The Oxford Movement - Twelve Years, 1833-1845
by R.W. Church
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Consider a moment. Is it fair, is it dutiful, to suffer our bishops to stand the brunt of the battle without doing our part to support them? Upon them comes "the care of all the Churches." This cannot be helped; indeed it is their glory. Not one of us would wish in the least to deprive them of the duties, the toils, the responsibilities of their high office. And, black event as it would be for the country, yet (as far as they are concerned) we could not wish them a more blessed termination of their course than the spoiling of their goods and martyrdom.

To them then we willingly and affectionately relinquish their high privileges and honours; we encroach not upon the rights of the SUCCESSORS OF THE APOSTLES; we touch not their sword and crozier. Yet surely we may be their shield-bearers in the battle without offence; and by our voice and deeds be to them what Luke and Timothy were to St. Paul.

Now then let me come at once to the subject which leads me to address you. Should the Government and the Country so far forget their God as to cast off the Church, to deprive it of its temporal honours and substance, on what will you rest the claim of respect and attention which you make upon your flocks? Hitherto you have been upheld by your birth, your education, your wealth, your connexions; should these secular advantages cease, on what must Christ's Ministers depend? Is not this a serious practical question? We know how miserable is the state of religious bodies not supported by the State. Look at the Dissenters on all sides of you, and you will see at once that their Ministers, depending simply upon the people, become the creatures of the people. Are you content that this should be your case? Alas! can a greater evil befall Christians, than for their teachers to be guided by them, instead of guiding? How can we "hold fast the form of sound words," and "keep that which is committed to our trust," if our influence is to depend simply on our popularity? Is it not our very office to oppose the world? Can we then allow ourselves to court it? to preach smooth things and prophesy deceits? to make the way of life easy to the rich and indolent, and to bribe the humbler classes by excitements and strong intoxicating doctrine? Surely it must not be so;—and the question recurs, on what are we to rest our authority when the State deserts us?

Christ has not left His Church without claim of its own upon the attention of men. Surely not. Hard Master He cannot be, to bid us oppose the world, yet give us no credentials for so doing. There are some who rest their divine mission on their own unsupported assertion; others, who rest it upon their popularity; others, on their success; and others, who rest it upon their temporal distinctions. This last case has, perhaps, been too much our own; I fear we have neglected the real ground on which our authority is built—OUR APOSTOLICAL DESCENT.

We have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His Spirit to His Apostles; they in turn laid their hands on those who should succeed them; and these again on others; and so the sacred gift has been handed down to our present bishops, who have appointed us as their assistants, and in some sense representatives.

Now every one of us believes this. I know that some will at first deny they do; still they do believe it. Only, it is not sufficiently, practically impressed on their minds.

They do believe it; for it is the doctrine of the Ordination Service, which they have recognised as truth in the most solemn season of their lives. In order, then, not to prove, but to remind and impress, I entreat your attention to the words used when you were made ministers of Christ's Church.

The office of Deacon was thus committed to you: "Take thou authority to execute the office of a Deacon in the Church of God committed unto thee: In the name, etc."

And the Priesthood thus:

"Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Priest, in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His Holy Sacraments: In the name, etc."

These, I say, were words spoken to us, and received by us, when we were brought nearer to God than at any other time of our lives. I know the grace of ordination is contained in the laying on of hands, not in any form of words;—yet in our own case (as has ever been usual in the Church) words of blessing have accompanied the act. Thus we have confessed before God our belief that the bishop who ordained us gave us the Holy Ghost, gave us the power to bind and to loose, to administer the Sacraments, and to preach. Now how is he able to give these great gifts? Whence is his right? Are these words idle (which would be taking God's name in vain), or do they express merely a wish (which surely is very far below their meaning), or do they not rather indicate that the speaker is conveying a gift? Surely they can mean nothing short of this. But whence, I ask, his right to do so? Has he any right, except as having received the power from those who consecrated him to be a bishop? He could not give what he had never received. It is plain then that he but transmits; and that the Christian Ministry is a succession. And if we trace back the power of ordination from hand to hand, of course we shall come to the Apostles at last. We know we do, as a plain historical fact; and therefore all we, who have been ordained clergy, in the very form of our ordination acknowledged the doctrine of the APOSTOLICAL SUCCESSION.

And for the same reason, we must necessarily consider none to be really ordained who have not thus been ordained. For if ordination is a divine ordinance, it must be necessary; and if it is not a divine ordinance, how dare we use it? Therefore all who use it, all of us, must consider it necessary. As well might we pretend the Sacraments are not necessary to salvation, while we make use of the offices in the Liturgy; for when God appoints means of grace, they are the means.

I do not see how any one can escape from this plain view of the subject, except (as I have already hinted) by declaring that the words do not mean all that they say. But only reflect what a most unseemly time for random words is that in which ministers are set apart for their office. Do we not adopt a Liturgy in order to hinder inconsiderate idle language, and shall we, in the most sacred of all services, write down, subscribe, and use again and again forms of speech which have not been weighed, and cannot be taken strictly?

Therefore, my dear brethren, act up to your professions. Let it not be said that you have neglected a gift; for if you have the Spirit of the Apostles on you, surely this is a great gift. "Stir up the gift of God which is in you." Make much of it. Show your value of it. Keep it before your minds as an honourable badge, far higher than that secular respectability, or cultivation, or polish, or learning, or rank, which gives you a hearing with the many. Tell them of your gift. The times will soon drive you to do this, if you mean to be still anything. But wait not for the times. Do not be compelled, by the world's forsaking you, to recur as if unwillingly to the high source of your authority. Speak out now, before you are forced, both as glorying in your privilege and to insure your rightful honour from your people. A notion has gone abroad that they can take away your power. They think they have given and can take it away. They think it lies in the Church property, and they know that they have politically the power to confiscate that property. They have been deluded into a notion that present palpable usefulness, producible results, acceptableness to your flocks, that these and such like are the tests of your divine commission. Enlighten them in this matter. Exalt our Holy Fathers the bishops, as the representatives of the Apostles, and the Angels of the Churches; and magnify your office, as being ordained by them to take part in their Ministry.

But, if you will not adopt my view of the subject, which I offer to you, not doubtingly, yet (I hope) respectfully, at all events, CHOOSE YOUR SIDE. To remain neuter much longer will be itself to take a part. Choose your side; since side you shortly must, with one or other party, even though you do nothing. Fear to be of those whose line is decided for them by chance circumstances, and who may perchance find themselves with the enemies of Christ, while they think but to remove themselves from worldly politics. Such abstinence is impossible in troublous times. HE THAT IS NOT WITH ME IS AGAINST ME, AND HE THAT GATHERETH NOT WITH ME SCATTERETH ABROAD.

While Mr. Palmer was working at the Association and the Address, Mr. Newman with his friends was sending forth the Tracts, one after another, in rapid succession, through the autumn and winter of 1833. They were short papers, in many cases mere short notes, on the great questions which had suddenly sprung into such interest, and were felt to be full of momentous consequence,—the true and essential nature of the Christian Church, its relation to the primitive ages, its authority and its polity and government, the current objections to its claims in England, to its doctrines and its services, the length of the prayers, the Burial Service, the proposed alterations in the Liturgy, the neglect of discipline, the sins and corruptions of each branch of Christendom. The same topics were enforced and illustrated again and again as the series went on; and then there came extracts from English divines, like Bishop Beveridge, Bishop Wilson, and Bishop Cosin, and under the title "Records of the Church," translations from the early Fathers, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, and others. Mr. Palmer contributed to one of these papers, and later on Mr. Perceval wrote two or three; but for the most part these early Tracts were written by Mr. Newman, though Mr. Keble and one or two others also helped. Afterwards, other writers joined in the series. They were at first not only published with a notice that any one might republish them with any alterations he pleased, but they were distributed by zealous coadjutors, ready to take any trouble in the cause. Mr. Mozley has described how he rode about Northamptonshire, from parsonage to parsonage, with bundles of the Tracts. The Apologia records the same story. "I called upon clergy," says the writer, "in various parts of the country, whether I was acquainted with them or not, and I attended at the houses of friends where several of them were from time to time assembled.... I did not care whether my visits were made to High Church or Low Church: I wished to make a strong pull in union with all who were opposed to the principles of Liberalism, whoever they might be." He adds that he does not think that much came of these visits, or of letters written with the same purpose, "except that they advertised the fact that a rally in favour of the Church was commencing."

The early Tracts were intended to startle the world, and they succeeded in doing so. Their very form, as short earnest leaflets, was perplexing; for they came, not from the class of religionists who usually deal in such productions, but from distinguished University scholars, picked men of a picked college; and from men, too, who as a school were the representatives of soberness and self-control in religious feeling and language, and whose usual style of writing was specially marked by its severe avoidance of excitement and novelty; the school from which had lately come the Christian Year, with its memorable motto "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Their matter was equally unusual. Undoubtedly they "brought strange things to the ears" of their generation. To Churchmen now these "strange things" are such familiar commonplaces, that it is hard to realise how they should have made so much stir. But they were novelties, partly audacious, partly unintelligible, then. The strong and peremptory language of the Tracts, their absence of qualifications or explanations, frightened friends like Mr. Palmer, who, so far, had no ground to quarrel with their doctrine, and he wished them to be discontinued. The story went that one of the bishops, on reading one of the Tracts on the Apostolical Succession, could not make up his mind whether he held the doctrine or not. They fell on a time of profound and inexcusable ignorance on the subjects they discussed, and they did not spare it. The cry of Romanism was inevitable, and was soon raised, though there was absolutely nothing in them but had the indisputable sanction of the Prayer Book, and of the most authoritative Anglican divines. There was no Romanism in them, nor anything that showed a tendency to it. But custom, and the prevalence of other systems and ways, and the interest of later speculations, and the slackening of professional reading and scholarship in the Church, had made their readers forget some of the most obvious facts in Church history, and the most certain Church principles; and men were at sea as to what they knew or believed on the points on which the Tracts challenged them. The scare was not creditable; it was like the Italian scare about cholera with its quarantines and fumigations; but it was natural. The theological knowledge and learning were wanting which would have been familiar with the broad line of difference between what is Catholic and what is specially Roman. There were many whose teaching was impugned, for it was really Calvinist or Zwinglian, and not Anglican. There were hopeful and ambitious theological Liberals, who recognised in that appeal to Anglicanism the most effective counter-stroke to their own schemes and theories. There were many whom the movement forced to think, who did not want such addition to their responsibilities. It cannot be thought surprising that the new Tracts were received with surprise, dismay, ridicule, and indignation. But they also at once called forth a response of eager sympathy from numbers to whom they brought unhoped-for relief and light in a day of gloom, of rebuke and blasphemy. Mr. Keble, in the preface to his famous assize sermon, had hazarded the belief that there were "hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians, and that there soon will be tens of thousands, unaffectedly anxious to be rightly guided" in regard to subjects that concern the Church. The belief was soon justified.

When the first forty-six Tracts were collected into a volume towards the end of 1834, the following "advertisement" explaining their nature and objects was prefixed to it. It is a contemporary and authoritative account of what was the mind of the leaders of the movement; and it has a significance beyond the occasion which prompted it.

The following-Tracts were published with the object of contributing-something towards the practical revival of doctrines, which, although held by the great divines of our Church, at present have become obsolete with the majority of her members, and are withdrawn from public view even by the more learned and orthodox few who still adhere to them. The Apostolic succession, the Holy Catholic Church, were principles of action in the minds of our predecessors of the seventeenth century; but, in proportion as the maintenance of the Church has been secured by law, her ministers have been under the temptation of leaning on an arm of flesh instead of her own divinely-provided discipline, a temptation increased by political events and arrangements which need not here be more than alluded to. A lamentable increase of sectarianism has followed; being occasioned (in addition to other more obvious causes), first, by the cold aspect which the new Church doctrines have presented to the religious sensibilities of the mind, next to their meagreness in suggesting motives to restrain it from seeking out a more influential discipline. Doubtless obedience to the law of the land, and the careful maintenance of "decency and order" (the topics in usage among us), are plain duties of the Gospel, and a reasonable ground for keeping in communion with the Established Church; yet, if Providence has graciously provided for our weakness more interesting and constraining motives, it is a sin thanklessly to neglect them; just as it would be a mistake to rest the duties of temperance or justice on the mere law of natural religion, when they are mercifully sanctioned in the Gospel by the more winning authority of our Saviour Christ. Experience has shown the inefficacy of the mere injunctions of Church order, however scripturally enforced, in restraining from schism the awakened and anxious sinner; who goes to a dissenting preacher "because" (as he expresses it) "he gets good from him": and though he does not stand excused in God's sight for yielding to the temptation, surely the ministers of the Church are not blameless if, by keeping back the more gracious and consoling truths provided for the little ones of Christ, they indirectly lead him into it. Had he been taught as a child, that the Sacraments, not preaching, are the sources of Divine Grace; that the Apostolical ministry had a virtue in it which went out over the whole Church, when sought by the prayer of faith; that fellowship with it was a gift and privilege, as well as a duty, we could not have had so many wanderers from our fold, nor so many cold hearts within it.

This instance may suggest many others of the superior influence of an apostolical over a mere secular method of teaching. The awakened mind knows its wants, but cannot provide for them; and in its hunger will feed upon ashes, if it cannot obtain the pure milk of the word. Methodism and Popery are in different ways the refuge of those whom the Church stints of the gifts of grace; they are the foster-mothers of abandoned children. The neglect of the daily service, the desecration of festivals, the Eucharist scantily administered, insubordination permitted in all ranks of the Church, orders and offices imperfectly developed, the want of societies for particular religious objects, and the like deficiencies, lead the feverish mind, desirous of a vent to its feelings, and a stricter rule of life, to the smaller religious communities, to prayer and Bible meetings, and ill-advised institutions and societies, on the one hand, on the other, to the solemn and captivating services by which Popery gains its proselytes. Moreover, the multitude of men cannot teach or guide themselves; and an injunction given them to depend on their private judgment, cruel in itself, is doubly hurtful, as throwing them on such teachers as speak daringly and promise largely, and not only aid but supersede individual exertion.

These remarks may serve as a clue, for those who care to pursue it, to the views which have led to the publication of the following Tracts. The Church of Christ was intended to cope with human nature in all its forms, and surely the gifts vouchsafed it are adequate for that gracious purpose. There are zealous sons and servants of her English branch, who see with sorrow that she is defrauded of her full usefulness by particular theories and principles of the present age, which interfere with the execution of one portion of her commission; and while they consider that the revival of this portion of truth is especially adapted to break up existing parties in the Church, and to form instead a bond of union among all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, they believe that nothing but these neglected doctrines, faithfully preached, will repress that extension of Popery, for which the ever multiplying divisions of the religious world are too clearly preparing the way.

Another publication ought to be noticed, a result of the Hadleigh meeting, which exhibited the leading ideas of the conference, and especially of the more "conservative" members of it. This was a little work in question and answer, called the "Churchman's Manual," drawn up in part some time before the meeting by Mr. Perceval, and submitted to the revision of Mr. Rose and Mr. Palmer. It was intended to be a supplement to the "Church Catechism," as to the nature and claims of the Church and its Ministers. It is a terse, clear, careful, and, as was inevitable, rather dry summary of the Anglican theory, and of the position which the English Church holds to the Roman Church, and to the Dissenters. It was further revised at the conference, and "some important suggestions were made by Froude"; and then Mr. Perceval, who had great hopes from the publication, and spared himself no pains to make it perfect, submitted it for revision and advice to a number of representative Churchmen. The Scotch Bishops whom he consulted were warm in approval, especially the venerable and saintly Bishop Jolly; as were also a number of men of weight and authority in England: Judge Allan Park, Joshua Watson, Mr. Sikes of Guilsborough, Mr. Churton of Crayke, Mr. H.H. Norris, Dr. Wordsworth, and Dr. Routh. It was then laid before the Archbishop for correction, or, if desirable, suppression; and for his sanction if approved. The answer was what might have been expected, that there was no objection to it, but that official sanction must be declined on general grounds. After all this Mr. Perceval not unnaturally claimed for it special importance. It was really, he observed, the "first Tract," systematically put forth, and its preparation "apparently gave rise" to the series; and it was the only one which received the approval of all immediately concerned in the movement. "The care bestowed on it," he says, "probably exceeds that which any theological publication in the English communion received for a long time;" and further, it shows "that the foundation of the movement with which Mr. Rose was connected, was laid with all the care and circumspection that reason could well suggest." It appears to have had a circulation, but there is no reason to think that it had any considerable influence, one way or other, on opinion in the Church. When it was referred to in after-years by Mr. Perceval in his own vindication, it was almost forgotten. More interesting, if not more important, Tracts had thrown it into the shade.


[37] Apol. p. 100.

[38] Palmer, Narrative, 1843 (republished 1883), pp. 5, 18.

[39] Palmer (1883), pp. 40, 43, "June 1833, when he joined us at Oxford."

[40] See Palmer's account (1883), pp. 45-47, and (1843), pp. 6,7.

[41] "Mr. Rose ... was the one commanding figure and very lovable man, that the frightened and discomfited Church people were now rallying round. Few people have left so distinct an impression of themselves as this gentleman. For many years after, when he was no more, and Newman had left Rose's standpoint far behind, he could never speak of him or think of him without renewed tenderness" (Mr. T. Mozley, Reminiscences, i. 308).

In November 1838, shortly before Mr. Rose's death, Mr. Newman had dedicated a volume of sermons to him—"who, when hearts were failing, bade us stir up the gift that was in us, and betake ourselves to our true mother" (Parochial Sermons, vol. iv.)

[42] Narrative of Events connected with the publication of Tracts for the Times, by W. Palmer (published 1843, republished 1883), pp. 96-100 (abridged).

[43] Collection of Papers connected with the Theological Movement of 1833, by A.P. Perceval (1842), p. 25.

[44] Palmer's Narrative (1833), p. 101

[45] Collection of Papers, p. 12.

[46] "That portentous birth of time, the Tracts for the Times."—Mozley, Remin, i. 311.

[47] Froude, Remains, i. 265.



Thus had been started—hurriedly perhaps, yet not without counting the cost—a great enterprise, which had for its object to rouse the Church from its lethargy, and to strengthen and purify religion, by making it deeper and more real; and they who had put their hands to the plough were not to look back any more. It was not a popular appeal; it addressed itself not to the many but to the few; it sought to inspire and to teach the teachers. There was no thought as yet of acting on the middle classes, or on the ignorance and wretchedness of the great towns, though Newman had laid down that the Church must rest on the people, and Froude looked forward to colleges of unmarried priests as the true way to evangelise the crowds. There was no display about this attempt, no eloquence, nothing attractive in the way of original speculation or sentimental interest. It was suspicious, perhaps too suspicious, of the excitement and want of soberness, almost inevitable in strong appeals to the masses of mankind. It brought no new doctrine, but professed to go back to what was obvious and old-fashioned and commonplace. It taught people to think less of preaching than of what in an age of excitement were invidiously called forms—of the sacraments and services of the Church. It discouraged, even to the verge of an intended dryness, all that was showy, all that in thought or expression or manner it condemned under the name of "flash." It laid stress on the exercise of an inner and unseen self-discipline, and the cultivation of the less interesting virtues of industry, humility, self-distrust, and obedience. If from its writers proceeded works which had impressed people—a volume like the Christian Year, poems original in their force and their tenderness, like some of those in the Lyra Apostolica, sermons which arrested the hearers by their keenness and pathetic undertone—the force of all this was not the result of literary ambition and effort, but the reflexion, unconscious, unsought, of thought and feeling that could not otherwise express itself, and that was thrown into moulds shaped by habitual refinement and cultivated taste. It was from the first a movement from which, as much by instinct and temper as by deliberate intention, self-seeking in all its forms was excluded. Those whom it influenced looked not for great things for themselves, nor thought of making a mark in the world.

The first year after the Hadleigh meeting (1834) passed uneventfully. The various addresses in which Mr. Palmer was interested, the election and installation of the Duke of Wellington as Chancellor, the enthusiasm and hopes called forth by the occasion, were public and prominent matters. The Tracts were steadily swelling in number; the busy distribution of them had ceased, and they had begun to excite interest and give rise to questions. Mr. Palmer, who had never liked the Tracts, became more uneasy; yet he did not altogether refuse to contribute to them. Others gave their help, among them Mr. Perceval, Froude, the two Kebles, and Mr. Newman's friend, a layman, Mr. J. Bowden; some of the younger scholars furnished translations from the Fathers; but the bulk and most forcible of the Tracts were still the work of Mr. Newman. But the Tracts were not the most powerful instruments in drawing sympathy to the movement. None but those who remember them can adequately estimate the effect of Mr. Newman's four o'clock sermons at St. Mary's.[48] The world knows them, has heard a great deal about them, has passed its various judgments on them. But it hardly realises that without those sermons the movement might never have gone on, certainly would never have been what it was. Even people who heard them continually, and felt them to be different from any other sermons, hardly estimated their real power, or knew at the time the influence which the sermons were having upon them. Plain, direct, unornamented, clothed in English that was only pure and lucid, free from any faults of taste, strong in their flexibility and perfect command both of language and thought, they were the expression of a piercing and large insight into character and conscience and motives, of a sympathy at once most tender and most stern with the tempted and the wavering, of an absolute and burning faith in God and His counsels, in His love, in His judgments, in the awful glory of His generosity and His magnificence. They made men think of the things which the preacher spoke of, and not of the sermon or the preacher. Since 1828 this preaching had been going on at St. Mary's, growing in purpose and directness as the years went on, though it could hardly be more intense than in some of its earliest examples. While men were reading and talking about the Tracts, they were hearing the sermons; and in the sermons they heard the living meaning, and reason, and bearing of the Tracts, their ethical affinities, their moral standard. The sermons created a moral atmosphere, in which men judged the questions in debate. It was no dry theological correctness and completeness which were sought for. No love of privilege, no formal hierarchical claims, urged on the writers. What they thought in danger, what they aspired to revive and save, was the very life of religion, the truth and substance of all that makes it the hope of human society.

But indeed, by this time, out of the little company of friends which a common danger and a common loyalty to the Church had brought together, one Mr. Newman, had drawn ahead, and was now in the front. Unsought for, as the Apologia makes so clear—unsought for, as the contemporary letters of observing friends attest—unsought for, as the whole tenor of his life has proved—the position of leader in a great crisis came to him, because it must come. He was not unconscious that, as he had felt in his sickness in Sicily, he "had a work to do." But there was shyness and self-distrust in his nature as well as energy; and it was the force of genius, and a lofty character, and the statesman's eye, taking in and judging accurately the whole of a complicated scene, which conferred the gifts, and imposed inevitably and without dispute the obligations and responsibilities of leadership. Dr. Pusey of course was a friend of great account, but he was as yet in the background, a venerated and rather awful person, from his position not mixing in the easy intercourse of common-room life, but to be consulted on emergencies. Round Mr. Newman gathered, with a curious mixture of freedom, devotion, and awe—for, with unlimited power of sympathy, he was exacting and even austere in his friendships—the best men of his college, either Fellows—R. Wilberforce, Thomas Mozley, Frederic Rogers, J.F. Christie; or old pupils—Henry Wilberforce, R.F. Wilson, William Froude, Robert Williams, S.F. Wood, James Bliss, James Mozley; and in addition some outsiders—Woodgate of St. John's, Isaac Williams and Copeland, of his old College, Trinity. These, members of his intimate circle, were bound to him not merely by enthusiastic admiration and confidence, but by a tenderness of affection, a mixture of the gratitude and reliance of discipleship with the warm love of friendship, of which one has to go back far for examples, and which has had nothing like it in our days at Oxford. And Newman was making his mark as a writer. The Arians, though an imperfect book, was one which, for originality and subtlety of thought, was something very unlike the usual theological writing of the day. There was no doubt of his power, and his mind was brimming over with ideas on the great questions which were rising into view. It was clear to all who know him that he could speak on them as no one else could.

Towards the end of 1834, and in the course of 1835, an event happened which had a great and decisive influence on the character and fortunes of the movement. This was the accession to it of Dr. Pusey. He had looked favourably on it from the first, partly from his friendship with Mr. Newman, partly from the workings of his own mind. But he had nothing to do with the starting of it, except that he early contributed an elaborate paper on "Fasting." The Oxford branch of the movement, as distinguished from that which Mr. Palmer represented, consisted up to 1834 almost exclusively of junior men, personal friends of Mr. Newman, and most of them Oriel men. Mr. Newman's deep convictions, his fiery enthusiasm, had given the Tracts their first stamp and impress, and had sent them flying over the country among the clergy on his own responsibility. They answered their purpose. They led to widespread and sometimes deep searchings of heart; to some they seemed to speak forth what had been long dormant within them, what their minds had unconsciously and vaguely thought and longed for; to some they seemed a challenge pregnant with danger. But still they were but an outburst of individual feeling and zeal, which, if nothing more came of its fragmentary displays, might blaze and come to nothing. There was nothing yet which spoke outwardly of the consistency and weight of a serious attempt to influence opinion and to produce a practical and lasting effect on the generation which was passing. Cardinal Newman, in the Apologia, has attributed to Dr. Pusey's unreserved adhesion to the cause which the Tracts represented a great change in regard to the weight and completeness of what was written and done. "Dr. Pusey," he writes, "gave us at once a position and a name. Without him we should have had no chance, especially at the early date of 1834, of making any serious resistance to the liberal aggression. But Dr. Pusey was a Professor and Canon of Christ Church; he had a vast influence in consequence of his deep religious seriousness, the munificence of his charities, his Professorship, his family connexions, and his easy relations with the University authorities. He was to the movement all that Mr. Rose might have been, with that indispensable addition, which was wanting to Mr. Rose, the intimate friendship and the familiar daily society of the persons who had commenced it. And he had that special claim on their attachment which lies in the living presence of a faithful and loyal affectionateness. There was henceforth a man who could be the head and centre of the zealous people in every part of the country who were adopting the new opinions; and not only so, but there was one who furnished the movement with a front to the world, and gained for it a recognition from other parties in the University."[49]

This is not too much to say of the effect of Dr. Pusey's adhesion. It gave the movement a second head, in close sympathy with its original leader, but in many ways very different from him. Dr. Pusey became, as it were, its official chief in the eyes of the world. He became also, in a remarkable degree, a guarantee for its stability and steadiness: a guarantee that its chiefs knew what they were about, and meant nothing but what was for the benefit of the English Church. "He was," we read in the Apologia, "a man of large designs; he had a hopeful, sanguine mind; he had no fear of others; he was haunted by no intellectual perplexities.... If confidence in his position is (as it is) a first essential in the leader of a party, Dr. Pusey had it." An inflexible patience, a serene composure, a meek, resolute self-possession, was the habit of his mind, and never deserted him in the most trying days. He never for an instant, as the paragraph witnesses, wavered or doubted about the position of the English Church.

He was eminently, as his friend justly observes, "a man of large designs." It is doubtless true, as the Apologia goes on to say, that it was due to the place which he now took in the movement that great changes were made in the form and character of the Tracts. To Dr. Pusey's mind, accustomed to large and exhaustive theological reading, they wanted fulness, completeness, the importance given by careful arrangement and abundant knowledge. It was not for nothing that he had passed an apprenticeship among the divines of Germany, and been the friend and correspondent of Tholuck, Schleiermacher, Ewald, and Sack. He knew the meaning of real learning. In controversy it was his sledge-hammer and battle-mace, and he had the strong and sinewy hand to use it with effect. He observed that when attention had been roused to the ancient doctrines of the Church by the startling and peremptory language of the earlier Tracts, fairness and justice demanded that these doctrines should be fully and carefully explained and defended against misrepresentation and mistake. Forgetfulness and ignorance had thrown these doctrines so completely into the shade that, identified as they were with the best English divinity, they now wore the air of amazing novelties; and it was only due to honest inquirers to satisfy them with solid and adequate proof. "Dr. Pusey's influence was felt at once. He saw that there ought to be more sobriety, more gravity, more careful pains, more sense of responsibility in the Tracts and in the whole movement." At the end of 1835 Dr. Pusey gave an example of what he meant. In place of the "short and incomplete papers," such as the earlier Tracts had been, Nos. 67, 68, and 69 formed the three parts of a closely-printed pamphlet of more than 300 pages.[50] It was a treatise on Baptism, perhaps the most elaborate that has yet appeared in the English language. "It is to be regarded," says the advertisement to the second volume of the Tracts, "not as an inquiry into a single or isolated doctrine, but as a delineation and serious examination of a modern system of theology, of extensive popularity and great speciousness, in its elementary and characteristic principles." The Tract on Baptism was like the advance of a battery of heavy artillery on a field where the battle has been hitherto carried on by skirmishing and musketry. It altered the look of things and the condition of the fighting. After No. 67 the earlier form of the Tracts appeared no more. Except two or three reprints from writers like Bishop Wilson, the Tracts from No. 70 to No. 90 were either grave and carefully worked out essays on some question arising out of the discussions of the time, or else those ponderous catenae of patristic or Anglican divinity, by which the historical continuity and Church authority of various points of doctrine were established.

Dr. Pusey was indeed a man of "large designs." The vision rose before him of a revived and instructed Church, earnest in purpose and strict in life, and of a great Christian University roused and quickened to a sense of its powers and responsibilities. He thought of the enormous advantages offered by its magnificent foundations for serious study and the production of works for which time and deep learning and continuous labour were essential. Such works, in the hands of single-minded students, living lives of simplicity and hard toil, had in the case of the Portroyalists, the Oratorians, and above all, the Benedictines of St. Maur, splendidly redeemed the Church of France, in otherwise evil days, from the reproach of idleness and self-indulgence. He found under his hand men who had in them something of the making of students; and he hoped to see college fellowships filled more and more by such men, and the life of a college fellow more and more recognised as that of a man to whom learning, and especially sacred learning, was his call and sufficient object, as pastoral or educational work might be the call of others. Where fellowships were not to be had, he encouraged such men to stay up in Oxford; he took them into his own house; later, he tried a kind of hall to receive them. And by way of beginning at once, and giving them something to do, he planned on a large scale a series of translations and also editions of the Fathers. It was announced, with an elaborate prospectus, in 1836, under the title, in conformity with the usage of the time, which had Libraries of Useful Knowledge, etc., of a Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church anterior to the Division of the East and West, under the editorship of Dr. Pusey, Mr. Keble, and Mr. Newman. It was dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and had a considerable number of Bishops among its subscribers. Down to a very late date, the Library of the Fathers, in which Charles Marriott came to take a leading part, was a matter of much concern to Dr. Pusey. And to bring men together, and to interest them in theological subjects, he had evening meetings at his own house, where papers were read and discussed. "Some persons," writes a gossiping chronicler of the time,[51] "thought that these meetings were liable to the statute, De conventiculis illicitis reprimendis." Some important papers were the result of these meetings; but the meetings themselves were irresistibly sleepy, and in time they were discontinued. But indefatigable and powerful in all these beginnings Dr. Pusey stirred men to activity and saw great ground of hope. He was prepared for opposition, but he had boundless reliance on his friends and his cause. His forecast of the future, of great days in store for the Church of England, was, not unreasonably, one of great promise. Ten years might work wonders. The last fear that occurred to him was that within ten years a hopeless rift, not of affection but of conviction, would have run through that company of friends, and parted irrevocably their course and work in life.


[48] The subjoined extracts record the impression made by Mr. Newman's preaching on contemporaries well qualified to judge, and standing respectively in very different relations to the movement. This is the judgment of a very close observer, and very independent critic, James Mozley. In an article in the Christian Remembrancer, January 1846 (p. 169), after speaking of the obvious reasons of Mr. Newman's influence, he proceeds:—

We inquire further, and we find that this influence has been of a peculiarly ethical and inward kind; that it has touched the deepest part of our minds, and that the great work on which it has been founded is a practical, religious one—his Sermons. We speak not from our own fixed impression, however deeply felt, but from what we have heard and observed everywhere, from the natural, incidental, unconscious remarks dropped from persons' mouths, and evidently showing what they thought and felt. For ourselves, we must say, one of Mr. Newman's sermons is to us a marvellous production. It has perfect power, and perfect nature; but the latter it is which makes it so great. A sermon of Mr. Newman's enters into all our feelings, ideas, modes of viewing things. He wonderfully realises a state of mind, enters into a difficulty, a temptation, a disappointment, a grief; he goes into the different turns and incidental, unconscious symptoms of a case, with notions which come into the head and go out again, and are forgotten, till some chance recalls them.... To take the first instance that happens to occur to us ... we have often been struck by the keen way in which he enters into a regular tradesman's vice—avarice, fortune-getting, amassing capital, and so on. This is not a temper to which we can imagine Mr. Newman ever having felt in his own mind even the temptation; but he understands it, and the temptation to it, as perfectly as any merchant could. No man of business could express it more naturally, more pungently, more ex animo.... So with the view that worldly men take of religion, in a certain sense, he quite enters into it, and the world's point of view: he sees, with a regular worldly man's eye, religion vanishing into nothing, and becoming an unreality, while the visible system of life and facts, politics and society, gets more and more solid and grows upon him. The whole influence of the world on the imagination; the weight of example; the force of repetition; the way in which maxims, rules, sentiments, by being simply sounded in the ear from day to day, seem to prove themselves, and make themselves believed by being often heard,—every part of the easy, natural, passive process by which a man becomes a man of the world is entered into, as if the preacher were going to justify or excuse him, rather than condemn him. Nay, he enters deeply into what even scepticism has to say for itself; he puts himself into the infidel's state of mind, in which the world, as a great fact, seems to give the lie to all religions, converting them into phenomena which counterbalance and negative each other, and he goes down into that lowest abyss and bottom of things, at which the intellect undercuts spiritual truth altogether. He enters into the ordinary common states of mind just in the same way. He is most consoling, most sympathetic. He sets before persons their own feelings with such truth of detail, such natural expressive touches, that they seem not to be ordinary states of mind which everybody has, but very peculiar ones; for he and the reader seem to be the only two persons in the world that have them in common. Here is the point. Persons look into Mr. Newman's sermons and see their own thoughts in them. This is, after all, what as much as anything gives a book hold upon minds.... Wonderful pathetic power, that can so intimately, so subtilely and kindly, deal with the soul!—and wonderful soul that can be so dealt with.

Compare with this the judgment pronounced by one of quite a different school, the late Principal Shairp:—

Both Dr. Pusey and Mr. Keble at that time were quite second in importance to Mr. Newman. The centre from which his power went forth was the pulpit of St. Mary's, with those wonderful afternoon sermons. Sunday after Sunday, year by year, they went on, each continuing and deepening the impression produced by the last. As the hour interfered with the dinner-hour of the Colleges, most men preferred a warm dinner without Newman's sermon to a cold one with it; so the audience was not crowded—the large church little more than half filled. The service was very simple, no pomp, no ritualism; for it was characteristic of the leading men of the movement that they left these things to the weaker brethren. Their thoughts, at all events, were set on great questions which touched the heart of unseen things. About the service, the most remarkable thing was the beauty, the silver intonation of Mr. Newman's voice as he read the lessons.... When he began to preach, a stranger was not likely to be much struck. Here was no vehemence, no declamation, no show of elaborated argument, so that one who came prepared to hear "a great intellectual effort" was almost sure to go away disappointed. Indeed, we believe that if he had preached one of his St. Mary's sermons before a Scotch town congregation, they would have thought the preacher a "silly body".... Those who never heard him might fancy that his sermons would generally be about apostolical succession, or rights of the Church, or against Dissenters. Nothing of the kind. You might hear him preach for weeks without an allusion to these things. What there was of High Church teaching was implied rather than enforced. The local, the temporary, and the modern were ennobled by the presence of the Catholic truth belonging to all ages that pervaded the whole. His power showed itself chiefly in the new and unlooked-for way in which he touched into life old truths, moral or spiritual, which all Christians acknowledge, but most have ceased to feel—when he spoke of "unreal words," of the "individuality of the soul," of the "invisible world," of a "particular Providence," or again, of the "ventures of faith," "warfare the condition of victory," "the Cross of Christ the measure of the world," "the Church a Home for the lonely." As he spoke, how the old truth became new; how it came home with a meaning never felt before! He laid his finger how gently, yet how powerfully, on some inner place in the hearer's heart, and told him things about himself he had never known till then. Subtlest truths, which it would have taken philosophers pages of circumlocution and big words to state, were dropt out by the way in a sentence or two of the most transparent Saxon. What delicacy of style, yet what strength! how simple, yet how suggestive! how homely, yet how refined! how penetrating, yet how tender-hearted! If now and then there was a forlorn undertone which at the time seemed inexplicable, you might be perplexed at the drift of what he said, but you felt all the more drawn to the speaker. ... After hearing these sermons you might come away still not believing the tenets peculiar to the High Church system; but you would be harder than most men, if you did not feel more than ever ashamed of coarseness, selfishness, worldliness, if you did not feel the things of faith brought closer to the soul.—John Keble, by J. C. Shairp, Professor of Humanity, St. Andrews (1866), pp. 12-17.

I venture to add the judgment of another contemporary, on the effect of this preaching, from the Reminiscences of Sir F. Doyle, p. 145:—

That great man's extraordinary genius drew all those within his sphere, like a magnet, to attach themselves to him and his doctrines. Nay, before he became a Romanist, what we may call his mesmeric influence acted not only on his Tractarian adherents, but even in some degree on outsiders like myself. Whenever I was at Oxford, I used to go regularly on Sunday afternoons to listen to his sermon at St. Mary's, and I have never heard such preaching since. I do not know whether it is a mere fancy of mine, or whether those who know him better will accept and endorse my belief, that one element of his wonderful power showed itself after this fashion. He always began as if he had determined to set forth his idea of the truth in the plainest and simplest language—language, as men say, "intelligible to the meanest understanding." But his ardent zeal and fine poetical imagination were not thus to be controlled. As I hung upon his words, it seemed to me as if I could trace behind his will, and pressing, so to speak, against it, a rush of thoughts, of feelings which he kept struggling to hold back, but in the end they were generally too strong for him, and poured themselves out in a torrent of eloquence all the more impetuous from having been so long repressed. The effect of these outbursts was irresistible, and carried his hearers beyond themselves at once. Even when his efforts of self-restraint were more successful, those very efforts gave a life and colour to his style which riveted the attention of all within the reach of his voice. Mr. Justin McCarthy, in his History of Our Own Times, says of him: "In all the arts that make a great preacher or orator, Cardinal Newman was deficient. His manner was constrained and ungraceful, and even awkward; his voice was thin and weak, his bearing was not at first impressive in any way—a gaunt emaciated figure, a sharp eagle face, and a cold meditative eye, rather repelled than attracted those who saw him for the first time." I do not think Mr. McCarthy's phrases very happily chosen to convey his meaning. Surely a gaunt emaciated frame and a sharp eagle face are the very characteristics which we should picture to ourselves as belonging to Peter the Hermit, or Scott's Ephraim Macbriar in Old Mortality. However unimpressive the look of an eagle may be in Mr. McCarthy's opinion, I do not agree with him about Dr. Newman.

When I knew him at Oxford, these somewhat disparaging remarks would not have been applicable. His manner, it is true, may have been self-repressed, constrained it was not. His bearing was neither awkward nor ungraceful; it was simply quiet and calm, because under strict control; but beneath that calmness, intense feeling, I think, was obvious to those who had any instinct of sympathy with him. But if Mr. McCarthy's acquaintance with him only began when he took office in an Irish Catholic university, I can quite understand that (flexibility not being one of his special gifts) he may have failed now and again to bring himself into perfect harmony with an Irish audience. He was probably too much of a typical Englishman for his place; nevertheless Mr. McCarthy, though he does not seem to have admired him in the pulpit, is fully sensible of his intellectual powers and general eminence.

Dr. Pusey, who used every now and then to take Newman's duties at St. Mary's, was to me a much less interesting person. [A learned man, no doubt, but dull and tedious as a preacher.] Certainly, in spite of the name Puseyism having been given to the Oxford attempt at a new Catholic departure, he was not the Columbus of that voyage of discovery undertaken to find a safer haven for the Church of England. I may, however, be more or less unjust to him, as I owe him a sort of grudge. His discourses were not only less attractive than those of Dr. Newman, but always much longer, and the result of this was that the learned Canon of Christ Church generally made me late for dinner at my College, a calamity never inflicted on his All Souls' hearers by the terser and swifter fellow of Oriel whom he was replacing.

[49] Apologia, p 136.

[50] It swelled in the second edition to 400 pages [in spite of the fact that in that edition the historical range of the treatise was greatly reduced].

[51] Recollections of Oxford, by G.V. Cox, p. 278.



"Depend upon it," an earnest High Churchman of the Joshua Watson type had said to one of Mr. Newman's friends, who was a link between the old Churchmanship and the new—"depend upon it, the day will come when those great doctrines" connected with the Church, "now buried, will be brought out to the light of the day, and then the effect will be quite fearful."[52] With the publication of the Tracts for the Times, and the excitement caused by them, the day had come.

Their unflinching and severe proclamation of Church principles and Church doctrines coincided with a state of feeling and opinion in the country, in which two very different tendencies might be observed. They fell on the public mind just when one of these tendencies would help them, and the other be fiercely hostile. On the one hand, the issue of the political controversy with the Roman Catholics, their triumph all along the line, and the now scarcely disguised contempt shown by their political representatives for the pledges and explanations on which their relief was supposed to have been conceded, had left the public mind sore, angry, and suspicious. Orthodox and Evangelicals were alike alarmed and indignant; and the Evangelicals, always doctrinally jealous of Popery, and of anything "unsound" in that direction, had been roused to increased irritation by the proceedings of the Reformation Society, which had made it its business to hold meetings and discussions all over the country, where fervid and sometimes eloquent and able Irishmen, like Mr. E. Tottenham, afterwards of Laura Chapel, Bath, had argued and declaimed, with Roman text-books in hand, on such questions as the Right of Private Judgment, the Rule of Faith, and the articles of the Tridentine Creed—not always with the effect which they intended on those who heard them, with whom their arguments, and those which they elicited from their opponents, sometimes left behind uncomfortable misgivings, and questions even more serious than the controversy itself. On the other hand, in quarters quite unconnected with the recognised religious schools, interest had been independently and strongly awakened in the minds of theologians and philosophical thinkers, in regard to the idea, history, and relations to society of the Christian Church. In Ireland, a recluse, who was the centre of a small knot of earnest friends, a man of deep piety and great freedom and originality of mind, Mr. Alexander Knox, had been led, partly, it may be, by his intimacy with John Wesley, to think out for himself the character and true constitution of the Church, and the nature of the doctrines which it was commissioned to teach. In England, another recluse, of splendid genius and wayward humour, had dealt in his own way, with far-reaching insight, with vast reading, and often with impressive eloquence, with the same subject; and his profound sympathy and faith had been shared and reflected by a great poet. What Coleridge and Wordsworth had put in the forefront of their speculations and poetry, as the object of their profoundest interest, and of their highest hopes for mankind, might, of course, fail to appear in the same light to others; but it could not fail, in those days at least, to attract attention, as a matter of grave and well-founded importance. Coleridge's theories of the Church were his own, and were very wide of theories recognised by any of those who had to deal practically with the question, and who were influenced, in one way or another, by the traditional doctrines of theologians. But Coleridge had lifted the subject to a very high level. He had taken the simple but all-important step of viewing the Church in its spiritual character as first and foremost and above all things essentially a religious society of divine institution, not dependent on the creation or will of man, or on the privileges and honours which man might think fit to assign to it; and he had undoubtedly familiarised the minds of many with this way of regarding it, however imperfect, or cloudy, or unpractical they might find the development of his ideas, and his deductions from them. And in Oxford the questions which had stirred the friends at Hadleigh had stirred others also, and had waked up various responses. Whately's acute mind had not missed these questions, and had given original if insufficient answers to them. Blanco White knew only too well their bearing and importance, and had laboured, not without success, to leave behind him his own impress on the way in which they should be dealt with. Dr. Hampden, the man in Oxford best acquainted with Aristotle's works and with the scholastic philosophy, had thrown Christian doctrines into a philosophical calculus which seemed to leave them little better than the inventions of men. On the other hand, a brilliant scholar, whose after-career was strangely full of great successes and deplorable disasters, William Sewell of Exeter College, had opened, in a way new to Oxford, the wealth and magnificence of Plato; and his thoughts had been dazzled by seeming to find in the truths and facts of the Christian Church the counterpart and realisation of the grandest of Plato's imaginations. The subjects treated with such dogmatic severity and such impetuous earnestness in the Tracts were, in one shape or another, in all men's minds, when these Tracts broke on the University and English society with their peremptory call to men "to take their side."

There was just a moment of surprise and uncertainty—uncertainty as to what the Tracts meant; whether they were to be a new weapon against the enemies of the Church, or were simply extravagant and preposterous novelties—just a certain perplexity and hesitation at their conflicting aspects; on the one hand, the known and high character of the writers, their evident determination and confidence in their cause, the attraction of their religious warmth and unselfishness and nobleness, the dim consciousness that much that they said was undeniable; and on the other hand, the apparent wildness and recklessness of their words: and then public opinion began steadily to take its "ply," and to be agreed in condemning them. It soon went farther, and became vehement in reprobating them as scandalous and dangerous publications. They incensed the Evangelicals by their alleged Romanism, and their unsound views about justification, good works, and the sacraments; they angered the "two-bottle orthodox" by their asceticism—the steady men, by their audacity and strong words—the liberals, by their dogmatic severity; their seriously practical bearing was early disclosed in a tract on "Fasting." But while they repelled strongly, they attracted strongly; they touched many consciences, they won many hearts, they opened new thoughts and hopes to many minds. One of the mischiefs of the Tracts, and of those sermons at St. Mary's which were the commentaries on them, was that so many people seemed to like them and to be struck by them. The gathering storm muttered and growled for some time at a distance, and men seemed to be taking time to make up their minds; but it began to lour from early days, till after various threatenings it broke in a furious article in the Edinburgh, by Dr. Arnold, on the "Oxford Malignants"; and the Tract-writers and their friends became, what they long continued to be, the most unpopular and suspected body of men in the Church, whom everybody was at liberty to insult, both as dishonest and absurd, of whom nothing was too cruel to say, nothing too ridiculous to believe. It is only equitable to take into account the unprepared state of the public mind, the surprise and novelty of even the commonest things when put in a new light, the prejudices which the Tract-writers were thought wantonly to offend and defy, their militant and uncompromising attitude, where principles were at stake. But considering what these men were known to be in character and life, what was the emergency and what were the pressing motives which called for action, and what is thought of them now that their course is run, it is strange indeed to remember who they were, to whom the courtesies of controversy were denied, not only by the vulgar herd of pamphleteers, but by men of ability and position, some of whom had been their familiar friends. Of course a nickname was soon found for them: the word "Tractarian" was invented, and Archbishop Whately thought it worth while, but not successfully, to improve it into "Tractites." Archbishop Whately, always ingenious, appears to have suspected that the real but concealed object of the movement was to propagate a secret infidelity; they were "Children of the Mist," or "Veiled Prophets";[53] and he seriously suggested to a friend who was writing against it,—"this rapidly spreading pestilence,"—to parallel it, in its characteristics and modes of working, with Indian Thuggee.[54]

But these things were of gradual growth. Towards the end of 1834 a question appeared in Oxford interesting to numbers besides Mr. Newman and his friends, which was to lead to momentous consequences. The old, crude ideas of change in the Church had come to appear, even to their advocates, for the present impracticable, and there was no more talk for a long time of schemes which had been in favour two years before. The ground was changed, and a point was now brought forward on the Liberal side, for which a good deal might be plausibly said. This was the requirement of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles from young men at matriculation; and a strong pamphlet advocating its abolition, with the express purpose of admitting Dissenters, was published by Dr. Hampden, the Bampton Lecturer of two years before.

Oxford had always been one of the great schools of the Church. Its traditions, its tone, its customs, its rules, all expressed or presumed the closest attachment to that way of religion which was specially identified with the Church, in its doctrinal and historical aspect. Oxford was emphatically definite, dogmatic, orthodox, compared even with Cambridge, which had largely favoured the Evangelical school, and had leanings to Liberalism. Oxford, unlike Cambridge, gave notice of its attitude by requiring every one who matriculated to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles: the theory of its Tutorial system, of its lectures and examinations, implied what of late years in the better colleges, though certainly not everywhere, had been realised in fact—a considerable amount of religious and theological teaching. And whatever might have been said originally of the lay character of the University, the colleges, which had become coextensive with the University, were for the most part, in the intention of their founders, meant to educate and support theological students on their foundations for the service of the Church. It became in time the fashion to call them lay institutions: legally they may have been so, but judged by their statutes, they were nearly all of them as ecclesiastical as the Chapter of a Cathedral. And Oxford was the fulcrum from which the theological revival hoped to move the Church. It was therefore a shock and a challenge of no light kind, when not merely the proposal was made to abolish the matriculation subscription with the express object of attracting Dissenters, and to get Parliament to force the change on the University if the University resisted, but the proposal itself was vindicated and enforced in a pamphlet by Dr. Hampden by a definite and precise theory which stopped not short of the position that all creeds and formularies—everything which represented the authority of the teaching Church—however incidentally and temporarily useful, were in their own nature the inventions of a mistaken and corrupt philosophy, and invasions of Christian liberty. This was cutting deep with a vengeance, though the author of the theory seemed alone unable to see it. It went to the root of the whole mutter; and if Dr. Hampden was right, there was neither Church nor doctrine worth contending for, except as men contend about the Newtonian or the undulatory theory of light.

No one ought now to affect, as some people used to affect at the time, that the question was of secondary importance, and turned mainly on the special fitness of the Thirty-nine Articles to be offered for the proof of a young man's belief. It was a much more critical question. It was really, however disguised, the question, asked then for the first time, and since finally decided, whether Oxford was to continue to be a school of the Church of England; and it also involved the wider question, what part belief in definite religion should have in higher education. It is speciously said that you have no right to forestall a young man's inquiries and convictions by imposing on him in his early years opinions which to him become prejudices. And if the world consisted simply of individuals, entirely insulated and self-sufficing; if men could be taught anything whatever, without presuming what is believed by those who teach them; and if the attempt to exclude religious prejudice did not necessarily, by the mere force of the attempt, involve the creation of anti-religious prejudice, these reasoners, who try in vain to get out of the conditions which hem them in, might have more to say for themselves. To the men who had made such an effort to restore a living confidence in the Church, the demand implied giving up all that they had done and all that they hoped for. It was not the time for yielding even a clumsy proof of the religious character of the University. And the beginning of a long and doubtful war was inevitable.

A war of pamphlets ensued. By the one side the distinction was strongly insisted on between mere instruction and education, the distinctly religious character of the University education was not perhaps overstated in its theory, but portrayed in stronger colours than was everywhere the fact; and assertions were made, which sound strange in their boldness now, of the independent and constitutional right to self-government in the great University corporations. By the other side, the ordinary arguments were used, about the injustice and mischief of exclusion, and the hurtfulness of tests, especially such tests as the Articles applied to young and ignorant men. Two pamphlets had more than a passing interest: one, by a then unknown writer who signed himself Rusticus, and whose name was Mr. F.D. Maurice, defended subscription on the ground that the Articles were signed, not as tests and confessions of faith, but as "conditions of thought," the expressly stated conditions, such as there must be in all teaching, under which the learners are willing to learn and the teacher to teach: and he developed his view at great length, with great wealth of original thought and illustration and much eloquence, but with that fatal want of clearness which, as so often afterwards, came from his struggles to embrace in one large view what appeared opposite aspects of a difficult subject. The other was the pamphlet, already referred to, by Dr. Hampden: and of which the importance arose, not from its conclusions, but from its reasons. Its ground was the distinction which he had argued out at great length in his Bampton Lectures—the distinction between the "Divine facts" of revelation, and all human interpretations of them and inferences from them. "Divine facts," he maintained, were of course binding on all Christians, and in matter of fact were accepted by all who called themselves Christians, including Unitarians. Human interpretations and inferences—and all Church formularies were such—were binding on no one but those who had reason to think them true; and therefore least of all on undergraduates who could not have examined them. The distinction, when first put forward, seemed to mean much; at a later time it was explained to mean very little. But at present its value as a ground of argument against the old system of the University was thought much of by its author and his friends. A warning note was at once given that its significance was perceived and appreciated. Mr. Newman, in acknowledging a presentation copy, added words which foreshadowed much that was to follow. "While I respect," he wrote, "the tone of piety which the pamphlet displays, I dare not trust myself to put on paper my feelings about the principles contained in it; tending, as they do, in my opinion, to make ship-wreck of Christian faith. I also lament that, by its appearance, the first step has been taken towards interrupting that peace and mutual good understanding which has prevailed so long in this place, and which, if once seriously disturbed, will be succeeded by discussions the more intractable, because justified in the minds of those who resist innovation by a feeling of imperative duty." "Since that time," he goes on in the Apologia, where he quotes this letter, "Phaeton has got into the chariot of the sun."[55] But they were early days then; and when the Heads of Houses, who the year before had joined with the great body of the University in a declaration against the threatened legislation, were persuaded to propose to the Oxford Convocation the abolition of subscription at matriculation in May 1835, this proposal was rejected by a majority of five to one.

This large majority was a genuine expression of the sense of the University. It was not specially a "Tractarian" success, though most of the arguments which contributed to it came from men who more or less sympathised with the effort to make a vigorous fight for the Church and its teaching; and it showed that they who had made the effort had touched springs of thought and feeling, and awakened new hopes and interest in those around them, in Oxford, and in the country. But graver events were at hand. Towards the end of the year (1835), Dr. Burton, the Regius Professor of Divinity, suddenly died, still a young man. And Lord Melbourne was induced to appoint as his successor, and as the head of the theological teaching of the University, the writer who had just a second time seemed to lay the axe to the root of all theology; who had just reasserted that he looked upon creeds, and all the documents which embodied the traditional doctrine and collective thought of the Church, as invested by ignorance and prejudice with an authority which was without foundation, and which was misleading and mischievous.


[52] The conversation between Mr. Sikes of Guilsborough and Mr. Copeland is given in full in Dr. Pusey's Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1842), pp. 32-34.

[53] "Dr. Wilson was mightily pleased with my calling the traditionals the 'Children of the Mist.' The title of 'Veiled Prophets' he thought too severe" (1838), Life, ed. 1875, p. 167. Compare "Hints to Transcendentalists for Working Infidel Designs through Tractarianism," a jeu d'esprit (1840), ib. p. 188. "As for the suspicion of secret infidelity, I have said no more than I sincerely feel," ib. p. 181.

[54] "It would be a curious thing if you (the Provost of Oriel) were to bring into your Bampton Lectures a mention of the Thugs.... Observe their submissive piety, their faith in long-preserved tradition, their regular succession of ordinations to their offices, their faith in the sacramental virtue of the consecrated governor; in short, compare our religion with the Thuggee, putting out of account all those considerations which the traditionists deprecate the discussion of, and where is the difference?" (1840), ib. p. 194.

[55] Apologia, pp. 131, 132.



The stage on which what is called the Oxford movement ran through its course had a special character of its own, unlike the circumstances in which other religious efforts had done their work. The scene of Jansenism had been a great capital, a brilliant society, the precincts of a court, the cells of a convent, the studies and libraries of the doctors of the Sorbonne, the council chambers of the Vatican. The scene of Methodism had been English villages and country towns, the moors of Cornwall, and the collieries of Bristol, at length London fashionable chapels. The scene of this new movement was as like as it could be in our modern world to a Greek polis, or an Italian self-centred city of the Middle Ages. Oxford stood by itself in its meadows by the rivers, having its relations with all England, but, like its sister at Cambridge, living a life of its own, unlike that of any other spot in England, with its privileged powers, and exemptions from the general law, with its special mode of government and police, its usages and tastes and traditions, and even costume, which the rest of England looked at from the outside, much interested but much puzzled, or knew only by transient visits. And Oxford was as proud and jealous of its own ways as Athens or Florence; and like them it had its quaint fashions of polity; its democratic Convocation and its oligarchy; its social ranks; its discipline, severe in theory and usually lax in fact; its self-governed bodies and corporations within itself; its faculties and colleges, like the guilds and "arts" of Florence; its internal rivalries and discords; its "sets" and factions. Like these, too, it professed a special recognition of the supremacy of religion; it claimed to be a home of worship and religious training, Dominus illuminatio mea, a claim too often falsified in the habit and tempers of life. It was a small sphere, but it was a conspicuous one; for there was much strong and energetic character, brought out by the aims and conditions of University life; and though moving in a separate orbit, the influence of the famous place over the outside England, though imperfectly understood, was recognised and great. These conditions affected the character of the movement, and of the conflicts which it caused. Oxford claimed to be eminently the guardian of "true religion and sound learning"; and therefore it was eminently the place where religion should be recalled to its purity and strength, and also the place where there ought to be the most vigilant jealousy against the perversions and corruptions of religion, Oxford was a place where every one knew his neighbour, and measured him, and was more or less friendly or repellent; where the customs of life brought men together every day and all day, in converse or discussion; and where every fresh statement or every new step taken furnished endless material for speculation or debate, in common rooms or in the afternoon walk. And for this reason, too, feelings were apt to be more keen and intense and personal than in the larger scenes of life; the man who was disliked or distrusted was so close to his neighbours that he was more irritating than if he had been obscured by a crowd; the man who attracted confidence and kindled enthusiasm, whose voice was continually in men's ears, and whose private conversation and life was something ever new in its sympathy and charm, created in those about him not mere admiration, but passionate friendship, or unreserved discipleship. And these feelings passed from individuals into parties; the small factions of a limited area. Men struck blows and loved and hated in those days in Oxford as they hardly did on the wider stage of London politics or general religious controversy.

The conflicts which for a time turned Oxford into a kind of image of what Florence was in the days of Savonarola, with its nicknames, Puseyites, and Neomaniacs, and High and Dry, counterparts to the Piagnoni and Arrabbiati, of the older strife, began around a student of retired habits, interested more than was usual at Oxford in abstruse philosophy, and the last person who might be expected to be the occasion of great dissensions in the University. Dr. Hampden was a man who, with no definite intentions of innovating on the received doctrines of the Church—indeed, as his sermons showed, with a full acceptance of them—had taken a very difficult subject for a course of Bampton Lectures, without at all fathoming its depth and reach, and had got into a serious scrape in consequence. Personally he was a man of serious but cold religion, having little sympathy with others, and consequently not able to attract any. His isolation during the whole of his career is remarkable; he attached no one, as Whately or Arnold attached men. His mind, which was a speculative one, was not one, in its own order, of the first class. He had not the grasp nor the subtlety necessary for his task. He had a certain power of statement, but little of co-ordination; he seems not to have had the power of seeing when his ideas were really irreconcilable, and he thought that simply by insisting on his distinctly orthodox statements he not only balanced, but neutralised, and did away with his distinctly unorthodox ones. He had read a good deal of Aristotle and something of the Schoolmen, which probably no one else in Oxford had done except Blanco White; and the temptation of having read what no one else knows anything about sometimes leads men to make an unprofitable use of their special knowledge, which they consider their monopoly.

The creed and dogmas of the Christian Church are at least in their broad features, not a speculation, but a fact. That not only the Apostles' Creed, but the Nicene and Constantinopolitan Creeds, are assumed as facts by the whole of anything that can be called the Church, is as certain as the reception by the same body, and for the same time, of the Scriptures. Not only the Creed, but, up to the sixteenth century, the hierarchy, and not only Creed and hierarchy and Scriptures, but the sacramental idea as expressed in the liturgies, are equally in the same class of facts. Of course it is open to any one to question the genuine origin of any of these great portions of the constitution of the Church; but the Church is so committed to them that he cannot enter on his destructive criticism without having to criticise, not one only, but all these beliefs, and without soon having to face the question whether the whole idea of the Church, as a real and divinely ordained society, with a definite doctrine and belief, is not a delusion, and whether Christianity, whatever it is, is addressed solely to each individual, one by one, to make what he can of it. It need hardly be said that within the limits of what the Church is committed to there is room for very wide differences of opinion; it is also true that these limits have, in different times of the Church, been illegitimately and mischievously narrowed by prevailing opinions, and by documents and formularies respecting it. But though we may claim not to be bound by the Augsburg Confession, or by the Lambeth articles, or the Synod of Dort, or the Bull Unigenitus, it does not follow that, if there is a Church at all, there is no more binding authority in the theology of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. And it is the province of the divine who believes in a Church at all, and in its office to be the teacher and witness of religious truth, to distinguish between the infinitely varying degrees of authority with which professed representations of portions of this truth are propounded for acceptance. It may be difficult or impossible to agree on a theory of inspiration; but that the Church doctrine of some kind of special inspiration of Scripture is part of Christianity is, unless Christianity be a dream, certain. No one can reasonably doubt, with history before him, that the answer of the Christian Church was, the first time the question was asked, and has continued to be through ages of controversy, against Arianism, against Socinianism, against Pelagianism, against Zwinglianism. It does not follow that the Church has settled everything, or that there are not hundreds of questions which it is vain and presumptuous to attempt to settle by any alleged authority.

Dr. Hampden was in fact unexceptionably, even rigidly orthodox in his acceptance of Church doctrine and Church creeds. He had published a volume of sermons containing, among other things, an able statement of the Scriptural argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, and an equally able defence of the Athanasian Creed. But he felt that there are formularies which may be only the interpretations of doctrine and inferences from Scripture of a particular time or set of men; and he was desirous of putting into their proper place the authority of such formularies. His object was to put an interval between them and the Scriptures from which they professed to be derived, and to prevent them from claiming the command over faith and conscience which was due only to the authentic evidences of God's revelation. He wished to make room for a deeper sense of the weight of Scripture. He proposed to himself the same thing which was aimed at by the German divines, Arndt, Calixtus, and Spener, when they rose up against the grinding oppression which Lutheran dogmatism had raised on its Symbolical Books,[56] and which had come to outdo the worst extravagances of scholasticism. This seems to have been his object—a fair and legitimate one. But in arguing against investing the Thirty-nine Articles with an authority which did not belong to them, he unquestionably, without seeing what he was doing, went much farther—where he never meant to go. In fact, he so stated his argument that he took in with the Thirty-nine Articles every expression of collective belief, every document, however venerable, which the Church had sanctioned from the first. Strangely enough, without observing it, he took in—what he meant to separate by a wide interval from what he called dogma—the doctrine of the infallible authority and sufficiency of Scripture. In denying the worth of the consensus and immemorial judgment of the Church, he cut from under him the claim to that which he accepted as the source and witness of "divine facts." He did not mean to do this, or to do many other things; but from want of clearness of head, he certainly, in these writings which were complained of, did it. He was, in temper and habit, too desirous to be "orthodox," as Whately feared, to accept in its consequences his own theory. The theory which he put forward in his Bampton Lectures, and on which he founded his plan of comprehension in his pamphlet on Dissent, left nothing standing but the authority of the letter of Scripture. All else—right or wrong as it might be—was "speculation," "human inference," "dogma." With perfect consistency, he did not pretend to take even the Creeds out of this category. But the truth was, he did not consciously mean all that he said; and when keener and more powerful and more theological minds pointed out with relentless accuracy what he had said he was profuse and overflowing with explanations, which showed how little he had perceived the drift of his words. There is not the least reason to doubt the sincerity of these explanations; but at the same time they showed the unfitness of a man who had so to explain away his own speculations to be the official guide and teacher of the clergy. The criticisms on his language, and the objections to it, were made before these explanations were given; and though he gave them, he was furious with those who called for them, and he never for a moment admitted that there was anything seriously wrong or mistaken in what he had said. To those who pointed out the meaning and effect of his words and theories, he replied by the assertion of his personal belief. If words mean anything, he had said that neither Unitarians nor any one else could get behind the bare letter, and what he called "facts," of Scripture, which all equally accepted in good faith; and that therefore there was no reason for excluding Unitarians as long as they accepted the "facts." But when it was pointed out that this reasoning reduced all belief in the realities behind the bare letter to the level of personal and private opinion, he answered by saying that he valued supremely the Creeds and Articles, and by giving a statement of the great Christian doctrines which he held, and which the Church taught. But he never explained what their authority could be with any one but himself. There might be interpretations and inferences from Scripture, by the hundred or the thousand, but no one certain and authoritative one; none that warranted an organised Church, much more a Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded on the assumption of this interpretation being the one true faith, the one truth of the Bible. The point was brought out forcibly in a famous pamphlet written by Mr. Newman, though without his name, called "Elucidations of Dr. Hampden's Theological Statements." This pamphlet was a favourite object of attack on the part of Dr. Hampden's supporters as a flagrant instance of unfairness and garbled extracts. No one, they said, ever read the Bampton Lectures, but took their estimate of the work from Mr. Newman's quotations. Extracts are often open to the charge of unfairness, and always to suspicion. But in this case there was no need of unfairness. Dr. Hampden's theory lay on the very surface of his Hampton Lectures and pamphlet; and any unbiassed judge may be challenged to read these works of his, and say whether the extracts in the "Elucidations" do not adequately represent Dr. Hampden's statements and arguments, and whether the comments on them are forced or strained. They do not represent his explanations, for the explanations had not been given; and when the explanations came, though they said many things which showed that Dr. Hampden did not mean to be unorthodox and unevangelical, but only anti-scholastic and anti-Roman, they did not unsay a word which he had said. And what this was, what had been Dr. Hampden's professed theological theory up to the time when the University heard the news of his appointment, the "Elucidations" represent as fairly as any adverse statement can represent the subject of its attack.

In quieter times such an appointment might have passed with nothing more than a paper controversy or protest, or more probably without more than conversational criticism. But these wore not quiet and unsuspicious times. There was reason for disquiet. It was fresh in men's minds what language and speculation like that of the Bampton Lectures had come to in the case of Whately's intimate friend, Blanco White. The unquestionable hostility of Whately's school to the old ideas of the Church had roused alarm and a strong spirit of resistance in Churchmen. Each party was on the watch, and there certainly was something at stake for both parties. Coupled with some recent events, and with the part which Dr. Hampden had taken on the subscription question, the appointment naturally seemed significant. Probably it was not so significant as it seemed on the part at least of Lord Melbourne, who had taken pains to find a fit man. Dr. Hampden was said to have been recommended by Bishop Copleston, and not disallowed by Archbishop Howley. In the University, up to this time, there had been no authoritative protest against Dr. Hampden's writings. And there were not many Liberals to choose from. In the appointment there is hardly sufficient ground to blame Lord Melbourne. But the outcry against it at Oxford, when it came, was so instantaneous, so strong, and so unusual, that it might have warned Lord Melbourne that he had been led into a mistake, out of which it would be wise to seek at least a way of escape. Doubtless it was a strong measure for the University to protest as it did; but it was also a strong measure, at least in those days, for a Minister of the Crown to force so extremely unacceptable a Regius Professor of Divinity on a great University. Dr. Hampden offered to resign; and there would have been plenty of opportunities to compensate him for his sacrifice of a post which could only be a painful one. But the temper of both sides was up. The remonstrances from Oxford were treated with something like contempt, and the affair was hurried through till there was no retreating; and Dr. Hampden became Regius Professor.

Mr. Palmer has recorded how various efforts were made to neutralise the effect of the appointment. But the Heads of Houses, though angry, were cautious. They evaded the responsibility of stating Dr. Hampden's unsound positions; but to mark their distrust, brought in a proposal to deprive him of his vote in the choice of Select Preachers till the University should otherwise determine. It was defeated in Convocation by the veto of the two Proctors (March 1836), who exercised their right with the full approval of Dr. Hampden's friends, and the indignation of the large majority of the University. But it was not unfairly used: it could have only a suspending effect, of which no one had a right to complain; and when new Proctors came into office, the proposal was introduced again, and carried (May 1836) by 474 to 94. The Liberal minority had increased since the vote on subscription, and Dr. Hampden went on with his work as if nothing had happened. The attempt was twice made to rescind the vote: first, after the outcry about the Ninetieth Tract and the contest about the Poetry Professorship, by a simple repeal, which was rejected by 334 to 219 (June 1842); and next, indirectly by a statute enlarging the Professor's powers over Divinity degrees, which was also rejected by 341 to 21 (May 1844). From first to last, these things and others were the unfortunate incidents of an unfortunate appointment.

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