A Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D.
on Occasion of his Eirenicon

§ 1. Introductory Remarks

{1} NO one who desires the union of Christendom after its many and long-standing divisions, can have any other feeling than joy, my dear Pusey, at finding from your recent Volume, that you see your way to make definite proposals to us for effecting that great object, and are able to lay down the basis and conditions on which you could co-operate in advancing it. It is not necessary that we should concur in the details of your scheme, or in the principles which it involves, in order to welcome the important fact, that, with your personal knowledge of the Anglican body, and your experience of its composition and tendencies, you consider the time to be come when you and your friends may, without imprudence, turn your minds to the contemplation of such an enterprise. Even were you an individual member of that Church, a watchman upon a high tower in a metropolis of religious opinion, we should naturally listen with interest to what you had to report of the state of the sky and the progress of the {2} night, what stars were mounting up or what clouds gathering,—what were the prospects of the three great parties which Anglicanism contains within it, and what was just now the action upon them respectively of the politics and science of the time. You do not go into these matters; but the step you have taken is evidently the measure and the issue of the view which you have formed of them all.

However, you are not a mere individual; from early youth you have devoted yourself to the Established Church, and, after between forty and fifty years of unremitting labour in its service, your roots and your branches stretch out through every portion of its large territory. You, more than any one else alive, have been the present and untiring agent by whom a great work has been effected in it; and, far more than is usual, you have received in your lifetime, as well as merited, the confidence of your brethren. You cannot speak merely for yourself; your antecedents, your existing influence, are a pledge to us, that what you may determine will be the determination of a multitude. Numbers, too, for whom you cannot properly be said to speak, will be moved by your authority or your arguments; and, numbers, again, who are of a school more recent than your own, and who are only not your followers because they have outstripped you in their free speeches and demonstrative acts in our behalf, will, for the occasion, accept you as their spokesman. There is no one anywhere,—among ourselves, in your own body, or, I suppose, in the Greek Church,—who can affect so large a circle of men, so virtuous, so able, {3} so learned, so zealous, as come, more or less, under your influence; and I cannot pay them a greater compliment than to tell them they ought all to be Catholics, nor do them a more affectionate service than to pray that they may one day become such. Nor can I address myself to an act more pleasing, as I trust, to the Divine Lord of the Church, or more loyal and dutiful to His Vicar on earth, than to attempt, however feebly, to promote so great a consummation.

I know the joy it would give those conscientious men, of whom I am speaking, to be one with ourselves. I know how their hearts spring up with a spontaneous transport at the very thought of union; and what yearning is theirs after that great privilege, which they have not, communion with the see of Peter, and its present, past, and future. I conjecture it by what I used to feel myself, while yet in the Anglican Church. I recollect well what an outcast I seemed to myself, when I took down from the shelves of my library the volumes of St. Athanasius or St. Basil, and set myself to study them; and how, on the contrary, when at length I was brought into Catholic communion, I kissed them with delight, with a feeling that in them I had more than all that I had lost; and, as though I were directly addressing the glorious saints, who bequeathed them to the Church, how I said to the inanimate pages, "You are now mine, and I am now yours, beyond any mistake." Such, I conceive, would be the joy of the persons I speak of, if they could wake up one morning, and find themselves rightfully possessed of Catholic traditions and hopes, without violence to their own {4} sense of duty; and, certainly, I am the last man to say that such violence is in any case lawful, that the claims of conscience are not paramount, or that any one may overleap what he deliberately holds to be God's command, in order to make his path easier for him or his heart lighter.

I am the last man to quarrel with them for this jealous deference to the voice of their conscience, whatever be the judgment that others may form of them in consequence, for this reason, because their present circumstances have once, as you know, been my own. You recollect well what hard things were said against us twenty-five years ago, which we knew in our hearts we did not deserve. Accordingly, I am now in the position of the fugitive Queen in the well-known passage; who, "non ignara mali" herself, had learned to sympathize with those who were the inheritors of her past wanderings. There were Priests, good men, whose zeal outstripped their knowledge, and who in consequence spoke confidently, when it would have been wiser in them to have suspended their adverse judgment of those whom, in no long time, they had to welcome as brethren in communion. We at that time were in worse plight than your friends are now, for our opponents put their very hardest thoughts of us into print. One of them wrote thus in a Letter addressed to one of the Catholic Bishops:—

"That this Oxford crisis is a real progress to Catholicism, I have all along considered a perfect delusion ... I look upon Mr. Newman, Dr. Pusey, and their associates, as wily and crafty, though unskilful guides ... The embrace of Mr. Newman is the kiss {5} that would betray us ... But,—what is the most striking feature in the rancorous malignity of these men,—their calumnies are often lavished upon us, when we should be led to think that the subject-matter of their treatises closed every avenue against their vituperation. The three last volumes [of the Tracts] have opened my eyes to the craftiness and the cunning, as well as the malice, of the members of the Oxford Convention ... If the Puseyites are to be the new Apostles of Great Britain, my hopes for my country are lowering and gloomy ... I would never have consented to enter the lists against this strange confraternity ... if I did not feel that my own Prelate was opposed to the guile and treachery of these men ... I impeach Dr. Pusey and his friends of a deadly hatred of our religion ... What, my lord, would the Holy See think of the works of these Puseyites? …"

Another priest, himself a convert, wrote:—

"As we approach towards Catholicity, our love and respect increases, and our violence dies away; but the bulk of these men become more rabid as they become like Rome,—a plain proof of their designs ... I do not believe that they are any nearer the portals of the Catholic Church than the most prejudiced Methodist and Evangelical preacher ... Such, Rev. Sir, is an outline of my views on the Oxford movement."

I do not say that such a view of us was unnatural; and, for myself, I readily confess, that I had at one time used about the Church such language, that I had no claim on Catholics for any mercy. But, after all, and in fact, they were wrong in their anticipations,—nor did their {6} brother Catholics agree with them at the time. Especially Dr. Wiseman (Co-adjutor Bishop as he was then) took a larger and more generous view of us, nor did the Holy See interfere against us, though the writer of one of these passages invoked its judgment. The event showed that the more cautious line of conduct was the more prudent; and one of the Bishops, who had taken part against us, with a supererogation of charity, sent me on his deathbed an expression of his sorrow for having in past years mistrusted me. A faulty conscience, faithfully obeyed, through God's mercy, had in the long-run brought me right.

Fully, then, do I recognize the rights of conscience in this matter. I find no fault with your stating, as clearly and completely as you can, the difficulties which stand in the way of your joining us. I cannot wonder that you begin with stipulating conditions of union, though I do not concur in them myself, and think that in the event you yourself would be content to let them drop. Such representations as yours are necessary to open the subject in debate; they ascertain how the land lies, and serve to clear the ground. Thus I begin:—but after allowing as much as this, I am obliged in honesty to add what I fear, my dear Pusey, will pain you. Yet I am confident, my very dear friend, that at least you will not be angry with me if I say, what I must say if I say anything at all, viz., that there is much, both in the matter and in the manner of your Volume, calculated to wound those who love you well, but love truth more. So it is; with the best motives and kindest intentions,—"Cędimur, et totidem plagis consumimus {7} hostem." We give you a sharp cut, and you return it. You complain of our being "dry, hard and unsympathizing;" and we answer that you are unfair and irritating. But we at least have not professed to be composing an Irenicon, when we were treating you as foes. There was one of old time who wreathed his sword in myrtle; excuse me—you discharge your olive-branch as if from a catapult.

Do not think I am not serious; if I spoke as seriously as I feel, I should seem to speak harshly. Who will venture to assert, that the hundred pages which you have devoted to the subject of the Blessed Virgin give other than a one-sided view of our teaching about her, little suited to win us? This may be a salutary castigation of us, if any of us have fairly provoked it; but it is not making the best of matters; it is not smoothing the way for an understanding or a compromise. Your representation of what we hold, leads a writer in the most moderate and liberal Anglican newspaper of the day, the Guardian, to turn away from us, shocked and dismayed. "It is language," says your reviewer, "which, after having often heard it, we still can only hear with horror. We had rather not quote any of it, or of the comments upon it." What could an Exeter Hall orator, what could a Scotch commentator on the Apocalypse, do more for his own side of the controversy in the picture he drew of us? You may be sure that charges which create horror on one side, will be repelled by indignation on the other; and these are not the most favourable dispositions of mind for a peace conference. I had been accustomed to suppose, that you, who in {8} times past were ever less declamatory in controversy than myself, now that years had gone on, and circumstances changed, had come to look on our old warfare against Rome as cruel and inexpedient. Indeed, I know that it was a chief objection urged only last year against the scheme then in agitation of introducing the Oratory into Oxford, that such an undertaking on my part would be a signal for the rekindling of that fierce style of polemics which is now long out of date. I had fancied you shared in that opinion; but now, as if to show how imperative you deem the renewal of that old violence, you actually bring to life one of my own strong sayings in 1841, which had long been in the grave, that "the Roman Church comes as near to idolatry as can be supposed in a Church, of which it is said, 'The idols He shall utterly abolish.'"—P. 111.

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