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fulness and decision, it seemed like sapping and undermining a cherished
bulwark. Then it seemed to ask for more liberty than the writer in his
position at that time needed; and the object of such an indefinite
claim, in order to remove, if possible, misunderstandings between two
long-alienated branches of the Western Church, was one to excite in many
minds profound horror and dismay. That it maintained without flinching
and as strongly as ever the position and the claim of the English Church
was nothing to the purpose; the admission, both that Rome, though
wrong, might not be as wrong as we thought her, and that the language of
the Articles, though unquestionably condemnatory of much, was not
condemnatory of as much as people thought, and might possibly be even
harmonised with Roman authoritative language, was looked upon as
incompatible with loyalty to the English Church.

The question which the Tract had opened, what the Articles meant and to
what men were bound by accepting them, was a most legitimate one for
discussion; and it was most natural also that any one should hesitate to
answer it as the Tract answered it. But it was distinctly a question for
discussion. It was not so easy for any of the parties in the Church to
give a clear and consistent answer, as that the matter ought at once to
have been carried out of the region of discussion. The Articles were the
Articles of a Church which had seen as great differences as those
between the Church of Edward VI and the Church of the Restoration. Take
them broadly as the condemnation - strong but loose in expression, as,
for instance, in the language on the "five, commonly called
Sacraments" - of a powerful and well-known antagonist system, and there
was no difficulty about them. But take them as scientific and accurate
and precise enunciations of a systematic theology, and difficulties
begin at once, with every one who does not hold the special and
well-marked doctrines of the age when the German and Swiss authorities
ruled supreme. The course of events from that day to this has shown
more than once, in surprising and even startling examples, how much
those who at the time least thought that they needed such strict
construing of the language of the Articles, and were fierce in
denouncing the "kind of interpretation" said to be claimed in No. 90,
have since found that they require a good deal more elasticity of
reading than even it asked for. The "whirligig of time" was thought to
have brought "its revenges," when Mr. Newman, who had called for the
exercise of authority against Dr. Hampden, found himself, five years
afterwards, under the ban of the same authority. The difference between
Mr. Newman's case and Dr. Hampden's, both as to the alleged offence and
the position of the men, was considerable. But the "whirligig of time"
brought about even stranger "revenges," when not only Mr. Gorham and Mr.
H.B. Wilson in their own defence, but the tribunals which had to decide
on their cases, carried the strictness of reading and the latitude of
interpretation, quite as far, to say the least, as anything in No. 90.

Unhappily Tract 90 was met at Oxford, not with argument, but with panic
and wrath.[94] There is always a sting in every charge, to which other
parts of it seem subordinate. No. 90 was charged of course with false
doctrine, with false history, and with false reasoning; but the emphatic
part of the charge, the short and easy method which dispensed from the
necessity of theological examination and argument, was that it was
dishonest and immoral. Professors of Divinity, and accomplished
scholars, such as there were in Oxford, might very well have considered
it an occasion to dispute both the general principle of the Tract, if it
was so dangerous, and the illustrations, in the abundance of which the
writer had so frankly thrown open his position to searching criticism.
It was a crisis in which much might have been usefully said, if there
had been any one to say it; much too, to make any one feel, if he was
competent to feel, that he had a good deal to think about in his own
position, and that it would be well to ascertain what was tenable and
what untenable in it. But it seemed as if the opportunity must not be
lost for striking a blow. The Tract was published on 27th February. On
the 8th of March four Senior Tutors, one of whom was Mr. H.B. Wilson, of
St. John's, and another Mr. Tait, of Balliol, addressed the Editor of
the Tract, charging No. 90 with suggesting and opening a way, by which
men might, at least in the case of Roman views, violate their solemn
engagements to their University. On the 15th of March, the Board of
Heads of Houses, refusing to wait for Mr. Newman's defence, which was
known to be coming, and which bears date 13th March, published their
judgment They declared that in No. 90 "modes of interpretation were
suggested, and have since been advocated in other publications
purporting to be written by members of the University, by which
subscription to the Articles might be reconciled with the adoption of
Roman Catholic error." And they announced their resolution, "That modes
of interpretation, such as are suggested in the said Tract, evading
rather than explaining the sense of the Thirty-nine Articles, and
reconciling subscription to them with the adoption of errors which they
are designed to counteract, defeat the object, and are inconsistent with
the due observance of the above-mentioned statutes."[95]

It was an ungenerous and stupid blunder, such as men make, when they
think or are told that "something must be done," and do not know what.
It gave the writer an opportunity, of which he took full advantage, of
showing his superiority in temper, in courtesy, and in reason, to those
who had not so much condemned as insulted him. He was immediately ready
with his personal expression of apology and regret, and also with his
reassertion in more developed argument of the principle of the Tract;
and this was followed up by further explanations in a letter to the
Bishop. And in spite of the invidious position in which the Board had
tried to place him, not merely as an unsound divine, but as a dishonest
man teaching others to palter with their engagements, the crisis drew
forth strong support and sympathy where they were not perhaps to be
expected. It rallied to him, at least for the time, some of the friends
who had begun to hold aloof. Mr. Palmer, of Worcester, Mr. Perceval, Dr.
Hook, with reserves according to each man's point of view, yet came
forward in his defence. The Board was made to feel that they had been
driven by violent and partisan instigations to commit themselves to a
very foolish as well as a very passionate and impotent step; that they
had by very questionable authority simply thrown an ill-sounding and
ill-mannered word at an argument on a very difficult question, to which
they themselves certainly were not prepared with a clear and
satisfactory answer; that they had made the double mistake of declaring
war against a formidable antagonist, and of beginning it by creating the
impression that they had treated him shabbily, and were really afraid to
come to close quarters with him. As the excitement of hasty counsels
subsided, the sense of this began to awake in some of them; they tried
to represent the off-hand and ambiguous words of the condemnation as not
meaning all that they had been taken to mean. But the seed of bitterness
had been sown. Very little light was thrown, in the strife of pamphlets
which ensued, on the main subject dealt with in No. 90, the authority
and interpretation of such formularies as our Articles. The easier and
more tempting and very fertile topic of debate was the honesty and good
faith of the various disputants. Of the four Tutors, only one, Mr. H.B.
Wilson, published an explanation of their part in the matter; it was a
clumsy, ill-written and laboured pamphlet, which hardly gave promise of
the intellectual vigour subsequently displayed by Mr. Wilson, when he
appeared, not as the defender, but the assailant of received opinions.
The more distinguished of the combatants were Mr. Ward and Mr. R. Lowe.
Mr. Ward, with his usual dialectical skill, not only defended the Tract,
but pushed its argument yet further, in claiming tolerance for doctrines
alleged to be Roman. Mr. Lowe, not troubling himself either with
theological history or the relation of other parties in the Church to
the formularies, threw his strength into the popular and plausible topic
of dishonesty, and into a bitter and unqualified invective against the
bad faith and immorality manifested in the teaching of which No. 90 was
the outcome. Dr. Faussett, as was to be expected, threw himself into the
fray with his accustomed zest and violence, and caused some amusement at
Oxford, first by exposing himself to the merciless wit of a reviewer in
the _British Critic_, and then by the fright into which he was thrown by
a rumour that his reelection to his professorship would be endangered by
Tractarian votes.[96] But the storm, at Oxford at least, seemed to die
out. The difficulty which at one moment threatened of a strike among
some of the college Tutors passed; and things went back to their
ordinary course. But an epoch and a new point of departure had come into
the movement. Things after No. 90 were never the same as to language and
hopes and prospects as they had been before; it was the date from which
a new set of conditions in men's thoughts and attitude had to be
reckoned. Each side felt that a certain liberty had been claimed and
had been peremptorily denied. And this was more than confirmed by the
public language of the greater part of the Bishops. The charges against
the Tractarian party of Romanising, and of flagrant dishonesty, long
urged by irresponsible opponents, were now formally adopted by the
University authorities, and specially directed against the foremost man
of the party. From that time the fate of the party at Oxford was
determined. It must break up. Sooner or later, there must be a secession
more or less discrediting and disabling those who remained. And so the
break-up came, and yet, so well grounded and so congenial to the English
Church were the leading principles of the movement, that not even that
disastrous and apparently hopeless wreck prevented them from again
asserting their claim and becoming once more active and powerful. The
_Via Media_, whether or not logically consistent, was a thing of genuine
English growth, and was at least a working theory.


[84] _Apologia_, p. 180.

[85] _Essays Critical and Historical_, 1871.

[86] _Apologia_, pp. 181, 182. Comp. _Letter to Jelf_, p. 18.

[87] _British Critic_, April 1839, pp. 419-426. Condensed in the
_Apologia_, pp. 192-194.

[88] _Letter to the Bishop of Oxford_ (29th March 1841), pp. 33-40.
Comp. _Letter to Jelf_, pp. 7, 8.

[89] _Apologia_, pp. 212, 221.

[90] _Letter to Jelf_ [especially p. 19].

[91] _Walton's Life_, i. 59 (Oxford: 1845).

[92] No. 90, p. 24.

[93] The following letter of Mr. James Mozley (8th March 1841) gives the
first impression of the Tract: - "A new Tract has come out this week, and
is beginning to make a sensation. It is on the Articles, and shows that
they bear a highly Catholic meaning; and that many doctrines, of which
the Romanist are corruptions, may be held consistently with them. This
is no more than what we know as a matter of history, for the Articles
were expressly worded to bring in Roman Catholics. But people are
astonished and confused at the idea now, as if it were quite new. And
they have been so accustomed for a long time to look at the Articles as
on a par with the Creed, that they think, I suppose, that if they
subscribe to them they are bound to hold whatever doctrines (not
positively stated in them) are merely not condemned. So if they will
have a Tractarian sense, they are thereby all Tractarians.... It is, of
course, highly complimentary to the whole set of us to be so very much
surprised that we should think what we held to be consistent with the
Articles which we have subscribed." See also a clever Whateleian
pamphlet, "The Controversy between Tract No. 90 and the Oxford Tutors."
(How and Parsons, 1841.)

[94] See J.B. Mozley's _Letters_, 13th March 1841.

[95] _Scil._, those cited in the preamble to this resolution.

[96] J.B. Mozley's _Letters_, 13th July 1841.



The proceedings about No. 90 were a declaration of war on the part of
the Oxford authorities against the Tractarian party. The suspicions,
alarms, antipathies, jealousies, which had long been smouldering among
those in power, had at last taken shape in a definite act. And it was a
turning-point in the history of the movement. After this it never was
exactly what it had been hitherto. It had been so far a movement within
the English Church, for its elevation and reform indeed, but at every
step invoking its authority with deep respect, acknowledging allegiance
to its rulers in unqualified and even excessive terms, and aiming
loyally to make it in reality all that it was in its devotional language
and its classical literature. But after what passed about No. 90 a
change came. The party came under an official ban and stigma. The common
consequences of harsh treatment on the tendencies and thought of a
party, which considers itself unjustly proscribed, showed themselves
more and more. Its mind was divided; its temper was exasperated; while
the attitude of the governing authorities hardened more into determined
hostility. From the time of the censure, and especially after the events
connected with it, - the contest for the Poetry Professorship and the
renewed Hampden question, - it may be said that the characteristic
tempers of the Corcyrean sedition were reproduced on a small scale in
Oxford.[97] The scare of Popery, not without foundation - the reaction
against it, also not without foundation - had thrown the wisest off their
balance; and what of those who were not wise? In the heat of those days
there were few Tractarians who did not think Dr. Wynter, Dr. Faussett,
and Dr. Symons heretics in theology and persecutors in temper, despisers
of Christian devotion and self-denial. There were few of the party of
the Heads who did not think every Tractarian a dishonest and perjured
traitor, equivocating about his most solemn engagements, the ignorant
slave of childish superstitions which he was conspiring to bring back.
It was the day of the violent on both sides: the courtesies of life were
forgotten; men were afraid of being weak in their censures, their
dislike, and their opposition; old friendships were broken up, and men
believed the worst of those whom a few years back they had loved and

It is not agreeable to recall these long extinct animosities, but they
are part of the history of that time, and affected the course in which
things ran. And it is easy to blame, it is hard to do justice to, the
various persons and parties who contributed to the events of that
strange and confused time. All was new, and unusual, and without
precedent in Oxford; a powerful and enthusiastic school reviving old
doctrines in a way to make them seem novelties, and creating a wild
panic from a quarter where it was the least expected; the terror of this
panic acting on authorities not in the least prepared for such a trial
of their sagacity, patience, and skill, driving them to unexampled
severity, and to a desperate effort to expel the disturbing
innovators - among them some of the first men in Oxford in character and
ability - from their places in the University.[98] In order to do justice
on each side at this distance of time, we are bound to make
allowance - both for the alarm and the mistaken violence of the
authorities, and for the disaffection, the irritation, the strange
methods which grew up in the worried and suspected party - for the
difficulties which beset both sides in the conflict, and the
counter-influences which drew them hither and thither. But the facts are
as they are; and even then a calmer temper was possible to those who
willed it; and in the heat of the strife there were men among the
authorities, as well as in the unpopular party, who kept their balance,
while others lost it.

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

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

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

In the next place, the authorities attacked and condemned the
Tractarian teaching at once violently and ignorantly, and in them
ignorance of the ground on which the battle was fought was hardly
pardonable. Doubtless the Tractarian language was in many respects novel
and strange. But Oxford was not only a city of libraries, it was the
home of what was especially accounted Church theology; and the
Tractarian teaching, in its foundation and main outlines, had little but
what ought to have been perfectly familiar to any one who chose to take
the trouble to study the great Church of England writers. To one who,
like Dr. Routh of Magdalen, had gone below the surface, and was
acquainted with the questions debated by those divines, there was
nothing startling in what so alarmed his brethren, whether he agreed
with it or not; and to him the indiscriminate charge of Popery meant
nothing. But Dr. Routh stood alone among his brother Heads in his
knowledge of what English theology was. To most of them it was an
unexplored and misty region; some of the ablest, under the influence of
Dr. Whately's vigorous and scornful discipline, had learned to slight
it. But there it was. Whether it was read or not, its great names were
pronounced with honour, and quoted on occasion. From Hooker to Van
Mildert, there was an unbroken thread of common principles giving
continuity to a line of Church teachers. The Puritan line of doctrine,
though it could claim much sanction among the divines of the
Reformation - the Latitudinarian idea, though it had the countenance of
famous names and powerful intellects - never could aspire to the special
title of Church theology. And the teaching which had that name, both in
praise, and often in dispraise, as technical, scholastic, unspiritual,

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