The Oxford Movement - Twelve Years, 1833-1845
by R.W. Church
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The final result of all this was long in coming; there was, we know, a bitter agony of five years, a prolonged and obstinate and cruel struggle between the deepest affections and ever-growing convictions. But this struggle, as has been said, did not begin with the conviction in which it ended. It began and long continued with the belief that though England was wrong, Rome was not right; that though the Roman argument seemed more and more unanswerable, there were insuperable difficulties of certain fact which made the Roman conclusion incredible; that there was so much good and truth in England, with all its defects and faults, which was unaccountable and unintelligible on the Roman hypothesis; that the real upshot was that the whole state of things in Christendom was abnormal; that to English Churchmen the English Church had immediate and direct claims which nothing but the most irresistible counter-claims could overcome or neutralise—the claims of a shipwrecked body cut off from country and home, yet as a shipwrecked body still organised, and with much saved from the wreck, and not to be deserted, as long as it held together, in an uncertain attempt to rejoin its lost unity. Resignation, retirement, silence, lay communion, the hope of ultimate, though perhaps long-deferred reunion—these were his first thoughts. Misgivings could not be helped, would not be denied, but need not be paraded, were to be kept at arm's-length as long as possible. This is the picture presented in the autobiography of these painful and dreary years; and there is every evidence that it is a faithful one. It is conceivable, though not very probable, that such a course might go on indefinitely. It is conceivable that under different circumstances he might, like other perplexed and doubting seekers after truth, have worked round through doubt and perplexity to his first conviction. But the actual result, as it came, was natural enough; and it was accelerated by provocation, by opponents without, and by the pressure of advanced and impatient followers and disciples in the party itself.

2. This last was the second of the two influences spoken of above. It worked from below, as the first worked from above.

Discussions and agitations, such as accompanied the movement, however much under the control of the moral and intellectual ascendancy of the leaders, could not of course be guaranteed from escaping from that control. And as the time went on, men joined the movement who had but qualified sympathy with that passionate love and zeal for the actual English Church, that acquaintance with its historical theology, and that temper of discipline, sobriety, and self-distrust, which marked its first representatives. These younger disciples shared in the growing excitement of the society round them. They were attracted by visible height of character, and brilliant intellectual power. They were alive to vast and original prospects, opening a new world which should be a contrast to the worn-out interest of the old. Some of these were men of wide and abstruse learning; quaint and eccentric scholars both in habit and look, students of the ancient type, who even fifty years ago seemed out of date to their generation. Some were men of considerable force of mind, destined afterwards to leave a mark on their age as thinkers and writers. To the former class belonged Charles Seager, and John Brande Morris, of Exeter College, both learned Orientalists, steeped in recondite knowledge of all kinds; men who had worked their way to knowledge through hardship and grinding labour, and not to be outdone in Germany itself for devouring love of learning and a scholar's plainness of life. In the other class may be mentioned Frederic Faber, J.D. Dalgairns, and W.G. Ward, men who have all since risen to eminence in their different spheres. Faber was a man with a high gift of imagination, remarkable powers of assimilating knowledge, and a great richness and novelty and elegance of thought, which with much melody of voice made him ultimately a very attractive preacher. If the promise of his powers has not been adequately fulfilled, it is partly to be traced to a want of severity of taste and self-restraint, but his name will live in some of his hymns, and in some very beautiful portions of his devotional writings. Dalgairns's mind was of a different order. "That man has an eye for theology," was the remark of a competent judge on some early paper of Dalgairns's which came before him. He had something of the Frenchman about him. There was in him, in his Oxford days, a bright and frank briskness, a mixture of modesty and arch daring, which gave him an almost boyish appearance; but beneath this boyish appearance there was a subtle and powerful intellect, alive to the problems of religious philosophy, and impatient of any but the most thorough solutions of them; while, on the other hand, the religious affections were part of his nature, and mind and will and heart yielded an unreserved and absolute obedience to the leading and guidance of faith. In his later days, with his mind at ease, Father Dalgairns threw himself into the great battle with unbelief; and few men have commanded more the respect of opponents not much given to think well of the arguments for religion, by the freshness and the solidity of his reasoning. At this time, enthusiastic in temper, and acute and exacting as a thinker, he found the Church movement just, as it were, on the turn of the wave. He was attracted to it at first by its reaction against what was unreal and shallow, by its affinities with what was deep in idea and earnest in life; then, and finally, he was repelled from it, by its want of completeness, by its English acquiescence in compromise, by its hesitations and clinging to insular associations and sympathies, which had little interest for him.

Another person, who was at this time even more prominent in the advanced portion of the movement party, and whose action had more decisive influence on its course, was Mr. W.G. Ward, Fellow of Balliol. Mr. Ward, who was first at Christ Church, had distinguished himself greatly at the Oxford Union as a vigorous speaker, at first on the Tory side; he came afterwards under the influence of Arthur Stanley, then fresh from Rugby, and naturally learned to admire Dr. Arnold; but Dr. Arnold's religious doctrines did not satisfy him; the movement, with its boldness and originality of idea and ethical character, had laid strong hold on him, and he passed into one of the most thoroughgoing adherents of Mr. Newman. There was something to smile at in his person, and in some of his ways—his unbusiness-like habits, his joyousness of manner, his racy stories; but few more powerful intellects passed through Oxford in his time, and he has justified his University reputation by his distinction since, both as a Roman Catholic theologian and professor, and as a profound metaphysical thinker, the equal antagonist on their own ground of J. Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer. But his intellect at that time was as remarkable for its defects as for its powers. He used to divide his friends, and thinking people in general, into those who had facts and did not know what to do with them, and those who had in perfection the logical faculties, but wanted the facts to reason upon. He belonged himself to the latter class. He had, not unnaturally, boundless confidence in his argumentative powers; they were subtle, piercing, nimble, never at a loss, and they included a power of exposition which, if it was not always succinct and lively, was always weighty and impressive. Premises in his hands were not long in bringing forth their conclusions; and if abstractions always corresponded exactly to their concrete embodiments, and ideals were fulfilled in realities, no one could point out more perspicuously and decisively the practical judgments on them which reason must sanction. But that knowledge of things and of men which mere power of reasoning will not give was not one of his special endowments. The study of facts, often in their complicated and perplexing reality, was not to his taste. He was apt to accept them on what he considered adequate authority, and his argumentation, formidable as it always was, recalled, even when most unanswerable at the moment, the application of pure mathematics without allowance for the actual forces, often difficult to ascertain except by experiment, which would have to be taken account of in practice.

The tendency of this section of able men was unquestionably Romewards, almost from the beginning of their connexion with the movement. Both the theory and the actual system of Rome, so far as they understood it, had attractions for them which nothing else had. But with whatever perplexity and perhaps impatience, Mr. Newman's power held them back. He kept before their minds continually those difficulties of fact which stood in the way of their absolute and peremptory conclusions, and of which they were not much inclined to take account. He insisted on those features, neither few nor unimportant nor hard to see, which proved the continuity of the English Church with the Church Universal. Sharing their sense of anomaly in the Anglican theory and position, he pointed out with his own force and insight that anomaly was not in England only, but everywhere. There was much to regret, there was much to improve, there were many unwelcome and dangerous truths, invidiosi veri, to be told and defended at any cost. But patience, as well as honesty and courage, was a Christian virtue; and they who had received their Christianity at the hands of the English Church had duties towards it from which neither dissatisfaction nor the idea of something better could absolve them. Spartam nactus es, hanc exorna is the motto for every one whose lot is cast in any portion of Christ's Church. And as long as he could speak with this conviction, the strongest of them could not break away from his restraint. It was when the tremendous question took shape, Is the English Church a true Church, a real part of the Church Catholic?—when the question became to his mind more and more doubtful, at length desperate—that they, of course, became more difficult to satisfy, more confident in their own allegations, more unchecked in their sympathies, and, in consequence, in their dislikes. And in the continued effort—for it did continue—to make them pause and wait and hope, they reacted on him; they asked him questions which he found it hard to answer; they pressed him with inferences which he might put by, but of which he felt the sting; they forced on him all the indications, of which every day brought its contribution, that the actual living system of the English Church was against what he had taught to be Catholic, that its energetic temper and spirit condemned and rejected him. What was it that private men were staunch and undismayed? What was it that month by month all over England hearts and minds were attracted to his side, felt the spell of his teaching, gave him their confidence? Suspicion and disapprobation, which had only too much to ground itself upon, had taken possession of the high places of the Church. Authority in all its shapes had pronounced as decisively as his opponents could wish; as decisively as they too could wish, who desired no longer a barrier between themselves and Rome.

Thus a great and momentous change had come over the movement, over its action and prospects. It had started in a heroic effort to save the English Church. The claims, the blessings, the divinity of the English Church, as a true branch of Catholic Christendom, had been assumed as the foundation of all that was felt and said and attempted. The English Church was the one object to which English Christians were called upon to turn their thoughts. Its spirit animated the Christian Year, and the teaching of those whom the Christian Year represented. Its interests were what called forth the zeal and the indignation recorded in Froude's Remains. No one seriously thought of Rome, except as a hopelessly corrupt system, though it had some good and Catholic things, which it was Christian and honest to recognise. The movement of 1833 started out of the Anti-Roman feelings of the Emancipation time. It was Anti-Roman as much as it was Anti-Sectarian and Anti-Erastian. It was to avert the danger of people becoming Romanists from ignorance of Church principles. This was all changed in one important section of the party. The fundamental conceptions and assumptions were reversed. It was not the Roman Church, but the English Church, which was put on its trial; it was not the Roman Church, but the English, which was to be, if possible, apologised for, perhaps borne with for a time, but which was to be regarded as deeply fallen, holding an untenable position, and incomparably, unpardonably, below both the standard and the practical system of the Roman Church. From this point of view the object of the movement was no longer to elevate and improve an independent English Church, but to approximate it as far as possible to what was assumed to be undeniable—the perfect Catholicity of Rome. More almost than ideas and assumptions, the tone of feeling changed. It had been, towards the English Church, affectionate, enthusiastic, reverential, hopeful. It became contemptuous, critical, intolerant, hostile with the hostility not merely of alienation but disgust This was not of course the work of a moment, but it was of very rapid growth. "How I hate these Anglicans!" was the expression of one of the younger men of this section, an intemperate and insolent specimen of it. It did not represent the tone or the language of the leader to whom the advanced section deferred, vexed as he often was with the course of his own thoughts, and irritated and impatient at the course of things without. But it expressed but too truly the difference between 1833 and 1840.


[73] See Sermons on Subjects of the Day, 1843.



While the movement was making itself felt as a moral force, without a parallel in Oxford for more than two centuries, and was impressing deeply and permanently some of the most promising men in the rising generation in the University, what was the attitude of the University authorities? What was the attitude of the Bishops?

At Oxford it was that of contemptuous indifference, passing into helpless and passionate hostility. There is no sadder passage to be found in the history of Oxford than the behaviour and policy of the heads of this great Christian University towards the religious movement which was stirring the interest, the hopes, the fears of Oxford. The movement was, for its first years at least, a loyal and earnest effort to serve the cause of the Church. Its objects were clear and reasonable; it aimed at creating a sincere and intelligent zeal for the Church, and at making the Church itself worthy of the great position which her friends claimed for her. Its leaders were men well known in the University, in the first rank in point of ability and character; men of learning, who knew what they were talking about; men of religious and pure, if also severe lives. They were not men merely of speculation and criticism, but men ready to forego anything, to devote everything for the practical work of elevating religious thought and life. All this did not necessarily make their purposes and attempts wise and good; but it did entitle them to respectful attention. If they spoke language new to the popular mind or the "religious world," it was not new—at least it ought not to have been new—to orthodox Churchmen, with opportunities of study and acquainted with our best divinity. If their temper was eager and enthusiastic, they alleged the presence of a great and perilous crisis. Their appeal was mainly not to the general public, but to the sober and the learned; to those to whom was entrusted the formation of faith and character in the future clergy of the Church; to those who were responsible for the discipline and moral tone of the first University of Christendom, and who held their conspicuous position on the understanding of that responsibility. It behoved the heads of the University to be cautious, even to be suspicious; movements might be hollow or dangerous things. But it behoved them also to become acquainted with so striking a phenomenon as this; to judge it by what it appealed to—the learning of English divines, the standard of a high and generous moral rule; to recognise its aims at least, with equity and sympathy, if some of its methods and arguments seemed questionable. The men of the movement were not mere hostile innovators; they were fighting for what the University and its chiefs held dear and sacred, the privileges and safety of the Church. It was the natural part of the heads of the University to act as moderators; at any rate, to have shown, with whatever reserve, that they appreciated what they needed time to judge of. But while on the one side there was burning and devouring earnestness, and that power of conviction which doubles the strength of the strong, there was on the other a serene ignoring of all that was going on, worthy of a set of dignified French abbes on the eve of the Revolution. This sublime or imbecile security was occasionally interrupted by bursts of irritation at some fresh piece of Tractarian oddness or audacity, or at some strange story which made its way from the gossip of common rooms to the society of the Heads of Houses. And there was always ready a stick to beat the offenders; everything could be called Popish. But for the most part they looked on, with smiles, with jokes, sometimes with scolding.[74] Thus the men who by their place ought to have been able to gauge and control the movement, who might have been expected to meet half-way a serious attempt to brace up the religious and moral tone of the place, so incalculably important in days confessed to be anxious ones, simply set their faces steadily to discountenance and discredit it. They were good and respectable men, living comfortably in a certain state and ease. Their lives were mostly simple compared with the standard of the outer world, though Fellows of Colleges thought them luxurious. But they were blind and dull as tea-table gossips as to what was the meaning of the movement, as to what might come of it, as to what use might be made of it by wise and just and generous recognition, and, if need be, by wise and just criticism and repression. There were points of danger in it; but they could only see what seemed to be dangerous, whether it was so or not; and they multiplied these points of danger by all that was good and hopeful in it. It perplexed and annoyed them; they had not imagination nor moral elevation to take in what it aimed at; they were content with the routine which they had inherited; and, so that men read for honours and took first classes, it did not seem to them strange or a profanation that a whole mixed crowd of undergraduates should be expected to go on a certain Sunday in term, willing or unwilling, fit or unlit, to the Sacrament, and be fined if they did not appear. Doubtless we are all of us too prone to be content with the customary, and to be prejudiced against the novel, nor is this condition of things without advantage. But we must bear our condemnation if we stick to the customary too long, and so miss our signal opportunities. In their apathy, in their self-satisfied ignorance, in their dulness of apprehension and forethought, the authorities of the University let pass the great opportunity of their time. As it usually happens, when this posture of lofty ignoring what is palpable and active, and the object of everybody's thought, goes on too long, it is apt to turn into impatient dislike and bitter antipathy. The Heads of Houses drifted insensibly into this position. They had not taken the trouble to understand the movement, to discriminate between its aspects, to put themselves frankly into communication with its leading persons, to judge with the knowledge and justice of scholars and clergymen of its designs and ways. They let themselves be diverted from this, their proper though troublesome task, by distrust, by the jealousies of their position, by the impossibility of conceiving that anything so strange could really be true and sound. And at length they found themselves going along with the outside current of uninstructed and ignoble prejudice, in a settled and pronounced dislike, which took for granted that all was wrong in the movement, which admitted any ill-natured surmise and foolish misrepresentation, and really allowed itself to acquiesce in the belief that men so well known in Oxford, once so admired and honoured, had sunk down to deliberate corrupters of the truth, and palterers with their own intellects and consciences. It came in a few years to be understood on both sides, that the authorities were in direct antagonism to the movement; and though their efforts in opposition to it were feeble and petty, it went on under the dead weight of official University disapproval. It would have been a great thing for the English Church—though it is hard to see how, things being as they were, it could have come about—if the movement had gone on, at least with the friendly interest, if not with the support, of the University rulers. Instead of that, after the first two or three years there was one long and bitter fight in Oxford, with the anger on one side created by the belief of vague but growing dangers, and a sense of incapacity in resisting them, and with deep resentment at injustice and stupidity on the other.

The Bishops were farther from the immediate scene of the movement, and besides, had other things to think of. Three or four of them might be considered theologians—Archbishop Howley, Phillpotts of Exeter, Kaye of Lincoln, Marsh of Peterborough. Two or three belonged to the Evangelical school, Ryder of Lichfield, and the two Sumners at Winchester and Chester. The most prominent among them, and next to the Bishop of Exeter the ablest, alive to the real dangers of the Church, anxious to infuse vigour into its work, and busy with plans for extending its influence, was Blomfield, Bishop of London. But Blomfield was not at his best as a divine, and, for a man of his unquestionable power, singularly unsure of his own mind. He knew, in fact, that when the questions raised by the Tracts came before him he was unqualified to deal with them; he was no better furnished by thought or knowledge or habits to judge of them than the average Bishop of the time, appointed, as was so often the case, for political or personal reasons. At the first start of the movement, the Bishops not unnaturally waited to see what would come of it. It was indeed an effort in favour of the Church, but it was in irresponsible hands, begun by men whose words were strong and vehement and of unusual sound, and who, while they called on the clergy to rally round their fathers the Bishops, did not shrink from wishing for the Bishops the fortunes of the early days: "we could not wish them a more blessed termination of their course than the spoiling of their goods and martyrdom."[76] It may reasonably be supposed that such good wishes were not to the taste of all of them. As the movement developed, besides that it would seem to them extravagant and violent, they would be perplexed by its doctrine. It took strong ground for the Church; but it did so in the teeth of religious opinions and prejudices, which were popular and intolerant. For a moment the Bishops were in a difficulty; on the one hand, no one for generations had so exalted the office of a Bishop as the Tractarians; no one had claimed for it so high and sacred an origin; no one had urged with such practical earnestness the duty of Churchmen to recognise and maintain the unique authority of the Episcopate against its despisers or oppressors. On the other hand, this was just the time when the Evangelical party, after long disfavour, was beginning to gain recognition, for the sake of its past earnestness and good works, with men in power, and with ecclesiastical authorities of a different and hitherto hostile school; and in the Tractarian movement the Evangelical party saw from the first its natural enemy. The Bishops could not have anything to do with the Tractarians without deeply offending the Evangelicals. The result was that, for the present, the Bishops held aloof. They let the movement run on by itself. Sharp sarcasms, worldly-wise predictions, kind messages of approval, kind cautions, passed from mouth to mouth, or in private correspondence from high quarters, which showed that the movement was watched. But for some time the authorities spoke neither good nor bad of it publicly. In his Charge at the close of 1836, Bishop Phillpotts spoke in clear and unfaltering language—language remarkable for its bold decision—of the necessity of setting forth the true idea of the Church and the sacraments; but he was silent about the call of the same kind which had come from Oxford. It would have been well if the other Bishops later on, in their charges, had followed his example. The Bishop of Oxford, in his Charge of 1838, referred to the movement in balanced terms of praise and warning. The first who condemned the movement was the Bishop of Chester, J. Bird Sumner; in a later Charge he came to describe it as the work of Satan; in 1838 he only denounced the "undermining of the foundations of our Protestant Church by men who dwell within her walls," and the bad faith of those "who sit in the Reformers' seat, and traduce the Reformation."

These were grave mistakes on the part of those who were responsible for the government of the University and the Church. They treated as absurd, mischievous, and at length traitorous, an effort, than which nothing could be more sincere, to serve the Church, to place its claims on adequate grounds, to elevate the standard of duty in its clergy, and in all its members. To have missed the aim of the movement and to have been occupied and irritated by obnoxious details and vulgar suspicions was a blunder which gave the measure of those who made it, and led to great evils. They alienated those who wished for nothing better than to help them in their true work. Their "unkindness" was felt to be, in Bacon's phrase,[77] injuriae potentiorum. But on the side of the party of the movement there were mistakes also.

1. The rapidity with which the movement had grown, showing that some deep need had long been obscurely felt, which the movement promised to meet,[78] had been too great to be altogether wholesome. When we compare what was commonly received before 1833, in teaching, in habits of life, in the ordinary assumptions of history, in the ideas and modes of worship, public and private—the almost sacramental conception of preaching, the neglect of the common prayer of the Prayer Book, the slight regard to the sacraments—with what the teaching of the Tracts and their writers had impressed for good and all, five years later, on numbers of earnest people, the change seems astonishing. The change was a beneficial one and it was a permanent one. The minds which it affected, it affected profoundly. Still it was but a short time, for young minds especially, to have come to a decision on great and debated questions. There was the possibility, the danger, of men having been captivated and carried away by the excitement and interest of the time; of not having looked all round and thought out the difficulties before them; of having embraced opinions without sufficiently knowing their grounds or counting the cost or considering the consequences. There was the danger of precipitate judgment, of ill-balanced and disproportionate views of what was true and all-important. There was an inevitable feverishness in the way in which the movement was begun, in the way in which it went on. Those affected by it were themselves surprised at the swiftness of the pace. When a cause so great and so sacred seemed thus to be flourishing, and carrying along with it men's assent and sympathies, it was hardly wonderful that there should often be exaggeration, impatience at resistance, scant consideration for the slowness or the scruples or the alarms of others. Eager and sanguine men talked as if their work was accomplished, when in truth it was but beginning. No one gave more serious warnings against this and other dangers than the leaders; and their warnings were needed.[79]

2. Another mistake, akin to the last, was the frequent forgetfulness of the apostolic maxim, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient." In what almost amounted to a revolution in many of the religious ideas of the time, it was especially important to keep distinct the great central truths, the restoration of which to their proper place justified and made it necessary, and the many subordinate points allied with them and naturally following from them, which yet were not necessary to their establishment or acceptance. But it was on these subordinate points that the interest of a certain number of followers of the movement was fastened. Conclusions which they had a perfect right to come to, practices innocent and edifying to themselves, but of secondary account, began to be thrust forward into prominence, whether or not these instances of self-will really helped the common cause, whether or not they gave a handle to ill-nature and ill-will. Suspicion must always have attached to such a movement as this; but a great deal of it was provoked by indiscreet defiance, which was rather glad to provoke it.

3. Apart from these incidents—common wherever a number of men are animated with zeal for an inspiring cause—there were what to us now seem mistakes made in the conduct itself of the movement. Considering the difficulties of the work, it is wonderful that there were not more; and none of them were discreditable, none but what arose from the limitation of human powers matched against confused and baffling circumstances.

In the position claimed for the Church of England, confessedly unique and anomalous in the history of Christendom, between Roman authority and infallibility on one side, and Protestant freedom of private judgment on the other, the question would at once arise as to the grounds of belief. What, if any, are the foundations of conviction and certitude, apart from personal inquiry, and examination of opposing arguments on different sides of the case, and satisfactory logical conclusions? The old antithesis between Faith and Reason, and the various problems connected with it, could not but come to the front, and require to be dealt with. It is a question which faces us from a hundred sides, and, subtly and insensibly transforming itself, looks different from them all. It was among the earliest attempted to be solved by the chief intellectual leader of the movement, and it has occupied his mind to the last.[80] However near the human mind seems to come to a solution, it only, if so be, comes near; it never arrives. In the early days of the movement it found prevailing the specious but shallow view that everything in the search for truth was to be done by mere producible and explicit argumentation; and yet it was obvious that of this two-thirds of the world are absolutely incapable. Against this Mr. Newman and his followers pressed, what was as manifestly certain in fact as it accorded with any deep and comprehensive philosophy of the formation and growth of human belief, that not arguments only, but the whole condition of the mind to which they were addressed—and not the reasonings only which could be stated, but those which went on darkly in the mind, and which "there was not at the moment strength to bring forth," real and weighty reasons which acted like the obscure rays of the spectrum, with their proper force, yet eluding distinct observation—had their necessary and inevitable and legitimate place in determining belief. All this was perfectly true; but it is obvious how easily it might be taken hold of, on very opposite sides, as a ground for saying that Tractarian or Church views did not care about argument, or, indeed, rather preferred weak arguments to strong ones in the practical work of life. It was ludicrous to say it in a field of controversy, which, on the "Tractarian" side, was absolutely bristling with argument, keen, subtle, deep, living argument, and in which the victory in argument was certainly not always with those who ventured to measure swords with Mr. Newman or Dr. Pusey. Still, the scoff could be plausibly pointed at the "young enthusiasts who crowded the Via Media, and who never presumed to argue, except against the propriety of arguing at all." There was a good deal of foolish sneering at reason; there was a good deal of silly bravado about not caring whether the avowed grounds of opinions taken up were strong or feeble. It was not merely the assent of a learner to his teacher, of a mind without means of instruction to the belief which it has inherited, or of one new to the ways and conditions of life to the unproved assertions and opinions of one to whom experience had given an open and sure eye. It was a positive carelessness, almost accounted meritorious, to inquire and think, when their leaders called them to do so. "The Gospel of Christ is not a matter of mere argument." It is not, indeed, when it comes in its full reality, in half a hundred different ways, known and unsearchable, felt and unfelt, moral and intellectual, on the awakened and quickened soul. But the wildest fanatic can take the same words into his mouth. Their true meaning was variously and abundantly illustrated, especially in Mr. Newman's sermons. Still, the adequate, the emphatic warning against their early abuse was hardly pressed on the public opinion and sentiment of the party of the movement with the force which really was requisite. To the end there were men who took up their belief avowedly on insufficient and precarious grounds, glorying in the venturesomeness of their faith and courage, and justifying their temper of mind and their intellectual attitude by alleging misinterpreted language of their wiser and deeper teachers. A recoil from Whately's hard and barren dialectics, a sympathy with many tender and refined natures which the movement had touched, made the leaders patient with intellectual feebleness when it was joined with real goodness and Christian temper; but this also sometimes made them less impatient than they might well have been with that curious form of conceit and affectation which veils itself under an intended and supposed humility, a supposed distrust of self and its own powers.

Another difficult matter, not altogether successfully managed—at least from the original point of view of the movement, and of those who saw in it a great effort for the good of the English Church—was the treatment of the Roman controversy. The general line which the leaders proposed to take was the one which was worthy of Christian and truth-loving teachers. They took a new departure; and it was not less just than it was brave, when, recognising to the full the overwhelming reasons why "we should not be Romanists," they refused to take up the popular and easy method of regarding the Roman Church as apostate and antichristian; and declined to commit themselves to the vulgar and indiscriminate abuse of it which was the discreditable legacy of the old days of controversy. They did what all the world was loudly professing to do, they looked facts in the face; they found, as any one would find who looked for himself into the realities of the Roman Church, that though the bad was often as bad as could be, there was still, and there had been all along, goodness of the highest type, excellence both of system and of personal life which it was monstrous to deny, and which we might well admire and envy. To ignore all this was to fail in the first duty, not merely of Christians, but of honest men; and we at home were not so blameless that we could safely take this lofty tone of contemptuous superiority. If Rome would only leave us alone, there would be estrangement, lamentable enough among Christians, but there need be no bitterness. But Rome would not leave us alone. The moment that there were signs of awakening energy in England, that moment was chosen by its agents, for now it could be done safely, to assail and thwart the English Church. Doubtless they were within their rights, but this made controversy inevitable, and for controversy the leaders of the movement prepared themselves. It was an obstacle which they seemed hardly to have expected, but which the nature of things placed in their way. But the old style of controversy was impossible; impossible because it was so coarse, impossible because it was so hollow.

If the argument (says the writer of Tract 71, in words which are applicable to every controversy) is radically unreal, or (what may be called) rhetorical or sophistical, it may serve the purpose of encouraging those who are really convinced, though scarcely without doing mischief to them, but certainly it will offend and alienate the more acute and sensible; while those who are in doubt, and who desire some real and substantial ground for their faith, will not bear to be put off with such shadows. The arguments (he continues) which we use must be such as are likely to convince serious and earnest minds, which are really seeking for the truth, not amusing themselves with intellectual combats, or desiring to support an existing opinion anyhow. However popular these latter methods may be, of however long standing, however easy both to find and to use, they are a scandal; and while they lower our religious standard from the first, they are sure of hurting our cause in the end.

And on this principle the line of argument in The Prophetical Office of the Church was taken by Mr. Newman. It was certainly no make-believe, or unreal argument. It was a forcible and original way of putting part of the case against Rome. It was part of the case, a very important part; but it was not the whole case, and it ought to have been evident from the first that in this controversy we could not afford to do without the whole case. The argument from the claim of infallibility said nothing of what are equally real parts of the case—the practical working of the Roman Church, its system of government, the part which it and its rulers have played in the history of the world. Rome has not such a clean record of history, it has not such a clean account of what is done and permitted in its dominions under an authority supposed to be irresistible, that it can claim to be the one pure and perfect Church, entitled to judge and correct and govern all other Churches. And if the claim is made, there is no help for it, we must not shrink from the task of giving the answer.[81] And, as experience has shown, the more that rigid good faith is kept to in giving the answer, the more that strictness and severity of even understatement are observed, the more convincing will be the result that the Roman Church cannot be that which it is alleged to be in its necessary theory and ideal.

But this task was never adequately undertaken. It was one of no easy execution.[82] Other things, apparently more immediately pressing, intervened. There was no question for the present of perfect and unfeigned confidence in the English Church, with whatever regrets for its shortcomings, and desires for its improvement But to the outside world it seemed as if there were a reluctance to face seriously the whole of the Roman controversy; a disposition to be indulgent to Roman defects, and unfairly hard on English faults. How mischievously this told in the course of opinion outside and inside of the movement; how it was misinterpreted and misrepresented; how these misinterpretations and misrepresentations, with the bitterness and injustice which they engendered, helped to realise themselves, was seen but too clearly at a later stage.

4. Lastly, looking back on the publications, regarded as characteristic of the party, it is difficult not to feel that some of them gave an unfortunate and unnecessary turn to things.

The book which made most stir and caused the greatest outcry was Froude's Remains. It was undoubtedly a bold experiment; but it was not merely boldness. Except that it might be perverted into an excuse by the shallow and thoughtless for merely "strong talk," it may fairly be said that it was right and wise to let the world know the full measure and depth of conviction which gave birth to the movement; and Froude's Remains did that in an unsuspiciously genuine way that nothing else could have done. And, besides, it was worth while for its own sake to exhibit with fearless honesty such a character, so high, so true, so refined, so heroic. So again, Dr. Pusey's Tract on Baptism was a bold book, and one which brought heavy imputations and misconstructions on the party. In the teaching of his long life, Dr. Pusey has abundantly dispelled the charges of harshness and over-severity which were urged, not always very scrupulously, against the doctrine of the Tract on Post-baptismal Sin. But it was written to redress the balance against the fatally easy doctrines then in fashion; it was like the Portroyalist protest against the fashionable Jesuits; it was one-sided, and sometimes, in his earnestness, unguarded; and it wanted as yet the complement of encouragement, consolation, and tenderness which his future teaching was to supply so amply. But it was a blow struck, not before it was necessary, by a strong hand; and it may safely be said that it settled the place of the sacrament of baptism in the living system of the English Church, which the negations and vagueness of the Evangelical party had gravely endangered. But two other essays appeared in the Tracts, most innocent in themselves, which ten or twenty years later would have been judged simply on their merits, but which at the time became potent weapons against Tractarianism. They were the productions of two poets—of two of the most beautiful and religious minds of their time; but in that stage of the movement it is hardly too much to say that they were out of place. The cause of the movement needed clear explanations; definite statements of doctrines which were popularly misunderstood; plain, convincing reasoning on the issues which were raised by it; a careful laying out of the ground on which English theology was to be strengthened and enriched. Such were Mr. Newman's Lectures on Justification, a work which made its lasting mark on English theological thought; Mr. Keble's masterly exposition of the meaning of Tradition; and not least, the important collections which were documentary and historical evidence of the character of English theology, the so-called laborious Catenas. These were the real tasks of the hour, and they needed all that labour and industry could give. But the first of these inopportune Tracts was an elaborate essay, by Mr. Keble, on the "Mysticism of the Fathers in the use and interpretation of Scripture." It was hardly what the practical needs of the time required, and it took away men's thoughts from them; the prospect was hopeless that in that state of men's minds it should be understood, except by a very few; it merely helped to add another charge, the vague but mischievous charge of mysticism, to the list of accusations against the Tracts. The other, to the astonishment of every one, was like the explosion of a mine. That it should be criticised and objected to was natural; but the extraordinary irritation caused by it could hardly have been anticipated. Written in the most devout and reverent spirit by one of the gentlest and most refined of scholars, and full of deep Scriptural knowledge, it furnished for some years the material for the most savage attacks and the bitterest sneers to the opponents of the movement. It was called "On Reserve in communicating Religious Knowledge"; and it was a protest against the coarseness and shallowness which threw the most sacred words about at random in loud and declamatory appeals, and which especially dragged in the awful mystery of the Atonement, under the crudest and most vulgar conception of it, as a ready topic of excitement in otherwise commonplace and helpless preaching. The word "Reserve" was enough. It meant that the Tract-writers avowed the principle of keeping back part of the counsel of God. It meant, further, that the real spirit of the party was disclosed; its love of secret and crooked methods, its indifference to knowledge, its disingenuous professions, its deliberate concealments, its holding doctrines and its pursuit of aims which it dared not avow, its disciplina arcani, its conspiracies, its Jesuitical spirit. All this kind of abuse was flung plentifully on the party as the controversy became warm; and it mainly justified itself by the Tract on "Reserve." The Tract was in many ways a beautiful and suggestive essay, full of deep and original thoughts, though composed in that spirit of the recluse which was characteristic of the writer, and which is in strong contrast with the energetic temper of to-day.[83] But it could well have been spared at the moment, and it certainly offered itself to an unfortunate use. The suspiciousness which so innocently it helped to awaken and confirm was never again allayed.


[74] Fifty years ago there was much greater contrast than now between old and young. There was more outward respect for the authorities, and among the younger men, graduates and undergraduates, more inward amusement at foibles and eccentricities. There still lingered the survivals of a more old-fashioned type of University life and character, which, quite apart from the movements of religious opinion, provoked those [Greek: neanieumata idioton eis tous archontas],[75] impertinences of irresponsible juniors towards superiors, which Wordsworth, speaking of a yet earlier time, remembered at Cambridge—

"In serious mood, but oftener, I confess, With playful zest of fancy, did we note (How could we less?) the manners and the ways Of those who lived distinguished by the badge Of good or ill report; or those with whom By frame of Academic discipline We were perforce connected, men whose sway And known authority of office served To set our minds on edge, and did no more. Nor wanted we rich pastime of this kind, Found everywhere, but chiefly in the ring Of the grave Elders, men unsecured, grotesque In character, tricked out like aged trees Which through the lapse of their infirmity Give ready place to any random seed That chooses to be reared upon their trunks."

Prelude, bk. iii.

[75] Plat. R.P. iii. 390.

[76] Tracts for the Times, No. 1, 9th September 1833.

[77] An Advertisement touching the Controversies of the Church of England: printed in the Resuscitatio, p. 138 (ed. 1671).

[78] See Mr. Newman's article, "The State of Religious Parties," in the British Critic, April 1839, reprinted in his Essays Historical and Critical, 1871, Vol. 1., essay vi.

[79] "It would not be at all surprising, though, in spite of the earnestness of the principal advocates of the views in question, for which every one seems to give them credit, there should be among their followers much that is enthusiastic, extravagant, or excessive. All these aberrations will be and are imputed to the doctrines from which they proceed; nor unnaturally, but hardly fairly, for aberrations there must be, whatever the doctrine is, while the human heart is sensitive, capricious, and wayward.... There will ever be a number of persons professing the opinions of a movement party, who talk loudly and strangely, do odd and fierce things, display themselves unnecessarily, and disgust other people; there will ever be those who are too young to be wise, too generous to be cautious, too warm to be sober, or too intellectual to be humble; of whom human sagacity cannot determine, only the event, and perhaps not even that, whether they feel what they say, or how far; whether they are to be encouraged or discountenanced."—British Critic, April 1839, "State of Religious Parties," p. 405.

[80] Cardinal Newman, Grammar of Assent.

[81] The argument from history is sketched fairly, but only sketched in The Prophetic Office, Lect. xiv.

[82] In the Roman controversy it is sometimes hard to be just without appearing to mean more than is said; for the obligation of justice sometimes forces one who wishes to be a fair judge to be apparently an apologist or advocate. Yet the supreme duty in religious controversy is justice. But for the very reason that these controversialists wished to be just to Rome, they were bound to be just against her. They meant to be so; but events passed quickly, and leisure never came for a work which involved a serious appeal to history.

[83] Vide a striking review in the British Critic, April 1839, partly correcting and guarding the view given in the Tract.


NO. 90

The formation of a strong Romanising section in the Tractarian party was obviously damaging to the party and dangerous to the Church. It was pro tanto a verification of the fundamental charge against the party, a charge which on paper they had met successfully, but which acquired double force when this paper defence was traversed by facts. And a great blow was impending over the Church, if the zeal and ability which the movement had called forth and animated were to be sucked away from the Church, and not only lost to it, but educated into a special instrument against it. But the divergence became clear only gradually, and the hope that after all it was only temporary and would ultimately disappear was long kept up by the tenacity with which Mr. Newman, in spite of misgivings and disturbing thoughts, still recognised the gifts and claims of the English Church. And on the other hand, the bulk of the party, and its other Oxford leaders, Dr. Pusey, Mr. Keble, Mr. Isaac Williams, Mr. Marriott, were quite unaffected by the disquieting apprehensions which were beginning to beset Mr. Newman. With a humbling consciousness of the practical shortcomings of the English Church, with a ready disposition to be honest and just towards Rome, and even to minimise our differences with it, they had not admitted for a moment any doubt of the reality of the English Church. The class of arguments which specially laid hold of Mr. Newman's mind did not tell upon them—the peculiar aspect of early precedents, about which, moreover, a good deal of criticism was possible; or the large and sweeping conception of a vast, ever-growing, imperial Church, great enough to make flaws and imperfections of no account, which appealed so strongly to his statesmanlike imagination. Their content with the Church in which they had been brought up, in which they had been taught religion, and in which they had taken service, their deep and affectionate loyalty and piety to it, in spite of all its faults, remained unimpaired; and unimpaired, also, was their sense of vast masses of practical evil in the Roman Church, evils from which they shrank both as Englishmen and as Christians, and which seemed as incurable as they were undeniable. Beyond the hope which they vaguely cherished that some day or other, by some great act of Divine mercy, these evils might disappear, and the whole Church become once more united, there was nothing to draw them towards Rome; submission was out of the question, and they could only see in its attitude in England the hostility of a jealous and unscrupulous disturber of their Master's work. The movement still went on, with its original purpose, and on its original lines, in spite of the presence in it, and even the co-operation, of men who might one day have other views, and serious and fatal differences with their old friends.

The change of religion when it comes on a man gradually,—when it is not welcomed from the first, but, on the contrary, long resisted, must always be a mysterious and perplexing process, hard to realise and follow by the person most deeply interested, veiled and clouded to lookers-on, because naturally belonging to the deepest depths of the human conscience, and inevitably, and without much fault on either side, liable to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. And this process is all the more tangled when it goes on, not in an individual mind, travelling in its own way on its own path, little affected by others, and little affecting them, but in a representative person, with the responsibilities of a great cause upon him, bound by closest ties of every kind to friends, colleagues, and disciples, thinking, feeling, leading, pointing out the way for hundreds who love and depend on him. Views and feelings vary from day to day, according to the events and conditions of the day. How shall he speak, and how shall he be silent? How shall he let doubts and difficulties appear, yet how shall he suppress them?—doubts which may grow and become hopeless, but which, on the other hand, may be solved and disappear. How shall he go on as if nothing had happened, when all the foundations of the world seem to have sunk from under him? Yet how shall he disclose the dreadful secret, when he is not yet quite sure whether his mind will not still rally from its terror and despair? He must in honesty, in kindness, give some warning, yet how much? and how to prevent it being taken for more than it means? There are counter-considerations, to which he cannot shut his eyes. There are friends who will not believe his warnings. There are watchful enemies who are on the look-out for proofs of disingenuousness and bad faith. He could cut through his difficulties at once by making the plunge in obedience to this or that plausible sign or train of reasoning, but his conscience and good faith will not let him take things so easily; and yet he knows that if he hangs on, he will be accused by and by, perhaps speciously, of having been dishonest and deceiving. So subtle, so shifting, so impalpable are the steps by which a faith is disintegrated; so evanescent, and impossible to follow, the shades by which one set of convictions pass into others wholly opposite; for it is not knowledge and intellect alone which come into play, but all the moral tastes and habits of the character, its likings and dislikings, its weakness and its strength, its triumphs and its vexations, its keenness and its insensibilities, which are in full action, while the intellect alone seems to be busy with its problems. A picture has been given us, belonging to this time, of the process, by a great master of human nature, and a great sufferer under the process; it is, perhaps, the greatest attempt ever made to describe it; but it is not wholly successful. It tells us much, for it is written with touching good faith, but the complete effect as an intelligible whole is wanting.

"In the spring of 1839," we read in the Apologia, "my position in the Anglican Church was at its height. I had a supreme confidence in my controversial status, and I had a great and still growing success in recommending it to others."[84] This, then, may be taken as the point from which, in the writer's own estimate, the change is to be traced. He refers for illustration of his state of mind to the remarkable article on the "State of Religious Parties," in the April number of the British Critic for 1839, which he has since republished under the title of "Prospects of the Anglican Church."[85] "I have looked over it now," he writes in 1864, "for the first time since it was published; and have been struck by it for this reason: it contains the last words which I ever spoke as an Anglican to Anglicans.... It may now be read as my parting address and valediction, made to my friends. I little knew it at the time." He thus describes the position which he took in the article referred to:—

Conscious as I was that my opinions in religious matters were not gained, as the world said, from Roman sources, but were, on the contrary, the birth of my own mind and of the circumstances in which I had been placed, I had a scorn of the imputations which were heaped upon me. It was true that I held a large, bold system of religion, very unlike the Protestantism of the day, but it was the concentration and adjustment of the statements of great Anglican authorities, and I had as much right to do so as the Evangelical party had, and more right than the Liberal, to hold their own respective doctrines. As I spoke on occasion of Tract 90, I claimed, on behalf of the writer, that he might hold in the Anglican Church a comprecation of the Saints with Bramhall; and the Mass, all but Transubstantiation, with Andrewes; or with Hooker that Transubstantiation itself is not a point for Churches to part communion upon; or with Hammond that a General Council, truly such, never did, never shall err in a matter of faith; or with Bull that man lost inward grace by the Fall; or with Thorndike that penance is a propitiation for post-baptismal sin; or with Pearson that the all-powerful name of Jesus is no otherwise given than in the Catholic Church. "Two can play at that game" was often in my mouth, when men of Protestant sentiments appealed to the Articles, Homilies, and Reformers, in the sense that if they had a right to speak loud I had both the liberty and the means of giving them tit for tat. I thought that the Anglican Church had been tyrannised over by a Party, and I aimed at bringing into effect the promise contained in the motto to the Lyra: "They shall know the difference now." I only asked to be allowed to show them the difference.

I have said already (he goes on) that though the object of the movement was to withstand the Liberalism of the day, I found and felt that this could not be done by negatives. It was necessary for me to have a positive Church theory erected on a definite basis. This took me to the great Anglican divines; and then, of course, I found at once that it was impossible to form any such theory without cutting across the teaching of the Church of Rome. Thus came in the Roman controversy. When I first turned myself to it I had neither doubt on the subject, nor suspicion that doubt would ever come on me. It was in this state of mind that I began to read up Bellarmine on the one hand, and numberless Anglican writers on the other.[86]

And he quotes from the article the language which he used, to show the necessity of providing some clear and strong basis for religious thought in view of the impending conflict of principles, religious and anti-religious, "Catholic and Rationalist," which to far-seeing men, even at that comparatively early time, seemed inevitable:—

Then indeed will be the stern encounter, when two real and living principles, simple, entire, and consistent, one in the Church, the other out of it, at length rush upon each other, contending not for names and words, a half view, but for elementary notions and distinctive moral characters. Men will not keep standing in that very attitude which you call sound Church-of-Englandism or orthodox Protestantism. They will take one view or another, but it will be a consistent one ... it will be real.... Is it sensible, sober, judicious, to be so very angry with the writers of the day who point to the fact, that our divines of the seventeenth century have occupied a ground which is the true and intelligible mean between extremes?... Would you rather have your sons and your daughters members of the Church of England or of the Church of Rome?[87]

"The last words that I spoke as an Anglican to Anglicans,"—so he describes this statement of his position and its reasons; so it seems to him, as he looks back. And yet in the intimate and frank disclosures which he makes, he has shown us much that indicates both that his Anglicanism lasted much longer and that his Roman sympathies began to stir much earlier. This only shows the enormous difficulties of measuring accurately the steps of a transition state. The mind, in such a strain of buffeting, is never in one stay. The old seems impregnable, yet it has been undermined; the new is indignantly and honestly repelled, and yet leaves behind it its never-to-be-forgotten and unaccountable spell. The story, as he tells it, goes on, how, in the full swing and confidence of his Anglicanism, and in the course of his secure and fearless study of antiquity, appearance after appearance presented itself, unexpected, threatening, obstinate, in the history of the Early Church, by which this confidence was first shaken and then utterly broken down in the summer of 1839. And he speaks as though all had been over after two years from that summer: "From the end of 1841 I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership with the Anglican Church, though at the time I became aware of it only by degrees." In truth, it was only the end which showed that it was a "death-bed." He had not yet died to allegiance or "to hope, then or for some time afterwards." He speaks in later years of the result, and reads what was then in the light of what followed. But after all that had happened, and much, of course, disturbing happened in 1841, he was a long way off from what then could have been spoken of as "a death-bed." Deep and painful misgivings may assail the sincerest faith; they are not fatal signs till faith has finally given way.

What is true is, that the whole state of religion, and the whole aspect of Christianity in the world, had come to seem to him portentously strange and anomalous. No theory would take in and suit all the facts, which the certainties of history and experience presented. Neither in England, nor in Rome, and much less anywhere else, did the old, to which all appealed, agree with the new; it might agree variously in this point or in that, in others there were contrarieties which it was vain to reconcile. Facts were against the English claim to be a Catholic Church—how could Catholicity be shut up in one island? How could England assert its continuity of doctrine? Facts were against the Roman claim to be an infallible, and a perfect, and the whole Church—how could that be perfect which was marked in the face of day with enormous and undeniable corruptions? How could that be infallible which was irreconcilable with ancient teaching? How could that be the whole Church, which, to say nothing of the break-up in the West, ignored, as if it had no existence, the ancient and uninterrupted Eastern Church? Theory after theory came up, and was tried, and was found wanting. Each had much to say for itself, its strong points, its superiority over its rivals in dealing with the difficulties of the case, its plausibilities and its imaginative attractions. But all had their tender spot, and flinched when they were touched in earnest. In the confusions and sins and divisions of the last fifteen centuries, profound disorganisation had fastened on the Western Church. Christendom was not, could not be pretended to be, what it had been in the fourth century; and whichever way men looked the reasons were not hard to see. The first and characteristic feeling of the movement, one which Mr. Newman had done so much to deepen, was that of shame and humiliation at the disorder at home, as well as in every part of the Church. It was not in Rome only, or in England only; it was everywhere. What had been peculiar to Anglicanism among all its rivals, was that it had emphatically and without reserve confessed it.

With this view of the dislocation and the sins of the Church, he could at once with perfect consistency recognise the shortcomings of the English branch of the Church, and yet believe and maintain that it was a true and living branch. The English fragment was not what it should be, was indeed much that it should not be; the same could be said of the Roman, though in different respects. This, as he himself reminds us, was no new thing to his mind when the unsettlement of 1839 began. "At the end of 1835, or the beginning of 1836, I had the whole state of the question before me, on which, to my mind, the decision between the Churches depended." It did not, he says, depend on the claims of the Pope, as centre of unity; "it turned on the Faith of the Church"; "there was a contrariety of claims between the Roman and Anglican religions"; and up to 1839, with the full weight of Roman arguments recognised, with the full consciousness of Anglican disadvantages, he yet spoke clearly for Anglicanism. Even when misgivings became serious, the balance still inclined without question the old way. He hardly spoke stronger in 1834 than he did in 1841, after No. 90.

And now (he writes in his Letter to the Bishop of Oxford[88]) having said, I trust, as much as your Lordship requires on the subject of Romanism, I will add a few words, to complete my explanation, in acknowledgment of the inestimable privilege I feel in being a member of that Church over which your Lordship, with others, presides. Indeed, did I not feel it to be a privilege which I am able to seek nowhere else on earth, why should I be at this moment writing to your Lordship? What motive have I for an unreserved and joyful submission to your authority, but the feeling that the Church in which your Lordship rules is a divinely-ordained channel of supernatural grace to the souls of her members? Why should I not prefer my own opinion, and my own way of acting, to that of the Bishop's, except that I know full well that in matters indifferent I should be acting lightly towards the Spouse of Christ and the awful Presence which dwells in her, if I hesitated a moment to put your Lordship's will before my own? I know full well that your Lordship's kindness to me personally would be in itself quite enough to win any but the most insensible heart, and, did a clear matter of conscience occur in which I felt bound to act for myself, my feelings towards your Lordship would be a most severe trial to me, independently of the higher considerations to which I have alluded; but I trust I have shown my dutifulness to you prior to the influence of personal motives; and this I have done because I think that to belong to the Catholic Church is the first of all privileges here below, as involving in it heavenly privileges, and because I consider the Church over which your Lordship presides to be the Catholic Church in this country. Surely then I have no need to profess in words, I will not say my attachment, but my deep reverence towards the Mother of Saints, when I am showing it in action; yet that words may not be altogether wanting, I beg to lay before your Lordship the following extract from a defence of the English Church, which I wrote against a Roman controversialist in the course of the last year.

"The Church is emphatically a living body, and there can be no greater proof of a particular communion being part of the Church than the appearance in it of a continued and abiding energy, nor a more melancholy proof of its being a corpse than torpidity. We say an energy continued and abiding, for accident will cause the activity of a moment, and an external principle give the semblance of self-motion. On the other hand, even a living body may for a while be asleep.

* * * * *

"It concerns, then, those who deny that we are the true Church because we have not at present this special note, intercommunion with other Christians, to show cause why the Roman Church in the tenth century should be so accounted, with profligates, or rather the profligate mothers of profligate sons for her supreme rulers. And still notwithstanding life is a note of the Church; she alone revives, even if she declines; heretical and schismatical bodies cannot keep life; they gradually became cold, stiff, and insensible.

* * * * *

"Now if there ever were a Church on whom the experiment has been tried, whether it had life in it or not, the English is that one. For three centuries it has endured all vicissitudes of fortune. It has endured in trouble and prosperity, under seduction, and under oppression. It has been practised upon by theorists, browbeaten by sophists, intimidated by princes, betrayed by false sons, laid waste by tyranny, corrupted by wealth, torn by schism, and persecuted by fanaticism. Revolutions have come upon it sharply and suddenly, to and fro, hot and cold, as if to try what it was made of.

"It has been a sort of battlefield on which opposite principles have been tried. No opinion, however extreme any way, but may be found, as the Romanists are not slow to reproach us, among its Bishops and Divines. Yet what has been its career upon the whole? Which way has it been moving through 300 years? Where does it find itself at the end? Lutherans have tended to Rationalism; Calvinists have become Socinians; but what has it become? As far as its Formularies are concerned, it may be said all along to have grown towards a more perfect Catholicism than that with which it started at the time of its estrangement; every act, every crisis which marks its course, has been upward.

* * * * *

"What a note of the Church is the mere production of a man like Butler, a pregnant fact much to be meditated on! and how strange it is, if it be as it seems to be, that the real influence of his work is only just now beginning! and who can prophesy in what it will end? Thus our Divines grow with centuries, expanding after their death in the minds of their readers into more and more exact Catholicism as years roll on.

* * * * *

"Look across the Atlantic to the daughter Churches of England in the States: 'Shall one that is barren bear a child in her old age?' yet 'the barren hath borne seven.' Schismatic branches put out their leaves at once, in an expiring effort; our Church has waited three centuries, and then blossoms like Aaron's rod, budding and blooming and yielding fruit, while the rest are dry. And lastly, look at the present position of the Church at home; there, too, we shall find a note of the true City of God, the Holy Jerusalem. She is in warfare with the world, as the Church Militant should be; she is rebuking the world, she is hated, she is pillaged by the world.

* * * * *

"Much might be said on this subject. At all times, since Christianity came into the world, an open contest has been going on between religion and irreligion; and the true Church, of course, has ever been on the religious side. This, then, is a sure test in every age where the Christian should stand.... Now, applying this simple criterion to the public Parties of this DAY, it is very plain that the English Church is at present on God's side, and therefore, so far, God's Church; we are sorry to be obliged to add that there is as little doubt on which side English Romanism is.

* * * * *

"As for the English Church, surely she has notes enough, 'the signs of an Apostle in all patience, and signs and wonders and mighty deeds.' She has the note of possession, the note of freedom from party-titles; the note of life, a tough life and a vigorous; she has ancient descent, unbroken continuance, agreement in doctrine with the ancient Church. Those of Bellarmine's Notes, which she certainly has not, are intercommunion with Christendom, the glory of miracles, and the prophetical light, but the question is, whether she has not enough of Divinity about her to satisfy her sister Churches on their own principles, that she is one body with them."

This may be sufficient to show my feelings towards my Church, as far as Statements on paper can show them.

How earnestly, how sincerely he clung to the English Church, even after he describes himself on his "death-bed," no one can doubt. The charm of the Apologia is the perfect candour with which he records fluctuations which to many are inconceivable and unintelligible, the different and sometimes opposite and irreconcilable states of mind through which he passed, with no attempt to make one fit into another. It is clear, from what he tells us, that his words in 1839 were not his last words as an Anglican to Anglicans. With whatever troubles of mind, he strove to be a loyal and faithful Anglican long after that. He spoke as an Anglican. He fought for Anglicanism. The theory, as he says, may have gone by the board, in the intellectual storms raised by the histories of the Monophysites and Donatists. "By these great words of the ancient father—Securus judicat orbis terrarum"—the theory of the Via Media was "absolutely pulverised." He was "sore," as he says in 1840, "about the great Anglican divines, as if they had taken me in, and made me say strong things against Rome, which facts did not justify."[89] Yes, he felt, as other men do not feel, the weak points of even a strong argument, the exaggerations and unfairness of controversialists on his own side, the consciousness that you cannot have things in fact, or in theory, or in reasoning, smoothly and exactly as it would be convenient, and as you would like to have them. But his conclusion, on the whole, was unshaken. There was enough, and amply enough, in the English Church to bind him to its allegiance, to satisfy him of its truth and its life, enough in the Roman to warn him away. In the confusions of Christendom, in the strong and obstinate differences of schools and parties in the English Church, he, living in days of inquiry and criticism, claimed to take and recommend a theological position on many controverted questions, which many might think a new one, and which might not be exactly that occupied by any existing school or party.[90] "We are all," he writes to an intimate friend on 22d April 1842, a year after No. 90, "much quieter and more resigned than we were, and are remarkably desirous of building up a position, and proving that the English theory is tenable, or rather the English state of things. If the Bishops would leave us alone, the fever would subside."

He wanted, when all other parties were claiming room for their speculations, to claim room for his own preference for ancient doctrine. He wished to make out that no branch of the Church had authoritatively committed itself to language which was hopelessly and fatally irreconcilable with Christian truth. But he claimed nothing but what he could maintain to be fairly within the authorised formularies of the English Church. He courted inquiry, he courted argument. If his claim seemed a new one, if his avowed leaning to ancient and Catholic views seemed to make him more tolerant than had been customary, not to Roman abuses, but to Roman authoritative language, it was part of the more accurate and the more temperate and charitable thought of our day compared with past times. It was part of the same change which has brought Church opinions from the unmitigated Calvinism of the Lambeth Articles to what the authorities of those days would have denounced, without a doubt, as Arminianism. Hooker was gravely and seriously accused to the Council for saying that a Papist could be saved, and had some difficulty to clear himself; it was as natural then as it is amazing now.[91]

But with this sincere loyalty to the English Church, as he believed it to be, there was, no doubt, in the background the haunting and disquieting misgiving that the attempt to connect more closely the modern Church with the ancient, and this widened theology in a direction which had been hitherto specially and jealously barred, was putting the English Church on its trial. Would it bear it? Would it respond to the call to rise to a higher and wider type of doctrine, to a higher standard of life? Would it justify what Mr. Newman had placed in the forefront among the notes of the true Church, the note of Sanctity? Would the Via Media make up for its incompleteness as a theory by developing into reality and fruitfulness of actual results? Would the Church bear to be told of its defaults? Would it allow to the maintainers of Catholic and Anglican principles the liberty which others claimed, and which by large and powerful bodies of opinion was denied to Anglicans? Or would it turn out on trial, that the Via Media was an idea without substance, a dialectical fiction, a mere theological expedient for getting out of difficulties, unrecognised, and when put forward, disowned? Would it turn out that the line of thought and teaching which connected the modern with the ancient Church was but the private and accidental opinion of Hooker and Andrewes and Bull and Wilson, unauthorised in the English Church, uncongenial to its spirit, if not contradictory to its formularies? It is only just to Mr. Newman to say, that even after some of his friends were frightened, he long continued to hope for the best; but undoubtedly, more and more, his belief in the reality of the English Church was undergoing a very severe, and as time went on, discouraging testing.

In this state of things he published the Tract No. 90. It was occasioned by the common allegation, on the side of some of the advanced section of the Tractarians, as well as on the side of their opponents, that the Thirty-nine Articles were hopelessly irreconcilable with that Catholic teaching which Mr. Newman had defended on the authority of our great divines, but which both the parties above mentioned were ready to identify with the teaching of the Roman Church. The Tract was intended, by a rigorous examination of the language of the Articles, to traverse this allegation. It sought to show that all that was clearly and undoubtedly Catholic, this language left untouched:[92] that it was doubtful whether even the formal definitions of the Council of Trent were directly and intentionally contradicted; and that what were really aimed at were the abuses and perversions of a great popular and authorised system, tyrannical by the force of custom and the obstinate refusal of any real reformation.

It is often urged (says the writer), and sometimes felt and granted, that there are in the Articles propositions or terms inconsistent with the Catholic faith; or, at least, if persons do not go so far as to feel the objection as of force, they are perplexed how best to answer it, or how most simply to explain the passages on which it is made to rest. The following Tract is drawn up with the view of showing how groundless the objection is, and further, of approximating towards the argumentative answer to it, of which most men have an implicit apprehension, though they may have nothing more. That there are real difficulties to a Catholic Christian in the ecclesiastical position of our Church at this day, no one can deny; but the statements of the Articles are not in the number, and it may be right at the present moment to insist upon this.

When met by the objection that the ideas of the framers of the Articles were well known, and that it was notorious that they had meant to put an insuperable barrier between the English Church and everything that savoured of Rome, the writer replied that the actual English Church received the Articles not from them but from a much later authority, that we are bound by their words not by their private sentiments either as theologians or ecclesiastical politicians, and that in fact they had intended the Articles to comprehend a great body of their countrymen, who would have been driven away by any extreme and anti-Catholic declarations even against Rome. The temper of compromise is characteristic of the English as contrasted with the foreign Reformation. It is visible, not only in the Articles, but in the polity of the English Church, which clung so obstinately to the continuity and forms of the ancient hierarchical system, it is visible in the sacramental offices of the Prayer Book, which left so much out to satisfy the Protestants, and left so much in to satisfy the Catholics.

The Tract went in detail through the Articles which were commonly looked upon as either anti-Catholic or anti-Roman. It went through them with a dry logical way of interpretation, such as a professed theologian might use, who was accustomed to all the niceties of language and the distinctions of the science. It was the way in which they would be likely to be examined and construed by a purely legal court. The effect of it, doubtless, was like that produced on ordinary minds by the refinements of a subtle advocate, or by the judicial interpretation of an Act of Parliament which the judges do not like; and some of the interpretations undoubtedly seemed far-fetched and artificial. Yet some of those which were pointed to at the time as flagrant instances of extravagant misinterpretation have now come to look different. Nothing could exceed the scorn poured on the interpretation of the Twenty-second Article, that it condemns the "Roman" doctrine of Purgatory, but not all doctrine of purgatory as a place of gradual purification beyond death. But in our days a school very far removed from Mr. Newman's would require and would claim to make the same distinction. And so with the interpretation of the "Sacrifices of Masses" in the same article. It was the fashion in 1841 to see in this the condemnation of all doctrine of a sacrifice in the Eucharist; and when Mr. Newman confined the phrase to the gross abuses connected with the Mass, this was treated as an affront to common sense and honesty. Since then we have become better acquainted with the language of the ancient liturgies—, and no instructed theologian could now venture to treat Mr. Newman's distinction as idle. There was in fact nothing new in his distinctions on these two points. They had already been made in two of the preceding Tracts, the reprint of Archbishop Ussher on Prayers for the Dead, and the Catena on the Eucharistie Sacrifice; and in both cases the distinctions were supported by a great mass of Anglican authority.[93]

But the Tract had sufficient novelty about it to account for most of the excitement which it caused. Its dryness and negative curtness were provoking. It was not a positive argument, it was not an appeal to authorities; it was a paring down of language, alleged in certain portions of the Articles to be somewhat loose, to its barest meaning; and to those to whom that language had always seemed to speak with fulness and decision, it seemed like sapping and undermining a cherished bulwark. Then it seemed to ask for more liberty than the writer in his position at that time needed; and the object of such an indefinite claim, in order to remove, if possible, misunderstandings between two long-alienated branches of the Western Church, was one to excite in many minds profound horror and dismay. That it maintained without flinching and as strongly as ever the position and the claim of the English Church was nothing to the purpose; the admission, both that Rome, though wrong, might not be as wrong as we thought her, and that the language of the Articles, though unquestionably condemnatory of much, was not condemnatory of as much as people thought, and might possibly be even harmonised with Roman authoritative language, was looked upon as incompatible with loyalty to the English Church.

The question which the Tract had opened, what the Articles meant and to what men were bound by accepting them, was a most legitimate one for discussion; and it was most natural also that any one should hesitate to answer it as the Tract answered it. But it was distinctly a question for discussion. It was not so easy for any of the parties in the Church to give a clear and consistent answer, as that the matter ought at once to have been carried out of the region of discussion. The Articles were the Articles of a Church which had seen as great differences as those between the Church of Edward VI and the Church of the Restoration. Take them broadly as the condemnation—strong but loose in expression, as, for instance, in the language on the "five, commonly called Sacraments"—of a powerful and well-known antagonist system, and there was no difficulty about them. But take them as scientific and accurate and precise enunciations of a systematic theology, and difficulties begin at once, with every one who does not hold the special and well-marked doctrines of the age when the German and Swiss authorities ruled supreme. The course of events from that day to this has shown more than once, in surprising and even startling examples, how much those who at the time least thought that they needed such strict construing of the language of the Articles, and were fierce in denouncing the "kind of interpretation" said to be claimed in No. 90, have since found that they require a good deal more elasticity of reading than even it asked for. The "whirligig of time" was thought to have brought "its revenges," when Mr. Newman, who had called for the exercise of authority against Dr. Hampden, found himself, five years afterwards, under the ban of the same authority. The difference between Mr. Newman's case and Dr. Hampden's, both as to the alleged offence and the position of the men, was considerable. But the "whirligig of time" brought about even stranger "revenges," when not only Mr. Gorham and Mr. H.B. Wilson in their own defence, but the tribunals which had to decide on their cases, carried the strictness of reading and the latitude of interpretation, quite as far, to say the least, as anything in No. 90.

Unhappily Tract 90 was met at Oxford, not with argument, but with panic and wrath.[94] There is always a sting in every charge, to which other parts of it seem subordinate. No. 90 was charged of course with false doctrine, with false history, and with false reasoning; but the emphatic part of the charge, the short and easy method which dispensed from the necessity of theological examination and argument, was that it was dishonest and immoral. Professors of Divinity, and accomplished scholars, such as there were in Oxford, might very well have considered it an occasion to dispute both the general principle of the Tract, if it was so dangerous, and the illustrations, in the abundance of which the writer had so frankly thrown open his position to searching criticism. It was a crisis in which much might have been usefully said, if there had been any one to say it; much too, to make any one feel, if he was competent to feel, that he had a good deal to think about in his own position, and that it would be well to ascertain what was tenable and what untenable in it. But it seemed as if the opportunity must not be lost for striking a blow. The Tract was published on 27th February. On the 8th of March four Senior Tutors, one of whom was Mr. H.B. Wilson, of St. John's, and another Mr. Tait, of Balliol, addressed the Editor of the Tract, charging No. 90 with suggesting and opening a way, by which men might, at least in the case of Roman views, violate their solemn engagements to their University. On the 15th of March, the Board of Heads of Houses, refusing to wait for Mr. Newman's defence, which was known to be coming, and which bears date 13th March, published their judgment They declared that in No. 90 "modes of interpretation were suggested, and have since been advocated in other publications purporting to be written by members of the University, by which subscription to the Articles might be reconciled with the adoption of Roman Catholic error." And they announced their resolution, "That modes of interpretation, such as are suggested in the said Tract, evading rather than explaining the sense of the Thirty-nine Articles, and reconciling subscription to them with the adoption of errors which they are designed to counteract, defeat the object, and are inconsistent with the due observance of the above-mentioned statutes."[95]

It was an ungenerous and stupid blunder, such as men make, when they think or are told that "something must be done," and do not know what. It gave the writer an opportunity, of which he took full advantage, of showing his superiority in temper, in courtesy, and in reason, to those who had not so much condemned as insulted him. He was immediately ready with his personal expression of apology and regret, and also with his reassertion in more developed argument of the principle of the Tract; and this was followed up by further explanations in a letter to the Bishop. And in spite of the invidious position in which the Board had tried to place him, not merely as an unsound divine, but as a dishonest man teaching others to palter with their engagements, the crisis drew forth strong support and sympathy where they were not perhaps to be expected. It rallied to him, at least for the time, some of the friends who had begun to hold aloof. Mr. Palmer, of Worcester, Mr. Perceval, Dr. Hook, with reserves according to each man's point of view, yet came forward in his defence. The Board was made to feel that they had been driven by violent and partisan instigations to commit themselves to a very foolish as well as a very passionate and impotent step; that they had by very questionable authority simply thrown an ill-sounding and ill-mannered word at an argument on a very difficult question, to which they themselves certainly were not prepared with a clear and satisfactory answer; that they had made the double mistake of declaring war against a formidable antagonist, and of beginning it by creating the impression that they had treated him shabbily, and were really afraid to come to close quarters with him. As the excitement of hasty counsels subsided, the sense of this began to awake in some of them; they tried to represent the off-hand and ambiguous words of the condemnation as not meaning all that they had been taken to mean. But the seed of bitterness had been sown. Very little light was thrown, in the strife of pamphlets which ensued, on the main subject dealt with in No. 90, the authority and interpretation of such formularies as our Articles. The easier and more tempting and very fertile topic of debate was the honesty and good faith of the various disputants. Of the four Tutors, only one, Mr. H.B. Wilson, published an explanation of their part in the matter; it was a clumsy, ill-written and laboured pamphlet, which hardly gave promise of the intellectual vigour subsequently displayed by Mr. Wilson, when he appeared, not as the defender, but the assailant of received opinions. The more distinguished of the combatants were Mr. Ward and Mr. R. Lowe. Mr. Ward, with his usual dialectical skill, not only defended the Tract, but pushed its argument yet further, in claiming tolerance for doctrines alleged to be Roman. Mr. Lowe, not troubling himself either with theological history or the relation of other parties in the Church to the formularies, threw his strength into the popular and plausible topic of dishonesty, and into a bitter and unqualified invective against the bad faith and immorality manifested in the teaching of which No. 90 was the outcome. Dr. Faussett, as was to be expected, threw himself into the fray with his accustomed zest and violence, and caused some amusement at Oxford, first by exposing himself to the merciless wit of a reviewer in the British Critic, and then by the fright into which he was thrown by a rumour that his reelection to his professorship would be endangered by Tractarian votes.[96] But the storm, at Oxford at least, seemed to die out. The difficulty which at one moment threatened of a strike among some of the college Tutors passed; and things went back to their ordinary course. But an epoch and a new point of departure had come into the movement. Things after No. 90 were never the same as to language and hopes and prospects as they had been before; it was the date from which a new set of conditions in men's thoughts and attitude had to be reckoned. Each side felt that a certain liberty had been claimed and had been peremptorily denied. And this was more than confirmed by the public language of the greater part of the Bishops. The charges against the Tractarian party of Romanising, and of flagrant dishonesty, long urged by irresponsible opponents, were now formally adopted by the University authorities, and specially directed against the foremost man of the party. From that time the fate of the party at Oxford was determined. It must break up. Sooner or later, there must be a secession more or less discrediting and disabling those who remained. And so the break-up came, and yet, so well grounded and so congenial to the English Church were the leading principles of the movement, that not even that disastrous and apparently hopeless wreck prevented them from again asserting their claim and becoming once more active and powerful. The Via Media, whether or not logically consistent, was a thing of genuine English growth, and was at least a working theory.


[84] Apologia, p. 180.

[85] Essays Critical and Historical, 1871.

[86] Apologia, pp. 181, 182. Comp. Letter to Jelf, p. 18.

[87] British Critic, April 1839, pp. 419-426. Condensed in the Apologia, pp. 192-194.

[88] Letter to the Bishop of Oxford (29th March 1841), pp. 33-40. Comp. Letter to Jelf, pp. 7, 8.

[89] Apologia, pp. 212, 221.

[90] Letter to Jelf [especially p. 19].

[91] Walton's Life, i. 59 (Oxford: 1845).

[92] No. 90, p. 24.

[93] The following letter of Mr. James Mozley (8th March 1841) gives the first impression of the Tract:—"A new Tract has come out this week, and is beginning to make a sensation. It is on the Articles, and shows that they bear a highly Catholic meaning; and that many doctrines, of which the Romanist are corruptions, may be held consistently with them. This is no more than what we know as a matter of history, for the Articles were expressly worded to bring in Roman Catholics. But people are astonished and confused at the idea now, as if it were quite new. And they have been so accustomed for a long time to look at the Articles as on a par with the Creed, that they think, I suppose, that if they subscribe to them they are bound to hold whatever doctrines (not positively stated in them) are merely not condemned. So if they will have a Tractarian sense, they are thereby all Tractarians.... It is, of course, highly complimentary to the whole set of us to be so very much surprised that we should think what we held to be consistent with the Articles which we have subscribed." See also a clever Whateleian pamphlet, "The Controversy between Tract No. 90 and the Oxford Tutors." (How and Parsons, 1841.)

[94] See J.B. Mozley's Letters, 13th March 1841.

[95] Scil., those cited in the preamble to this resolution.

[96] J.B. Mozley's Letters, 13th July 1841.



The proceedings about No. 90 were a declaration of war on the part of the Oxford authorities against the Tractarian party. The suspicions, alarms, antipathies, jealousies, which had long been smouldering among those in power, had at last taken shape in a definite act. And it was a turning-point in the history of the movement. After this it never was exactly what it had been hitherto. It had been so far a movement within the English Church, for its elevation and reform indeed, but at every step invoking its authority with deep respect, acknowledging allegiance to its rulers in unqualified and even excessive terms, and aiming loyally to make it in reality all that it was in its devotional language and its classical literature. But after what passed about No. 90 a change came. The party came under an official ban and stigma. The common consequences of harsh treatment on the tendencies and thought of a party, which considers itself unjustly proscribed, showed themselves more and more. Its mind was divided; its temper was exasperated; while the attitude of the governing authorities hardened more into determined hostility. From the time of the censure, and especially after the events connected with it,—the contest for the Poetry Professorship and the renewed Hampden question,—it may be said that the characteristic tempers of the Corcyrean sedition were reproduced on a small scale in Oxford.[97] The scare of Popery, not without foundation—the reaction against it, also not without foundation—had thrown the wisest off their balance; and what of those who were not wise? In the heat of those days there were few Tractarians who did not think Dr. Wynter, Dr. Faussett, and Dr. Symons heretics in theology and persecutors in temper, despisers of Christian devotion and self-denial. There were few of the party of the Heads who did not think every Tractarian a dishonest and perjured traitor, equivocating about his most solemn engagements, the ignorant slave of childish superstitions which he was conspiring to bring back. It was the day of the violent on both sides: the courtesies of life were forgotten; men were afraid of being weak in their censures, their dislike, and their opposition; old friendships were broken up, and men believed the worst of those whom a few years back they had loved and honoured.

It is not agreeable to recall these long extinct animosities, but they are part of the history of that time, and affected the course in which things ran. And it is easy to blame, it is hard to do justice to, the various persons and parties who contributed to the events of that strange and confused time. All was new, and unusual, and without precedent in Oxford; a powerful and enthusiastic school reviving old doctrines in a way to make them seem novelties, and creating a wild panic from a quarter where it was the least expected; the terror of this panic acting on authorities not in the least prepared for such a trial of their sagacity, patience, and skill, driving them to unexampled severity, and to a desperate effort to expel the disturbing innovators—among them some of the first men in Oxford in character and ability—from their places in the University.[98] In order to do justice on each side at this distance of time, we are bound to make allowance—both for the alarm and the mistaken violence of the authorities, and for the disaffection, the irritation, the strange methods which grew up in the worried and suspected party—for the difficulties which beset both sides in the conflict, and the counter-influences which drew them hither and thither. But the facts are as they are; and even then a calmer temper was possible to those who willed it; and in the heat of the strife there were men among the authorities, as well as in the unpopular party, who kept their balance, while others lost it.

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