Project Canterbury

Religious Thought in the Oxford Movement

By Clement Charles Julian Webb, M.A., F.B.A.

London: SPCK, 1928.
New York: Macmillan, 1928.

Section III. The Moralism of the Oxford Movement


IF, however, it is true, as on the whole it is, that Anglican theology was isolated from the general movement of European and even of English thought, so far as the latter took the form of definitely philosophical speculation, it, notwithstanding, as itself a phenomenon of English spiritual life, illustrated the characteristically English approach to the problems of life which Dr. Brilioth calls "moralism." Our foreign neighbours have been apt to accuse us English of tartufferie, or hypocrisy, as a national trait. I shall not pretend that the accusation is utterly without foundation; but hypocrisy, even when real, is, as the proverb has it, a homage which vice pays to virtue; and much that has passed for hypocrisy in English conduct is due rather to self-complacency and lack of imagination than to any conscious, still less deliberate, sophistication or dissimulation on our part. Englishmen have an instinctive sense of the importance of conduct, an instinctive admiration of moral excellence quite out of proportion to the value which they set upon beauty in art or upon profundity in thought; and they are even apt to look with some suspicion on anything which they suspect to be an over-estimation of these latter. It is not an accident that Great Britain is distinguished by its remarkable output of work on moral philosophy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and we shall find that emphasis on the importance of the moral consciousness as at once the root of religion and the test of its reality is the really essential feature of the Oxford Movement in its theoretical aspect. The Oxford Movement is a thoroughly English product; and what makes Dr. Brilioth's admirable monograph especially remarkable is the sympathy with which he, though not an Englishman, has entered into the spirit of a Movement so emphatically English alike in its strength and in its weakness.


On the relation of Morality to Religion in general I have dwelt at length elsewhere, both in a book called Problems in the Relations of God and Man and in a series of lectures on that express subject published in the same volume as those on A Century of Anglican Theology, to which I have already several times referred. But I now turn to the consideration of the relation of Morality, not to Religion in general but to the Christian Religion in particular. It is a subject with a very direct bearing upon the topic of Religious Thought in the Oxford Movement.

Unquestionably, Christianity is distinguished among the religions of the world by its emphasis upon morality. Holiness is for Christians the principal attribute of God; and "holiness" not understood in what was perhaps the primitive sense of this word and its equivalents, of a mysterious and uncomprehensible remoteness--the "otherness" upon which Professor Rudolf Otto has (onesidedly, as I venture to think) lately dwelt, as the differentia of the divine--but quite definitely as ethical perfection, the ideal of human conduct. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." The character of Jesus, as set before us in the Gospels, a character which unquestionably has beyond any other in history impressed men as supremely virtuous, is here regarded not merely as a manifestation of divinity, alongside of characters exhibiting excellencies of a quite different kind--as it might be, nay, certainly would be and indeed is regarded by adherents of the Hindu religion--but as the glory "of the Only-begotten of the Father--the Word that is with God and is God--once for all made flesh, "full of grace and truth." The Spirit of God is in Christian theology always the Holy Spirit--and just for this reason the identification of this third Person of the Christian Trinity with the Anima Mundi of the kindred Platonic doctrine has never been accepted in Christian thought as satisfactory. On the other hand, Plato's canon, laid down by him in the Republic, that no evil is to be attributed to God, so that tales in which this seems to be done must always be rejected--either as asserting of God what is not true of him, or as calling that evil what is indeed from him but is not truly evil--is whole-heartedly adopted by Christianity.

Hence arise certain problems which will be found to be important in the present connection. They arise from the difficulty found in reconciling the place assigned in Christianity to the moral consciousness as the organ of religious apprehension with (a) implications of the notion of revelation which seems to be essential to Christian doctrine; (b) the personal relation with God to which Christianity invites its adherents. The difficulties raised under these two heads respectively are in a certain sense mutually opposed; but they are connected as associated with that historical aspect with which the Christian religion cannot dispense altogether without becoming unrecognizable and losing its identity.

The notion of revelation inevitably suggests the possibility that what is revealed about God and authenticated by external evidences (e.g., that of miracles) may not commend itself to the moral consciousness, which may then be called upon to submit itself to what it is not entitled to criticize; while the analogy of our experience of mutual human relations induces the thought that personal devotion to the divine Author of the moral law may compensate in his sight for disobedience to his commandments.

To these suggestions, moreover, support may be lent both by the authority of the books reckoned sacred in the Christian community and by certain judgments of the moral consciousness itself which oppose themselves at least prima facie to others. The inclusion of the Old Testament in the canon of Scripture involved the presence there of statements about God belonging to an earlier level of spiritual development which the moral consciousness of a later generation had long left behind; and in the New Testament there were stories which, at any rate, superficially taken, suggested that emotional attachment to him who was acknowledged as God manifest in the flesh might be set against conduct morally reprehensible. "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven her, for she loveth much." [Luke vii. 47. 48]

Moreover, humility and self-distrust themselves are felt to be moral virtues; and a good man is not ready lightly to sit in judgment upon what he takes to be the actions of anyone wiser and better than he--and a fortiori not upon what he believes to be the actions of God; while there is also felt to be something about personal love which exceeds in value, even in ethical value, mere obedience to a legitimate ordinance.


Half a century before the Oxford Movement Kant had in his ethical works and in the treatise upon Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason, with which he followed them up, expounded a doctrine in which Religion became little more than an appendix to morality, and in which such factors in the Christian tradition should be gradually eliminated as seem to adulterate a purely ethical faith, either by the admixture of positive elements received merely on authority or by the assimilation of our attitude towards God as the imponent of the moral law revealed in conscience to that which we might have toward a human friend; the former as relics of an outworn Judaism, the latter as the fruits of a fantastic enthusiasm which a fully mature reason would put away as unworthy. I am only here concerned with Kant's philosophy of religion so far as it seems to me that the Oxford Movement followed Kant, although no doubt unconsciously, in his emphasis on morality as the root of religion, while not following him in his indifference to history and the depreciation of the sentiment of personal devotion in religion which were unquestionably defects in his account of religious experience; although we may doubt whether the Oxford divines succeeded in avoiding the pitfalls to escape from which Kant had thrown over history as a thing indifferent, and personal devotion as what he called Schwärmerei. With Kant's dread of the positive and arbitrary in religion as destructive of the ethical character, which for him alone entitled it to be considered as a rational state of mind, the Oxford divines would have had no sympathy. They did not only accept, they were specially interested in insisting upon the religious value of mystery and upon the authority of tradition in the religious life. In this they echoed the general reaction against eighteenth-century rationalism which inspired the Romantic movement of the first part of the nineteenth century; and it was just here that Kant was in sympathy with the earlier period which culminated in him, and which, by his drastic criticism of certain assumptions which it had made, he brought to an end. Nevertheless, the "moralism" of the Tractarians, to use Dr. Brilioth's expression, a tendency in which they showed themselves thoroughly English, and in which their attitude was in particular profoundly influenced by Butler, at that time, along with Aristotle, the great master of the Oxford philosophical school--and Butler's general ethical position was, of course, closely akin to that of Kant--eventually led their followers further in the direction of a criticism of tradition on ethical grounds than they themselves would have been willing to go. But of this hereafter.

At present I would only call attention to the fact that they were quite opposed to Kant's attempt to eliminate from Christianity the positive and mysterious elements in the tradition of the Church. On the contrary, they were deeply concerned to insist upon the authority, not only of Scripture itself, but of its traditional interpretation, and upon the importance of sacraments as means of imparting divine grace to the soul.

These last--the authority of tradition and the importance of sacraments--were at the time called in question not only by rationalists, but by ultra-Protestants (to use a phrase commonly employed by Tractarian writers), who associated veneration for Church Fathers and for outward ceremonies with Popery; and this attitude was often combined with an emphasis on the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith, which tended to disparage good works, any stress on which they suspected of implying reliance on one's own righteousness, and to exaggerate the importance of feelings which were taken as attesting the individual's assurance of his own salvation through faith in the Atonement offered by Christ on his behalf and in his stead. In their revulsion from this exaltation of pious feelings, with its encouragement of a peculiar phraseology that served to distinguish those who possessed these inward experiences from others, and also of a substitution of an emotional sense of personal intimacy with a divine Saviour for awe in the presence of the infinitely holy Giver of the Moral Law, the Tractarians would have found themselves at one with Kant, whose early upbringing in the German Pietism of his day (to which the English Evangelicalism of the early nineteenth century was nearly akin), while leaving enduring traces in his earnest and religious attitude towards life, inspired him with an intense dislike of the Schwärmerei, the morbid enthusiasm, as it seemed to him, of the sentimentalism in which it was apt to find compensation for the neglect of a whole-hearted endeavour to perform the everyday duties which we owe to ourselves and our neighbours.

Readers of the Tractarian literature must not be misled by the language sometimes used in it about the Evangelical disparagement of good works into supposing that English Evangelicalism was really, in practice, antinomian. As a matter of fact, it was unquestionably a power for righteousness; and Newman, at any rate, who always dated his religious life from a conversion experienced in boyhood under Evangelical influence, never intended to deny this. But the theoretical disparagement by Evangelicals of good works and their preaching of justification by faith in language which could 'be construed to mean that they might be safely dispensed with both before and after justification, appeared to discourage that aspiration after personal holiness, and dissatisfaction with failure to attain it, which was the very soul of the piety cultivated by the Oxford teachers. In their aversion to any doctrine which would in any way weaken the conviction of the necessity of moral effort as the absolute prerequisite and condition of any title to expect divine assistance, they were once more at one with Kant; but in the value which they set upon sacraments as objective guarantees of grace actually conferred they parted company altogether with him.


It has been pointed out by more than one writer who has dealt with the Oxford Movement that the desire of holiness was its grand inspiration from first to last; and this is the central truth about it. Accordingly, its leaders insisted in the first place--and here they were following Butler and agreeing with Kant--that the root of religion in general and of the Christian religion in particular was in the moral consciousness; and that, therefore, except where a real effort to obey the moral law so far as known was present, no religious progress could be expected. In the second place, they urged that, although the moral consciousness, where not suppressed or perverted, would lead to conviction of sin and recognition of the need of divine grace, yet the very purpose of that grace when given was to enable the recipient to progress further in sanctification, ever conscious, indeed, of his shortcomings, but ever striving after the pattern given in the Mount: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." [Matt. v. 48.] They thought that the Evangelical party went astray, both as regards the root and as regards the flower of the Christian life. In their preoccupation, with the Atonement as the essence of the Gospel, they tended, on the one hand, to despise the natural religion of obedience to the moral law, which the Gospel really presupposed, because it was not as yet conscious of its need of the Atonement; and on the other hand, to stop short at the Atonement and ignore the issue of that taking of the manhood into God which made Atonement possible in the gradual hallowing of human lives through the actual presence of the divine life therein, whereby in the words of Newman's well-known poem (written, it is true, much later, in his Roman Catholic days, but true to the spirit of the theology of the Movement which he had led as an Anglican):

". . . A higher gift than grace
Should flesh and blood refine,
God's presence and His very self
And Essence all divine."
[Dream of Gerontius.]

No doubt, as one would expect, the Oxford divines did not all recognize with equal clearness the essentials of their position, and no doubt the individual differences among them modify in various ways the form which it takes. But we may, I think, say in general that there is common to them all a refusal to treat the Atonement in isolation from the Incarnation, and a view of the Incarnation as involving an actual objective entry of the divine life into humanity, which is mediated in the case of individual men and women through the sacrament of Baptism, and issues in the gradual conformation of the individual Christian to the image of Christ.


One of the most celebrated of the Tracts for the Times, on account of the censure it incurred from critics whose minds were full of the notion of a Popish plot, was the eightieth of the series, that on Reserve in the Communication of Religious Knowledge, from the pen of the gentle and saintly Isaac Williams, known for the genuine poetic vein exhibited in his Baptistery and Cathedral and in his contributions to the Lyra Apostolica, to which Keble, Newman, and Hurrell Froude were also contributors, and also for his devotional commentaries on the Gospels.

This tract was especially severe on the Evangelical fashion of preaching the doctrine of the Atonement. It was a principle with them, the author complained, that this, "the highest and most sacred of all Christian doctrines, is to be brought before and pressed home to all persons indiscriminately, and most especially to those who are leading unchristian lives." He denied that this practice had scriptural authority. St. Paul's "preaching of Christ crucified" he interpreted to mean "the necessity of our being crucified to the world." To "approach the Object" of our worship in prayer without holiness of life is, he said, "the object of every false or perverted religion"; and this he illustrated by the Roman Catholic "tendency to substitute the Virgin for God as the object of religious worship," which was an example of the way in which "the natural heart lowers the object of its worship to its own frailty." The indiscriminate preaching of the Atonement to all and sundry offended him as essentially irreverent; he had a feeling which may find expression in the words of a very different writer, from whom it would probably not have occurred to him to seek for support. In the second part of Wilhelm Meister Goethe introduces the Overseer of his Pedagogic Utopia, explaining why the last scene of our Lord's life is not included among the pictures from the New Testament which are painted in the gallery for the instruction of the pupils, but reserved in a "sanctuary of sorrow" for a later stage, when their education should have prepared them for it. "We draw a veil over those sufferings, even because we reverence them so highly. We hold it a damnable audacity to bring forth that torturing Cross and the Holy One who suffers on it, or to expose them to the light of the sun, which hid its face when a reckless world forced such a sight on it, to take those mysterious secrets in which the divine depth of Sorrow lies hid, and play with them, fondle them, trick them out, and rest not till the most reverend of all solemnities appears vulgar and paltry." [Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahr, c. ii. (trans. Carlyle).] But the Evangelical lack of this reserve, which even a poet so little of an orthodox Christian had felt suitable to the mystery of the Redeemer's death, had, in Williams's view, a directly mischievous effect on morality as suggesting that obedience was rather dispensed with by the offer of salvation through that death than presupposed by it in those to whom it should be made available. "There is no one living," he says--with a reference to Prov. viii., where the representation of Wisdom as crying "at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors" might seem at first sight to suggest anything rather than the reserve in communicating religious truth which he was concerned to recommend--"There is no one living but to whom Wisdom speaks, a voice that tells him of something better which he ought to do than what he does. . . . Until he follows this first voice, the higher and better Wisdom is hid from him." We come back, then, to what is unquestionably the fundamental thought of the Oxford teachers and the one in which they coincide with Kant, the thought of the moral consciousness as the true root of religion.

Different as were the emotional reactions which the doctrine of the Atonement produced in the very different minds of the philosopher of Königsberg and the gentle poet whom I have been quoting, there is a real affinity between the latter's desire to withdraw the doctrine from the contemplation of all who have not first set their feet on the path of obedience and the former's insistence that, although God may, as the doctrine of the Atonement for human sin by his incarnate Son sets forth in a figure, see in our sincere but ever-imperfect obedience to the moral law that perfect holiness, the actual presence of the idea whereof in our practical reason is the motive and driving force of the moral effort which our subjection to the form of time hinders us from ever completing except by identification of ourselves in will with the eternal Sonship set before us in the New Testament picture of the life of the Founder of our religion, yet such continual moral effort is the sole condition of our being able to avail ourselves of this readiness of God to "accept us in the Beloved." [Eph. i. 6.] [See Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blosen Vernunft, I., iii., § 7 (Werke, ed. Hartenstein, vi., 212 ff).] Moreover, with Kant also the Atonement is not isolated from the Incarnation; the death of Christ is regarded only as the grand climax of the obedience of his life; and it was an essential feature of the Oxford Movement that it made the Incarnation rather than the Atonement the central dogma of Christianity. This is a feature in which the later stages of the Anglo-Catholic movement have remained true to type; as, for example, we see in the title ["A Series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation."] and contents of Lux Mundi, which represents its first attempt to come to terms with evolutionary thought and modern biblical criticism. It will at once be obvious that there is a real affinity between this subordination of the Atonement to the Incarnation in Tractarian as contrasted with Evangelical theology, and the emphasis of the former on obedience to the law given to conscience as the root of religion. For the death of Christ, when isolated from his life, tended to be regarded as a transaction revealing God's love to sinners in the substitution of his Son for them as the victim of his anger against their sins, rather than as the culmination of a life of perfect obedience which changed us from objects of God's wrath to objects of his love by the actual impartation to us, through the medium of the sacraments, of the divine-human life which it illustrated.


This more concrete view, as we shall readily allow it to be, as it refused to isolate the Atonement from the general process of the Incarnation, so it refused to isolate the Incarnation itself from the general moral education of the human race. Accordingly, the deepest thinkers among the Tractarians took up the same general position against the "ultra-Protestants" of their day as Hooker had taken up against the Puritans of his, recognizing a certain sacredness in the traditions and customs of "natural religion" which forbade their absolute rejection on the ground that they were not specifically Christian, so long as they were capable of finding a place within the organic life of the Church without injury to its Christian character. There can be no question that in their respective attitudes to natural religion and piety we have here a real historical differentiation between what we may call the Catholic and Protestant tendencies in theology, and one in which the specifically Anglican tradition is, on the whole, Catholic rather than Protestant. The extravagances of the Ritschlian school in denying the kinship of Christian with natural theology--they culminate in Herrmann's doubts whether we can in the least enter into the religious experience of non-Christians [Communion with God, Engl. tr., pp. 61 ff.]--are the exaggeration of a Protestant tendency. It must be admitted, on the other side, that the greater readiness of Catholic theology to recognize the element which the Christian religious system, as being a religious system, has in common with others which are not Christian, places it in greater danger of subordinating those quite characteristically Christian values which distinguish the Gospel from every kind of "law," and upon which it has been the historical mission of Protestantism to insist.

In our study of the Tractarian literature we shall sometimes find language which does not seem quite consistent with what I have just been saying. There is some sharp criticism of contemporary writers, such as the well-known Scottish theologian, Erskine of Linlathen, who urged that the religious value of such a doctrine as that of the Trinity was to be found, not in the abstract doctrine as such in its difficulty and obscurity, but in its influence upon our feelings, and in its moral and practical implications. The writer's aversion to rationalism and to the attempts of those infected therewith to eliminate mystery from the creed of Christians was the ground of their suspicion of a line of thought which was later to be pursued by some of themselves. In the more speculative of these--in Hurrell Froude, for example; in Newman (who was, however, himself the author of Tract 73, in which the strictures on Erskine occur which I have referred to); and in Ward--we find an explicit emphasis on the importance of connecting Christian doctrine with the deliverances of the universal moral consciousness and on the right of natural religion to be regarded as a divine dispensation, which, though it may have led them to conclusions not wholly acceptable to the less intellectually courageous of their school, is, I think, to be considered as the genuine development of an essential principle of Anglican, or at least of Anglo-Catholic, theology.

To illustrate what I have just said, I will quote a few passages from the three writers I have mentioned; first, from Richard Hurrell Froude, who died of consumption in 1836, in his thirty-third year, perhaps, next to Newman, the most brilliant and original of the Oriel group which played so great a part in the Oxford Movement, and whose Remains, which Keble and Newman edited after his death, are among the most interesting parts of its literature. We find him [Remains, i., 117.] as early as 1827, when he was already a Fellow of Oriel, but had not yet taken Orders, expressing himself as follows: "I assent to the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian Creed because I believe them only to repeat the declaration of Scripture. I feel a difficulty in assenting because I admit, as a self-evident axiom, that no opinion can, as such, be the object of God's wrath or favour. The declaration and axiom are reconcilable on the supposition that the condemned opinion involves something moral as its effect or cause, or both." So in a sermon on "The Gospel as the Completion of Natural Religion," [Remains, ii., 58 ff.] preached on Trinity Sunday, he declares that "the only possible way of understanding" the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation "and profiting by them, or, indeed, of entering at all into their meaning, is by leading that sort of life which they are intended to help us in leading." It is certainly not easy to distinguish the position here implied from that of Erskine, denounced by Newman in Tract 73. He goes on, speaking of the affirmations of the Athanasian Creed: "We must ask ourselves, not 'Am I thoroughly convinced and certain that these mysterious doctrines are true?' for that is a matter over which we have no control; we cannot feel certain by trying to feel ever so much; and God will not require of us impossibilities. But what we must ask ourselves is this: 'Is my conduct such as it would be if I was thoroughly convinced of them? In the first place, do I act as if I believed God to be my Father, and my neighbour to be my brother?' That is, 'do I believe in earthly things? (he is, of course, alluding to the words of Christ to Nicodemus in the Fourth Gospel [John iii. 12.]) and, secondly, as to heavenly things, do I endeavour with all my might and with all my soul, and with all my strength, to follow and obey the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and my God?'" A student of Kant's philosophy of religion cannot help being struck by the resemblance of such expressions to Kant's insistence on the essentially practical significance of religious doctrines.

Turning from Froude to Newman, we may observe a remarkable passage in a University Sermon preached in 1830 on "The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively." [University Sermons, p. 22.] After a sketch of what he takes to be the religious knowledge attainable apart from revelation, he says: "Such is the large and practical religious creed attainable (as appears from the extant works of heathen writers) by a vigorous mind which rightly works upon itself under (what may be called) the Dispensation of Paganism. It may even be questioned whether there be any essential character of Scripture doctrine which is without its place in this moral revelation. For here is the belief in a principle exterior to the mind to which it is instinctively drawn, infinitely exalted, perfect, incomprehensible; here is the surmise of a judgment to come; the knowledge of unbounded benevolence, wisdom, and power, as traced in the visible creation, and of moral laws unlimited in their operation; further, there is something of hope respecting the availableness of repentance, so far (that is) as suffices for religious thought; lastly, there is an insight into the rule of duty increasing with the earnestness with which obedience to that rule is cultivated." It is interesting to observe in the same sermon how this strong conviction of the essential continuity between the Christian revelation and the knowledge of God attainable apart from it by those who will listen to and obey the voice of Conscience ("the aboriginal Vicar of Christ," as he was to call it later in a work written after he had become a Roman Catholic) led Newman to a quite definite and unqualified rejection of any doctrine which should teach the damnation of the heathen as such. "The heathen . . . are not," he says, "in danger of perishing except so far as all are in such danger whether in heathen or Christian country, who do not follow the secret voice of Conscience, leading them on by Faith to their true though unseen good." To these quotations I will add another, which is one of the many Tractarian utterances that undesignedly recall Kantian teaching: "The works of design in creation are beautiful and interesting to a believer in a God; but where men have not already recognized God's voice within them ineffective, and this, moreover, from some unsoundness in the intellectual basis of the argument." Here we have, surely, in essentials, the position reached by Kant as the result of his discussion of the bases of teleology in the second part of the Kritik der Urtheilskraft.

But perhaps the Oxford writer who has most constantly dwelt upon this point of the essentially ethical nature of religion and the consequent inadmissibleness of any theological theory or type of piety which tends at all to obscure it, is William George Ward. Ward was probably the one of the group (with the possible exception of Froude, who died young) who possessed the most natural capacity for philosophical thought. Partly, though not only, for that very reason he always stood somewhat apart in his temper and in some of his sympathies from the rest of the party. A friend of Arthur Stanley at Balliol, he had at first fallen under the spell of his friend's master, Arnold, the famous headmaster of Rugby and resolute opponent of the Tractarians, in whose character and teaching the ethical element predominated over every other. "On hearing Newman preach for the first time," so writes his son, the late Wilfrid Ward, in his biography of his father, [W. G. Ward and the Oxford Movement, p. 79.] "he found in his tone and teaching all and more than all of that exalted ethical character which had won him to Dr. Arnold. The devotion to antique rule, the love of unreal supernatural legend, the advocacy of superstitious rites as all-important, which had in his mind been the essence of Newmanism, did not appear at all, and the idea of holiness as the one aim was the pervading spirit of the whole sermon." I go on to quote another passage from this same account, which introduces a point to which I have not yet called attention, but the appreciation of which is necessary to a right understanding of the Oxford Movement as a movement of religious thought. When Ward came to know Newman's teaching better and to compare it with Arnold's, "Arnoldism seemed," says his biographer, [W. G. Ward and the Oxford Movement, p. 86.] "at every turn to stop short. . . . Intellectually it stopped short. . . . The principle of free critical inquiry . . . led . . . to scepticism . . . only Arnold would not carry it out consistently. . . . Again, practically Arnoldism stopped short. It loved to keep the supernatural at a. distance. . . . And ethically it stopped short. . . . It had no saints. It watered down Christianity to what seemed more practicable for the average Christian than Christ's own teaching." I am not now concerned at all to examine the justice of the criticism here made upon what the writer calls "Arnoldism." Nor for the moment shall I pursue the thought for the sake of which I quoted it. This was the thought that the bulk of those--and there were, of course, many among the contemporaries of the Tractarians in the Church of England or outside of it--who sympathized with their insistence on the primacy of the ethical element in Christianity, presented, nevertheless, an unsatisfactory view of that religion, because they did not pass on from urging obedience to the voice of conscience in the conduct of ordinary life to the cultivation of a certain characteristic type of sanctity. This type of sanctity appeared to the Tractarians to have been associated with Christianity in its most eminent representatives from its origin down to the Reformation, but after that event to have been, on grounds closely connected with inferences drawn from the Lutheran doctrine of justification, depreciated among Protestants, though still held in honour in the Roman Church. The recognition of the importance of this thought in the theology of the Oxford Movement is indeed essential to an understanding of its development, and so I took the opportunity afforded by my quotation from Wilfrid Ward's account of his father's passage from the school of Arnold to that of Newman to introduce it to my readers' notice. But I now return to passages illustrating, rather, Ward's agreement with Froude and Newman and the Oxford Movement generally in emphasizing the position of the moral consciousness as the soil wherein the roots of any religious experience must be struck which could hope to develop healthily after the Christian type.

Ward's chief work is the celebrated Ideal of a Christian Church, which was formally condemned by the University of Oxford in 1844 and the author deprived of his degrees. This book is full of assertions of the danger of any tampering (as he believed the Lutheran doctrine of justification to tamper) with "the truth," as he puts it, [Ideal of a Christian Church, p. vii.] "that careful moral discipline is the necessary foundation, whereon alone Christian faith can be reared." The principle to which he was irreconcilably opposed was "the principle ... of making the intellect an arbiter of moral and religious truth instead of the conscience." When he calls this "the Protestant principle," one is inclined to question his history; and I remember how I heard Dr. Martineau in his old age claim that Catholics and Unitarians were united in opposition to the traditional Protestant distrust of reason in religion. But history was never Ward's strong point.

Some other declarations of Ward in the same sense as that which I have quoted may be added: "Two principles . . . seem to me," he says, "vitally important at the present time, the one, the absolute supremacy of conscience in moral and religious questions, the other the high sacred-ness of hereditary religion." (Here we have an echo of a thought profoundly characteristic of the Romantic movement; I shall return to it.) In a note, he condemns the English Reformation as much worse than the Continental in respect of its grasp of the former of these two principles. "No English Reformer," he declares, "exhibits the same 'single-minded and honest indignation' as Luther." The foreign Reformers did, he thinks, follow their consciences; the English Reformers' notions were political. Here again the historian will hardly endorse his sweeping statement, and will probably reduce it to the concession that there was no individual English Reformer who ranks with Luther in what we may call individual prophetic genius.

Again: "The sense of duty ... is the one faculty which is visited by divine grace, and which under that grace leads us onward to salvation."

"Men speak as though in some sense at least and in some degree, the Gospel were a reversal of the natural Law, instead of being solely and exclusively its complement."

"If conscience be not on all moral and religious subjects paramount, then it does not really exist; if it do not exist, we have no reason whatever, nay, no power whatever, to believe in God. . . . The very argument on which M. Comte grounds his Atheism is ... the circumstance that (as he considers) we have no such faculty as a conscience."

"To do what is right because it is right, and from a motive of duty is the highest and noblest of all habits ... far nobler than the doing what is right out of gratitude for free pardon." This is a truth, he says, "which the abstract Lutheran doctrine denies and the practical Lutheran doctrine disparages." This last passage is very Kantian in tone. I conclude with one more extract from the Ideal which is specially striking when one remembers that the writer is in this book mainly concerned to exalt the ideal of a Church such as he was coming--or had come--to think the Roman Church alone was in actual fact. "The priest of a country parish . . . will endeavour to lay his foundation within the heart of his flock; he will not consider any attendance of theirs on Divine Service, even the most regular, even (if so be) daily as well as on Sunday, to be any real security for so much as the beginning of a truly Christian life. It is the feeling of accountableness throughout the day, the habitual thought of judgment to come, the careful regulation of thoughts, words, and actions, which he will impress on his flock as the one thing needful. Their presence in church may be useful as giving him the power to address them, but he will use that power for the very purpose of impressing on their mind that the true religion must have its spring from within."


Anglo-Catholicism has so often been regarded by those out of sympathy with it as essentially a religion of outward ordinances that perhaps it is with a certain surprise that some will note this last emphatic phrase. And yet, as a matter of fact, anyone who will be at the pains to familiarize himself with the literature of the Oxford Movement will be disposed to think that inwardness was one of its principal notes. Its greatest leader, Newman, was, of course, pre-eminently a man of the inner life. He was one of the world's great autobiographers whose master interest was a drama whose actors were those "two only supreme and luminously self-evident beings, himself and his Creator," in the thought of whom, as he tells us in a famous passage of his Apologia, he had come to rest since his conversion at the age of fifteen. The second title of this, his chief work, was "A History of my Religious Opinions," but a great part of his writings might, in fact, be equally so described; and these religious opinions of his were always envisaged in these writings (and that is what gives them their peculiar fascination), not so much in the character of objective convictions, reached by research or argument, as in that of inward experiences, stimulated it might be now by the discovery of some fact of history, now by some train of reasoning, but revealed to the discoverer or reasoner himself as changes which had passed over his mood and given a different colour to the world around him. This was, of course, due to the idiosyncrasy of the individual John Henry Newman; but the literature of the movement from the Christian Year onward is above all things the expression of an interior piety, whose very reliance on the assurance given by outward sacramental signs of the real presence of inward spiritual grace is associated with a characteristic distrust of the value of feelings which will bear exposure to the public view. It shows a very just appreciation of this intimate retiring nature of Tractarian piety when Principal Shairp of St. Andrews, in his admirable essay on Keble [Published in his Studies in Poetry and Philosophy], fixed on these lines of his as expressing its inmost heart:

"God only and good Angels look
Behind the blissful screen;
As when triumphant o'er his foes
The Son of God at midnight rose
By aught but heaven unseen."

It is often, perhaps usually, the case that when we contrast two types of equally genuine spiritual experience we find a law of compensation, as we may call it, at work, in virtue of which any factor missing in one from the place it occupies in the other will be found in the first though in a different place, a place whence it is missing in the other. So in the present instance, while Evangelicalism seemed to disparage external means of grace as interposed between God and the soul in favour of a direct emotional acceptance by the individual soul of Christ as the Saviour whose righteousness is imputed to us who have none of our own, Tractarianism disparages individual feelings in favour of sacraments are efficacious vehicles of grace, but insists that through these material channels the righteousness of Christ is not merely imputed but imparted to us--that our justification is a making us, not a mere counting us, righteous, and is distinguished from sanctification, not as a wholly distinct process but as the beginning of a process from the continuance or completion of the same.

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