Page 6, 28th January 1949

28th January 1949
Page 6
Page 6, 28th January 1949 — My Road To The Church

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My Road To The Church


I WAS received into the Church 36 years ago, but my memory is still fresh concerning the events that led up to what, of course, I regard as the happiest decision of my life. I was brought up in the Anglican Church and always intended to become an Anglican minister; after school and college this step was duly taken when I was about 24 and by that date I had distinctly evolved what are called " High Church ideas. I loved my work in the London diocese and I think it was probably illhealth that first detached me from what I thought to be my vocation and gave me time to follow out to their logical conclusions various ideas that I had already imbibed from my study of Catholic books. I was particularly troubled by the whole Anglican position, espec. ially as discussed by Cardinal Manning in his work called England and Christendom. I had also been reading Newman's works for years; it was the question of the Unity and Authority of the Church that pressed most heavily upon me.

But naturally it was a severe struggle to icsign my work and trust

in the communion I bad tried to serve; indeed it has often taken Anglican ministers, placed as I was, many years to resolve their pmblems. It was true that for the last year I was partly under the influence of a convert who had taken the step already that I saw might well lie before me. and I reached the final crisis on Easter Day, 1913. On the morning of that day I still seemed balanced between two systems; yet in the afternoon my mind was made up. This is a matter I can never really explain to myself or anyone else; nor did I ever speak to a Catholic priest till my inner crisis was over. A month or two more passed and the day came for my reception.

I remember well enough the sense of rest that this brought to my mind and heart.

I never liked " the schools of thought" that were all tolerated in

the Anglican fold, I wantcd every one to think as I did—thet is on High Church lines—and I was most unhappy to think that many low Church and broad Church views seemed equally representative of the Anglican position. In fact I began to wonder what faith really meant and if everything was only " opinion "—but that seemed flatly to contradict the very teaching of the New Testament. But it is no easy matter for anyone to tear himself away from the familiar shores and Newman's sermon The Parting of Friends " has a pathos all its own. But I do not want to pretend for a moment that the step was as hard for me as for many of my contemporaries: in the first place I had not to face the loss of a job, for I had already a tutorial connection. Nor did I face the poverty that many of those have known who however have been assisted by the Converts' Aid Society in their dire circumstances.

It is clear that the natural reason plays its part in conversion—the balancing of pros and cons: hut the emotion of love or even fear cannot be excluded while of course Grace plays its essential part, a Grace by no means earned but freely given by the Source of all Grace.

What I mean by the emotion of " fear" is this: if you fed the ground slipping away from you, you are naturally impelled to look for safety.

Then and To-day A good many people felt in the 19th century that the new scientific discoveries of that era, including what was known as the Higher Criticism of the Bible, had destroyed some of the religious doctrines to which they clung. at any rate in the shape in which they were held before the teaching of men like Darwin and Huxley. The menace of this kind of materialism is not so great to-day—these particular bogys have been laid. 1-tut they have been succeeded by other still more formidable or insidious attacks on Faith which however have produced their own reactions.

First, there is the mental disease that has assailed Europe ever since the 16th century, though it took further centuries to develop and establish itself. This has produced a general scepticism and the secularisation of culture. Next, there are all kinds of books being published which masquerade as Christian or religious teaching but in which the essential tenets of the

Faith are often liquidated. What they have in common is this: they do not really accept the doctrine of the Fall and the need of a supernatural gift; Christ the Divine Redeemer and the Church and Sacraments; the means of grace. Now these latter doctrines were very clearly taught in the Church of England in my day at any rate in the school of thought that I believed in—and I have no reason to think that this same teaching has now been abandoned. But the present generation is exposed to a tremendous battery of teaching from all sides and truth and error seem often inextricably mixed. I experienced the beginnings of such an onslaught 30 or 40 years ago but to-day it may he a much

harder matter—humanly speaking-for the convert to find the right path. None the less we have all been thoroughly frightened by the atomic bomb on the one hand. and the enslavement of peoples by the State on the other. Something in human nature is now reacting against all this it is all too bad to be true. there must he something left in which to hope, to which to cling. Well, there is: there is the Rock of Peter.

Elizabeth, Captive Princess. By Margaret Irwin. (Chatto and Windt's, 10s. 6d.) A new historical novel about the young days of Queen Elizabeth. There is an element of hero-worship of Elizabeth with which many contemporary readers may not feel In accord.

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