Lecture 2. The Movement of 1833 Foreign to the National Church

Doubts at Beginning of Movement

Establishment Response to Movement

No Apostolical Life in National Church

Establishment Unapostolical from the First

Protestantism Congenial to National Church

Catholic Orthodoxy in Milan of St. Ambrose

Contrast with National Sentiment
    Reaction to Surplices

Conclusion—Seek Catholic Principals in True Home



Contents | Works | Home


{33} MY object in these Lectures, my brethren, is not to construct any argument in favour of Catholicism, for there is no need. Arguments exist in abundance, and of the highest cogency, and of the most wonderful variety, provided severally by the merciful wisdom of its Divine Author, for distinct casts of mind and character;—so much so, that it is often a mistake in controversy to cumulate reasons for what is on many considerations so plain already, and the evidence of which is only weakened to the individual inquirer, when he is distracted by fresh proofs, consistent indeed with those which have brought conviction to him, but to him less convincing than his own, and at least strange and unfamiliar. Every inquirer may have enough of positive proof to convince him that the Catholic Religion is divine: it is owing to the force of counter-objections that his conviction remains in fact either defective or inoperative. I consider, then, that I shall {34} be ministering in my measure to the cause of truth, if I do ever so little towards removing the difficulties, or any of them, which beset the mind, when it is urged to accept Catholicism as true. It is with this view that I have insisted on the real character of the Established Church, and its relation to the nation; for, if it be mainly as I have represented it, a department of government under the temporal sovereign, one at least is struck off from the catalogue of your objections. You fear to leave it lest you should, by your secession throw it into the hands of a latitudinarian party; but it never has been in your hands, nor ever under your influence. It is in the hands of the nation; it is mainly what the nation is: such is it, while you are in it; such would it be, if you left it. I do not deny you may by your presence somewhat retard its downward career, but you are not of the real importance to it, which you fancy.

Now, in the course of the argument I made a remark, which I shall today pursue. I spoke of the movement which began in the Establishment in 1833, or shortly before; and I dwelt on the remarkable fact, that in nearly twenty years that movement, though certainly it exerted great influence over the views of individuals, nevertheless has created a mere party in the National Church, having had the least possible influence over the National Church itself; and no wonder, if that Church be simply an organ or department of the State, for in {35} that case, all ecclesiastical acts really proceeding from the supreme civil government, to influence the Establishment, is nothing else than to influence the State, or even the Constitution.

Now I shall pursue the argument. I shall, by means of one or two suggestions, try to bring home to you the extreme want of congeniality which has existed between the movement of 1833 and the nation at large; and then assuming that you, my brethren, owe your principles to that movement, and that your first duty is to your principles, I shall infer your own want of congeniality with the national religion, however you may wish it otherwise; I shall infer that you have no concern with that national religion, have no place in it, have no reason for belonging to it, and have no responsibilities towards it.

I am then to point out to you, that, what is sometimes called, or rather what calls itself, the Anglo-Catholic teaching, is not only a novelty in this age (for to prove a thing new to the age, is not enough in order to prove it uncongenial), but that, while it is a system adventitious and superadded to the national religion, it is, moreover, not supplemental, or complemental, or collateral, or correlative to it,—not implicitly involved in it, not developed from it,—nor combining with it,—nor capable of absorption into it; but, on the contrary, most uncongenial and heterogeneous, floating upon it, a foreign substance, like oil upon the water. And my {36} proof shall consist, first, of what was augured of it when it commenced; secondly, what has been fulfilled concerning it during its course.


As to the auguries with which it started, we need not go beyond the first agents of the movement, in order to have a tolerably sufficient proof that it had no lot, nor portion, nor parentage in the Established Church; for when those who first recommended to her its principles and doctrines are found themselves to have doubted how far these were congenial with her, when the very physicians were anxious as to what would come of their own medicines, who shall feel confidence in them? Such, however, was the case: its originators confessed that they were forcing upon the Establishment doctrines from which it revolted, doctrines with which it never had given signs of coalescing, doctrines which tended they knew not whither. This is what they felt, this is what with no uncertain sound they publicly proclaimed.

For instance, one, who, if any, is the author of the movement altogether, and whose writings were published after his death, says in one of his letters, "It seems agreed among the wise, that we must begin by laying a foundation." Again he writes to a friend, "I am getting more and more to feel, what you tell me, about the impracticability of making sensible people," that is, the High Church party of the day, "enter into not {37} ecclesiastical views; and, what is most discouraging, I hardly see how to set about leading them to us." Elsewhere he asks, "How is it we are so much in advance of our generation?" And again, "The age is out of joint." And again, "I shall write nothing on the subject of Church grievances, till I have a tide to work with." Further he calls the Establishment "an incubus upon the country," and, "a upas tree:" and, lastly, within three or four months of his death, his theological views still expanding and diverging from the existing state of things, he exclaims, "How mistaken we may ourselves be on many points, that are only gradually opening on us!" [Note 1]

Avowals of a like character are made with the utmost frankness in the very work which in 1837 professed formally to lay down and defend the new doctrines. The writer (that is, myself) begins by allowing that he is "discussing rather than teaching, what was meant to be simply an article of faith," viz., belief in "the Catholic Church," alleging in excuse that "the teaching of the Apostles concerning it is, in a good measure, withdrawn," and that, "we are, so far, left to make the best of our way to the promised land by our natural resources." [Note 2] The preaching of the doctrines of the movement is compared, in its strangeness, to the original preaching of Christianity, and this {38} only alleviation is suggested, if it be any, that they who are startled at those doctrines, could not be more startled than "the outcasts to whom the Apostles preached in the beginning." Nay, it is categorically stated, that "these doctrines are in one sense as entirely new as Christianity when first preached." He continues, "Protestantism and Popery" (by Popery he means the popular Catholic system) "are real religions; no one can doubt about them; they have furnished the mould in which nations have been cast; but the Via Media, viewed as an integral system, has scarcely had existence except on paper." Presently he continues, "It still remains to be tried, whether what is called Anglo-Catholicism, the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson, is capable of being professed, acted on, and maintained in a large sphere of action, and through a sufficient period; or whether it be a mere modification or transition state, either of Romanism or of popular Protestantism, according as we view it." "It may be argued," he adds, and, as he does not deny, argued with plausibility, "that the Church of England, as established by law, and existing in fact, has never represented a certain doctrine, or been the development of a principle; that it has been but a name, or a department of the State, or a political party in which religious opinion was an accident, and therefore has been various." And this prospectus, as it may be called, of a new system ends by stating that, "it {39} is proposed to offer helps towards the formation of a recognised Anglican theology in one of its departments." … "We require a recognised theology," he insists, "and, if the present work, instead of being what it is meant to be, a first approximation to the required solution, in one department of a complicated problem, contains, after all, but a series of illustrations demonstrating our need, and supplying hints for its removal; such a result, it is evident, will be quite a sufficient return for whatever anxiety it has cost the writer to have employed his own judgment on so serious a subject."

I must add, in justice to this writer, and it is not much to say for him, that he did not entertain the presumptuous thought of creating, at this time of day, a new theology himself; he considered that a theology true in itself, and necessary for the position of the Anglican Church, was to be found in the writings of Andrewes, Laud, Bramhall, Stillingfleet, Butler, and other of its divines, but had never been put together,—as he expressly declares. Nor, in spite of his misgivings, was he without a persuasion that the theological system contained in those writers, and derived, as he believed, from the primitive Fathers, not only ought to be, but might be, and, as he hoped, would be, acknowledged and acted upon by the Establishment. On the other hand, I allow, of course, and am not loth to allow, that, had he seen clearly that Antiquity and the Establishment {40} were incompatible with each other, he would promptly have given up the Establishment, rather than have rejected Antiquity. Moreover, let it be observed, in evidence of his misgivings on the point, that, when he gets to the end of his volume, instead of their being removed, they return in a more definite form, and he confesses that "the thought, with which we entered upon the subject, is apt to recur, when the excitement of the inquiry has subsided, and weariness has succeeded, that what has been said is but a dream, the wanton exercise, rather than the practical conclusions, of the intellect."


These auguries speedily met with a response, though in a less tranquil tone, in every part of the Establishment, and by each of the schools of opinion within it,—the High Church section, the Evangelical, and the Latitudinarian. They condemned, not only the attempt, but the authors of it. The late Dr. Arnold, a man who always spoke his mind, avowed that his feelings towards a Roman Catholic were quite different from his feelings to the author of the above work. "I think the one," he continued, "a fair enemy, the other a treacherous one. The one is the Frenchman in his own uniform, the other is the Frenchman disguised in a red coat. I should honour the first and hang the second." For the Evangelical party, it is scarcely necessary to make the following extracts from the work of even a cautious {41} and careful writer:—"If," says the writer of "Essays on the Church," "the grievances and warfare of Dissenters against it have greatly diminished in interest, a new and gigantic evil has arisen up in their room ... Popery, not indeed of the days of Hildebrand or Leo the Tenth, but Popery as it first established itself in the seventh and eighth centuries, is already among us ... Popery has anew arisen up among us, in youthful vigour and in her youthful attractions. Such is the chief, the greatly preponderating peril, which besets the Church of England at the present day. It has in it all the essential features of Popery; but, apart from this, and were it never to proceed beyond the perils to which it has now reached, it is fraught with the fearful evil of a withering, parching, blighting operation, drying-up and banishing all spiritual life and influence from the Church." [Note 3]

Lastly, a theological professor of the High Church section, in an attack which he delivered from the pulpit, viewed the movement from another point of view, yet in perfect accordance of judgment with the two writers who have been already cited: "Instead of quietly acquiescing," he says, "in what they cannot change, submitting in silence to their imagined privations, and patiently enduring this 'meagreness of Protestantism,' by a species of 'ecclesiastical agitation,' unexampled {42} in obtrusiveness and perseverance, they are unsettling the faith of the weak, blinding the judgment of the sober-minded, raising the hopes of the most inveterate advocates of our Reformed and Protestant Church, and, as far as a small knot of malcontents can well be supposed capable, they are compromising her character and disturbing her peace." [Note 4]

Yet even at this date, in spite of the success which for five years had attended him, the author whom I have already quoted felt no greater confidence than before in his own congeniality with the National Church; and, on occasion of the last-mentioned attack upon him, scrupled not to avow the fact. "Sure I am," said he, "that the more stir is made about those opinions which you censure, the wider they will spread. Whatever be the faults or mistakes of their advocates, they have that root of truth in them, which, as I do firmly believe, has a blessing with it. I do not pretend to say they will ever become widely popular, that is another matter: truth is never, or at least never long, popular; nor do I say they will ever gain that powerful external influence over the many which truth, vested in the few, cherished, throned, energising in the few, often has possessed; nor that they are not destined, as truth has often been destined, to be cast away, and at length trodden under foot as an odious thing: but of this I am sure, that, at this juncture, in proportion as {43} they are known, they will make their way through the community, picking out their own, seeking and obtaining refuge in the hearts of Christians, high and low, here and there, with this man and that, as the case may be; doing their work in their day, and raising a memorial and a witness to this fallen generation of what once has been, of what God would ever have, of what one day shall be in perfection; and that, not from what they are in themselves, because, viewed in the concrete, they are mingled, as everything human must be, with error and infirmity, but by reason of the spirit, the truth, the old Catholic life and power which is in them." [Note 5]


What was it, then, which the originators of the movement of 1833 demanded or desiderated in its behalf, in the communion for whose benefit it was intended? How came they to dread lest the principles of St. Athanasius and of St. Ambrose should fail to take root in the minds of their brethren, and to spread through the laity? In truth, when they feared that the good seed would fall, not on a congenial soil, but on hard, or stony, or occupied ground, they were fearing that the National Church, though they did not use the word, had no life. Life consists or manifests itself in activity of principle. There are various kinds of life, and each kind is the influence or operation in a {44} body of those principles upon which the body is constituted. Each kind of life is to be referred, and is congenial, to its own principle. Principles, distinct from each other, will not take root and flourish in bodies to which respectively they are foreign. One principle has not the life of another. The life of a plant is not the same as the life of an animated being, and the life of the body is not the same as the life of the intellect; nor is the life of the intellect the same in kind as the life of grace; nor is the life of the Church the same as the life of the State. When, then, these writers doubted whether Apostolical principles, as they called them, would spread through the laity of England, they were doubting whether that laity lived, breathed, energised, in Apostolical principles; whether Apostolical principles were the just expression and the constituent element of the national sentiment; whether the intellectual and moral life of the nation was not distinct from the life of the Apostolical age; and, if the Establishment professed to be built upon the principles and to partake of the life of the Apostolical age, as they knew ought to be the case, then they were doubting whether it really had those principles and that life, in spite of its professions.

There was no doubt at all, there is no doubt at all, that the Establishment has some kind of life. No one ever doubted it; and one of its dignitaries triumphantly proves it in a passage which I will quote:— {45} "Surely, my dear friend," says this accomplished writer [Note 6], with a reference to the present controversy, "it requires an inordinate faith in one's own logical dreams, an idolising worship of one's own opinions, to believe that the Church of England, blest as she has been by God for so many generations, raised as she has been by Him to be the mother of so many Churches, with such a promise shining upon her, and brightening every year, that her daughters should spread round the earth, that she, who has been chosen by God to be the instrument of so many blessings, and the presence of the Lord and His Spirit with whom was never more manifest than at this day, should forfeit her office and authority, as a witness of the truth, should be cut off from the body of Christ's Church, and should no longer be able to dispense the grace of the sacraments, because her highest law court has not condemned a proposition asserted by one of her ministers, concerning a very obscure and perplexing question of dogmatical theology. Surely this would be an extraordinary delusion; ... for, whatever the dogmatical value of the opinion" in question "may be, the error is not one which indicates any want of personal faith and holiness, or any decay of Christian life in the Church."

No, I grant it would be very difficult to the imagination to receive it as a dogma, that there was no "life" {46} in the National Church, or indeed no "faith." The simple question is, What is meant by "life" and faith"? Will the Archdeacon tell us whether he does not mean by faith a something very vague and comprehensive? Does he mean, as he might say, the faith of Marcus Antoninus, St. Austin, and Peter the Hermit, of Luther, Rousseau, Washington, and Napoleon Bonaparte? Faith has one meaning to a Catholic, another to a Protestant. And life,—is it the religious "life" of England, or of Prussia, that he means, or is it Catholic life, that is, the life which belongs to Catholic principles? Else he will be arguing in a circle, if he is to prove that Protestants have that life, which manifests "the presence of the Spirit," on the ground of their having, as they are sure to have, a life congenial and in conformity to Protestant principles. If then "life" means strength, activity, energy, and well-being of any kind whatever, in that case doubtless the national religion is alive. It is a great power in the midst of us; it wields an enormous influence; it represses a hundred foes; it conducts a hundred undertakings. It attracts men to it, uses them, rewards them; it has thousands of beautiful homes up and down the country, where quiet men may do its work and benefit its people; it collects vast sums in the shape of voluntary offerings, and with them it builds churches, prints and distributes innumerable Bibles, books, and tracts and sustains missionaries in all {47} parts of the earth. In all parts of the earth it opposes the Catholic Church, denounces her as antichristian, bribes the world against her, obstructs her influence, apes her authority, and confuses her evidence. In all parts of the world it is the religion of gentlemen, of scholars, of men of substance, and men of no personal faith at all. If this be life,—if it be life to impart a tone to the court and houses of parliament, to ministers of state, to law and literature, to universities and schools, and to society,—if it be life to be a principle of order in the population, and an organ of benevolence and almsgiving towards the poor,—if it be life to make men decent, respectable, and sensible, to embellish and refine the family circle, to deprive vice of its grossness, and to shed a gloss over avarice and ambition,—if indeed it is the life of religion to be the first jewel in the Queen's crown, and the highest step of her throne, then doubtless the National Church is replete, it overflows with life; but the question has still to be answered, Life of what kind? Heresy has its life, worldliness has its life. Is the Establishment's life merely national life, or is it something more? Is it Catholic life as well? Is it a supernatural life? Is it congenial with, does it proceed from, does it belong to, the principles of Apostles, Martyrs, Evangelists, and Doctors, the principles which the movement of 1833 thought to impose or to graft upon it, or does it revolt from them? If it be Catholic and Apostolic, it will endure {48} Catholic and Apostolic principles; no one doubts it can endure Erastian; no one doubts it can be patient of Protestant; this is the problem which was started by the movement in question, the problem for which, surely, there has been an abundance of tests in the course of twenty years.


But the passage I have quoted suggests a second observation. I have spoken of the tests, which the last twenty years have furnished, of the real character of the Establishment; for I must not be supposed to be inquiring whether the Establishment has been unchurched during that period, but whether it has been proved to have been no Church from the first. The want of congeniality which now exists between the sentiments and ways, the moral life of the Anglican communion, and the principles, doctrines, traditions of Catholicism—this uncongeniality I am speaking of in order to prove something done and over long ago before the movement, in order to show that that movement of 1833 was from its very beginning engaged in propagating an unreality. The eloquent writer just quoted, in ridicule of the protest made by twelve very distinguished men against the Queen's recent decision concerning the sacrament of baptism, contrasts "logical dreams" and "obscure and perplexing questions of dogmatic theology" with "the promise" in the Establishment of a large family "of daughters, spread round {49} the earth, shining and brightening every year." Now, I grant that it has a narrow and technical appearance to decide the Catholicity of a religious body by particular words, or deeds, or measures, resulting from the temper of a particular age, accidentally elicited, and accomplished in minutes or in days. I allow it and feel it;—that a particular vote of parliament, endured or tacitly accepted by bishops and clergy, or by the Metropolitans, or a particular appointment, or a particular omission, or a particular statement of doctrine, should at once change the spiritual character of the body, and ipso facto cut it off from the centre of unity and the source of grace, is almost incredible. In spite of such acts, surely the Anglican Church might be today what it was yesterday, with an internal power and a supernatural virtue, provided it had not already forfeited them, and would go about its work as of old time. It would be today pretty much what it was yesterday, though in the course of the night it had allowed an Anglo-Prussian See to be set up in Jerusalem, and had disavowed the Athanasian Creed.

This is the common sense of the matter, to which the mind recurs with satisfaction, after zeal and ingenuity have done their utmost to prove the contrary. Of course, I am not saying that individual acts do not tend towards, and a succession of acts does not issue in, the most serious spiritual consequences; but it is so {50} difficult to determine the worth of each ecclesiastical act, and what its position is relatively to acts before and after it, that I have no intention of urging any argument deduced from such acts in particular. A generation may not be long enough for the completion of an act of schism or heresy. Judgments admit of repeal or reversal; enactments are liable to flaws and informalities; laws require promulgation; documents admit of explanation; words must be interpreted either by context or by circumstances; majorities may be analysed; responsibilities may be shifted. I admit the remark of another writer in the present controversy, though I do not accept his conclusion: "The Church's motion," he says, "is not that of a machine, to be calculated with accuracy, and predicted beforehand; where one serious injury will disturb all regularity, and finally put a stop to action. It is that of a living body, whose motions will be irregular, incapable of being exactly arranged and foretold, and where it is nearly impossible to say how much health may co-exist with how much disease." And he speaks of the line of reasoning which he is opposing, as being "too logical to be real. Men," he observes, "do not, in the practical affairs of life, act on such clear, sharp, definite theories. Such reasoning can never be the cause of any one leaving the Church of England. But it looks well on paper, and therefore may, perhaps, be put forward as a theoretical argument by those who, from {51} some other feeling, or fancy, or prejudice, or honest conviction, think fit to leave us." [Note 7]

Truly said, except in the imputation conveyed in the concluding words. I will grant that it is by life without us, by life within us, by the work of grace in our communion and in ourselves, that we are all of us accustomed practically to judge whether that communion be Catholic or not; not by this or that formal act or historical event. I will grant it, though of course it requires some teaching, and some discernment, and some prayer, to understand what spiritual life is, and what is the working of grace. However, at any rate, let the proposition pass;—I will here allow it, at least for argument's sake; for, my brethren, I am not here going to look out, in the last twenty years, for dates when, and ways in which, the Establishment fell from Catholic unity, and lost its divine privileges. No; the question before us is nothing narrow or technical; it has no cut-and-dried premisses, and peremptory conclusions; it is not whether this or that statute or canon at the time of the Reformation, this or that "further and further encroachment" of the State, this or that "Act of William IV.," constituted the Establishment's formal separation from the Church; not whether the Queen's recent decision binds it to heresy; but, whether these acts, and abundant others, are not one and all evidences, in one out of a hundred {52} heads of evidence, that, whatever were the acts which constituted, or the moment which completed the schism, or rather the utter disorganisation of the National Church, cut off and disorganised it is. No sober man I suppose, dreams of denying, that, if that Church be un-apostolical and impure now, it has had no claim to be called "pure and apostolical" last year, or twenty years back, or for any part of the period since the Reformation.

We have, then, this simple question before us: What evidence is there, that the doctrines and principles proclaimed to the world in 1833 had then, or have now, any congeniality with the Establishment in which they were propagated, and that they could or can live in that Establishment; whether they can move or work, whether they can breathe and live in it, better than a being with lungs in an exhausted receiver? It was doubted, as we have seen, by their first preachers; how has it been determined by the event? Now, then, to give one or two specimens and illustrations of a fact too certain, as I think, to need much dwelling on.


We know that it is the property of life to be impatient of any foreign substance in the body to which it belongs. It will be sovereign in its own domain, and it conflicts with what it cannot assimilate into itself, and is irritated and disordered till it has expelled it. {53} Such expulsion, then, is, emphatically, a test of uncongeniality, for it shows that the substance ejected, not only is not one with the body that rejects it, but cannot be made one with it; that its introduction is not only useless, or superfluous, or adventitious, but that it is intolerable. For instance, it is usual for High Churchmen to speak of the Establishment as patient, in matter of fact, both of Catholic and Protestant principles;—truly said as regards Protestant, and it will illustrate my point to give instances of it. No one will deny, then, that neither Lutheranism nor Calvinism is the exact doctrine of the Church of England, and yet either heresy readily coalesces with it in matter of fact. Persons of Lutheran and Calvinistic, and Luthero-Calvinist bodies, are and have been chosen without scruple by the English people for husbands and wives, for sponsors, for missionaries, for deans and canons, without any formal transition from communion to communion. The Anglican Prelates write complimentary letters to what they call the foreign Protestant Churches, and they attend, with their clergy and laity, Protestant places of worship abroad. William III. was called to the throne, though a Calvinist, and George I., though a Lutheran, and that in order to exclude a family who adhered to the religion of Rome. The national religion, then, has a congeniality with Lutheranism and Calvinism, which it has not, for instance, with the Greek religion, or the Jewish. Other {54} religions, as they come, whatever they be, are not indifferent to it; it takes up one, it precipitates another; it, as every religion, has a life, a spirit, a genius of its own, in which doctrines lie implicit, out of which they are developed, and by which they are attracted into it from without, and assimilated to it.

There is a passage in Moehler's celebrated work on Symbolism, so much to the point here, that I will quote it: "Each nation," he says, "is endowed with a peculiar character, stamped on the deepest, most hidden parts of its being, which distinguishes it from all other nations, and manifests its peculiarity in public and domestic life, in art and science; in short, in every relation. In every general act of a people, the national spirit is infallibly expressed; and should contests, should selfish factions occur, the element destructive to the vital principle of the whole will most certainly be detected in them, and the commotion excited by an alien spirit either miscarries or is expelled; as long as the community preserves its self-consciousness, as long as its peculiar genius yet lives and works within it ... Let us contemplate the religious sect founded by Luther himself. The developed doctrines of his Church, consigned as they are in the symbolical books, retain, on the whole, so much of his spirit, that, at the first view, they must be recognised by the observer as genuine productions of Luther. With a sure vital instinct, the opinions of the Majorists, the Synergists, and others, {55} were rejected as deadly, and indeed (from Luther's point of view) as untrue, by that community whose soul, whose living principle, he was." [Note 8]

We have the most vivid and impressive illustrations of the truth of these remarks in the history of the Church. The religious life of a people is of a certain quality and in a certain direction, and this quality and this direction are tested by the mode in which it encounters the various opinions, customs, and institutions which are submitted to it. Drive a stake into a river's bed, and you will at once ascertain which way it is running, and at what speed; throw up even a straw upon the air, and you will see which way the wind blows; submit your heretical and your Catholic principle to the action of the multitude, and you will be able to pronounce at once whether that multitude is imbued with Catholic truth or with heretical falsehood.


Take, for example, a passage in the history of the fourth century; let the place be Milan; the date the Lent of 384, 385; the reigning powers Justina and her son Valentinian, and St. Ambrose the Archbishop. The city is in an uproar; there is a mob before the imperial residence; the soldiery interferes in vain, and Ambrose is despatched by the court to disperse the people. A month elapses; Palm Sunday is come; the Archbishop {56} is expounding the Creed to the catechumens, when he is told that the people are again in commotion. A second message comes, that they have seized one of the empress's priests. The court makes reprisals on the tradesmen, some of whom are fined, some thrown into prison, while men of higher rank are threatened. We are arrived at the middle of Holy Week, and we find soldiers posted before one of the churches, and Ambrose has menaced them with excommunication. His threat overcomes them, and they join the congregation to whom he is preaching. The court gives way, the guards are withdrawn to their quarters, and the fines are remitted. What does all this mean? There evidently has been a quarrel between the court and the Archbishop, and the Archbishop, aided by the popular enthusiasm, has conquered. A year passes, and there is a second and more serious disturbance. Soldiers have surrounded the same church; yet, dreading an excommunication, they let the people enter, but refuse to let them pass out. Still the people keep entering; they fill the church, the courtyard, the priests' lodgings; and there they remain with the Archbishop for two or three days, singing psalms, till the soldiers, overcome by the music, sing psalms too, and the blockade melts away, no one knows how. And now, what was the cause of so enthusiastic, so dogged an opposition to the court, on the part of the population of Milan? The answer is plain; it was because they {57} loved Christ so well, and were so sensitive of the doctrine of His divinity, that they would not allow the reigning powers to take a church from them, and bestow it on the Arians. I conceive, then, that Catholicism was emphatically the religion of Milan, or that the life of the Milanese Church was a Catholic life.

And so, in like manner, when in St. Giles' Church, Edinburgh, in July 1635, the dean of the city opened the service-book, in the presence of Bishop and Privy Council, and "a multitude of the meanest sort, most of them women," clapped their hands, cursed him, cried out, "A pope! a pope! antichrist! stone him;" [Note 9] and one flung a stool at the Bishop, and others threw stones at doors and windows, and at Privy-seal and Bishop on their return, and this became the beginning of a movement which ended in obtaining the objects at which it aimed,—this, I consider, shows clearly enough that the religious life at Edinburgh at that day was not Catholic, not Anglican, but Presbyterian and Puritan.

And, to take one more instance, when the seven Bishops were committed to the Tower, and were proceeding "down the river to their place of confinement, the banks were covered with spectators, who, while they knelt and asked their blessing, prayed themselves for a blessing on them and their cause. The very soldiers who guarded them, and some even of the officers to {58} whose charge they were committed, knelt in like manner before them, and besought their benediction." When they were brought before the Court of King's Bench, they "passed through a line of people who kissed their hands and their garments, and begged their blessing;" and when they were admitted to bail, "bonfires were made in the streets, and healths drunk to the Seven Champions of the Church." Lastly, when they were acquitted, the verdict "was received with a shout which seemed to shake the hall ... All the churches were filled with people; the bells rang from every tower, every house was illuminated, and bonfires were kindled in every street. Medals were struck in honour of the event, and portraits hastily published and eagerly purchased, of men who were compared to the seven golden candlesticks, and called the seven stars of the Protestant Church." [Note 10] Now here again are signs of life, religious life, doubtless, but they have nothing to do with Catholicism; they are indubitable, unequivocable tokens what the national religion was and is, affording a clear illustration of the congeniality existing between the spirit and character of a system and its own principles, and not with their opposites.


Let a people, then, Catholic or not, be little versed in doctrine—let them be a practical, busy people, full of {59} their secular matters—let them have no keen analytical view of the principles which govern them,—yet they will be spontaneously attracted by those principles and irritated by their contraries, in such sort as they can be attracted or irritated by no other. Their own principles or their contraries, when once sounded in their ears, thrill through them with a vibration, pleasant or painful, with sweet harmony or with grating discord; under which they cannot rest quiet, but relieve their feelings by gestures and cries, and startings to and fro, and expressions of sympathy or antipathy towards others, and at length by combination, and party manifestos, and vigorous action. When, then, the note of Catholicism, as it may be called, was struck seventeen years since, and while it has sounded louder and louder on the national ear, what has been the response of the national sentiment? It had many things surely in its favour; it sounded from a centre which commanded attention—it sounded strong and full; nor was it intermitted, or checked, or lowered by the opposition nor drowned by the clamour, which it occasioned while, at length, it was re-echoed and repeated from other centres with zeal, and energy, and sincerity, and effect, as great as any cause could even desire or could ask for. So far, no movement could have more advantages attendant on it than it had; and, as it proceeded, it did not content itself with propagating an abstract theology, but it took a part in the public events of the {60} day; it interfered with court, with ministers, with University matters, and with counter-movements of whatever kind.

And, moreover, which is much to the purpose, it appealed to the people, and that on the very ground that it was Apostolical in its nature. It made the experiment of this appeal the very test of its Apostolicity. "I shall offend many men," said one of its organs, "when I say, we must look to the people; but let them give me a hearing. Well can I understand their feelings. Who, at first sight, does not dislike the thoughts of gentlemen and clergymen depending for their maintenance and their reputation on their flocks? of their strength, as a visible power, lying, not in their birth, the patronage of the great, or the endowments of the Church, as hitherto, but in the homage of a multitude? But, in truth, the prospect is not so bad as it seems at first sight. The chief and obvious objection to the clergy being thrown on the people lies in that probable lowering of Christian views, and that adulation of the vulgar, which would be its consequence; and the state of dissenters is appealed to as an evidence of the danger. But let us recollect that we are an Apostolical body; we were not made, nor can be unmade, by our flocks; and, if our influence is to depend on them, yet the Sacraments are lodged with us. We have that with us which none but ourselves possess, the mantle of the Apostles; and this, properly understood {61} and cherished, will ever keep us from being the creatures of a population." [Note 11]

Here, then, was a challenge to the nation to decide between the movement and its opponents; and how did the nation meet it? When clergymen of Latitudinarian theology were promoted to dignities, did the faithful of the diocese, or of the episcopal city, rise in insurrection? Did parishioners blockade a church's doors to keep out a new incumbent, who refused to read the Athanasian Creed? Did vestries feel an instinctive reverence for the altar-table, as soon as that reverence was preached? Did the organs of public opinion pursue with their invectives those who became dissenters or Irvingites? Was it a subject of popular indignation, discussed and denounced in railway trains and omnibuses and steamboats, in clubs and shops, in episcopal charges and at visitation dinners, if a clergyman explained away the baptismal service, or professed his intention to leave out portions of it in ministration? Did it rouse the guards or the artillery to find that the Bishop, where they were stationed, was a Sabellian? Was it a subject for public meetings if a recognition was attempted of foreign Protestant ordinations? Did animosity to heretics of the day go so far as to lead speakers to ridicule their persons and their features, amid the cheers of sympathetic hearers? Did petitions load the {62} tables of the Commons from the mothers of England or Young Men's Associations, because the Queen went to a Presbyterian service, or a high minister of state was an infidel? Did the Bishops cry out and stop their ears on hearing that one of their body denied original sin or the grace of ordination? Was there nothing in the course of the controversy to show what the nation thought of that controversy, and of the parties to it?


Yes, I hear a cry from an episcopal city; I have before my eyes one scene, and it is a sample and an earnest of many others. Once in a way, there were those among the authorities of the Establishment who made certain recommendations concerning the mode of conducting divine worship: simple these in themselves, and perfectly innocuous, but they looked like the breath, the shadow of the movement; they seemed an omen of something more to come; they were the symptoms of some sort of ecclesiastical favour bestowed in one quarter on its adherents. The newspapers, the organs of the political, mammon-loving community, of those vast multitudes of all ranks who are allowed by the Anglican Church to do nearly what they will for six, if not seven days in the week,—who, in spite of the theological controversies rolling over their heads, could, if they would, buy, and sell, and manufacture, and trade at their pleasure,—who might be unconcerned, {63} and go their own way, for no one would interfere with them, and might "live and let live,"—the organs, I say, of these multitudes kindle with indignation, and menace, and revile, and denounce, because the Bishops in question suffer their clergy to deliver their sermons, as well as the prayers, in a surplice. It becomes a matter of popular interest. There are mobs in the street, houses are threatened, life is in danger, because only a gleam of Apostolical principles, in their faintest, wannest expression, is cast inside a building which is the home of the national religion. The very moment that Catholicism ventures out of books, and cloisters, and studies, towards the national house of prayer, when it lifts its hand or its very eyebrow towards this people so tolerant of heresy, at once the dull and earthly mass is on fire. It would be little or nothing though the minister baptized without water, though he chucked away the consecrated wine, though he denounced fasting, though he laughed at virginity, though he interchanged pulpits with a Wesleyan or a Baptist, though he defied his Bishop; he might be blamed, he might be disliked, he might be remonstrated with; but he would not touch the feelings of men; he would not inflame their minds;—but, bring home to them the very thought of Catholicism, hold up a surplice, and the religious building is as full of excitement and tumult as St. Victor's at Milan in the cause of orthodoxy, or St. Giles', Edinburgh, for the Kirk. {64}

"The uproar commenced," says a contemporary account, "with a general coughing down; several persons then moved to the door making a great noise in their progress; a young woman went off in a fit of hysterics, uttering loud shrieks, whilst a mob outside besieged the doors of the building. A cry of 'fire' was raised, followed by an announcement that the church doors were closed, and a rush was made to burst them open. Some cried out, 'Turn him out,' 'Pull it off him.' In the galleries the uproar was at its height, whistling, cat-calls, hurrahing, and such cries as are heard in theatres, echoed throughout the edifice. The preacher still persisted to read his text, but was quite inaudible; and the row increased, some of the congregation waving their hats, standing on the seats, jumping over them, bawling, roaring, and gesticulating, like a mob at an election. The reverend gentleman, in the midst of the confusion, despatched a message to the mayor, requesting his assistance, when one of the congregation addressed the people, and also requested the preacher to remove the cause of the ill-feeling which had been excited. Then another addressed him in no measured terms, and insisted on his leaving the pulpit. At length the mayor, the superintendent of the police, several constables, also the chancellor and the archdeacon, arrived. The mayor enforced silence, and, after admonishing the people, requested the clergy-man to leave the pulpit for a few minutes, which he {65} declined to do,—gave out his text, and proceeded with his discourse. The damage done to the interior of the church is said to be very considerable." I believe I am right in supposing that the surplice has vanished from that pulpit from that day forward. Here, at length, certainly are signs of life, but not the life of the Catholic Church.

And now to draw my conclusion from what I have been following out, if I have not sufficiently done so already. If, my brethren, your reason, your faith, your affections, are indissolubly bound up with the holy principles which you have been taught, if you know they are true, if you know their life and their power, if you know that nothing else is true; surely you have no portion or sympathy with systems which reject them. Seek those principles in their true home. If your Church rejects your principles, it rejects you;—nor dream of indoctrinating it with them by remaining; everything has its own nature, and in that nature is its identity. You cannot change your Establishment into a Church without a miracle. It is what it is, and you have no means of acting upon it; you have not what Archimedes looked for, when he would move the world,—the fulcrum of his lever,—while you are one with it. It acts on you, while you act on it; you cannot employ it against itself. If you would make England Catholic, you must go forth on your mission from the Catholic {66} Church. You have duties towards the Establishment; it is the duty, not of owning its rule, but of converting its members. Oh, my brethren! life is short, waste it not in vanities; dream not; halt not between two opinions; wake from a dream, in which you are not profiting your neighbour, but imperilling your own souls.

Top | Contents | Works | Home


1. Froude's Remains, vol. i.
Return to text

2. Prophetical Office of the Church. Vid. Via Media, vol. i., ed. 1877.
Return to text

3. Essays on the Church, by a Layman, 1838, pp. 270, 299, 300. Ditto, 1840, p. 401.
Return to text

4. Faussett's Sermon, 1838, Preface to Third Edition.
Return to text

5. The author's "Letter to Dr. Faussett." Vid. Via Media. vol. ii.
Return to text

6. Archdeacon Hare, in Record Newspaper.
Return to text

7. Neal's Few Words of Hope, pp. 11, 12.
Return to text

8. Robertson's Transl., vol. ii. pp. 36-39.
Return to text

9. Hume. Charles the First.
Return to text

10. Southey's Book of the Church.
Return to text

11. Church of the Fathers. 
Return to text

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.