of Christ one of my prize possessions is a volume of his sermons on The Prayer Book and The Lord's Prayer published in 1893. The following quotes are from those books and from here and here:

"I do not see my way further than this: competition is put forth as the law of the universe. That is a lie."

"Every hope I had for human culture, for the reconciliation of opposing schools, for blessings to mankind, was based on theology. What sympathy then could I have with the Liberal Party, which was emphatically anti-theological, which was ready to tolerate all opinion in theology only because people could know nothing about it?"

"My great wish is to show you, that the Anglican Church was led, not by reason of any peculiar excellence or glory in the members or teachers of it, but by a course of providential discipline, to put worship and sacraments before views, to make those acts which directly connect man with God the prominent part of their system, that which was meant to embody the very form and meaning of Christianity, and those verbal distinctions which are necessary to keep the understanding of men from error and confusion, as its accessory and subordinate part."

From The Kingdom of Christ:
Our Lord's Sacrifice is not merely a pattern or example of our sacrifices, nor merely the power by which these sacrifices are effected. It must have an entirely distinct character; otherwise it is of no worth as an example or as a power. The Sacrifice of Christ is that, with which alone God can be satisfied, and in the sight of which alone He can contemplate our race. It is, therefore, the only meeting-point of communion with Him. But, this communion being established, it must be by presenting the finished sacrifice before God, that we both bear witness what our position is, and realize the glory of it.--Kingdom of Christ, vol. ii. pp. 91, 93.

We must feel every evil which we call upon others to repent of has its origin and root in us, and that we must repent of it first. Kingdom of Christ, vol. ii. p. 331

From a Sermon on the Creed:
Let us understand this well, brethren, for it is very important in reference to notions that are current in the present day. If there is to be a religion of trust, and not of slavish cowardly fear, that religion must have a Revelation, the revelation of a Name for its basis. A religion which creates its own object cannot be one of trust. I cannot rest upon that which I feel and know that I have made for myself. I cannot trust in that which I look upon as a form of my own mind or a projection from it. . . Neither can I trust in any shadowy, impalpable essence, or in any Soul of the world. If this be the God I worship, my worship will be one of doubt and distrust, whenever it is at all sincere. If I do not seek all strange, monstrous means of propitiating the unknown Being, it is only because I am altogether uncertain whether he is real enough for such services. . . All superstition, all priestcraft, in its worst and most evil sense -- we cannot repeat this proposition too often, or put it in too may shapes -- has its root in vague, indefinite religious apprehensions; not resting upon the knowledge and confession of a Being who is not our image, but who has declared Himself to us that we might receive His image . . .

But the question -- How is He a Father, how do I know He is? cannot be evaded. The Church had no wish to evade it. She acknowledged that something more was implied in the Revelation of a Father than His Name; that there must be some one to reveal Him. She proclaimed the Name of His only-begotten Son, our Lord. She says that He revealed Himself as he Son of God by being conceived of the Holy Ghost our Lord, by being born of the Virgin Mary, by suffering our death, our burial, by going down into the Hell we tremble to think of; by facing all our enemies visible and invisible, all that we actually know we must meet, all that our imagination dreams of; that He rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down on the right of the Father, and will come again to judge the quick and the dead.

If God be absolute, eternal love, as St, Augustine makes the Catechist affirm, how has he shewn it? Has it come forth, or is it all hidden in his own nature? Has it come forth to some other creature, or to man? Has it met him where he needs to be met or somewhere else? Has it encountered the actual woes of mankind, or only those which affect a particular set of men? Has it been found mightier than these, or has it sunk under them? Has this love been cheerfully entertained, or did it encounter ingratitude? Was the ingratitude too strong for the love, or the love for the ingratitude? Is the victory for all times, or only for that time? Is He who you say is our Lord really our Lord? Does He reign over us? Will he leave all things just as they are, or set them right at last? These questions have a claim to be answered; that is no Gospel to humanity which does not answer them; the Christian Church said, 'This is the answer' . . . And again, supposing the words be true, all we have to do is to proclaim them and live upon them. He who has sent us into the world for that end can prove them. Those that know His Name will trust in Him, and so they find that He has not deceived them . . .

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