Monday, September 6, 2021

Newman's "Constitution and History of the Church of England"

At the end of The Spiritual Legacy of Newman, which I reviewed last week, Father William R. Lamm included as an Appendix Newman's essay on "The Constitution and History of the Church of England", which Newman wrote in 1866 for the French edition of the Apologia pro Vita Sua, and which Wilfred Ward translated for the 1913 Oxford University Press edition, which I presume means that Newman composed it in French. You may find Newman's elegant dissection of the Church of England at The Newman Reader (note the page numbers in brackets):

There is, perhaps, no other institution in which the English have shown their love of compromise in political and social affairs so strikingly as in the established national Church. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, all enemies of Rome, were equally the enemies of one another. Of other Protestant sects the Erastians, Puritans and Arminians are also different and hostile. But it is no exaggeration to say that the Anglican ecclesiastical Establishment is an amalgamation of all these varieties of Protestantism, to which a considerable amount of Catholicism is superadded. The Establishment is the outcome of the action which Henry VIII, the ministers of Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth, the Cavaliers, the Puritans, the Latitudinarians of 1688, and the Methodists of the Eighteenth Century successively brought to bear on religion. It has a hierarchy dating from the Middle Ages, richly endowed, exalted by its civil position, formidable by its political influence. The Established Church has preserved the rites, the prayers and the {xxiii} symbols of the ancient Church. She draws her articles of faith from Lutheran and Zwinglian sources; her translation of the Bible savours of Calvinism. She can boast of having had in her bosom, especially in the seventeenth century, a succession of theologians of great learning and proud to make terms with the doctrines and practices of the primitive Church. The great Bossuet, contemplating her doctors, said that it was impossible that the English should not one day come back to the faith of their fathers; and De Maistre hailed the Anglican communion as being destined to play a great part in the reconciliation and reunion of Christendom.

This remarkable Church has always been in the closest dependence on the civil power and has always gloried in this. It has ever regarded the Papal power with fear, with resentment and with aversion, and it has never won the heart of the people. In this it has shown itself consistent throughout the course of its existence; in other concerns it has either had no opinions or has constantly changed them. In the sixteenth century it was Calvinist; in the first half of the seventeenth it was Arminian and quasi-Catholic; towards the close of that century and at the beginning of the next it was latitudinarian. In the middle of the eighteenth century it was described by Lord Chatham as having 'a papistical ritual and prayer-book, Calvinist articles of faith and an Arminian clergy'.

In our days it contains three powerful parties in which are embodied the three principles of religion which appear constantly and from the beginning of its history in one form or another; the Catholic principle, the Protestant principle, and the sceptical principle. Each of these, it is hardly necessary to say, is violently opposed to the other two. . . .

So how do these violently opposed parties co-exist in one Church? Newman answers: the Tory Party and its Erastianism:

It is not a religious party, not that it has not a great number of religious men in its ranks, but because its principles and its mots d'ordre are political or at least ecclesiastical rather than theological. Its members are neither Tractarians, nor Evangelicals, nor Liberals; or, if they are, it is in a very mild and very unaggressive form; because, in the eyes of the world their chief characteristic consists in their being advocates of an Establishment and of the Establishment, and they are more zealous for the preservation of a national Church than solicitous for the beliefs which that national Church professes. We said above that the great principle of the Anglican Church was its confidence in the protection of the civil power and its docility in serving it, which its enemies call its Erastianism. Now if on the one hand this respect for the civil power be its great principle, the principle of Erastianism is, on the other hand, embodied in so numerous a party whether among the clergy or the laity, that the word 'party' is scarcely adequate. It constitutes the mass of the Church. The clergy in particular—Bishops, Deans, Chapters, Rectors—are always distinguished by their {xxvi} Toryism on all English questions. In the seventeenth century they professed the divine right of kings; they have ever since gloried in the doctrine: 'The King is the head of the Church;' and their after-dinner toast: 'The Church and the King' has been their formula of protestation for maintaining in the kingdom of England the theoretical predominance of the spiritual over the temporal. They have always testified an extreme aversion for what they term the power usurped by the Pope. Their chief theological dogma is that the Bible contains all necessary truths, and that every Christian is individually capable of discovering them there for his own use. They preach Christ as the only mediator, redemption by His death, the renewal of man by His Spirit, the necessity for good works. This great assembly of men, true representatives of that English common sense which is so famous for its good as for its evil consequences, mostly regard every kind of theology, every theological school, and in particular the three schools which we have tried to portray, with mistrust. In the seventeenth century they combated the Puritans; at the close of that century they combated the Latitudinarians; in the middle of the eighteenth century they combated the Methodists and the members of the Evangelical party; and in our own times they have made an energetic stand at first against the Tractarians and today against the Liberals. . . .

In his introduction Ward also included a translation of the second essay Newman wrote for that French edition, offering a history of the University of Oxford. You'll find it on pages xxviii-xxxi. 

Ward comments that these essays demonstrate Newman's concern for this audience and their understanding of the context of Apologia pro Vita Sua. Ward also suggested that someone should "trace the causes which have made one of Newman's statements so completely inapplicable to the present day,—the statement that the clergy, and especially the high dignitaries, are "always distinguished for their Toryism on all English questions"."

No comments:

Post a Comment