The Oxford Movement - Twelve Years, 1833-1845
by R.W. Church
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Undoubtedly the publication of No. 90 was the occasion of the aggravated form which dissension took, and not unnaturally. Yet it was anything but what it was taken to mean by the authorities, an intentional move in favour of Rome. It was intended to reconcile a large and growing class of minds, penetrated and disgusted with the ignorance and injustice of much of the current controversial assumptions against Rome, to a larger and more defensible view of the position of the English Church. And this was done by calling attention to that which was not now for the first time observed—to the loose and unguarded mode of speaking visible in the later controversial Articles, and to the contrast between them and the technical and precise theology of the first five Articles. The Articles need not mean all which they were supposed popularly to mean against what was Catholic in Roman doctrine. This was urged in simple good faith; it was but the necessary assumption of all who held with the Catholic theology, which the Tractarians all along maintained that they had a right to teach; it left plenty of ground of difference with unreformed and usurping Rome. And we know that the storm which No. 90 raised took the writer by surprise. He did not expect that he should give such deep offence. But if he thought of the effect on one set of minds, he forgot the probable effect on another; and he forgot, or under-estimated, the effect not only of the things said, but of the way in which they were said.[99] No. 90 was a surprise, in the state of ordinary theological knowledge at the time. It was a strong thing to say that the Articles left a great deal of formal Roman language untouched; but to work this out in dry, bald, technical logic, on the face of it, narrow in scope, often merely ingenious, was even a greater stumbling-block. It was, undoubtedly, a great miscalculation, such as men of keen and far-reaching genius sometimes make. They mistake the strength and set of the tide; they imagine that minds round them are going as fast as their own. We can see, looking back, that such an interpretation of the Articles, with the view then taken of them in Oxford as the theological text-book, and in the condition of men's minds, could not but be a great shock.

And what seemed to give a sinister significance to No. 90 was that, as has been said, a strong current was beginning to set in the direction of Rome. It was not yet of the nature, nor of the force, which was imagined. The authorities suspected it where it was not. They accepted any contemptible bit of gossip collected by ignorance or ill-nature as a proof of it. The constitutional frankness of Englishmen in finding fault with what is their own—disgust at pompous glorification—scepticism as to our insular claims against all the rest of Christendom to be exactly right, to be alone, "pure and apostolic"; real increase and enlargement of knowledge, theological and historical; criticism on portions of our Reformation history; admiration for characters in mediaeval times; eagerness, over-generous it might be, to admit and repair wrong to an opponent unjustly accused; all were set down together with other more unequivocal signs as "leanings to Rome." It was clear that there was a current setting towards Rome; but it was as clear that there was a much stronger current in the party as a whole, setting in the opposite direction. To those who chose to see and to distinguish, the love, the passionate loyalty of the bulk of the Tractarians to the English Church was as evident and unquestionable as any public fact could be. At this time there was no reason to call in question the strong assurances given by the writer of No. 90 himself of his yet unshaken faith in the English Church. But all these important features of the movement—witnessing, indeed, to deep searchings of heart, but to a genuine desire to serve the English Church—were overlooked in the one overwhelming fear which had taken possession of the authorities. Alarming symptoms of a disposition to acknowledge and even exaggerate the claims and the attractions of the Roman system were indeed apparent. No doubt there were reasons for disquiet and anxiety. But the test of manliness and wisdom, in the face of such reasons, is how men measure their proportion, and how they meet the danger.

The Heads saw a real danger before them; but they met it in a wrong and unworthy way. They committed two great errors. In the first place, like the Jesuits in their quarrel with Portroyal and the Jansenists, they entirely failed to recognise the moral elevation and religious purpose of the men whom they opposed. There was that before them which it was to their deep discredit that they did not see. The movement, whatever else it was, or whatever else it became, was in its first stages a movement for deeper religion, for a more real and earnest self-discipline, for a loftier morality, for more genuine self-devotion to a serious life, than had ever been seen in Oxford. It was an honest attempt to raise Oxford life, which by all evidence needed raising, to something more laborious and something more religious, to something more worthy of the great Christian foundations of Oxford than the rivalry of colleges and of the schools, the mere literary atmosphere of the tutor's lecture-room, and the easy and gentlemanly and somewhat idle fellowship of the common-rooms. It was the effort of men who had all the love of scholarship, and the feeling for it of the Oxford of their day, to add to this the habits of Christian students and the pursuit of Christian learning. If all this was dangerous and uncongenial to Oxford, so much the worse for Oxford, with its great opportunities and great professions—Dominus illuminatio mea. But certainly this mark of moral purpose and moral force was so plain in the movement that the rulers of Oxford had no right to mistake it. When the names come back to our minds of those who led and most represented the Tractarians, it must be a matter of surprise to any man who has not almost parted with the idea of Christian goodness, that this feature of the movement could escape or fail to impress those who had known well all their lives long what these leaders were. But amid the clamour and the tell-tale gossip, and, it must be admitted, the folly round them, they missed it. Perhaps they were bewildered. But they must have the blame, the heavy blame, which belongs to all those who, when good is before them, do not recognise it according to its due measure.[100]

In the next place, the authorities attacked and condemned the Tractarian teaching at once violently and ignorantly, and in them ignorance of the ground on which the battle was fought was hardly pardonable. Doubtless the Tractarian language was in many respects novel and strange. But Oxford was not only a city of libraries, it was the home of what was especially accounted Church theology; and the Tractarian teaching, in its foundation and main outlines, had little but what ought to have been perfectly familiar to any one who chose to take the trouble to study the great Church of England writers. To one who, like Dr. Routh of Magdalen, had gone below the surface, and was acquainted with the questions debated by those divines, there was nothing startling in what so alarmed his brethren, whether he agreed with it or not; and to him the indiscriminate charge of Popery meant nothing. But Dr. Routh stood alone among his brother Heads in his knowledge of what English theology was. To most of them it was an unexplored and misty region; some of the ablest, under the influence of Dr. Whately's vigorous and scornful discipline, had learned to slight it. But there it was. Whether it was read or not, its great names were pronounced with honour, and quoted on occasion. From Hooker to Van Mildert, there was an unbroken thread of common principles giving continuity to a line of Church teachers. The Puritan line of doctrine, though it could claim much sanction among the divines of the Reformation—the Latitudinarian idea, though it had the countenance of famous names and powerful intellects—never could aspire to the special title of Church theology. And the teaching which had that name, both in praise, and often in dispraise, as technical, scholastic, unspiritual, transcendental, nay, even Popish, countenanced the Tractarians. They were sneered at for their ponderous Catenae of authorities; but on the ground on which this debate raged, the appeal was a pertinent and solid one. Yet to High Church Oxford and its rulers, all this was strange doctrine. Proof and quotation might lie before their eyes, but their minds still ran in one groove, and they could not realise what they saw. The words meant no harm in the venerable folio; they meant perilous heresy in the modern Tract. When the authorities had to judge of the questions raised by the movement, they were unprovided with the adequate knowledge; and this was knowledge which they ought to have possessed for its own sake, as doctors of the Theological Faculty of the University.

And it was not only for their want of learning, manifest all through the controversy, that they were to blame. Their most telling charge against the Tractarians, which was embodied in the censure of No. 90, was the charge of dishonesty. The charge is a very handy one against opponents, and it may rest on good grounds; but those who think right to make it ought, both as a matter of policy and as a matter of conscience, to be quite assured of their own position. The Articles are a public, common document. It is the differing interpretations of a common document which create political and religious parties; and only shallowness and prejudice will impute to an opponent dishonesty without strong and clear reason. Mr. Newman's interpretation in No. 90,—new, not in claiming for the Articles a Catholic meaning, but in limiting, though it does not deny, their anti-Roman scope, was fairly open to criticism. It might be taken as a challenge, and as a challenge might have to be met. But it would have been both fair and wise in the Heads, before proceeding to unusual extremities, to have shown that they had fully considered their own theological doctrines in relation to the Church formularies. They all had obvious difficulties, and in some cases formidable ones. The majority of them were what would have been called in older controversial days frank Arminians, shutting their eyes by force of custom to the look of some of the Articles, which, if of Lutheran origin, had been claimed from the first by Calvinists. The Evangelicals had long confessed difficulties, at least, in the Baptismal Service and the Visitation Office; while the men most loud in denunciation of dishonesty were the divines of Whately's school, who had been undermining the authority of all creeds and articles, and had never been tired of proclaiming their dislike of that solemn Athanasian Creed to which Prayer Book and Articles alike bound them. Men with these difficulties daily before them had no right to ignore them. Doubtless they all had their explanations which they bona fide believed in. But what was there that excluded Mr. Newman from the claim to bona fides? He had attacked no foundation of Christianity; he had denied or doubted no article of the Creed. He gave his explanations, certainly not more far-fetched than those of some of his judges. In a Church divided by many conflicting views, and therefore bound to all possible tolerance, he had adopted one view which certainly was unpopular and perhaps was dangerous. He might be confuted, he might be accused, or, if so be, convicted of error, perhaps of heresy. But nothing of this kind was attempted. The incompatibility of his view, not merely with the Articles, but with morality in signing what all, of whatever party, had signed, was asserted in a censure, which evaded the responsibility of specifying the point which it condemned. The alarm of treachery and conspiracy is one of the most maddening of human impulses. The Heads of Houses, instead of moderating and sobering it, with the authority of instructed and sagacious rulers, blew it into a flame. And they acted in such a hurry that all sense of proportion and dignity was lost. They peremptorily refused to wait even a few days, as the writer requested, and as was due to his character, for explanation. They dared not risk an appeal to the University at large. They dared not abide the effect of discussion on the blow which they were urged to strike. They chose, that they might strike without delay, the inexpressibly childish step of sticking up at the Schools' gates, and at College butteries, without trial, or conviction, or sentence, a notice declaring that certain modes of signing the Articles suggested in a certain Tract were dishonest. It was, they said, to protect undergraduates; as if undergraduates would be affected by a vague assertion on a difficult subject, about which nothing was more certain than that those who issued the notice were not agreed among themselves.

The men who acted thus were good and conscientious men, who thought themselves in the presence of a great danger. It is only fair to remember this. But it is also impossible to be fair to the party of the movement without remembering this deplorable failure in consistency, in justice, in temper, in charity, on the part of those in power in the University. The drift towards Rome had not yet become an unmanageable rush; and though there were cases in which nothing could have stopped its course, there is no reason to doubt that generous and equitable dealing, a more considerate reasonableness, a larger and more comprehensive judgment of facts, and a more patient waiting for strong first impressions to justify and verify themselves, would have averted much mischief. There was much that was to be regretted from this time forward in the temper and spirit of the movement party. But that which nourished and strengthened impatience, exaggeration of language and views, scorn of things as they were, intolerance of everything moderate, both in men and in words, was the consciousness with which every man got up in the morning and passed the day, of the bitter hostility of those foremost in place in Oxford—of their incompetence to judge fairly—of their incapacity to apprehend what was high and earnest in those whom they condemned—of the impossibility of getting them to imagine that Tractarians could be anything but fools or traitors—of their hopeless blindness to any fact or any teaching to which they were not accustomed. If the authorities could only have stopped to consider whether after all they were not dealing with real thought and real wish to do right, they might after all have disliked the movement, but they would have seen that which would have kept them from violence. They would not listen, they would not inquire, they would not consider. Could such ignorance, could such wrong possibly be without mischievous influence on those who were the victims of it, much more on friends and disciples who knew and loved them? The Tractarians had been preaching that the Church of England, with all its Protestant feeling and all its Protestant acts and history, was yet, as it professed to be, part and parcel of the great historic Catholic Church, which had framed the Creeds, which had continued the Sacraments, which had preached and taught out of the Bible, which had given us our immemorial prayers. They had spared no pains to make out this great commonplace from history and theology: nor had they spared pains, while insisting on this dominant feature in the English Church, to draw strongly and broadly the lines which distinguished it from Rome. Was it wonderful, when all guarding and explanatory limitations were contemptuously tossed aside by "all-daring ignorance," and all was lumped together in the indiscriminate charge of "Romanising," that there should have been some to take the authorities at their word? Was it wonderful when men were told that the Church of England was no place for them, that they were breaking their vows and violating solemn engagements by acting as its ministers, and that in order to preserve the respect of honest men they should leave it—that the question of change, far off as it had once seemed, came within "measurable distance"? The generation to which they belonged had been brought up with strong exhortations to be real, and to hate shams; and now the question was forced on them whether it was not a sham for the English Church to call itself Catholic; whether a body of teaching which was denounced by its authorities, however it might look on paper and be defended by learning, could be more than a plausible literary hypothesis in contrast to the great working system of which the head was Rome. When we consider the singular and anomalous position on any theory, including the Roman, of the English Church; with what great differences its various features and elements have been prominent at different times; how largely its history has been marked by contradictory facts and appearances; and how hard it is for any one to keep all, according to their real importance, simultaneously in view; when we remember also what are the temptations of human nature in great collisions of religious belief, the excitement and passion of the time, the mixed character of all religious zeal, the natural inevitable anger which accompanies it when resisted, the fervour which welcomes self-sacrifice for the truth; and when we think of all this kept aglow by the continuous provocation of unfair and harsh dealing from persons who were scarcely entitled to be severe judges; the wonder is, human nature being what it is, not that so many went, but that so many stayed.


[97] [Greek: Tolma alogistos andria philetairos enomisthae ... to de sophron tou anandrou proschaema, kai to pros apan xyneton epi pan argon to de emplaektos oxuandros moira prosetethae ... kai ho men chalepainon pistos aei, ho de antilegon auto upoptos.]—Thuc. iii. 82. "Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing; frantic energy was the true character of a man; the lover of violence was always trusted, and his opponent suspected."—Jowett's translation.

[98] One of the strangest features in the conflict was the entire misconception shown of what Mr. Newman was—the blindness to his real character and objects—the imputation to him not merely of grave faults, but of small and mean ones. His critics could not rise above the poorest measure of his intellect and motives. One of the ablest of them, who had once been his friend, in a farewell letter of kindly remonstrance, specifies certain Roman errors, which he hopes that Mr. Newman will not fall into—adoring images and worshipping saints—as if the pleasure and privilege of worshipping images and saints were to Mr. Newman the inducement to join Rome and break the ties of a lifetime. And so of his moral qualities. A prominent Evangelical leader, Dr. Close of Cheltenham, afterwards Dean of Carlisle, at a complimentary dinner, in which he himself gloried in the "foul, personal abuse to which he had been subjected in his zeal for truth," proceeded to give his judgment on Mr. Newman: "When I first read No. 90, I did not then know the author; but I said then, and I repeat here, not with any personal reference to the author, that I should be sorry to trust the author of that Tract with my purse,"—Report of Speech in Cheltenham Examiner, 1st March 1843.

[99] [Greek: ou gar apochrae to echein a dei legein, all' anankae kai tauto os dei eipein.]—Arist. Rhet. iii. I.

[100] Dr. Richards, the Rector of Exeter, seems to have stood apart from his brother heads.—Cf. Letters of the Rev. J.B. Mozley, p. 113.




The year 1841, though it had begun in storm, and though signs were not wanting of further disturbance, was at Oxford, outwardly at least, a peaceable one. A great change had happened; but, when the first burst of excitement was over, men settled down to their usual work, their lectures, or their reading, or their parishes, and by Easter things seemed to go on as before. The ordinary habits of University life resumed their course with a curious quietness. There was, no doubt, much trouble brooding underneath. Mr. Ward and others continued a war of pamphlets; and in June Mr. Ward was dismissed from his Mathematical Lectureship at Balliol. But faith in the great leader was still strong. No. 90, if it had shocked or disquieted some, had elicited equally remarkable expressions of confidence and sympathy from others who might have been, at least, silent. The events of the spring had made men conscious of what their leader was, and called forth warm and enthusiastic affection. It was not in vain that, whatever might be thought of the wisdom or the reasonings of No. 90, he had shown the height of his character and the purity and greatness of his religious purpose; and that being what he was, in the eyes of all Oxford, he had been treated with contumely, and had borne it with patience and loyal submission. There were keen observers, to whom that patience told of future dangers; they would have liked him to show more fight. But he gave no signs of defeat, nor, outwardly, of disquiet; he forbore to retaliate at Oxford: and the sermons at St. Mary's continued, penetrating and searching as ever, perhaps with something more pathetic and anxious in their undertone than before.

But if he forbore at Oxford, he did not let things pass outside. Sir Robert Peel, in opening a reading-room at Tamworth, had spoken loosely, in the conventional and pompous way then fashionable, of the all-sufficing and exclusive blessings of knowledge. While Mr. Newman was correcting the proofs of No. 90, he was also writing to the Times the famous letters of Catholicus; a warning to eminent public men of the danger of declaiming on popular commonplaces without due examination of their worth. But all seemed quiet. "In the summer of 1841," we read in the Apologia, "I found myself at Littlemore without any harass or anxiety on my mind. I had determined to put aside all controversy, and set myself down to my translation of St. Athanasius." Outside of Oxford there was a gathering of friends in the summer at the consecration of one of Mr. Keble's district churches, Ampfield—an occasion less common and more noticeable then than now. Again, what was a new thought then, a little band of young Oxford men, ten or twelve, taxed themselves to build a new church, which was ultimately placed at Bussage, in Mr. Thomas Keble's parish. One of Mr. Keble's curates, Mr. Peter Young, had been refused Priest's orders by the Bishop of Winchester, for alleged unsoundness on the doctrine of the Eucharist. Mr. Selwyn, not without misgivings on the part of the Whig powers, had been appointed Bishop of New Zealand. Dr. Arnold had been appointed to the Chair of Modern History at Oxford. In the course of the year there passed away one who had had a very real though unacknowledged influence on much that had happened—Mr. Blanco White. And at the end of the year, 29th October, Mr. Keble gave his last lecture on Poetry, and finished a course the most original and memorable ever delivered from his chair.

Towards the end of the year two incidents, besides some roughly-worded Episcopal charges, disturbed this quiet. They were only indirectly connected with theological controversy at Oxford; but they had great ultimate influence on it, and they helped to marshal parties and consolidate animosities. One was the beginning of the contest for the Poetry Professorship which Mr. Keble had vacated. There was no one of equal eminence to succeed him; but there was in Oxford a man of undoubted poetical genius, of refined taste and subtle thought, though of unequal power, who had devoted his gifts to the same great purpose for which Mr. Keble had written the Christian Year. No one who has looked into the Baptistery, whatever his feeling towards the writer, can doubt whether Mr. Isaac Williams was a poet and knew what poetry meant. He was an intimate friend of Mr. Keble and Mr. Newman, and so he was styled a Tractarian; but no name offered itself so obviously to the electors as his, and in due time his friends announced their intention of bringing him forward. His competitor was Mr. (afterwards Archdeacon) Garbett of Brasenose, the college of Heber and Milman, an accomplished gentleman of high culture, believed to have an acquaintance, not common then in Oxford, with foreign literature, whose qualifications stood high in the opinion of his University friends, but who had given no evidence to the public of his claims to the office. It was inevitable, it was no one's special fault, that the question of theological opinions should intrude itself; but at first it was only in private that objections were raised or candidatures recommended on theological grounds. But rumours were abroad that the authorities of Brasenose were canvassing their college on these grounds: and in an unlucky moment for Mr. Williams, Dr. Pusey, not without the knowledge, but without the assenting judgment of Mr. Newman, thought it well to send forth a circular in Christ Church first, but soon with wider publicity, asking support for Mr. Williams as a person whose known religious views would ensure his making his office minister to religious truth. Nothing could be more innocently meant. It was the highest purpose to which that office could be devoted. But the mistake was seen on all sides as soon as made. The Principal of Mr. Garbett's college. Dr. Gilbert, like a general jumping on his antagonist whom he has caught in the act of a false move, put forth a dignified counter-appeal, alleging that he had not raised this issue, but adding that as it had been raised and avowed on the other side, he was quite willing that it should be taken into account, and the dangers duly considered of that teaching with which Dr. Pusey's letter had identified Mr. Williams. No one from that moment could prevent the contest from becoming almost entirely a theological one, which was to try the strength of the party of the movement. Attempts were made, but in vain, to divest it of this character. The war of pamphlets and leaflets dispersed in the common-rooms, which usually accompanied these contests, began, and the year closed with preparations for a severe struggle when the University met in the following January.

The other matter was the establishment of the Anglo-Prussian bishopric at Jerusalem. It was the object of the ambition of M. Bunsen to pave the way for a recognition, by the English Church, of the new State Church of Prussia, and ultimately for some closer alliance between the two bodies; and the plan of a Protestant Bishop of Jerusalem, nominated alternately by England and Prussia, consecrated by English Bishops, and exercising jurisdiction over English and German Protestants in Palestine, was proposed by him to Archbishop Howley and Bishop Blomfield, and somewhat hastily and incautiously accepted by them. To Mr. Newman, fighting a hard battle, as he felt it, for the historical and constitutional catholicity of the English Church, this step on their part came as a practical and even ostentatious contradiction of his arguments. England, it seemed, which was out of communion with the East and with Rome, could lightly enter into close communion with Lutherans and Calvinists against them both. He recorded an indignant and even bitter protest; and though the scheme had its warm apologists, such as Dr. Hook and Mr. F. Maurice, it had its keen-sighted critics, and it was never received with favour by the Church at large. And, indeed, it was only active for mischief. It created irritation, suspicion, discord in England, while no German cared a straw about it. Never was an ambitious scheme so marked by impotence and failure from its first steps to its last. But it was one, as the Apologia informs us,[101] in the chain of events which destroyed Mr. Newman's belief in the English Church. "It was one of the blows," he writes, "which broke me."

The next year, 1842, opened with war; war between the University authorities and the party of the movement, which was to continue in various forms and with little intermission till the strange and pathetic events of 1845 suspended the righting and stunned the fighters, and for a time hushed even anger in feelings of amazement, sorrow, and fear. Those events imposed stillness on all who had taken part in the strife, like the blowing up of the Orient at the battle of the Nile.

As soon as the University met in January 1842, the contest for the Poetry Professorship was settled. There was no meeting of Convocation, but a comparison of votes gave a majority of three to two to Mr. Garbett,[102] and Mr. Williams withdrew. The Tractarians had been distinctly beaten; it was their first defeat as a party. It seems as if this encouraged the Hebdomadal Board to a move, which would be felt as a blow against the Tractarians, and which, as an act of reparation to Dr. Hampden, would give satisfaction to the ablest section of their own supporters, the theological Liberals. They proposed to repeal the disqualification which had been imposed on Dr. Hampden in 1836. But they had miscalculated. It was too evidently a move to take advantage of the recent Tractarian discomfiture to whitewash Dr. Hampden's Liberalism. The proposal, and the way in which it was made, roused a strong feeling among the residents; a request to withdraw it received the signatures not only of moderate Anglicans and independent men, like Mr. Francis Faber of Magdalen, Mr. Sewell, the Greswells, and Mr. W. Palmer of Worcester, but of Mr. Tait of Balliol, and Mr. Golightly. Dr. Hampden's own attitude did not help it. There was great want of dignity in his ostentatious profession of orthodoxy and attachment to the Articles, in his emphatic adoption of Evangelical phraseology, and in his unmeasured denunciation of his opponents, and especially of those whom he viewed as most responsible for the censure of 1836—the "Tractarians" or "Romanisers." And the difficulty with those who had passed and who now proposed to withdraw the censure, was that Dr. Hampden persistently and loudly declared that he had nothing to retract, and retracted nothing; and if it was right to pass it in 1836, it would not be right to withdraw it in 1842. At the last moment, Mr. Tait and Mr. Piers Claughton of University made an attempt to get something from Dr. Hampden which might pass as a withdrawal of what was supposed to be dangerous in his Bampton Lectures; and there were some even among Mr. Newman's friends, who, disliking from the first the form of the censure, might have found in such a withdrawal a reason for voting for its repeal. But Dr. Hampden was obdurate. The measure was pressed, and in June it was thrown out in Convocation by a majority of three to two[103]—the same proportion, though in smaller numbers, as in the vote against Mr. Williams. The measure was not an honest one on the part of the Hebdomadal Board, and deserved to be defeated. Among the pamphlets which the discussion produced, two by Mr. James Mozley gave early evidence, by their force of statement and their trenchant logic, of the power with which he was to take part in the questions which agitated the University.

Dr. Hampden took his revenge, and it was not a noble one. The fellows of certain colleges were obliged to proceed to the B.D. degree on pain of forfeiting their fellowships. The exercises for the degree, which, by the Statutes, took the old-fashioned shape of formal Latin disputations between Opponents and Respondents on given theses in the Divinity School, had by an arrangement introduced by Dr. Burton, with no authority from the Statutes, come to consist of two English essays on subjects chosen by the candidate and approved by the Divinity Professor. The exercises for the degree had long ceased to be looked upon as very serious matters, and certainly were never regarded as tests of the soundness of the candidate's faith. They were usually on well-worn commonplaces, of which the Regius Professor kept a stock, and about which no one troubled himself but the person who wanted the degree. It was not a creditable system, but it was of a piece with the prevalent absence of any serious examination for the superior degrees. It would have been quite befitting his position, if Dr. Hampden had called the attention of the authorities to the evil of sham exercises for degrees in his own important Faculty. It would have been quite right to make a vigorous effort on public grounds to turn these sham trials into realities; to use them, like the examination for the B.A. degree, as tests of knowledge and competent ability. Such a move on his part would have been in harmony with the legislation which had recently added two theological Professors to the Faculty, and had sketched out, however imperfectly, the outlines of a revived theological school.

This is what, with good reason, Dr. Hampden might have attempted on general grounds, and had he been successful (though this in the suspicious state of University feeling was not very likely) he would have gained in a regular and lawful way that power of embarrassing his opponents which he was resolved to use in defiance of all existing custom. But such was not the course which he chose. Mr. Macmullen of Corpus, who, in pursuance of the College Statutes, had to proceed to the B.D. degree, applied, as the custom was, for theses to the Professor. Mr. Macmullen was known to hold the opinions of the movement school; of course he was called a Tractarian; he had put his name to some of the many papers which expressed the sentiments of his friends on current events. Dr. Hampden sent him two propositions, which the candidate was to support, framed so as to commit him to assertions which Mr. Macmullen, whose high Anglican opinions were well known, could not consistently make. It was a novel and unexampled act on the part of the Professor, to turn what had been a mere formal exercise into a sharp and sweeping test of doctrine, which would place all future Divinity degrees in the University at his mercy; and the case was made more serious, when the very form of exercise which the Professor used as an instrument of such formidable power was itself without question unstatutable and illegal, and had been simply connived at by the authorities. To introduce by his own authority a new feature into a system which he had no business to use at all, and to do this for the first time with the manifest purpose of annoying an obnoxious individual, was, on Dr. Hampden's part, to do more to discredit his chair and himself, than the censure of the University could do; and it was as unwise as it was unworthy. The strength of his own case before the public was that he could be made to appear as the victim of a personal and partisan attack; yet on the first opportunity he acts in the spirit of an inquisitor, and that not in fair conflict with some one worthy of his hostility, but to wreak an injury, in a matter of private interest, on an individual, in no way known to him or opposed to him, except as holding certain unpopular opinions.

Mr. Macmullen was not the person to take such treatment quietly. The right was substantially on his side, and the Professor, and the University authorities who more or less played into the hands of the Professor in defence of his illegal and ultimately untenable claims, appeared before the University, the one as a persecutor, the others as rulers who were afraid to do justice on behalf of an ill-used man because he was a Tractarian. The right course was perfectly clear. It was to put an end to these unauthorised exercises, and to recall both candidates and Professor to the statutable system which imposed disputations conducted under the moderatorship of the Professor, but which gave him no veto, at the time, on the theological sufficiency of the disputations, leaving him to state his objections, if he was not satisfied, when the candidate's degree was asked for in the House of Congregation. This course, after some hesitation, was followed, but only partially; and without allowing or disallowing the Professor's claim to a veto, the Vice-Chancellor on his own responsibility stopped the degree. A vexatious dispute lingered on for two or three years, with actions in the Vice-Chancellor's Court, and distinguished lawyers to plead for each side, and appeals to the University Court of Delegates, who reversed the decision of the Vice-Chancellor's assessor. Somehow or other, Mr. Macmullen at last got his degree, but at the cost of a great deal of ill-blood in Oxford, for which Dr. Hampden, by his unwarranted interference, and the University authorities, by their questionable devices to save the credit and claims of one of their own body, must be held mainly responsible.

Before the matter was ended, they were made to feel, in rather a startling way, how greatly they had lost the confidence of the University. One of the attempts to find a way out of the tangle of the dispute was the introduction, in February 1844, of a Statute which should give to the Professor the power which was now contested, and practically place all the Divinity degrees under the control of a Board in conjunction with the Vice-Chancellor.[104] The proposed legislation raised such indignation in the University, that the Hebdomadal Board took back their scheme for further revision, and introduced it again in a modified shape, which still however gave new powers to the Professor and the Vice-Chancellor. But the University would have none of it. No one could say that the defeat of the altered Statute by 341 to 21 was the work merely of a party.[105] It was the most decisive vote given in the course of these conflicts. And it was observed that on the same day Mr. Macmullen's degree was vetoed by the Vice-Chancellor at the instance of Dr. Hampden at 10 o'clock in Congregation, and the Hebdomadal Board, which had supported him, received the vote of want of confidence at noon in Convocation.

Nothing could show more decisively that the authorities in the Hebdomadal Board were out of touch with the feeling of the University, or, at all events, of that part of it which was resident. The residents were not, as a body, identified with the Tractarians; it would be more true to say that the residents, as a body, looked on this marked school with misgiving and apprehension; but they saw what manner of men these Tractarians were; they lived with them in college and common-room; their behaviour was before their brethren as a whole, with its strength and its weakness, its moral elevation and its hazardous excitement, its sincerity of purpose and its one-sidedness of judgment and sympathy, its unfairness to what was English, its over-value for what was foreign. Types of those who looked at things more or less independently were Mr. Hussey of Christ Church, Mr. C.P. Eden of Oriel, Mr. Sewell of Exeter, Mr. Francis Faber of Magdalen, Dr. Greenhill of Trinity, Mr. Wall of Balliol, Mr. Hobhouse of Merton, with some of the more consistent Liberals, like Mr. Stanley of University, and latterly Mr. Tait. Men of this kind, men of high character and weight in Oxford, found much to dislike and regret in the Tractarians. But they could also see that the leaders of the Hebdomadal Board laboured under a fatal incapacity to recognise what these unpopular Tractarians were doing for the cause of true and deep religion; they could see that the judgment of the Heads of Houses, living as they did apart, in a kind of superior state, was narrow, ill-informed, and harsh, and that the warfare which they waged was petty, irritating, and profitless; while they also saw with great clearness that under cover of suppressing "Puseyism," the policy of the Board was, in fact, tending to increase and strengthen the power of an irresponsible and incompetent oligarchy, not only over a troublesome party, but over the whole body of residents. To the great honour of Oxford it must be said, that throughout these trying times, on to the very end, there was in the body of Masters a spirit of fairness, a recognition of the force both of argument and character, a dislike of high-handedness and shabbiness, which was in strong and painful contrast to the short-sighted violence in which the Hebdomadal Board was unhappily induced to put their trust, and which proved at last the main cause of the overthrow of their power. When changes began to threaten Oxford, there was no one to say a word for them.

But, for the moment, in spite of this defeat in Convocation, they had no misgivings as to the wisdom of their course or the force of their authority. There was, no doubt, much urging from outside, both on political and theological grounds, to make them use their power to stay the plague of Tractarianism; and they were led by three able and resolute men, unfortunately unable to understand the moral or the intellectual character of the movement, and having the highest dislike and disdain for it in both aspects—Dr. Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, the last remaining disciple of Whately's school, a man of rigid conscientiousness, and very genuine though undemonstrative piety, of great kindliness in private life, of keen and alert intellect, but not of breadth and knowledge proportionate to his intellectual power; Dr. Symons, Warden of Wadham, a courageous witness for Evangelical divinity in the days when Evangelicals were not in fashion in Oxford, a man of ponderous and pedantic learning and considerable practical acuteness; and Dr. Cardwell, Principal of St. Alban's Hall, more a man of the world than his colleagues, with considerable knowledge of portions of English Church history. Under the inspiration of these chiefs, the authorities had adopted, as far as they could, the policy of combat; and the Vice-Chancellor of the time, Dr. Wynter of St. John's, a kind-hearted man, but quite unfit to moderate among the strong wills and fierce tempers round him, was induced to single out for the severest blow yet struck, the most distinguished person in the ranks of the movement, Dr. Pusey himself.

Dr. Pusey was a person with whom it was not wise to meddle, unless his assailants could make out a case without a flaw. He was without question the most venerated person in Oxford. Without an equal, in Oxford at least, in the depth and range of his learning, he stood out yet more impressively among his fellows in the lofty moral elevation and simplicity of his life, the blamelessness of his youth, and the profound devotion of his manhood, to which the family sorrows of his later years, and the habits which grew out of them, added a kind of pathetic and solemn interest. Stern and severe in his teaching at one time,—at least as he was understood,—beyond even the severity of Puritanism, he was yet overflowing with affection, tender and sympathetic to all who came near him, and, in the midst of continual controversy, he endeavoured, with deep conscientiousness, to avoid the bitternesses of controversy. He was the last man to attack; much more the last man to be unfair to. The men who ruled in Oxford contrived, in attacking him, to make almost every mistake which it was possible to make.

On the 24th of May 1843 Dr. Pusey, intending to balance and complement the severer, and, to many, the disquieting aspects of doctrine in his work on Baptism, preached on the Holy Eucharist as a comfort to the penitent. He spoke of it as a disciple of Andrewes and Bramhall would speak of it; it was a high Anglican sermon, full, after the example of the Homilies, Jeremy Taylor, and devotional writers like George Herbert and Bishop Ken, of the fervid language of the Fathers; and that was all. Beyond this it did not go; its phraseology was strictly within Anglican limits. In the course of the week that followed, the University was surprised by the announcement that Dr. Faussett, the Margaret Professor of Divinity, had "delated" the sermon to the Vice-Chancellor as teaching heresy; and even more surprised at the news that the Vice-Chancellor had commenced proceedings. The Statutes provided that when a sermon was complained of, or delated to the Vice-Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor should demand a copy of the sermon, and summoning to him as his assessors Six Doctors of Divinity, should examine the language complained of, and, if necessary, condemn and punish the preacher. The Statute is thus drawn up in general terms, and prescribes nothing as to the mode in which the examination into the alleged offence is to be carried on; that is, it leaves it to the Vice-Chancellor's discretion. What happened was this. The sermon was asked for, but the name of the accuser was not given; the Statute did not enjoin it. The sermon was sent, with a request from Dr. Pusey that he might have a hearing. The Six Doctors were appointed, five of them being Dr. Hawkins, Dr. Symons, Dr. Jenkyns, Dr. Ogilvie, Dr. Jelf; the Statute said the Regius Professor was, if possible, to be one of the number; as he was under the ban of a special Statute, he was spared the task, and his place was taken by the next Divinity Professor, Dr. Faussett, the person who had preferred the charge, and who was thus, from having been accuser, promoted to be a judge. To Dr. Pusey's request for a hearing, no answer was returned; the Statute, no doubt, said nothing of a hearing. But after the deliberations of the judges were concluded, and after the decision to condemn the sermon had been reached, one of them, Dr. Pusey's old friend, Dr. Jelf, was privately charged with certain communications from the Vice-Chancellor, on which the seal of absolute secrecy was imposed, and which, in fact, we believe, have never been divulged from that day to this. Whatever passed between the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Jelf, and Dr. Pusey, it had no effect in arresting the sentence; and it came out, in informal ways, and through Dr. Pusey himself, that on the 2d of June Dr. Pusey had been accused and condemned for having taught doctrine contrary to that of the Church of England, and that by the authority of the Vice-Chancellor he was suspended from preaching within the University for two years. But no formal notification of the transaction was ever made to the University.

The summary suppression of erroneous and dangerous teaching had long been a recognised part of the University discipline; and with the ideas then accepted of the religious character of the University, it was natural that some such power as that given in the Statutes should be provided. The power, even after all the changes in Oxford, exists still, and has been recently appealed to. Dr. Pusey, as a member of the University, had no more right than any other preacher to complain of his doctrine being thus solemnly called in question. But it is strange that it should not have occurred to the authorities that, under the conditions of modern times, and against a man like Dr. Pusey, such power should be warily used. For it was not only arbitrary power, such as was exerted in the condemnation of No. 90, but it was arbitrary power acting under the semblance of a judicial inquiry, with accusers, examination, trial, judges, and a heavy penalty. The act of a court of justice which sets at defiance the rules of justice is a very different thing from a straightforward act of arbitrary power, because it pretends to be what it is not. The information against Dr. Pusey, if accepted, involved a trial—that was the fixed condition and point of departure from which there was no escaping—and if a trial be held, then, if it be not a fair trial, the proceeding becomes, according to English notions, a flagrant and cowardly wrong. All this, all the intrinsic injustice, all the scandal and discredit in the eyes of honest men, was forgotten in the obstinate and blind confidence in the letter of a vague Statute. The accused was not allowed to defend or explain himself; he was refused the knowledge of the definite charges against him; he was refused, in spite of his earnest entreaties, a hearing, even an appearance in the presence of his judges. The Statute, it was said, enjoined none of these things. The name of his accuser was not told him; he was left to learn it by report To the end of the business all was wrought in secrecy; no one knows to this day how the examination of the sermon was conducted, or what were the opinions of the judges. The Statute, it was said, neither enjoined nor implied publicity. To this day no one knows what were the definite passages, what was the express or necessarily involved heresy or contradiction of the formularies, on which the condemnation was based; nor—except on the supposition of gross ignorance of English divinity on the part of the judges—is it easy for a reader to put his finger on the probably incriminated passages. To make the proceedings still more unlike ordinary public justice, informal and private communications were carried on between the judge and the accused, in which the accused was bound to absolute silence, and forbidden to consult his nearest friends.

And of the judges what can be said but that they were, with one exception, the foremost and sternest opponents of all that was identified with Dr. Pusey's name; and that one of them was the colleague who had volunteered to accuse him? Dr. Faussett's share in the matter is intelligible; hating the movement in all its parts, he struck with the vehemence of a mediaeval zealot. But that men like Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Ogilvie, one of them reputed to be a theologian, the other one of the shrewdest and most cautious of men, and in ordinary matters one of the most conscientious and fairest, should not have seen what justice, or at least the show of justice, demanded, and what the refusal of that demand would look like, and that they should have persuaded the Vice-Chancellor to accept the entire responsibility of haughtily refusing it, is, even to those who remember the excitement of those days, a subject of wonder. The plea was actually put forth that such opportunities of defence of his language and teaching as Dr. Pusey asked for would have led to the "inconvenience" of an interminable debate, and confronting of texts and authorities.[106] The fact, with Dr. Pusey as the accused person, is likely enough; but in a criminal charge with a heavy penalty, it would have been better for the reputation of the judges to have submitted to the inconvenience.

It was a great injustice and a great blunder—a blunder, because the gratuitous defiance of accepted rules of fairness neutralised whatever there might seem to be of boldness and strength in the blow. They were afraid to meet Dr. Pusey face to face. They were afraid to publish the reasons of their condemnation. The effect on the University, both on resident and non-resident members, was not to be misunderstood. The Protestantism of the Vice-Chancellor and the Six Doctors was, of course, extolled by partisans in the press with reckless ignorance and reckless contempt at once for common justice and their own consistency. One person of some distinction at Oxford ventured to make himself the mouthpiece of those who were bold enough to defend the proceeding—the recently-elected Professor of Poetry, Mr. Garbett. But deep offence was given among the wiser and more reasonable men who had a regard for the character of the University. A request to know the grounds of the sentence from men who were certainly of no party was curtly refused by the Vice-Chancellor, with a suggestion that it did not concern them. A more important memorial was sent from London, showing how persons at a distance were shocked by the unaccountable indifference to the appearance of justice in the proceeding. It was signed among others by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Justice Coleridge. The Vice-Chancellor lost his temper. He sent back the memorial to London "by the hands of his bedel," as if that in some way stamped his official disapprobation more than if it had been returned through the post. And he proceeded, in language wonderful even for that moment, as "Resident Governor" of the University, to reprimand statesmen and lawyers of eminence and high character, not merely for presuming to interfere with his own duties, but for forgetting the oaths on the strength of which they had received their degrees, and for coming very near to that high, almost highest, academical crime, the crime of being perturbatores pacis—breaking the peace of the University.

Such foolishness, affecting dignity, only made more to talk of. If the men who ruled the University had wished to disgust and alienate the Masters of Arts, and especially the younger ones who were coming forward into power and influence, they could not have done better. The chronic jealousy and distrust of the time were deepened. And all this was aggravated by what went on in private. A system of espionage, whisperings, backbitings, and miserable tittle-tattle, sometimes of the most slanderous or the most ridiculous kind, was set going all over Oxford. Never in Oxford, before or since, were busybodies more truculent or more unscrupulous. Difficulties arose between Heads of Colleges and their tutors. Candidates for fellowships were closely examined as to their opinions and their associates. Men applying for testimonials were cross-questioned on No. 90, as to the infallibility of general councils, purgatory, the worship of images, the Ora pro nobis and the intercession of the saints: the real critical questions upon which men's minds were working being absolutely uncomprehended and ignored. It was a miserable state of misunderstanding and distrust, and none of the University leaders had the temper and the manliness to endeavour with justice and knowledge to get to the bottom of it. It was enough to suppose that a Popish Conspiracy was being carried on.


[101] Pp. 243, 253.

[102] Garbett, 921. Williams, 623.

[103] The numbers were 334 to 219.

[104] Christian Remembrancer, vol. ix. p. 175.

[105] Ibid. pp. 177-179.

[106] Cf. British Critic, No. xlvii. pp. 221-223.



If only the Oxford authorities could have had patience—if only they could have known more largely and more truly the deep changes that were at work everywhere, and how things were beginning to look in the eyes of the generation that was coming, perhaps many things might have been different. Yes, it was true that there was a strong current setting towards Rome. It was acting on some of the most vigorous of the younger men. It was acting powerfully on the foremost mind in Oxford. Whither, if not arrested, it was carrying them was clear, but as yet it was by no means clear at what rate; and time, and thought, and being left alone and dealt with justly, have a great effect on men's minds. Extravagance, disproportion, mischievous, dangerous exaggeration, in much that was said and taught—all this might have settled down, as so many things are in the habit of settling down, into reasonable and practical shapes, after a first burst of crudeness and strain—as, in fact, it did settle down at last. For Anglicanism itself was not Roman; friends and foes said it was not, to reproach as well as to defend it. It was not Roman in Dr. Pusey, though he was not afraid to acknowledge what was good in Rome. It was not Roman in Mr. Keble and his friends, in Dr. Moberly of Winchester, and the Barters. It was not Roman in Mr. Isaac Williams, Mr. Copeland, and Mr. Woodgate, each of them a centre of influence in Oxford and the country. It was not Roman in the devoted Charles Marriott, or in Isaac Williams's able and learned pupil, Mr. Arthur Haddan. It was not Roman in Mr. James Mozley, after Mr. Newman, the most forcible and impressive of the Oxford writers. A distinctively English party grew up, both in Oxford and away from it, strong in eminent names, in proportion as Roman sympathies showed themselves. These men were, in any fair judgment, as free from Romanising as any of their accusers; but they made their appeal for patience and fair judgment in vain. If only the rulers could have had patience:—but patience is a difficult virtue in the presence of what seem pressing dangers. Their policy was wrong, stupid, unjust, pernicious. It was a deplorable mistake, and all will wish now that the discredit of it did not rest on the history of Oxford. And yet it was the mistake of upright and conscientious men.

Doubtless there was danger; the danger was that a number of men would certainly not acquiesce much longer in Anglicanism, while the Heads continued absolutely blind to what was really in these men's thoughts. For the Heads could not conceive the attraction which the Roman Church had for a religious man; they talked in the old-fashioned way about the absurdity of the Roman system. They could not understand how reasonable men could turn Roman Catholics. They accounted for it by supposing a silly hankering after the pomp or the frippery of Roman Catholic worship, and at best a craving after the romantic and sentimental. Their thoughts dwelt continually on image worship and the adoration of saints. But what really was astir was something much deeper—something much more akin to the new and strong forces which were beginning to act in very different directions from this in English society—forces which were not only leading minds to Rome, but making men Utilitarians, Rationalists, Positivists, and, though the word had not yet been coined, Agnostics. The men who doubted about the English Church saw in Rome a strong, logical, consistent theory of religion, not of yesterday nor to-day—not only comprehensive and profound, but actually in full work, and fruitful in great results; and this, in contrast to the alleged and undeniable anomalies and shortcomings of Protestantism and Anglicanism. And next, there was the immense amount which they saw in Rome of self-denial and self-devotion; the surrender of home and family in the clergy; the great organised ministry of women in works of mercy; the resolute abandonment of the world and its attractions in the religious life. If in England there flourished the homely and modest types of goodness, it was in Rome that, at that day at least, men must look for the heroic. They were not indisposed to the idea that a true Church which had lost all this might yet regain it, and they were willing to wait and see what the English Church would do to recover what it had lost; but there was obviously a long way to make up, and they came to think that there was no chance of its overtaking its true position. Of course they knew all that was so loudly urged about the abuses and mischiefs growing out of the professed severity of Rome. They knew that in spite of it foreign society was lax; that the discipline of the confessional was often exercised with a light rein. But if the good side of it was real, they easily accounted for the bad: the bad did not destroy, it was a tacit witness to the good. And they knew the Latin Church mainly from France, where it was more in earnest, and exhibited more moral life and intellectual activity, than, as far as Englishmen knew, in Italy or Spain. There was a strong rebound from insular ignorance and unfairness, when English travellers came on the poorly-paid but often intelligent and hard-working French clergy; on the great works of mercy in the towns; on the originality and eloquence of De Maistre, La Mennais, Lacordaire, Montalembert.

These ideas took possession of a remarkable mind, the index and organ of a remarkable character. Mr. W.G. Ward had learned the interest of earnest religion from Dr. Arnold, in part through his close friend Arthur Stanley. But if there was ever any tendency in him to combine with the peculiar elements of the Rugby School, it was interrupted in its nascent state, as chemists speak, by the intervention of a still more potent affinity, the personality of Mr. Newman. Mr. Ward had developed in the Oxford Union, and in a wide social circle of the most rising men of the time—including Tait, Cardwell, Lowe, Roundell Palmer—a very unusual dialectical skill and power of argumentative statement: qualities which seemed to point to the House of Commons. But Mr. Newman's ideas gave him material, not only for argument but for thought. The lectures and sermons at St. Mary's subdued and led him captive. The impression produced on him was expressed in the formula that primitive Christianity might have been corrupted into Popery, but that Protestantism never could.[107] For a moment he hung in the wind. He might have been one of the earliest of Broad Churchmen. He might have been a Utilitarian and Necessitarian follower of Mr. J.S. Mill. But moral influences of a higher kind prevailed. And he became, in the most thoroughgoing yet independent fashion, a disciple of Mr. Newman. He brought to his new side a fresh power of controversial writing; but his chief influence was a social one, from his bright and attractive conversation, his bold and startling candour, his frank, not to say reckless, fearlessness of consequences, his unrivalled skill in logical fence, his unfailing good-humour and love of fun, in which his personal clumsiness set off the vivacity and nimbleness of his joyous moods. "He was," says Mr. Mozley, "a great musical critic, knew all the operas, and was an admirable buffo singer."—No one could doubt that, having started, Mr. Ward would go far and probably go fast.

Mr. Ward was well known in Oxford, and his language might have warned the Heads that if there was a drift towards Rome, it came from something much more serious than a hankering after a sentimental ritual or mediaeval legends. In Mr. Ward's writings in the British Critic, as in his conversation—and he wrote much and at great length—three ideas were manifestly at the bottom of his attraction to Rome. One was that Rome did, and, he believed, nothing else did, keep up the continuous recognition of the supernatural element in religion, that consciousness of an ever-present power not of this world which is so prominent a feature in the New Testament, and which is spoken of there as a permanent and characteristic element in the Gospel dispensation. The Roman view of the nature and offices of the Church, of man's relations to the unseen world, of devotion, of the Eucharist and of the Sacraments in general, assumed and put forward this supernatural aspect; other systems ignored it or made it mean nothing, unless in secret to the individual and converted soul. In the next place he revolted—no weaker word can be used—from the popular exhibition in England, more or less Lutheran and Calvinistic, of the doctrine of justification. The ostentatious separation of justification from morality, with all its theological refinements and fictions, seemed to him profoundly unscriptural, profoundly unreal and hollow, or else profoundly immoral. In conscience and moral honesty and strict obedience he saw the only safe and trustworthy guidance in regard to the choice and formation of religious opinions; it was a principle on which all his philosophy was built, that "careful and individual moral discipline is the only possible basis on which Christian faith and practice can be reared." In the third place he was greatly affected, not merely by the paramount place of sanctity in the Roman theology and the professed Roman system, but by the standard of saintliness which he found there, involving complete and heroic self-sacrifice for great religious ends, complete abandonment of the world, painful and continuous self-discipline, purified and exalted religious affections, beside which English piety and goodness at its best, in such examples as George Herbert and Ken and Bishop Wilson, seemed unambitious and pale and tame, of a different order from the Roman, and less closely resembling what we read of in the first ages and in the New Testament. Whether such views were right or wrong, exaggerated or unbalanced, accurate or superficial, they were matters fit to interest grave men; but there is no reason to think that they made the slightest impression on the authorities of the University.

On the other hand, Mr. Ward, with the greatest good-humour, was unreservedly defiant and aggressive. There was something intolerably provoking in his mixture of jauntiness and seriousness, his avowal of utter personal unworthiness and his undoubting certainty of being in the right, his downright charges of heresy and his ungrudging readiness to make allowance for the heretics and give them credit for special virtues greater than those of the orthodox. He was not a person to hide his own views or to let others hide theirs. He lived in an atmosphere of discussion with all around him, friends or opponents, fellows and tutors in common-rooms, undergraduates after lecture or out walking. The most amusing, the most tolerant man in Oxford, he had round him perpetually some of the cleverest and brightest scholars and thinkers of the place; and where he was, there was debate, cross-questioning, pushing inferences, starting alarming problems, beating out ideas, trying the stuff and mettle of mental capacity. Not always with real knowledge, or a real sense of fact, but always rapid and impetuous, taking in the whole dialectical chess-board at a glance, he gave no quarter, and a man found himself in a perilous corner before he perceived the drift of the game; but it was to clear his own thought, not—for he was much too good-natured—to embarrass another. If the old scholastic disputations had been still in use at Oxford, his triumphs would have been signal and memorable. His success, compared with that of other leaders of the movement, in influencing life and judgment, was a pre-eminently intellectual success; and it cut two ways. The stress which he laid on the moral side of questions, his own generosity, his earnestness on behalf of fair play and good faith, elevated and purified intercourse. But he did not always win assent in proportion to his power of argument. Abstract reasoning, in matters with which human action is concerned, may be too absolute to be convincing. It may not leave sufficient margin for the play and interference of actual experience. And Mr. Ward, having perfect confidence in his conclusions, rather liked to leave them in a startling form, which he innocently declared to be manifest and inevitable. And so stories of Ward's audacity and paradoxes flew all over Oxford, shocking and perplexing grave heads with fear of they knew not what. Dr. Jenkyns, the Master of Balliol, one of those curious mixtures of pompous absurdity with genuine shrewdness which used to pass across the University stage, not clever himself but an unfailing judge of a clever man, as a jockey might be of a horse, liking Ward and proud of him for his cleverness, was aghast at his monstrous and unintelligible language, and driven half wild with it. Mr. Tait, a fellow-tutor, though living on terms of hearty friendship with Ward, prevailed on the Master after No. 90 to dismiss Ward from the office of teaching mathematics. It seemed a petty step thus to mix up theology with mathematics, though it was not so absurd as it looked, for Ward brought in theology everywhere, and discussed it when his mathematics were done. But Ward accepted it frankly and defended it. It was natural, he said, that Tait, thinking his principles mischievous, should wish to silence him as a teacher; and their friendship remained unbroken.

Mr. Ward's theological position was really a provisional one, though, at starting at least, he would not have allowed it. He had no early or traditional attachment to the English Church, such as that which acted so strongly on the leaders of the movement: but he found himself a member of it, and Mr. Newman had interpreted it to him. He so accepted it, quite loyally and in earnest, as a point of departure. But he proceeded at once to put "our Church" (as he called it) on its trial, in comparison with its own professions, and with the ideal standard of a Church which he had thought out for himself; and this rapidly led to grave consequences. He accepted from authority which satisfied him both intellectually and morally the main scheme of Catholic theology, as the deepest and truest philosophy of religion, satisfying at once conscience and intellect. The Catholic theology gave him, among other things, the idea and the notes of the Church; with these, in part at least, the English Church agreed; but in other respects, and these very serious ones, it differed widely; it seemed inconsistent and anomalous. The English Church was separate and isolated from Christendom. It was supposed to differ widely from other Churches in doctrine. It admitted variety of opinion and teaching, even to the point of tolerating alleged heresy. With such data as these, he entered on an investigation which ultimately came to the question whether the English Church could claim to be a part of the Church Catholic. He postulated from the first, what he afterwards developed in the book in which his Anglican position culminated,—the famous Ideal,—the existence at some time or another of a Catholic Church which not only aimed at, but fulfilled all the conditions of a perfect Church in creed, communion, discipline, and life. Of course the English and, as at starting he held, the Roman Church, fell far short of this perfection. But at starting, the moral which he drew was, not to leave the English Church, but to do his best to raise it up to what it ought to be. Whether he took in all the conditions of the problem, whether it was not far more complicated and difficult than he supposed, whether his knowledge of the facts of the case was accurate and adequate, whether he was always fair in his comparisons and judgments, and whether he did not overlook elements of the gravest importance in the inquiry; whether, in fact, save for certain strong and broad lines common to the whole historic Church, the reign of anomaly, inconsistency, difficulty did not extend much farther over the whole field of debate than he chose to admit: all this is fairly open to question. But within the limits which he laid down, and within which he confined his reasonings, he used his materials with skill and force; and even those who least agreed with him and were most sensible of the strong and hardly disguised bias which so greatly affected the value of his judgments, could not deny the frankness and the desire to be fair and candid, with which, as far as intention went, he conducted his argument. His first appearance as a writer was in the controversy, as has been said before, on the subject of No. 90. That tract had made the well-worn distinction between what was Catholic and what was distinctively Roman, and had urged—what had been urged over and over again by English divines—that the Articles, in their condemnation of what was Roman, were drawn in such a way as to leave untouched what was unquestionably Catholic. They were drawn indeed by Protestants, but by men who also earnestly professed to hold with the old Catholic doctors and disavowed any purpose to depart from their teaching, and who further had to meet the views and gain the assent of men who were much less Protestant than themselves—men who were willing to break with the Pope and condemn the abuses associated with his name, but by no means willing to break with the old theology. The Articles were the natural result of a compromise between two strong parties—the Catholics agreeing that the abuses should be condemned, so that the Catholic doctrine was not touched; the Protestants insisting that, so that the Catholic doctrine was not touched, the abuses of it should be denounced with great severity: that there should be no question about the condemnation of the abuses, and of the system which had maintained them. The Articles were undoubtedly anti-Roman; that was obvious from the historical position of the English Church, which in a very real sense was anti-Roman; but were they so anti-Roman as to exclude doctrines which English divines had over and over again maintained as Catholic and distinguished from Romanism, but which the popular opinion, at this time or that, identified therewith?[108] With flagrant ignorance—ignorance of the history of thought and teaching in the English Church, ignorance far more inexcusable of the state of parties and their several notorious difficulties in relation to the various formularies of the Church, it was maintained on the other side that the "Articles construed by themselves" left no doubt that they were not only anti-Roman but anti-Catholic, and that nothing but the grossest dishonesty and immorality could allow any doubt on the subject.

Neither estimate was logical enough to satisfy Mr. Ward. The charge of insincerity, he retorted with great effect on those who made it: if words meant anything, the Ordination Service, the Visitation Service, and the Baptismal Service were far greater difficulties to Evangelicals, and to Latitudinarians like Whately and Hampden, than the words of any Article could be to Catholics; and there was besides the tone of the whole Prayer Book, intelligible, congenial, on Catholic assumptions, and on no other. But as to the Articles themselves, he was indisposed to accept the defence made for them. He criticised indeed with acuteness and severity the attempt to make the loose language of many of them intolerant of primitive doctrine; but he frankly accepted the allegation that apart from this or that explanation, their general look, as regards later controversies, was visibly against, not only Roman doctrines or Roman abuses, but that whole system of principles and mode of viewing religion which he called Catholic. They were, he said, patient of a Catholic meaning, but ambitious of a Protestant meaning; whatever their logic was, their rhetoric was Protestant. It was just possible, but not more, for a Catholic to subscribe to them. But they were the creation and the legacy of a bad age, and though they had not extinguished Catholic teaching and Catholic belief in the English Church, they had been a serious hindrance to it, and a support to its opponents.

This was going beyond the position of No. 90. No. 90 had made light of the difficulties of the Articles.

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. Our present scope is merely to show that, while our Prayer Book is acknowledged on all hands to be of Catholic origin, our Articles also—the offspring of an uncatholic age—are, through God's good providence, to say the least, not uncatholic, and may be subscribed by those who aim at being Catholic in heart and doctrine.

Mr. Ward not only went beyond this position, but in the teeth of these statements; and he gave a new aspect and new issues to the whole controversy. The Articles, to him, were a difficulty, which they were not to the writer of No. 90, or to Dr. Pusey, or to Mr. Keble. To him they were not only the "offspring of an uncatholic age," but in themselves uncatholic; and his answer to the charge of dishonest subscription was, not that the Articles "in their natural meaning are Catholic,"[109] but that the system of the English Church is a compromise between what is Catholic and what is Protestant, and that the Protestant parties in it are involved in even greater difficulties, in relation to subscription and use of its formularies, than the Catholic. He admitted that he did evade the spirit, but accepted the "statements of the Articles," maintaining that this was the intention of their original sanctioners. With characteristic boldness, inventing a phrase which has become famous, he wrote: "Our twelfth Article is as plain as words can make it on the Evangelical side; of course I think its natural meaning may be explained away, for I subscribe it myself in a non-natural sense":[110] but he showed that Evangelicals, high church Anglicans, and Latitudinarians were equally obliged to have recourse to explanations, which to all but themselves were unsatisfactory.

But he went a step beyond this. Hitherto the distinction had been uniformly insisted upon between what was Catholic and what was Roman; between what was witnessed to by the primitive and the undivided Church, and what had been developed beyond that in the Schools, and by the definitions and decisions of Rome, and in the enormous mass of its post-Reformation theology, at once so comprehensive, and so minute in application. This distinction was the foundation of what was, characteristically, Anglican theology, from Hooker downwards. This distinction, at least for all important purposes, Mr. Ward gradually gave up. It was to a certain degree recognised in his early controversy about No. 90; but it gradually grew fainter till at last it avowedly disappeared. The Anglican writers had drawn their ideas and their inspiration from the Fathers; the Fathers lived long ago, and the teaching drawn from them, however spiritual and lofty, wanted the modern look, and seemed to recognise insufficiently modern needs. The Roman applications of the same principles were definite and practical, and Mr. Ward's mind, essentially one of his own century, and little alive to what touched more imaginative and sensitive minds, turned at once to Roman sources for the interpretation of what was Catholic. In the British Critic, and still more in the remarkable volume in which his Oxford controversies culminated, the substitution of Roman for the old conception of Catholic appears, and the absolute identification of Roman with Catholic. Roman authorities become more and more the measure and rule of what is Catholic. They belong to the present in a way in which the older fountains of teaching do not; in the recognised teaching of the Latin Church, they have taken their place and superseded them.

It was characteristic of Mr. Ward that his chief quarrel with the Articles was not about the Sacraments, not about their language on alleged Roman errors, but about the doctrine of grace, the relation of the soul of man to the law, the forgiveness, the holiness of God,—the doctrine, that is, in all its bearings, of justification. Mr. Newman had examined this doctrine and the various language held about it with great care, very firmly but very temperately, and had attempted to reconcile with each other all but the extreme Lutheran statements. It was, he said, among really religious men, a question of words. He had recognised the faulty state of things in the pre-Reformation Church, the faulty ideas about forgiveness, merit, grace, and works, from which the Protestant language was a reaction, natural, if often excessive; and in the English authoritative form of this language, he had found nothing but what was perfectly capable of a sound and true meaning. From the first, Mr. Ward's judgment was far more severe than this. To him, the whole structure of the Articles on Justification and the doctrines connected with it seemed based on the Lutheran theory, and for this theory, as fundamentally and hopelessly immoral, he could not find words sufficiently expressive of detestation and loathing. For the basis of his own theory of religious knowledge was a moral basis; men came to the knowledge of religious truth primarily not by the intellect, but by absolute and unfailing loyalty to conscience and moral light; and a doctrine which separated faith from morality and holiness, which made man's highest good and his acceptance with God independent of what he was as a moral agent, which relegated the realities of moral discipline and goodness to a secondary and subordinate place,—as a mere sequel to follow, almost mechanically and of course, on an act or feeling which had nothing moral in it,—which substituted a fictitious and imputed righteousness for an inherent and infused and real one, seemed to him to confound the eternal foundations of right and wrong, and to be a blasphemy against all that was true and sacred in religion.

Of the Lutheran doctrine[111] of justification, and the principle of private judgment, I have argued that, in their abstract nature and necessary tendency, they sink below atheism itself.... A religious person who shall be sufficiently clear-headed to understand the meaning of words, is warranted in rejecting Lutheranism on the very same grounds which would induce him to reject atheism, viz. as being the contradiction of truths which he feels on most certain grounds to be first principles.[112]

There is nothing which he looks back on with so much satisfaction in his writings as on this, that he has "ventured to characterise that hateful and fearful type of Antichrist in terms not wholly inadequate to its prodigious demerits."[113]

Mr. Ward had started with a very definite idea of the Church and of its notes and tests. It was obvious that the Anglican Church—and so, it was thought, the Roman—failed to satisfy these notes in their completeness; but it seemed, at least at first, to satisfy some of them, and to do this so remarkably, and in such strong contrast to other religious bodies, that in England at all events it seemed the true representative and branch of the Church Catholic; and the duty of adhering to it and serving it was fully recognised, even by those who most felt its apparent departure from the more Catholic principles and temper preserved in many points by the Roman Church. From this point of view Mr. Ward avowedly began. But the position gradually gave way before his relentless and dissolving logic. The whole course of his writing in the British Critic may be said to have consisted in a prolonged and disparaging comparison of the English Church, in theory, in doctrine, in moral and devotional temper, in discipline of character, in education, in its public and authoritative tone in regard to social, political, and moral questions, and in the type and standard of its clergy, with those of the Catholic Church, which to him was represented by the mediaeval and later Roman Church. And in the general result, and in all important matters, the comparison became more and more fatally disadvantageous to the English Church. In the perplexing condition of Christendom, it had just enough good and promise to justify those who had been brought up in it remaining where they were, as long as they saw any prospect of improving it, and till they were driven out. That was a duty—uncomfortable and thankless as it was, and open to any amount of misconstruction and misrepresentation—which they owed to their brethren, and to the Lord of the Church. But it involved plain speaking and its consequences; and Mr. Ward never shrank from either.

Most people, looking back, would probably agree, whatever their general judgment on these matters, and whatever they may think of Mr. Ward's case, that he was, at the time at least, the most unpersuasive of writers. Considering his great acuteness, and the frequent originality of his remarks—considering, further, his moral earnestness, and the place which the moral aspects of things occupy in his thoughts, this is remarkable; but so it is. In the first place, in dealing with these eventful questions, which came home with such awful force to thousands of awakened minds and consciences, full of hope and full of fear, there was an entire and ostentatious want of sympathy with all that was characteristically English in matters of religion. This arose partly from his deep dislike to habits, very marked in Englishmen, but not peculiar to them, of self-satisfaction and national self-glorification; but it drove him into a welcoming of opposite foreign ways, of which he really knew little, except superficially. Next, his boundless confidence in the accuracy of his logical processes led him to habits of extreme and absolute statement, which to those who did not agree with him, and also to some who did, bore on their face the character of over-statement, exaggeration, extravagance, not redeemed by an occasional and somewhat ostentatious candour, often at the expense of his own side and in favour of opponents to whom he could afford to be frank. And further, while to the English Church he was merciless in the searching severity of his judgment, he seemed to be blind to the whole condition of things to which she, as well as her rival, had for the last three centuries been subjected, and in which she had played a part at least as important for Christian faith as that sustained by any portion of Christendom; blind to all her special and characteristic excellences, where these did not fit the pattern of the continental types (obviously, in countless instances, matters of national and local character and habits); blind to the enormous difficulties in which the political game of her Roman opponents had placed her; blind to the fact that, judged with the same adverse bias and prepossessions, the same unsparing rigour, the same refusal to give real weight to what was good, on the ground that it was mixed with something lower, the Roman Church would show just as much deflection from the ideal as the English. Indeed, he would have done a great service—people would have been far more disposed to attend to his really interesting, and, to English readers, novel, proofs of the moral and devotional character of the Roman popular discipline, if he had not been so unfair on the English: if he had not ignored the plain fact that just such a picture as he gave of the English Church, as failing in required notes, might be found of the Roman before the Reformation, say in the writings of Gerson, and in our own days in those of Rosmini. Mr. Ward, if any one, appealed to fair judgment; and to this fair judgment he presented allegations on the face of them violent and monstrous. The English Church, according to him, was in the anomalous position of being "gifted with the power of dispensing sacramental grace,"[114] and yet, at the same time, "wholly destitute of external notes, and wholly indefensible as to her position, by external, historical, ecclesiastical arguments": and he for his part declares, correcting Mr. Newman, who speaks of "outward notes as partly gone and partly going," that he is "wholly unable to discern the outward notes of which Mr. Newman speaks, during any part of the last three hundred years." He might as well have said at once that she did not exist, if the outward aspects of a Church—orders, creeds, sacraments, and, in some degree at any rate, preaching and witnessing for righteousness—are not some of the "outward notes" of a Church. "Should the pure light of the Gospel be ever restored to this benighted land,"[115] he writes, at the beginning, as the last extract was written at the end, of his controversial career at Oxford. Is not such writing as if he wished to emulate in a reverse sense the folly and falsehood of those who spoke of English Protestants having a monopoly of the Gospel? He was unpersuasive, he irritated and repelled, in spite of his wish to be fair and candid, in spite of having so much to teach, in spite of such vigour of statement and argument, because on the face of all his writings he was so extravagantly one-sided, so incapable of an equitable view, so much a slave to the unreality of extremes.


[107] Cf. T. Mozley, Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 5.

[108] In dealing with the Articles either as a test or as a text-book, this question was manifestly both an honest and a reasonable one. As a test, and therefore penal, they must be construed strictly; like judicial decisions, they only ruled as much as was necessary, and in the wide field of theology confined themselves to the points at issue at the moment. And as a text-book for instruction, it was obvious that while on some points they were precise and clear, on others they were vague and imperfect. The first five Articles left no room for doubt. When the compilers came to the controversies of their day, for all their strong language, they left all kinds of questions unanswered. For instance, they actually left unnoticed the primacy, and much more the infallibility of the Pope. They condemned the "sacrifices of Masses"—did they condemn the ancient and universal doctrine of a Eucharistic sacrifice? They condemned the Romish doctrine of Purgatory, with its popular tenet of material fire—did that exclude every doctrine of purgation after death? They condemned Transubstantiation—did they condemn the Real Presence? They condemned a great popular system—did they condemn that of which it was a corruption and travesty? These questions could not be foreclosed, unless on the assumption that there was no doctrine on such points which could be called Catholic except the Roman. The inquiry was not new; and divines so stoutly anti-Roman as Dr. Hook and Mr. W. Palmer of Worcester had answered it substantially in the same sense as Mr. Newman in No. 90.

[109] W.G. Ward, The Ideal of a Christian Church, p. 478.

[110] The Ideal, etc., p. 479.

[111] It is curious, and characteristic of the unhistorical quality of Mr. Ward's mind, that his whole hostility should have been concentrated on Luther and Lutheranism—on Luther, the enthusiastic, declamatory, unsystematic denouncer of practical abuses, with his strong attachments to portions of orthodoxy, rather than on Calvin, with his cold love of power, and the iron consistency and strength of his logical anti-Catholic system, which has really lived and moulded Protestantism, while Lutheranism as a religion has passed into countless different forms. Luther was to Calvin as Carlyle to J.S. Mill or Herbert Spencer; he defied system. But Luther had burst into outrageous paradoxes, which fastened on Mr. Ward's imagination.—Yet outrageous language is not always the most dangerous. Nobody would really find a provocation to sin, or an excuse for it, in Luther's Pecca fortiter any more than in Escobar's ridiculous casuistry. There may be much more mischief in the delicate unrealities of a fashionable preacher, or in many a smooth sentimental treatise on the religious affections.

[112] The Ideal, etc., pp. 587, 305.

[113] Ibid. p. 305.

[114] Ideal, p 286.

[115] British Critic October 1841, p. 340.



No. 90, with the explanations of it given by Mr. Newman and the other leaders of the movement, might have raised an important and not very easy question, but one in no way different from the general character of the matters in debate in the theological controversy of the time. But No. 90, with the comments on it of Mr. Ward, was quite another matter, and finally broke up the party of the movement. It was one thing to show how much there is in common between England and Rome, and quite another to argue that there is no difference. Mr. Ward's refusal to allow a reasonable and a Catholic interpretation to the doctrine of the Articles on Justification, though such an understanding of it had not only been maintained by Bishop Bull and the later orthodox divines, but was impressed on all the popular books of devotion, such as the Whole Duty of Man and Bishop Wilson's Sacra Privata; and along with this, the extreme claim to hold compatible with the Articles the "whole cycle of Roman doctrine," introduced entirely new conditions into the whole question. Non hoec in foedera was the natural reflection of numbers of those who most sympathised with the Tractarian school. The English Church might have many shortcomings and want many improvements; but after all she had something to say for herself in her quarrel with Rome; and the witness of experience for fifteen hundred years must be not merely qualified and corrected, but absolutely wiped out, if the allegation were to be accepted that Rome was blameless in all that quarrel, and had no part in bringing about the confusions of Christendom. And this contention was more and more enforced in Mr. Ward's articles in the British Critic—enforced, more effectively than by direct statement, by continual and passing assumption and implication. They were papers of considerable power and acuteness, and of great earnestness in their constant appeal to the moral criteria of truth; though Mr. Ward was not then at his best as a writer, and they were in composition heavy, diffuse, monotonous, and wearisome. But the attitude of deep depreciation, steady, systematic, unrelieved, in regard to that which ought, if acknowledged at all, to deserve the highest reverence among all things on earth, in regard to an institution which, with whatever faults, he himself in words still recognised as the Church of God, was an indefensible and an unwholesome paradox. The analogy is a commonly accepted one between the Church and the family. How could any household go on in which there was at work an animus of unceasing and relentless, though possibly too just criticism, on its characteristic and perhaps serious faults; and of comparisons, also possibly most just, with the better ways of other families? It might be the honest desire of reform and improvement; but charity, patience, equitableness, are virtues of men in society, as well as strict justice and the desire of improvement. In the case of the family, such action could only lead to daily misery and the wasting and dying out of home affections. In the case of a Church, it must come to the sundering of ties which ought no longer to bind. Mr. Ward all along insisted that there was no necessity for looking forward to such an event. He wished to raise, purify, reform the Church in which Providence had placed him; utterly dissatisfied as he was with it, intellectually and morally, convinced more and more that it was wrong, dismally, fearfully wrong, it was his duty, he thought, to abide in it without looking to consequences; but it was also his duty to shake the faith of any one he could in its present claims and working, and to hold up an incomparably purer model of truth and holiness. That his purpose was what he considered real reform, there is no reason to doubt, though he chose to shut his eyes to what must come of it. The position was an unnatural one, but he had great faith in his own well-fenced logical creations, and defied the objections of a homelier common sense. He was not content to wait in silence the slow and sad changes of old convictions, the painful decay and disappearance of long-cherished ties. His mind was too active, restless, unreserved. To the last he persisted in forcing on the world, professedly to influence it, really to defy it, the most violent assertions which he could formulate of the most paradoxical claims on friends and opponents which had ever been made.

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