John Henry Newman.

Apologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions online

. (page 8 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 8 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

principle that " the abuse of a thing doth not take away
the lawful use of it ;" and an Anglican Canon in 1603 had
declared that the English Church had no purpose to forsake
all that was held in the Churches of Italy, France, and
Spain, and reverenced those ceremonies and particular
points which were Apostolic. Excepting then such excep-
tional matters, as are implied in this avowal, whether they
were many or few, all these Churches were evidently to be
considered as one with the Anglican. The Catholic Church
in all lands had been one from the first for many centuries;
then, various portions had followed their own way to the
injury, but not to the destruction, whether of truth or of
^charity. These portions or branches were m&inly three: —
■ the Greek, Latin, and Anglican. Each of these inherited
the early undivided Church in solido as its own possession.
V Each branch was identical with that early undivided
Church, and in the unity of that Church it had unity with
the other branches. The three branches agreed together
in all but their later accidental errors. Some branches
had retained in detail portions of Apostolical truth and
usage, which the others had not; and these portions might
be and shpuld be appropriated again by the others which
had let them slip. Thus, the middle age belonged to the
Anglican Church, and much more did the middle age of
England. The Church of the 12th century was the Church
of the 19th. Dr. Howley sat in the seat of St. Thomas
the Martyr ; Oxford was a medieval University. Saving
our engagements to Prayer Book and Articles, we might
breathe and live and act and speak, as in the atmosphere
and climate of Henry III.'s day, or the Confessor's, or of
Alfred's. And we ought to be indulgent to all that Rome
taught now, as to what Rome taught then, saving our

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FROM 1833 TO 1839. 71

protest. We might boldly welcome, even what we did not
ourselves think right to adopt. And, when we were obliged
on the contrary boldly to denounce, we should do so with
pain, not with exultation. By very reason of our protest,
which we had made, and made ex animo, we could agree
to differ. What the members of the Bible Society did on
the basis of Scripture, we could do on the basis of the
Church; Trinitarian and Unitarian were further apart
than £;oman and Anglican. Thus we had a real wish to
co-operate with Rome in all lawful things, if she would
let us, and if the rules of our own Church let us ; and we
thought there was no better way towards the restoration
of doctrinal purity and unity. Ajid we thought that Rome
was not committed by her formal decrees to all that she
actually taught: and again, if her disputants had been
unfair to us, or her rulers tyrannical, we bore in mind
that on our side too there had been rancour and slander
in our controversial attacks upon her, and violence in our
political measures. As to ourselves being direct instru-
ments in improving her belief or practice, I used to say,
" Look at home ; let us first, (or at least let us the while,)
supply our own shortcomings, before we attempt to be
physicians to any one else.*' This is very much the spirit
of Tract 71, to which I referred just now. I am well
aware that there is a paragraph inconsistent with it in
the Prospectus to the Library of the Fathers ; but I do
not consider myself responsible for it. Indeed, I have no
intention whatever of implying that Dr. Pusey concurred
in the ecclesiastical theory, which I have been now drawing
out ; nor that I took it up myself except by degrees in the
course of ten years. It was necessarily the growth of time.
In fact, hardly any two persons, who took part in the
Movement, agreed in their view of the Umit to which
our general principles might Religiously be carried.

And now I have said enough on what I consider to have

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


been the general objects of tbe various works, whicb I
wrote, edited, or prompted in the years which I am
N^ reviewing. I wanted to bring out in a substantive form a
living Church of England, in a position proper to herself,
and founded on distinct principles ; as far as paper could
do it, as far as earnestly preaching it and influencing others
towards it, could tend to make it a fact; — a living Church,
made of flesh and blood, with voice, complexion, and
motion and action, and a wiU of its own. I believe I had
no private motive, and no personal aim. Nor did I ask
for more than " a fair stage and no favour,'* nor expect
the work would be accomplished in my days; but I
thought that enough would be secured to continue it in
the future, under, perhaps, more hopeful circumstances and
prospects than the present.

I will mention in illustration some of the principal
works, doctrinal and historical, which originated in the
object which I have stated.

I wrote my Essay on Justification in 1837; it was aimed
at the Lutheran dictum that justification by faith only was
the cardinal doctrine of Christianity. I considered that
this doctrine was either a paradox or a truism, — a paradox
in Luther's mouth, a truism in Melanchthon's. I thought
that the Anglican Church followed Melanchthon, and that
in consequence between Rome and Anglicanism, between
high Church and low Church, there was no real intellec-
tual diflference on the point. I wished to fill up a ditch,
the work of man. In this Volume again, I express my
desire to build up a system of theology out of the Anglican
divines, and imply that my dissertation was a tentative
Inquiry. I speak in the Preface of " offering suggestions
towards a work, which must be uppermost in the mind of
every true sou of the English Church at this day, — the
consolidation of a theological system, which, built upon
those formularies, to which all clergymen are bound, may

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FROM 1833 TO 1839. 7a

tend to inform, persuade, and absorb into itself religious
minds, which hitherto have fancied, that, on the peculiar
Protestant questions, they were seriously opposed to each
other."— P. vii.

In my University Sermons there is a series of discus-
sions upon the subject of Faith and Reason ; these again
were the tentative commencement of a grave and necessary
work, viz. an inquiry into the ultimate basis of religious
faith, prior to the distinction into Creeds.

In like manner in a Pamphlet, which I published in the
summer of 1838, is an attempt at placing the doctrine of
the Real Presence on an intellectual basis. The funda-
mental idea is consonant to that to which I had been so
long attached : it is the denial of the existence of space
except as a subjective idea of our minds.

The Church of the Fathers is one of the earliest pro-
ductions of the Movement, and appeared in numbers in
the British Magazine, being written with the aim of in-
troducing the religious sentiments, views, and customs of
the first ages into the modem Church of England.

The Translation of Fleury's Church History was com-
menced under these circumstances : — ^I was fond of Fleury
for a reason which I express in the Advertisement ;
because it presented a sort of photograph of ecclesiastical
history without any comment upon it. In the event, that
simple representation of the early centuries had a good
deal to do with unsettling me in my Anglicanism; but
how little I could anticipate this, will be seen in the fact
that the publication of Fleury was a favourite scheme
with Mr. Rose. He proposed it to me twice, between the
years 1834 and 1837; and I mention it as one out of
many particulars curiously illustrating how truly my
change of opinion arose, not from foreign influences, but
from the working of my own mind, and the accidents
around me. The date, from which the portion actually

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


translated began, was determined by the PubKsher on
reasons with* which we were not concerned.

Another historical work, but drawn from original
sources, was given to the world by my old friend Mr.
Bowden, being a Life of Pope Gregory VII. I need
scarcely recall to those who have read it, the power and
the liveliness of the narrative. This composition was the
author's relaxation, on evenings and in his summer vaca-
tions, from his ordinary engagements in London. It had
been suggested to him originally by me, at the instance of
Hurrell Froude.

The Series of the Lives of the English Saints was pro-
jected at a later period, under circumstances which I shall
have in the sequel to describe. Those beautiful composi-
tions have nothing in them, as far as I recollect, simply
inconsistent with the general objects which I have been
assigning to my labours in these years, though the im-
mediate occasion which led to them, and the tone in
which they were written, had little that was congenial
with Anglicanism.

At a comparatively early date I drew up the Tract on
the Roman Breviary. It frightened my own friends on
its first appearance ; and several years afterwards, when
younger men began to translate for publication the four
volumes in extemo, they were dissuaded from doing so by
advice to which from a sense of duty they listened. It was
an apparent accident, which introduced me to the know-
ledge of that most wonderful and most attractive monu-
ment of the devotion of saints. On Hurrell Fronde's
death, in 1836, 1 was asked to select one of his books as a
keepsake. I selected Butler's Analogy; finding that it
had been already chosen, I looked with some perplexity
along the shelves as they stood before me, when an inti-
mate friend at my elbow said, " Take that." It was the
yT Breviary which Hurrell had had with him at Barbadoes.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FEOM 1833 TO 1839. 76

Accordingly I took it, studied it, wrote my Tract from
it, and have it on my table in constant use till this

That dear and familiar companion, who thus put the
Breviary into my hands, is still in the Anglican Church.
So, too, is that early venerated long-loved friend, together
with whom I edited a work which, more perhaps than any
other, caused disturbance and annoyance in the Anglican
world, — Froude's Remains; yet, however judgments might
run as to the prudence of publishing it, I never heard any
one impute to Mr. Keble the very shadow of dishonesty or
treachery towards his Church in so acting.

The annotated Translation of the Treatises of St. Atha-
nasius was of course in no sense of a tentative character ;
it belongs to another order of thought. This historico-
dogmatic work employed me for years. I had made pre-
parations for following it up with a doctrinal history of the
heresies which succeeded to the Arian.

I should make mention also of the British Critic. I was
Editor of it for three years, from July 1838 to July 1841.
My writers belonged to various schools, some to none at all.
The subjects are various, — classical, academical, political,
critical, and artistic, as well as theological, and upon the
Movement none are to be found which do not keep quite
clear of advocating the cause of Bome.

So I went on for years up to 1841. It was, in a human
point of view, the happiest time of my life. I was truly at
home. I had in one of my volumes appropriated to myself
the words of Bramhall, " Bees, by the instinct of nature,
do love their hives, and birds their nests." I did not sup-
pose that such sunshine would last, though I knew not
what would be its termination. It was the time of plenty,
and,. during its seven years, I tried to lay up as much as I
could for the dearth which was to follow it. We prospered

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


and spread. I have spoken of the doings of these years,
since I was'a Catholic, in a passage, part of which I will
here quote :

" From beginnings so small," I said, " from elements of
thought so fortuitous, with prospects so impromising, the
Anglo-Catholic party suddenly became a power in the Na-
tional Church, and an object of alarm to her rulers and
friends. Its originators would have found it difficult to
say what they aimed at of a practical kind : rather, they
put forth views and principles for their own sake, because
they were true, as if they were obliged to say them ; and,
as they might be themselves surprised at their earnestness
in uttering them, they had as great cause to be surprised
at the success which attended their propagation; And, in
fact, they could only say that those doctrines were in the
air ; that to assert was to prove, and that to explain was to
persuade; and that the Movement in which they were
taking part was the birth of a crisis rather than of a
place. In a very few years a school of opinion was
formed, fixed in its principles, indefinite and progressive
in their range ; and it extended itself into every part of
the country. If we inquire what the world thought of it,
we have still more to raise our wonder ; for, not to mention
the excitement it caused in England, the Movement and
its party-names were known to the police of Italy and to
the back-woodmen of America. And so it proceeded,
getting stronger and stronger every year, till it came
into collision with the Nation, and that Church of the
Nation, which it began by professing especially to serve."

The greater its success, the nearer was that collision at
hand. The first threatenings of what was coming were
heard in 1838. At that time, my Bishop in a Charge
made some light animadversions, but they were animad-
versions, on the Tracts for the Times. At once I offered
to stop them. What took place on the occasion I prefer

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FROM 1833 TO 1839. 77

to state in the words, in whicli I related it in a Pamphlet
addressed to him in a later year, when the Blow actually
came down upon me.

" In your Lordship's Charge for 1838," I said, " an al-
lusion was made to the Tracts for the Times. Some oppo-
nents of the Tracts said that you treated them with undue
indulgence. ... I wrote to the Archdeacon on the sub-
ject, submitting the Tracts entirely to your Lordship's dis-
posal. What I thought about your Charge will appear from
the words I then used to him. I said, ' A Bishop's lightest
word ex cathedrd is heavy. His judgment on a book cannot
be light. It is a rare occurrence.' And I offered to with-
draw any of the Tracts over which I had control, if I were
informed which were those to which your Lordship had
objections. I afterwards wrote to your Lordship to this
effect, that *I trusted I might say sincerely, that I should
feel a more lively pleasure in knowing that I was submit-
ting myself to your Lordship's expressed judgment in a
matter of that kind, than I could have even in the widest
circulation of the volumes in question.' Your Lordship
did not think it necessary to proceed to such a measure, but
I felt, and always have felt, that, if ever you determined on
it, I was boimd to obey."

That day at length came, and I conclude this portion of
my narrative, with relating the circumstances of it.

From the time that I had entered upon the duties of Public
Tutor at my College, when my doctrinal views were very
different from what they were in 1841, 1 had meditated a
comment upon the Articles. Then, when the Movement
was in its swing, friends had said to me, " What will you
make of the Articles ?" but I did not share the apprehen-
sion which their question implied. Whether, as time went
on, I should have been forced, by the necessities of the ori-
ginal theory of the Movement, to put on paper the specu-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


lations which I had about them, I am not able to conjec-
ture. The actual cause of my doing so, in the beginning
of 1841, was the restlessness, actual and prospective, of
those who neither liked the Via Media, nor my strong
judgment against Rome. I had been enjoined, I think
by my Bishop, to keep these men straight, and I wished
so to do : but their tangible diflSculty was subscription
to the Articles; and thus the question of the Articles
came before me. It was thrown in our teeth ; " How
can you manage to sign the Articles ? they are directly
against Rome." "Against Rome?" I made answer,
"What do you mean by 'Rome?'*' and then I pro-
ceeded to make distinctions, of which I shall now give
an account.

By "Roman doctrine'' might be meant one of three
things : 1, the Catholic teaching of the early centuries ;
or 2, ike formal dogmas of Rome as contained in the later
Councils, especially the Council. of Trent, and as condensed
in the Creed of Pope Pius IV. ; 3, the actual popular beliefs
and tcsages sanctioned by Rome in the countries in commu-
nion with it, over and above the dogmas; and these I
called "dominant errors." Now Protestants commonly
thought that in all three senses, "Roman doctrine"
was condemned in the Articles : I thought that the
Catholic teaching was not condemned; that the dominant
errors were; and as to the formal dogmas, that some
were, some were not, and that the line had to be drawn
between them. Thus, 1. The use of Prayers for the dead
was a Catholic doctrine,— not condemned in the Articles;
2. The prison of Purgatory was a Roman dogma, — which
was condenmed in them; but the infallibility of Ecu-
menical Councils was a Roman dogma, — not condemned ;
and 3. The fire of Purgatory was an authorized and popular
error, not a dogma, — which was condemned.

Further, I considered that the difficulties, felt by the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FROM 1833 TO 1839. 79

persons whom T have mentioned, mainly lay in their mis-
taking, 1, Catholic teaching, which was not condemned in
the Articles, for Roman dogma which was condemned ;
and 2, Koman dogma, which was not condemned in the
Articles, for dominant error which was. If they went
further than this, I had nothing more to say to them.

A further motive which I had for my attempt, was the
desire to ascertain the ultimate points of contrariety be-
tween the Roman and Anglican creeds, and to make them
as few as possible. I thought that each creed was obscured
and misrepresented by a dominant circumambient "Popery'*
and " Protestantism.'*

The main thesis then of my Essay was this : — the Articles
do not oppose Catholic teaching ; they but partially oppose
Roman dogma ; they for the most part oppose the domi-
nant errors of Rome. And the problem was, as I have said,
to draw the line as to what they allowed and what they

Such being the object which I had in view, what were
my prospects of widening and of defining their meaning ?
The prospect was encouraging ; there was no doubt at all
of the elasticity of the Articles : to take a palmary instance,
the seventeenth was assumed by one party to be Lutheran,
by another Calvinistic, though the two interpretations were
contradictory of each other ; why then should not other
Articles be drawn up with a vagueness of an equally intense
character ? I wanted to ascertain what was the limit of
that elasticity in the direction of Roman dogma. But next,
I had a way of inquiry of my own, which I state without
defending. I instanced it afterwards in my Essay on
Doctrinal Development. That work, I believe, I have not
read since I published it, and I do not doubt at all I have
made many mistakes in it ; — partly, from my ignorance of
the details of doctrine, as the Church of Rome holds them,
but partly from my impatience to clear as large a range for

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


the principle of doctrinal Development (waiving the question
of historical fact) as was consistent with the strict Aposto-
licity and identity of the Catholic Creed. In like manner,
as regards the 39 Articles, my method of inquiry was to
leap in medias res. I wished to institute an inquiry
how far, in critical fairness, the text could be opened ; I
was aiming far more at ascertaining what a man who sub-
scribed it might hold than what he must, so that my con-
clusions were negative rather than positive. It was but a
first essay. And I made it with the full recognition and
consciousness, which I had already expressed in my Pro-
phetical Office, as regards the Via Media, that I was making
only " a first approximation to the required solution ;" — " a
series of illustrations supplying hints for the removal " of
a difficulty, and with full acknowledgment " that in minor
points, whether in question of fact or of judgment, there
was room for difierence or error of opinion," and that I
"should not be ashamed to own a mistake, if it were
proved against me, nor reluctant to bear the just blame of
it."— Proph. OS. p. 31. .

I will add, I was embarrassed in consequence of my wish
to go as far as was possible in interpreting the Articles in
the direction of Roman dogma, without disclosing what I
was doing to the parties whose doubts I was meeting ; who,
if they understood at once the full extent of the licence
which the Articles admitted, might be thereby encouraged
to proceed still further than at present they found in them-
selves any call to go.

1. But in the way of such an attempt comes the prompt
objection that the Articles were actually drawn up against
" Popery," and therefore it was transcendently absurd and
dishonest to suppose that Popery, in any shape, — patristic
belief, Tridentine dogma, or popular corruption authorita-
tively sanctioned, — would be able to take refuge imder their
text. This premiss I denied. Not any religious doctrine

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

FROM 1833 TO 1839. 81

at all, but a political principle, was the primary English '
idea of " Popery" at the date of the Reformation. And
what was that political principle, and how could it best be
suppressed in England ? What was the great question in the
days of Henry and Elizabeth? The Supremacy ; —now y
was I saying one single word in favour of the Supremacy
of the Holy See, in favour of the foreign jurisdiction ? No ;
I did not beKeve in it myself. Did Henry Vlll. religiously
hold Justification by faith only ? did he disbelieve Purga-
tory? Was Elizabeth zealous for the marriage of the
Clergy ? or had she a conscience against the Mass ? The
Supremacy of the Pope was the essence of the " Popery '*
to which, at the time of the composition of the Articles, the
Supreme Head or Governor of the English Church was so
violently hostile.

2. But again I said this : —let " Popery '* mean what it
would in the mouths of the compilers of the Articles, let
it even, for argument's sake, include the doctrines of that
Tridentine Council, which was not yet over when the
Articles were drawn up, and against which they could not
be simply directed, yet, consider, what was the object of
the Government in their imposition ? merely to get rid of
"Popery?" No; it had the further object of gaining
the " Papists." What then was the best way to induce
reluctant or wavering minds, and these, I supposed, were
the majority, to give in their adhesion to the new symbol ?
how had the Arians drawn up their Creeds ? was it not on
the principle of using vague ambiguous language, which
to the subscribers would seem to bear a Catholic sense,
but which, when worked out on the long run, would prove
to be heterodox? Accordingly, there was great ante-
cedent probability, that, fierce as the Articles might look
at first sight, their bark would prove worse than their *
bite. I say antecedent probability, for to what extent

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


that surmise might be true, could only be ascertained by

3. But a consideration came up at once, which threap
light on this surmise : — what if it should turn out that the
very men who drew up the Articles, in the very act of
doing so, had avowed, or rather in one of those very Arti-
cles themselves had imposed on subscribers, a number of
those very " Papistical '* doctrines, which they were now
thought to deny, as part and parcel of that very Protes-
tantism, which they were now thought to consider divine ?
and this was the fact, and I showed it in my Essay.

Let the reader observe : — the 35th Article says : " The
second Book of Homilies doth contain a godly and wholesome
doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former
Book of Homilies.** Here the doctrine of the HomiKes is
recognized as godly and wholesome, and concurrence in
that recognition is imposed on all subscribers of the Arti-
cles. Let us then turn to the Homilies, and see what this
godly doctrine is : I quoted from them to the following

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 8 of 33)