7. The Christian Year

MUCH certainly came of the Christian Year: it was the most soothing, tranquillizing, subduing work of the day; if poems can be found to enliven in dejection, and to comfort in anxiety, to cool the over-sanguine, to refresh the weary, and to awe the worldly; to instil resignation into the impatient, and calmness into the fearful and agitated—they are these.

"Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
Quale, sopor fessis in gramine: quale per æstum
Dulcis aquæ saliente sitim restinguere rivo."

Or like the Shepherd's pipe, in the Oriental Vision, of which we are told, that "the sound was exceedingly sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious, and altogether different from anything I had ever heard. They put me in mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departing souls of good men upon their first arrival in Paradise, to wear out the impressions of the last agonies, and to qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. I drew near with the reverence which is due to a superior nature; and as my heart was entirely subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept."

Such was the gift of the author of the Christian Year, and he used it in attaching the minds of the rising generation {287} to the Church of his predecessors Ken and Herbert. He did that for the Church of England which none but a poet could do; he made it poetical. It is sometimes asked whether poets are not more commonly found external to the Church than among her children; and it would not surprise us to find the question answered in the affirmative. Poetry is the refuge of those who have not the Catholic Church to flee to, and repose upon; for the Church herself is the most sacred and august of poets. Poetry [Note 1], as Mr. Keble lays it down in his University Lectures on the subject, is a method of relieving the over-burdened mind. It is a channel through which emotion finds expression, and that a safe, regulated expression. Now what is the Catholic Church, viewed in her human aspect, but a discipline of the affections and passions? What are her ordinances and practices, but the regulated expression of keen, or deep, or turbid feeling, and thus a "cleansing," as Aristotle would word it, of the sick soul? She is the poet of her children; full of music to soothe the sad and control the wayward—wonderful in story for the imagination of the romantic; rich in symbol and imagery, so that gentle and delicate feelings, which will not bear words, may in silence intimate their presence or commune with themselves. Her very being is poetry; every psalm, every petition, every collect, every versicle, the cross, the mitre, the thurible, is a fulfilment of some dream of childhood, or aspiration of youth. Such poets as are born under her shadow, she takes into her service; she sets them to write hymns, or to compose chants, or to embellish shrines, or to determine ceremonies, or to marshal processions; nay, she can even make schoolmen of them, as she made St. Thomas, till {288} logic becomes poetical. Now the author of the Christian Year found the Anglican system all but destitute of this divine element, which is an essential property of Catholicism; a ritual dashed upon the ground, trodden on, and broken piece-meal; prayers, clipped, pieced, torn, shuffled about at pleasure, until the meaning of the composition perished, and offices which had been poetry were no longer even good prose; antiphons, hymns, benedictions, invocations, shovelled away; Scripture lessons turned into chapters; heaviness, feebleness, unwieldiness, where the Catholic rites had had the lightness and airiness of a spirit; vestments chucked off, lights quenched, jewels stolen, the pomp and circumstances of worship annihilated; a dreariness which could be felt, and which seemed the token of an incipient Socinianism, forcing itself upon the eye, the ear, the nostrils, of the worshipper; a smell of dust and damp, not of incense; a sound of ministers preaching Catholic prayers, and parish clerks droning out Catholic canticles; the royal arms for the crucifix; huge ugly boxes of wood, sacred to preachers, frowning on the congregation in the place of the mysterious altar; and the long cathedral aisles unused, railed off, like the tombs (as they were) of what had been and was not; and for orthodoxy, a frigid, inelastic, inconsistent, dull, helpless dogmatic, which could give no just account of itself, yet was intolerant of all teaching which contained a doctrine more or a doctrine less, and resented every attempt to give it a meaning;—such was the religion of which this gifted author was, not the judge and denouncer (a deep spirit of reverence hindered it), but the renovator, as far as it has been renovated. Clear as was his perception of the degeneracy of his times, he attributed nothing of it to his Church, over which he threw the poetry of his own mind, and the memory of better days. {289}

His happy magic made the Anglican Church seem what Catholicism was and is. The established system found to its surprise that it had been all its life talking not prose, but poetry.

"Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma."

Beneficed clergymen used to go to rest as usual on Christmas Eve, and leave to ringers, or sometimes to carollers, the observance which was paid, not without creature comforts, to the sacred night; but now they suddenly found themselves, to their great surprise, to be "wakeful shepherds," and "still as the day came round," "in music and in light," the new-born Saviour "dawned upon their prayer." Anglican bishops had not only lost the habit of blessing, but had sometimes been startled and vexed when asked to do so; but now they were told of their "gracious arm stretched out to bless;" moreover, what they had never dreamed when they were gazetted or did homage, they were taught that each of them was "an Apostle true, a crowned and robed seer." The parish church had been shut up, except for vestry meetings and occasional services, all days of the year but Sundays, and one or two other sacred days; but church-goers were now assured that "Martyrs and Saints" "dawned on their way," that the absolution in the Common Prayer Book was "the Golden Key each morn and eve;" and informed, moreover, at a time too when the Real Presence was all but utterly forgotten or denied, of "the dear feast of Jesus dying, upon that altar ever lying, while Angels prostrate fall." They learned, besides, that what their pastors had spoken of, and churchwardens had used at vestry meetings, as a mere table, was "the dread altar;" and that "holy lamps were blazing;" "perfumed embers quivering bright," with "stoled priests ministering at them," while the "floor was by knees of sinners worn." {290}

Such doctrine coming from one who had such claims on his readers from the weight of his name, the depth of his devotional and ethical tone, and the special gift of consolation, of which his poems themselves were the evidence, wrought a great work in the Establishment. The Catholic Church speaks for itself, the Anglican needs external assistance; his poems became a sort of comment upon its formularies and ordinances, and almost elevated them into the dignity of a religious system. It kindled hearts towards his Church; it gave a something for the gentle and forlorn to cling to; and it raised up advocates for it among those, who otherwise, if God and their good Angel had suffered it, might have wandered away into some sort of philosophy, and acknowledged no Church at all. Such was the influence of his Christian Year. ("Essays Crit. and Hist.," vol. II., p. 441.)

8. The Tractarian Movement

[THE Tractarian] movement started on the ground of maintaining ecclesiastical authority, as opposed to the Erastianism of the State. It exhibited the Church as the one earthly object of religious loyalty and veneration, the source of all spiritual power and jurisdiction, and the channel of all grace. It represented it to be the interest, as well as the duty, of Churchmen, the bond of peace and the secret of strength, to submit their judgment in all things to her decision. And it taught that this divinely founded Church was realized and brought into effect in our country in the National Establishment, which was the outward form or development of a continuous dynasty and {291} hereditary power which descended from the Apostles. It gave, then, to that Establishment, in its officers, its laws, its usages, and its worship, that devotion and obedience which are correlative to the very idea of the Church. It set up on high the bench of Bishops and the Book of Common Prayer, as the authority to which it was itself to bow, with which it was to cow and overpower an Erastian State ...

Such ... was the clear, unvarying line of thought, as I believe it to be, on which the movement of 1833 commenced and proceeded, as regards the questions of Church authority and private judgment. It was fancied that no opportunity for the exercise of private judgment could arise in any public or important matter. The Church declared, whether by Prayer Book or Episcopal authority, what was to be said or done, and private judgment either had no objection which it could make good, or only on those minor matters where there was a propriety in yielding to authority. And the present Church declared what her divines had declared; and her divines declared what the Fathers had declared; and what the Fathers had declared was no matter of private judgment at all, but a matter of fact, cognizable by all who chose to read their writings. Their testimony was as decisive and clear as Pope's Bull or Definition of Council, or catechisings or direction of any individual parish priest. There was no room for two opinions on the subject; and, as Catholics consider that the truth is brought home to the soul supernaturally, so that the soul sees it and no longer depends on reason, so in some parallel way it was supposed, in the theology of the movement, that that same truth, as contained in the Fathers, was a natural fact, recognised by the natural and ordinary intelligence of mankind, as soon as that intelligence was directed towards it. {292}

The idea, then, of the divines of the [Tractarian] movement was simply and absolutely submission to an external authority; to such an authority they appealed, to it they betook themselves; there they found a haven of rest; thence they looked out upon the troubled surge of human opinion and upon the crazy vessels which were labouring, without chart or compass, upon it. Judge then of their dismay, when, according to the Arabian tale, on their striking their anchors into the supposed soil, lighting their fires on it, and fixing in it the poles of their tents, suddenly their island began to move, to heave, to splash, to frisk to and fro, to dive, and at last to swim away, spouting out inhospitable jets of water upon the credulous mariners who had made it their home. And such, I suppose, was the undeniable fact: I mean, the time at length came, when first of all turning their minds (some of them, at least) more carefully to the doctrinal controversies of the early Church, they saw distinctly that in the reasonings of the Fathers, elicited by means of them, and in the decisions of authority, in which they issued, were contained at least the rudiments, the anticipation, the justification of what they had been accustomed to consider the corruptions of Rome. And if only one, or a few of them, were visited with this conviction, still even one was sufficient, of course, to destroy that cardinal point of their whole system, the objective perspicuity and distinctness of the teaching of the Fathers. But time went on, and there was no mistaking or denying the misfortune which was impending over them. They had reared a goodly house, but their foundations were falling in. The soil and the masonry both were bad. The Fathers would protect "Romanists " as well as extinguish Dissenters. The Anglican divines would misquote the Fathers, and shrink from the very doctors to whom they appealed. The Bishops of the seventeenth century {293} were shy of the Bishops of the fourth; and the Bishops of the nineteenth were shy of the Bishops of the seventeenth. The ecclesiastical courts upheld the sixteenth century against the seventeenth, and, regardless of the flagrant irregularities of Protestant clergymen, chastised the mild misdemeanours of Anglo-Catholic. Soon the living rulers of the Establishment began to move. There are those who, reversing the Roman's maxim [Note 2], are wont to shrink from the contumacious, and to be valiant towards the submissive; and the authorities in question gladly availed themselves of the power conferred on them by the movement against the movement itself. They fearlessly handselled their Apostolic weapons upon the Apostolical party. One after another, in long succession, they took up their song and their parable against it. It was a solemn war-dance, which they executed round victims, who by their very principles were bound hand and foot, and could only eye with disgust and perplexity this most unaccountable movement, on the part of their "holy Fathers, the representatives of the Apostles, and the Angels of the Churches." It was the beginning of the end.

When it was at length plain that primitive Christianity ignored the National Church, and that the National Church cared little for primitive Christianity, or for those who appealed to it as her foundation; when Bishops spoke against them, and Bishops' courts sentenced them, and Universities degraded them, and the people rose against them, from that day their "occupation was gone." Their initial principle, their basis, external authority, was cut from under {294} them; they had "set their fortunes on a cast;" they had lost; henceforward they had nothing left for them but to shut up their school, and retire into the country. Nothing else was left for them, unless, indeed, they took up some other theory, unless they changed their ground, unless they ceased to be what they were, and became what they were not; unless they belied their own principles, and strangely forgot their own luminous and most keen convictions; unless they vindicated the right of private judgment, took up some fancy-religion, retailed the Fathers, and jobbed theology. They had but a choice between doing nothing at all, and looking out for truth and peace elsewhere. ("Anglican Difficulties," pp. 114 and 131.)

9. Anglo-Catholic or Patristico-Protestant?

I CAN understand, I can sympathize with, those old-world thinkers, whose commentators are Mant and D'Oyly, whose theologian is Tomlin, whose ritualist is Wheatly, and whose canonist is Burns; who are proud of their Jewels and their Chillingworths, whose works they have never opened, and toast Cranmer and Ridley, and William of Orange, as the founders of their religion. In these times three hundred years is a respectable antiquity; and traditions, recognized in law courts, and built into the structure of society, may well without violence be imagined to be immemorial. Those also I can understand who take their stand upon the Prayer Book; or those who honestly profess to follow the consensus of Anglican divines, as the voice of authority and the standard of faith. {295} Moreover, I can quite enter into the sentiment with which members of the liberal and infidel school investigate the history and the documents of the early Church. They profess a view of Christianity truer than the world has ever had; nor, on the assumption of their principles, is there anything shocking to good sense in this profession. They look upon the Christian Religion as something simply human; and there is no reason at all why a phenomenon of that kind should not be better understood, in its origin and nature, as years proceed. It is, indeed, an intolerable paradox to assert, that a revelation, given from God to man, should lie unknown or mistaken for eighteen centuries, and now at length should be suddenly deciphered by individuals; but it is quite intelligible to assert, and plausible to argue, that a human fact should be more philosophically explained than it was eighteen hundred years ago, and more exactly ascertained than it was a thousand. History is at this day undergoing a process of revolution; the science of criticism, the disinterment of antiquities, the unrolling of manuscripts, the interpretation of inscriptions, have thrown us into a new world of thought; characters and events come forth transformed in the process; romance, prejudice, local tradition, party bias, are no longer accepted as guarantees of truth; the order and mutual relation of events are readjusted; the springs and the scope of action are reversed. Were Christianity a mere work of man, it, too, might turn out something different from what it has hitherto been considered; its history might require rewriting, as the history of Rome, or of the earth's strata, or of languages, or of chemical action. A Catholic neither deprecates nor fears such inquiry, though he abhors the spirit in which it is too often conducted. He is willing that infidelity should do its work against the Church, knowing that she will be found just {296} where she was, when the assault is over. It is nothing to him, though her enemies put themselves to the trouble of denying everything that has hitherto been taught, and begin with constructing her history all over again, for he is quite sure that they will end at length with a compulsory admission of what at first they so wantonly discarded. Free thinkers and broad thinkers, Laudians and Prayer-Book Christians, high-and-dry and Establishment-men, all these he would understand; but what he would feel so prodigious is this,—that such as you, my [Anglican] brethren, should consider Christianity given from heaven once for all, should protest against private judgment, should profess to transmit what you have received, and yet, from diligent study of the Fathers, from your thorough knowledge of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom, from living, as you say, in the atmosphere of Antiquity, that you should come forth into open day with your new edition of the Catholic faith, different from that held in any existing body of Christians anywhere, which not half-a-dozen men all over the world would honour with their imprimatur; and then, withal, should be as positive about its truth in every part, as if the voice of mankind were with you instead of being against you.

You are a body of yesterday; you are a drop in the ocean of professing Christians; yet you would give the law to priest and prophet; and you fancy it an humble office, forsooth, suited to humble men, to testify the very truth of Revelation to a fallen generation, or rather to almost a long bi-millenary, which has been in unalleviated traditionary error. You have a mission to teach the National Church, which is to teach the British Empire, which is to teach the world. You are more learned than Greece; you are purer than Rome; you know more than St. Bernard; you judge how far St. Thomas was right, {297} and where he is to be read with caution, or held up to blame. You can bring to light juster views of grace, or of penance, or of invocation of saints, than St. Gregory or St. Augustine ... 

You do not follow the bishops of the National Church; you disown its existing traditions; you are discontented with its divines; you protest against its law courts; you shrink from its laity; you outstrip its Prayer Book. You have in all respects an eclectic or an original religion of our own. You dare not stand or fall by Andrewes, or by Laud, or by Hammond, or by Bull, or by Thorndike, or by all of them together. There is a consensus of divines, stronger than there is for Baptismal Regeneration or the Apostolical Succession, that Rome is, strictly and literally, an anti-Christian power;—Liberals and High Churchmen in your Communion in this agree with Evangelicals; you put it aside. There is a consensus against Transubstantiation, besides the declaration of the Article, yet many of you hold it notwithstanding. Nearly all your divines, if not all, call themselves Protestants, and you anathematize the name. Who makes the concessions to Catholics which you do, yet remains separate from them? Who, among Anglican authorities, would speak of Penance as a Sacrament, as you do? Who of them encourages, much less insists upon, auricular confession, as you? or makes fasting an obligation? or uses the crucifix and the rosary? or reserves the consecrated bread? or believes in miracles as existing in your communion? or administers, as I believe you do, Extreme Unction? In some points you prefer Rome, in others Greece, in others England, in others Scotland; and of that preference your own private judgment is the ultimate sanction.

What am I to say in answer to conduct so preposterous? Say you go by any authority whatever, and I shall know where to find you, and I shall respect you. Swear by any {298} school of Religion, old or modern, by Ronge's Church, or the Evangelical Alliance, nay, by yourselves, and I shall know what you mean, and will listen to you. But do not come to me with the latest fashion of opinion which the world has seen, and protest to me that it is the oldest. Do not come to me at this time of day with views palpably new, isolated, original, sui generis, warranted old neither by Christian nor unbeliever, and challenge me to answer what I really have not the patience to read. Life is not long enough for such trifles. Go elsewhere, not to me, if you wish to make a proselyte. Your inconsistency, my dear brethren, is on your very front. Nor pretend that you are but executing the sacred duty of defending your own Communion; your Church does not thank you for a defence which she has no dream of appropriating. You innovate on her professions of doctrine, and then you bid us love her for your innovations. You cling to her for what she denounces; and you almost anathematise us [converts to Catholicism] for taking a step which you would please her best by taking also. You call it restless, impatient, undutiful in us, to do what she would have us do; and you think it a loving and confiding course in her children to believe, not her, but you. She is to teach, and we are to hear, only according to your own private researches into St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine. "I began myself with doubting and inquiring," you seem to say; "I departed from the teaching I received; I was educated in some older type of Anglicanism; in the school of Newton, Cecil, and Scott, or in the Bartlett's-Building School, or in the Liberal Whig School. I was a Dissenter, or a Wesleyan, and by study and thought I became an Anglo-Catholic. And then I read the Fathers, and I have determined what works are genuine, and what are not; which of them apply to all times, which are occasional; {299} which historical, and which doctrinal; what opinions are private, what authoritative; what they only seem to hold, what they ought to hold; what are fundamental, what ornamental. Having thus measured and cut and put together my creed by my own proper intellect, by my own lucubrations, and differing from the whole world in my results, I distinctly bid you, I solemnly warn you, not to do as I have done, but to accept what I have found, to revere that, to use that, to believe that, for it is the teaching of the old Fathers, and of your Mother, the Church of England. Take my word for it, that this is the very truth of Christ; deny your own reason, for I know better than you, and it is as clear as day that some moral fault in you is the cause of your differing from me. It is pride, or vanity, or self-reliance, or fulness of bread. You require some medicine for your soul; you must fast; you must make a general confession; and look very sharp to yourself, for you are already next door to a rationalist or an infidel."

Surely, I have not exaggerated: but can a party formed on such principles be, in any sense, called a genuine continuation of the Apostolical party of twenty years ago? The basis of that party was the professed abnegation of private judgment; your basis is the professed exercise of it. ("Anglican Difficulties," p. 136.)

10. The Non-Jurors and the Lesson They Teach

IN the commencement of the [Tractarian] movement much interest was felt in the Non-jurors. It was natural that inquirers who had drawn their principles from the primitive {300} Church, should be attracted by the exhibition of any portion of those principles anywhere in, or about, an Establishment which was so emphatically opposed to them. Therefore, in their need, they fixed their eyes on a body of men who were not only sufferers for conscience' sake, but held, in connection with their political principles, a certain portion of Catholic truth. But, after all, what is, in a word, the history of the Non-jurors, for it does not take long to tell it? A party composed of seven Bishops and some hundred Clergy, virtuous and learned, and, as regards their leaders, even popular, for political services lately rendered to the nation, is hardly formed, but it begins to dissolve and come to nought, and that simply because it had no sufficient object, represented no idea, and proclaimed no dogma. What should keep it together? why should it exist? To form an association is to go out of the way, and ever requires an excuse or an account of so pretentious a proceeding. Such were the ancient apologies put forward for the Church in her first age; such the Apologies of the Anglican Jewell, and the Quaker Barclay. What was the apology of the Non-jurors? Now their secession, properly speaking, was based on no theological truth at all; it arose simply because, as their name signifies, certain Bishops and Clergy could not take the oaths to a new King. There is something very venerable and winning in Bishop Ken; but this arises in part from the very fact that he was so little disposed to defend any position, or oppose things as they were. He could not take the oaths, and was dispossessed; but he had nothing special to say for himself; he had no message to deliver; his difficulty was of a personal nature, and he was unwilling that the Non-juring Succession should be continued. It was against his judgment to perpetuate his own communion. But look at the body in its more theological aspect, and its negative and external character {301} is brought out even more strikingly. Its members had much more to say against the Catholic Church, like Protestants in general, than for themselves. They are considered especially high in their Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist; yet, I do not know anything in Dr. Brett's whole Treatise on the Ancient Liturgies, which fixes itself so vividly on the reader's mind, as his assertion, that the rubrics of the Roman Missal are "corrupt, dangerous, superstitious, abominably idolatrous, theatrical, and utterly unworthy the gravity of so sacred an institution."

The Non-jurors were far less certain what they did hold, than what they did not. They were great champions of the Sacrifice, and wished to restore the ancient Liturgies; yet they could not raise their minds to anything higher than the sacrifice of the material bread and wine, as representatives of One who was not literally present but absent; as symbols of His Body and Blood, not in truth and fact, but in virtue and effect. Yet, while they had such insufficient notions of the heavenly gift committed to the ordinance, they could, as I have said, be very jealous of its outward formalities, and laid the greatest stress on a point, important certainly in its place, but not when separated from that which gave it meaning and life, the mixing of the water with the wine; and upon this, and other questions, of higher moment indeed, but not of a character specifically different, they soon divided into two communions. They broke into pieces, not from external causes, not from the hostility or the allurements of a court, but simply because they had no common heart and life in them. They were safe from the civil sword, from their insignificancy; they had no need of falling back on a distant centre for support; all they needed was an idea, an object, a work to make them one.

But I have another remark to make on the Non-jurors. {302} You recollect that they are the continuation and heirs of the traditions, so to call them, of the High-Church divines of the seventeenth century. Now, how high and imposing do the names sound of Andrewes, Laud, Taylor, Jackson, Pearson, Cosin, and their fellows! I am not speaking against them as individuals, but viewing them as theological authorities. How great and mysterious are the doctrines which they teach! and how proudly they appeal to primitive times, and claim the ancient Fathers! Surely, as some one says, "in Laud is our Cyprian, and in Taylor is our Chrysostom, and all we want is our Athanasius." Look on, my brethren, to the history of the Non-jurors, and you will see what these Anglican divines were worth. There you will see that it was simply their position, their temporal possessions, their civil dignities, as standing round a King's throne, or seated in his great council, and not their principles, which made them what they were. Their genius, learning, faith, whatever it was, would have had no power to stand by themselves; these qualities had no substance; for, as we see, when the State abandoned them, they shrank at once and collapsed, and ceased to be. These qualities were not the stuff out of which a Church is made, though they looked well and bravely when fitted upon the Establishment. And, indeed, they did not, in the event, wear better in the Establishment than out of it; for since the Establishment at the Revolution had changed its make and altered its position, the old vestments would not fit it, and fell out of fashion. The Nation and the National Church had got new ideas, and the language of the ancient Fathers could not express them. There were those who, at the era in question, took the oaths; they could secure their positions—could they secure their creed? The event answers the question. There is some story of Bull and Beveridge, who were two of the number, meeting together, {303} I think in the House of Lords, and mourning together over the degeneracy of the times. The times certainly were degenerate; and if learning could have restored them, there was enough in those two heads to have done the work of Athanasius, Leo, and the seventh Gregory; but learning never made a body live. The High Church party died out within the Establishment, as well as outside of it, for it had neither dogma to rest upon, nor object to pursue.

All this is your warning, my [Anglican] brethren; you too, when it comes to the point, will have nothing to profess, to teach, to transmit. At present you do not know your own weakness. You have the life of the Establishment in you, and you fancy it is your own life; you fancy that the accidental congeries of opinions, which forms your creed, has that unity, individuality, and consistency, which allows of its developing into a system, and perpetuating a school. Look into the matter more steadily; it is very pleasant to decorate your chapels, oratories, and studies now, but you cannot be doing this for ever. It is pleasant to adopt a habit or a vestment; to use your office book or your beads; but it is like feeding on flowers, unless you have that objective vision in your faith, and that satisfaction in your reason, of which devotional exercises and ecclestiastical regulations are the suitable expression. Such will not last in the long run, as are not commanded and rewarded by divine authority; they cannot be made to rest on the influence of individuals. It is well to have rich architecture, curious works of art, and splendid vestments, when you have a present God; but oh! what a mockery, if you have not! If your externals surpass what is within, you are, so far, as hollow as your evangelical opponents, who baptize, yet expect no grace; or, as the latitudinarian, ... who would make Christ's kingdom not of this world, in {304} order to do little more than the world's work. Thus your Church becomes, not a home, but a sepulchre; like those high cathedrals, once Catholic, which you do not know what to do with, which you shut up and make monuments of, sacred to the memory of what has passed away. ("Anglican Difficulties," p. 193.)

11. The Anglican Argument from Differences among Catholics

THE primary question, with every serious inquirer, is the question of salvation. I am speaking to those who feel this to be so; not to those who make religion a sort of literature or philosophy, but to those who desire, both in their creed and in their conduct, to approve themselves to their Maker, and to save their souls. This being taken for granted, it immediately follows to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" and "Who is to teach me?" and next, Can Protestantism, can the National Church, teach me? No, is the answer of common sense, for this simple reason, because of the variations and discordances in teaching of both the one and the other. The National Church is no guide into the truth, because no one knows what it holds, and what it commands: one party says this, and a second party says that, and a third party says neither this nor that. I must seek the truth then elsewhere; and then the question follows, Shall I seek it in the Communion of Rome? In answer, this objection is instantly made, "You cannot find the truth in Rome, for there are as many divisions there as in the National Communion." {305} Who would not suppose the objection to mean, that these divisions were such as to make it difficult or impossible to ascertain what it was that the Roman Communion taught? Who would not suppose it to mean that there was within the Communion of Rome a difference of creed and of dogmatic teaching? whereas the state of the case is just the reverse. No one can pretend that the quarrels in the Catholic Church are questions of faith, or have tended in any way to obscure or impair what she declares to be such, and what is acknowledged to be such by the very parties in those quarrels. That Dominicans and Franciscans have been zealous respectively for certain doctrinal views, which they declare at the same time to be beyond and in advance of the promulgated faith of the Church, throws no doubt upon that faith itself; how does it follow that they differ in questions of faith, because they differ in questions not of faith? Rather, I would say, if a number of parties distinct from each other give the same testimony on certain points, their differences on other points do but strengthen the evidence for the truth of those matters in which they all are agreed; and the greater the difference, the more remarkable is the unanimity. The question is," Where can I be taught, who cannot be taught by the National Communion, because it does not teach?" and the Protestant warning runs, "Not in the Catholic Church, because she, in spite of differences on subordinate points amongst her members, does teach."

In truth, she not only teaches in spite of those differences, but she has ever taught by means of them. Those very differences of Catholics on further points have themselves implied and brought out their absolute faith in the doctrines which are previous to them. The doctrines of faith are the common basis of the combatants, the ground on which they contend, their ultimate authority, and their arbitrating {306} rule. They are assumed, and introduced, and commented on, and enforced, in every stage of the alternate disputation; and I will venture to say, that, if you wish to get a good view of the unity, consistency, solidity, and reality of Catholic teaching, your best way is to get up the controversy on Grace, or on the Immaculate Conception. No one can do so without acquiring a mass of theological knowledge, and sinking in his intellect a foundation of dogmatic truth, which is simply antecedent and common to the rival schools, and which they do but exhibit and elucidate. To suppose that they perplex an inquirer or a convert, is to fancy that litigation destroys the principles and the science of law, or that spelling out words of five syllables makes a child forget his alphabet. On the other hand, place your unfortunate inquirer between Luther and Calvin, if the Holy Eucharist is his subject; or, if he is determining the rule of faith, between Bramhall and Chillingworth, Bull and Hoadley, and what residuum will be left, when you have eliminated their contrarieties? ("Anglican Difficulties," p. 271.)

12. Anglican Objections from Antiquity


IF I am to say something, not directly in answer to the particular objections in detail, brought from Antiquity against the doctrine and discipline of the present Catholic Church, but by way of appeasing and allaying that general misgiving and perplexity which these objections excite, what {307} can I do better than appeal to a fact,—though I cannot do so without some indulgence on the part of my hearers,—a fact connected with myself? And it is the less unfair to do so, because, as regards the history of the early Church and the writings of the Fathers, so many must go by the testimony of others, and so few have opportunity to use their own experience. I say, then, that the writings of the Fathers, so far from prejudicing at least one man against the modern Catholic Church, have been simply and solely the one intellectual cause of his having renounced the religion in which he was born and submitted himself to her. What other causes there may be, not intellectual, unknown, unsuspected by himself, though freely imputed on mere conjecture by those who would invalidate his testimony, it would be unbecoming and impertinent to discuss; for himself, if he is asked why he became a Catholic, he can only give that answer which experience and consciousness bring home to him as the true one, viz., that he joined the Catholic Church simply because he believed it, and it only, to be the Church of the Fathers;—because he believed that there was a Church upon earth till the end of time, and one only; and because, unless it was the Communion of Rome, and it only, there was none;—because, to use language purposely guarded, because it was the language of controversy, "all parties will agree that, of all existing systems, the present Communion of Rome is the nearest approximation in fact to the Church of the Fathers; possible though some may think it, to be still nearer to it on paper;"—because, "did St. Athanasius or St. Ambrose come suddenly to life, it cannot be doubted what communion they would mistake," that is, would recognize, "for their own;"—because "all will agree that these Fathers, with whatever differences of opinion, whatever protests if you will, would find themselves more at {308} home with such men as St. Bernard or St. Ignatius Loyola, or with the lonely priest in his lodgings, or the holy sisterhood of charity, or the unlettered crowd before the altar, than with the rulers or the members of any other religious community." [Note 3]

This is the great, manifest, historical phenomenon which converted me—to which all particular inquiries converged. Christianity is not a matter of opinion, but an external fact, entering into, carried out in, indivisible from, the history of the world. It has a bodily occupation of the world; it is one continuous fact or thing, the same from first to last, distinct from everything else: to be a Christian is to partake of, to submit to, this thing; and the simple question was, Where, what is this thing in this age, which in the first age was the Catholic Church? The answer was undeniable; the Church called Catholic now, is that very same thing in hereditary descent, in organization, in principles, in position, in external relations, which was called the Catholic Church then; name and thing have ever gone together, by an uninterrupted connection and succession, from then till now. Whether it had been corrupted in its teaching was, at best, a matter of opinion. It was indefinitely more evident a fact, that it stood on the ground and in the place of the ancient Church, as its heir and representative, than that certain peculiarities in its teaching were really innovations and corruptions. Say there is no Church at all, if you will, and at least I shall understand you; but do not meddle with a fact attested by mankind. I am almost ashamed to insist upon so plain {309} a point, which in many respects is axiomatically true, except that there are persons who wish to deny it. Of course, there are and have been such persons, and men of deep learning; but their adverse opinion does not interfere with my present use of what I think so plain. Observe, I am not insisting on it as an axiom, though that is my own view of the matter; nor proving it as a conclusion, nor forcing it on your acceptance as your reason for joining the Catholic Church, as it was mine. Let every one have his own reason for becoming a Catholic; for reasons are in plenty, and there are enough for you all, and moreover all of them are good ones and consistent with each other. I am not assigning reasons why you should be Catholics; you have them already: from first to last I am doing nothing more than removing difficulties in your path, which obstruct the legitimate effect of those reasons which have, as I am assuming, already convinced you. And today I am answering the objection, so powerfully urged upon those who have no means of examining it for themselves, that, as a matter of fact, the modern Church has departed from the teaching of the ancient. Now even one man's contrary testimony obscures the certainty of this supposed matter of fact, though it is not sufficient to establish any opposite matter of fact of his own. I say, then, the Catholicism of today is not likely to be really very different from the Catholicism of Antiquity, if its agreement, or rather its identity, with Antiquity forms the very reason on which even one educated and reflecting person was induced, much against every natural inducement, to submit to its claims. Ancient Catholicity cannot supply a very conclusive argument against modern Catholicity, if the ancient has furnished even one such person with a conclusive argument in favour of the modern ... {310}


Yet this was but one head of argument, which the history of the early Church afforded against the National Establishment, and in favour of the Roman See. I have already alluded to the light which the schism of the African Donatists casts on the question between the two parties in the controversy; it is clear, strong, and decisive, but perfectly distinct from the proof derivable from the Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite histories [Note 4].

Then again, after drawing out from Antiquity the outlines of the ecclesiastical structure, and its relations to bodies and powers external to it, when we go on, as it were, to colour it with the thousand tints which are to be found in the same ancient records, when we consider the ritual of the Church, the ceremonial of religion, the devotions of private Christians, the opinions generally received, and the popular modes of acting, what do we find but a third and most striking proof of the identity between primitive Christianity and modern Catholicism? No other form of Christianity but this present Catholic Communion, has a pretence to resemble, even in the faintest shadow, the Christianity of Antiquity, viewed as a living religion on the stage of the world. This has ever attached me to such works as Fleury's Church History; because, whatever may be its incidental defects or mistakes, it brings before the reader so vividly the Church of the Fathers, as a fact and a reality, instead of speculating, after the manner of most histories, on the principles, or of making views upon the facts, or cataloguing the heresies, {311} rites, or writers, of those ancient times. You may make ten thousand extracts from the Fathers, and not get deeper into the state of their times than the paper you write upon; to imbibe into the intellect the Ancient Church as a fact, is either to be a Catholic or an infidel.

Recollect, my brethren, I am going into these details, not as if I thought of convincing you on the spot by a view of history which convinced me after careful consideration, nor as if I called on you to be convinced by what convinced me at all (for the methods of conviction are numberless, and one man approaches the Church by this road, another by that), but merely in order to show you how it was that Antiquity, instead of leading me from the Holy See as it leads many, on the contrary drew me on to submit to its claims. But, even had I worked out for you these various arguments ever so fully, I should have brought before you but a secondary portion of the testimony which the Ancient Church seemed to me to supply to its own identity with the modern. What was far more striking to me than the ecclesiastical phenomena which I have been drawing out, remarkable as they are, is a subject of investigation which is not of a nature to introduce into a popular lecture; I mean the history of the doctrinal definitions of the Church. It is well known that, though the creed of the Church has been one and the same from the beginning, yet it has been so deeply lodged in her bosom as to be held by individuals more or less implicitly, instead of being delivered from the first in those special statements, or what are called definitions, under which it is now presented to us, and which preclude mistake or ignorance. These definitions, which are but the expression of portions of the one dogma which has ever been received by the Church, are the work of time; they {312} have grown to their present shape and number in the course of eighteen centuries, under the exigency of successive events, such as heresies and the like, and they may, of course, receive still further additions as time goes on. Now this process of doctrinal development, as you might suppose, is not of an accidental or random character; it is conducted upon laws, as everything else which comes from God; and the study of its laws and of its exhibition, or, in other words, the science and history of the formation of theology, was a subject which had interested me more than anything else from the time I first began to read the Fathers, and which had engaged my attention in a special way. Now it was gradually brought home to me, in the course of my reading, so gradually, that I cannot trace the steps of my conviction, that the decrees of later Councils, or what Anglicans call the Roman corruptions, were but instances of that very same doctrinal law which was to be found in the history of the early Church; and that in the sense in which the dogmatic truth of the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin may be said, in the lapse of centuries, to have grown upon the consciousness of the faithful, in that same sense did, in the first age, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity also gradually shine out and manifest itself more and more completely before their minds. Here was at once an answer to the objections urged by Anglicans against the present teaching of Rome; and not only an answer to objections, but a positive argument in its favour; for the immutability and uninterrupted action of the laws in question throughout the course of Church history is a plain note of identity between the Catholic Church of the first ages and that which now goes by that name;—just as the argument from the analogy of natural and revealed religion is at once an answer to difficulties in the latter, {313} and a direct proof that Christianity has the same Author as the physical and moral world. But the force of this, to me, ineffably cogent argument, I cannot hope to convey to another. ("Anglican Difficulties," p. 320.)

13. Invincible Ignorance and Anglicanism


I SUPPOSE, as regards this country, ... we may entertain most reasonable hopes that vast multitudes are in a state of invincible ignorance; so that those among them who are living a life really religious and conscientious, may be looked upon with interest and even pleasure, though a mournful pleasure, in the midst of the pain which a Catholic feels at their ignorant prejudices against what he knows to be true. Amongst the most bitter railers against the Church in this country, may be found those who are influenced by divine grace, and are at present travelling towards heaven, whatever be their ultimate destiny. Among the most irritable disputants against the Sacrifice of the Mass or Transubstantiation, or the most impatient listeners to the glories of Mary, there may be those for whom she is saying to her Son, what He said on the cross to His Father, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." Nay, while such persons think as at present, they are bound to act accordingly, and only so far to connect themselves with us as their conscience allows. "When persons who have been brought up in heresy," says a Catholic theologian, "are persuaded from their childhood {314} that we are the enemies of God's word, are idolaters, pestilent deceivers, and therefore, as pests, to be avoided, they cannot, while this persuasion lasts, hear us with a safe conscience, and they labour under invincible ignorance, inasmuch as they doubt not that they are in a good way?" [Note 5]

Nor does it suffice, in order to throw them out of this irresponsible state, and to make them guilty of their ignorance, that there are means actually in their power of getting rid of it. For instance, say they have no conscientious feeling against frequenting Catholic chapels, conversing with Catholics, or reading their books; and say they are thrown into the neighbourhood of the one or the company of the other, and do not avail themselves of their opportunities; still these persons do not become responsible for their present ignorance till such time as they actually feel it, till a doubt crosses them upon the subject, and the thought comes upon them, that inquiry is a duty. And thus Protestants may be living in the midst of Catholic light, and labouring under the densest and most stupid prejudices; and yet we may be able to view them with hope, though with anxiety, with the hope that the question has never occurred to them, strange as it may seem, whether we are not right and they wrong. Nay, I will say something further still; they may be so circumstanced that it is quite certain that, in course of time, this ignorance will be removed, and doubt will be suggested to them, and the necessity of inquiry consequently imposed; and according to our best judgment, fallible of course as it is, we may be quite certain too, that, when that time comes, they will refuse to inquire, and will quench the doubt; yet should it so happen that they are cut off by death before that time {315} has arrived (I am putting an hypothetical case), we may have as much hope of their salvation as if we had had no such foreboding about them on our mind; for there is nothing to show that they were not taken away on purpose, in order that their ignorance might be their excuse.

As to the prospect of those countless multitudes of a country like this, who apparently have no supernatural vision of the next world at all, and die without fear, because they die without thought, with these, alas! I am not here concerned. But the remarks I have been making suggest much of comfort, when we look out into what is called the religions world in all its varieties, whether it be the High Church section, or the Evangelical, whether it be in the Establishment, or in Methodism, or in Dissent, so far as there seems to be real earnestness and invincible prejudice. One cannot but hope that that written Word of God, for which they desire to be jealous, though exhibited to them in a mutilated form and in a translation unsanctioned by Holy Church, is of incalculable blessing to their souls, and may be, through God's grace, the divine instrument of bringing many to contrition and to a happy death who have received no sacrament since they were baptized in their infancy. One cannot hope but that the Anglican Prayer Book, with its Psalter and Catholic prayers, even though these, in the translation, have passed through heretical intellects, may retain so much of its old virtue as to cooperate with divine grace in the instruction and salvation of a large remnant. In these and many other ways, even in England, and much more in Greece, the difficulty is softened which is presented to the imagination by the view of such large populations, who, though called Christian, are not Catholic or orthodox in creed. {316}


There is but one set of persons, indeed, who inspire the Catholic with special anxiety, as much so as the open sinner, who is not peculiar to any Communion, Catholic or schismatic, and who does not come into the present question. There is one set of persons in whom every Catholic must feel intense interest, about whom he must feel the gravest apprehensions; viz., those who have some rays of light vouchsafed to them as to their heresy or as to their schism, and who seem to be closing their eyes upon it; or those who have actually gained a clear view of the nothingness of their own Communion, and the reality and divinity of the Catholic Church, yet delay to act upon their knowledge. You, my dear brethren, if such are here present, are in a very different state from those around you. You are called by the inscrutable grace of God to the possession of a great benefit, and to refuse the benefit is to lose the grace. You cannot be as others: they pursue their own way, they walk over this wide earth, and see nothing wonderful or glorious in the sun, moon, and stars of the spiritual heavens; or they have an intellectual sense of their beauty, but no feeling of duty or of love towards them; or they wish to love them, but think they ought not, lest they should get a distaste for that mire and foulness which is their present portion. They have not yet had the call to inquire, and to seek, and to pray for further guidance, infused into their hearts by the gracious Spirit of God; and they will be judged according to what is given them, not by what is not. But on you the thought has dawned that possibly Catholicism may be true; you have doubted the safety of your present position, and the present pardon of your sins, and {317} the completeness of your present faith. You, by means of that very system in which you find yourselves, have been led to doubt that system. If the Mosaic law, given from above, was a schoolmaster to lead souls to Christ, much more is it true that an heretical creed, when properly understood, warns us against itself, and frightens us from it, and is forced against its will to open for us with its own hands its prison gates, and to show us the way to a better country. So has it been with you. You set out in simplicity and earnestness intending to serve it, and your very serving taught you to serve another. You began to use its prayers and act upon its rules, and they did but witness against it, and made you love it, not more but less, and carried off your affections to one whom you had not loved. The more you gazed upon your own communion the more unlike it you grew; the more you tried to be good Anglicans, the more you found yourselves drawn in heart and spirit to the Catholic Church. It was the destiny of the false prophetess that she could not keep the little ones who devoted themselves to her; and the more simply they gave up their private judgment to her, the more sure they were of being thrown off by her, against their will, into the current of attraction which led straight to the true Mother of their souls. So month has gone on after month, and year after year; and you have again and again vowed obedience to your own Church, and you have protested against those who left her, and you have thought you found in them what you liked not, and you have prophesied evil about them and good about yourselves; and your plans seemed prospering and your influence extending, and great things were to be; and yet, strange to say, at the end of the time you have found yourselves steadily advanced in the direction which you feared, and never were nearer to the promised land than you are now. {318}

Oh, look well to your footing that you slip not; be very much afraid lest the world should detain you; dare not in anything to fall short of God's grace, or to lag behind when that grace goes forward. Walk with it, cooperate with it, and I know how it will end. You are not the first persons who have trodden that path; yet a little time, and, please God, the bitter shall be sweet, and the sweet bitter, and you will have undergone the agony, and will be lodged safely in the true home of your souls and the valley of peace. Yet but a little while, and you will look out from your resting-place upon the wanderers outside; and will wonder why they do not see that way which is now so plain to you, and will be impatient with them that they do not come on faster. And, whereas you now are so perplexed in mind that you seem to yourselves to believe nothing, then you will be so full of faith, that you will almost see invisible mysteries, and will touch the threshold of eternity. And you will be so full of joy that you will wish all around you to be partakers of it, as if for your own relief; and you will suddenly be filled with yearnings, deep and passionate, for the salvation of those dear friends whom you have out-stripped; and you will not mind their coolness, or stiffness, or distance, or constrained gravity, for the love you bear to their souls. And, though they will not hear you, you will address yourselves to those who will; I mean, you will weary Heaven with your novenas for them, and you will be ever getting Masses for their conversion, and you will go to communion for them, and you will not rest till the bright morning comes, and they are yours once again. ("Anglican Difficulties," p. 309.) {319}

14. Fundamental Difference between Catholicism and Anglicanism

THE idea of worship is different in the Catholic Church from the idea of it in [Anglicanism]; for, in truth, the religions are different ... It is not that ours is your religion, carried a little farther,—a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree; ours is one religion, yours another. And when the time comes, and come it will, for you, alien as you are now, to submit yourself to the gracious yoke of Christ, then, ... it will be faith which will enable you to bear the ways and usages of Catholics, which else might perhaps startle you. Else the habits of years, the associations in your mind of a certain outward behaviour with real inward acts of devotion, might embarrass you, when you had to conform yourself to other habits, and to create for yourself other associations. But this faith, of which I speak, the great gift of God, will enable you in that day to overcome yourself, and to submit, as your judgment, your will, your reason, your affections, so your tastes and likings, to the rule and usage of the Church. Ah, that faith should be necessary in such a matter! ("Loss and Gain," p. 289.)


Top | Contents | Guides | Home


1.  [Æstuantibus eam affectibus parcere et indulgere paulisper intelligimus, atque id saltem nobis solatii contigisse, quod negatum olim Didoni nocuit. "Prælectiones Acedemicæ," vol. I., p. 11.]
Return to text

2. "Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos." It may be right here to say, that the author never can forget the great kindness which Dr. Bagot, at that time Bishop of Oxford, showed him on several occasions. He also has to notice the courtesy of Dr. Thirwall's language, a prelate whom he has never had the honour of knowing.
Return to text

3. [Essay on Doctrinal Development, p. 138. This Essay, it will be remembered, was "written and partly printed" while Dr. Newman was still an Anglican. It was as he "advanced in it" that his "difficulties cleared away," and he resolved to be received into the Catholic Church. See p. 59 of the present volume.]
Return to text

4. [See pp. 44, 46, and 50.]
Return to text

5. Busenbaum, vol. I. p. 54.
Return to text

Top | Contents | Guides | Home

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