Saturday, April 17, 2021

Book Review, Part One: Newman's Anglican Difficulties

Re-reading this book after almost thirty years--my late husband Mark gave me a copy of Father Stanley Jaki's edition of Newman's Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching in 1995--I was impressed more this time with the second part of his attempts to persuade his former colleagues in the Oxford or Tractarian Movement to leave the Church of England and become (Roman) Catholics. He called them members of "the Movement of 1833".

In the first part, "Communion with the Roman See the Legitimate Issue of the Religious Movement of 1833", I think Newman succeeded completely proving that those remaining in the Oxford Movement had no true home in the Church of England. He demonstrates to them that they will have no meaningful influence on the Church or the Nation, since the Church serves the Nation and the Nation rules the Church. Newman uses the recent history of the Gorham Judgment to show them this. Queen Victoria's Privy Council ruled that Baptism wasn't really a Sacrament after all and that a minister of the Church of England didn't really need to believe it was a Sacrament, effecting the grace of God it symbolized in the pouring of water and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." Of course, members of the Movement of 1833 had been totally supportive of Bishop Philpott of Exeter not to ordain the Reverend George Cornelius Gorham and were disappointed in the Queen's Privy Council decision, because it meant the State ruled on a Church issue (the exact reason that Keble presented his sermon on the "National Apostasy" in 1833).

Newman probably convinced many that their position in the Church of England was tenuous: the Movement of 1833 was foreign to the Erastian Church of England; it was not derived from that National Church; it was not moving in the direction of the National Church which was moving in the direction of the Nation ("progressively"); they could not expect to remain a party, a branch, or a sect in the Church of England. So he concludes in the last lecture of this section:

Therefore, I say now,—as I have said years ago, when others have wished still to uphold their party, after their arguments had broken under them—Find out first of all where you stand, take your position, write down your creed, draw up your catechism. Tell me why you form your party, under what conditions, how long it is to last, what are your relations to the Establishment, and to the other branches (as you speak) of the Universal Church, how you stand relatively to Antiquity, what is Antiquity, whether you accept the Via Media, whether you are zealous for "Apostolical order," what is your rule of faith, how you prove it, and what are your doctrines. It is easy for a while to be doing merely what you do at present; to remain where you are, till it is proved to you that you must go; to refuse to say what you hold and what you do not, and to act only on the offensive; but you cannot do this for ever. The time is coming, or is come, when you must act in some way or other for yourselves, unless you would drift to some form of infidelity, or give up principle altogether, or believe or not believe by accident. The onus probandi will be on your side then. Now you are content to be negative and fragmentary in doctrine; you aim at nothing higher than smart articles in newspapers and magazines, at clever hits, spirited attacks, raillery, satire, skirmishing on posts of your own selecting; fastening on weak points, or what you think so, in Dissenters or Catholics; inventing ingenious retorts, evading dangerous questions; parading this or that isolated doctrine as essential, and praising this or that Catholic practice or Catholic saint, to make up for abuse, and to show your impartiality; and taking all along a high, eclectic, patronising, indifferent tone; this has been for some time past your line, and it will not suffice; it excites no respect, it creates no confidence, it inspires no hope.

And when, at length, you have one and all agreed upon your creed, and developed it doctrinally, morally, and polemically, then find for it some safe foundation, deeper and firmer than private judgment, which may ensure its transmission and continuance to generations to come. And, when you have done all this, then, last of all, persuade others and yourselves, that the foundation you have formed is surer and more trustworthy than that of Erastianism, on the one hand, and of immemorial and uninterrupted tradition, that is, of Catholicism, on the other.

Throughout this first part, Newman explores the impact of Erastianism, state control of the Church of England through laws enacted in Parliament and decisions made in the secular courts, and the impact of private judgment, each man or woman deciding what God teaches in the Holy Bible and in His Church--what Erastianism and private judgment mean for what the Movement of 1833 set out to defend. The Church of England, Newman tries to demonstrate to them, cannot be a Branch or a Via Media, of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ as long as it remains a National Church, following the path of the Nation, according to the private judgment of its citizens about what is wrong and what is right, how a Christian gains salvation and goes to Heaven, what the Church teaches, what the Bible means, etc. And the Movement of 1833 has no influence over that State control or that private judgment.

He has to contravene his own arguments in the 1830's and 40's to develop the theory of the Via Media, his own statements against the Catholic Church, his own efforts to establish the apostolicity, universality, holiness, and unity of the Church of England as a Branch Church in his Tracts for the Times!

As Newman presents these arguments to the remaining members of the Movement of 1833, he composes masterful passages, and I have highlighted, underlined, starred, asterisked, and commented on many pages of my book. Just a few examples.

On page 72 in Lecture II "The Movement of 1833 Foreign to the National Church":

Faith has one meaning to a Catholic, another to a Protestant. And life,—is it the religious "life" of England, or of Prussia, that he [Archdeacon Hare, whom Newman quoted in previous paragraphs] means, or is it Catholic life, that is, the life which belongs to Catholic principles? Else he will be arguing in a circle, if he is to prove that Protestants have that life, which manifests "the presence of the Spirit," on the ground of their having, as they are sure to have, a life congenial and in conformity to Protestant principles. If then "life" means strength, activity, energy, and well-being of any kind whatever, in that case doubtless the national religion is alive. It is a great power in the midst of us; it wields an enormous influence; it represses a hundred foes; it conducts a hundred undertakings. It attracts men to it, uses them, rewards them; it has thousands of beautiful homes up and down the country, where quiet men may do its work and benefit its people; it collects vast sums in the shape of voluntary offerings, and with them it builds churches, prints and distributes innumerable Bibles, books, and tracts and sustains missionaries in all parts of the earth. In all parts of the earth it opposes the Catholic Church, denounces her as antichristian, bribes the world against her, obstructs her influence, apes her authority, and confuses her evidence. In all parts of the world it is the religion of gentlemen, of scholars, of men of substance, and men of no personal faith at all. If this be life,—if it be life to impart a tone to the court and houses of parliament, to ministers of state, to law and literature, to universities and schools, and to society,—if it be life to be a principle of order in the population, and an organ of benevolence and almsgiving towards the poor,—if it be life to make men decent, respectable, and sensible, to embellish and refine the family circle, to deprive vice of its grossness, and to shed a gloss over avarice and ambition,—if indeed it is the life of religion to be the first jewel in the Queen's crown, and the highest step of her throne, then doubtless the National Church is replete, it overflows with life; but the question has still to be answered, Life of what kind? Heresy has its life, worldliness has its life. Is the Establishment's life merely national life, or is it something more? Is it Catholic life as well? Is it a supernatural life? Is it congenial with, does it proceed from, does it belong to, the principles of Apostles, Martyrs, Evangelists, and Doctors, the principles which the movement of 1833 thought to impose or to graft upon it, or does it revolt from them? If it be Catholic and Apostolic, it will endure Catholic and Apostolic principles; no one doubts it can endure Erastian; no one doubts it can be patient of Protestant; this is the problem which was started by the movement in question, the problem for which, surely, there has been an abundance of tests in the course of twenty years.

This quotation demonstrates how often and fairly Newman proposes the arguments of those who do want to remain in the Church of England and then identifies the weakness and flaws of their arguments: what good is lots of activity if it's based on bad ideas and principles?

From Lecture III, "The Life of the Movement of 1833 Not Derived from the National Church", pages 105 to 106:

You tell me, my brethren, that you have the clear evidence of the influences of grace in your hearts, by its effects sensible at the moment or permanent in the event. You tell me, that you have been converted from sin to holiness, or that you have received great support and comfort under trial, or that you have been carried over very special temptations, though you have not submitted yourselves to the Catholic Church. More than this, you tell me of the peace, and joy, and strength which you have experienced in your own ordinances. You tell me, that when you began to go weekly to communion you found yourselves wonderfully advanced in purity. You tell me that you went to confession, and you never will believe that the hand of God was not over you at the moment when you received absolution. You were ordained, and a fragrance breathed around you; you hung over the dead, and you all but saw the happy spirit of the departed. This is what you say, and the like of this; and I am not the person, my dear brethren, to quarrel with the truth of what you say. I am not the person to be jealous of such facts, nor to wish you to contradict your own memory and your own nature, nor am I so ungrateful to God's former mercies to myself, to have the heart to deny them in you. As to miracles, indeed, if such you mean, that of course is a matter which might lead to dispute; but if you merely mean to say that the supernatural grace of God, as shown either at the time or by consequent fruits, has overshadowed you at certain times, has been with you when you were taking part in the Anglican ordinances, I have no wish, and a Catholic has no anxiety, to deny it.

Why should I deny to your memory what is so pleasant in mine? Cannot I too look back on many years past, and many events, in which I myself experienced what is now your confidence? Can I forget the happy life I have led all my days, with no cares, no anxieties worth remembering; without desolateness, or fever of thought, or gloom of mind, or doubt of God's love to me and providence over me? Can I forget,—I never can forget,—the day when in my youth I first bound myself to the ministry of God in that old church of St. Frideswide, the patroness of Oxford? nor how I wept most abundant, and most sweet tears, when I thought what I then had become; though I looked on ordination as no sacramental rite, nor even to baptism ascribed any supernatural virtue? Can I wipe out from my memory, or wish to wipe out, those happy Sunday mornings, light or dark, year after year, when I celebrated your communion-rite, in my own church of St. Mary's; and in the pleasantness and joy of it heard nothing of the strife of tongues which surrounded its walls? . . .

What a magnificent and magnanimous appeal to shared feelings, demonstrating his empathy with them--while they know Newman is now a Catholic and cannot support their decision to remain in the Church of England. That last clause "and in the pleasantness and joy of it heard nothing of the strife of tongues which surrounded its walls?" is the warning that all those joys would be scorned by the Bishops, the Establishment, etc, outside the Oxford Movement. They won't find the kind of sympathy and empathy Newman offers them in their own Church.

He can be pretty tough on them too, as in this passage from Lecture V, "The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 not in the Direction of a Party in the National Church", pages 188-191:

And now, my brethren, will it not be so, as I have said, of simple necessity, if you attempt at this time to perpetuate in the National Church a form of opinion which the National Church disowns? You do not follow its Bishops; 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 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.
I cannot nor should not cite every extraordinary passage; but Newman also demonstrates his mastery of Church history as when he describes the conflict between St. Ambrose of Milan and the Arian Empress Justina (pp. 82-84) or the protracted controversy between Henry II and St. Thomas Becket (pp. 211-214)--and he will further explore the history of the Arian controversy in the Part Two, "Difficulties in Accepting the Communion of Rome as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic".

I'll comment further on Newman's line of argument in Part Two in a second post on this marvelous book.

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