"ON 14th July 1833," we read in Cardinal Newman's Apologia, "Mr. Keble preached the assize sermon in the University Pulpit. It was published under the title of National Apostasy. I have ever considered and kept the day as the start of the religious movement of 1833."
This memorable sermon was a strong expression of the belief common to a large body of Churchmen amid the triumphs of the Reform Bill, that the new governors of the country were preparing to invade the rights, and to alter the constitution, and even the public documents, of the Church. The suppression of ten Irish Bishoprics, in defiance of Church opinion, showed how ready the Government was to take liberties in a high-handed way with the old adjustments of the relations of Church and State. Churchmen had hitherto taken for granted that England was "a nation which had for centuries acknowledged, as an essential part of its theory of government, that, as a Christian nation, she is also a part of Christ's Church, and bound, in all her legislation and policy, by the fundamental laws of that Church." When "a Government and people, so constituted, threw off the restraint which in many respects such a principle would impose upon them, nay, disavowed the principle itself," this, to those whose ideas Mr. Keble represented, seemed nothing short of a "direct disavowal of the sovereignty of God. If it be true anywhere that such enactments are forced on the legislature by public opinion, is Apostasy too hard a word to describe the temper of such a nation?" The sermon was a call to face in earnest a changed state of things, full of immediate and pressing danger; to consider how it was to be met by Christians and Churchmen, and to watch motives and tempers. "Surely it will be no unworthy principle if any man is more circumspect in his behaviour, more watchful and fearful of himself, more earnest in his petitions for spiritual aid, from a dread of disparaging the holy name of the English Church in her hour of peril by his own personal fault and negligence. As to those who, either by station or temper, feel themselves more deeply interested, they cannot be too careful in reminding themselves that one chief danger in times of change and excitement arises from their tendency to engross the whole mind. Public concerns, ecclesiastical or civil, will prove indeed ruinous to those who permit them to occupy all their care and thought, neglecting or undervaluing ordinary duties, more especially those of a devotional kind. These cautions being duly observed, I do not see how any person can devote himself too entirely to the cause of the Apostolic Church in these realms. There may be, as far as he knows, but a very few to sympathise with him. He may have to wait long, and very likely pass out of this world, before he see any abatement in the triumph of disorder and irreligion. But, if he be consistent, he possesses to the utmost the personal consolations of a good Christian; and as a true Churchman, he has the encouragement which no other cause in the world can impart in the same degree: he is calmly, soberly, demonstrably sure that, sooner or later, his will be the winning side, and that the victory will be complete, universal, eternal."
But if Mr. Keble's sermon was the first word of the movement, its first step was taken in a small meeting of friends, at Mr. Hugh James Rose's parsonage at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, between the 25th and the 29th of the same July. At this little gathering, the ideas and anxieties which for some time past had filled the thoughts of a number of earnest Churchmen, and had brought them into communication with one another, came to a head, and issued in the determination to move. Mr. Rose, a man of high character and distinction in his day, who had recently started the British Magazine, as an organ of Church teaching and opinion, was the natural person to bring about such a meeting. It was arranged that a few representative men, or as many as were able, should meet towards the end of July at Hadleigh Rectory. They were men in full agreement on the main questions, but with great differences in temperament and habits of thought. Mr. Rose was the person of most authority, and next to him, Mr. Palmer; and these, with Mr. A. Perceval, formed as it were the right wing of the little council. Their Oxford allies were the three Oriel men, Mr. Keble, Mr. Froude, and Mr. Newman, now fresh from his escape from death in a foreign land, and from the long solitary musings in his Mediterranean orange-boat, full of joyful vigour and ready for enterprise and work. In the result, Mr. Keble and Mr. Newman were not present, but they were in active correspondence with the others. From this meeting resulted the Tracts for the Times, and the agitation connected with them.
These friends were all devoted Churchmen, but, as has been said, each had his marked character, not only as a man but as a Churchman. The most important among them was as yet the least prominent. Two of them were men of learning, acquainted with the great world of London, and who, with all their zeal, had some of the caution which comes of such experience. At the time, the most conspicuous was Mr. Hugh James Rose.
Mr. Rose was a man whose name and whose influence, as his friends thought, have been overshadowed and overlooked in the popular view of the Church revival. It owed to him, they held, not only its first impulse, but all that was best and most hopeful in it; and when it lost him, it lost its wisest and ablest guide and inspirer. It is certainly true that when that revival began he was a much more distinguished and important person than any of the other persons interested in it. As far as could be seen at the time, he was the most accomplished divine and teacher in the English Church. He was a really learned man. He had the intellect and energy and literary skill to use his learning. He was a man of singularly elevated and religious character; he had something of the eye and temper of a statesman, and he had already a high position. He was profoundly loyal to the Church, and keenly interested in whatever affected its condition and its fortunes. As early as 1825 he had in some lectures at Cambridge called the attention of English Churchmen to the state of religious thought and speculation in Germany, and to the mischiefs likely to react on English theology from the rationalising temper and methods which had supplanted the old Lutheran teaching; and this had led to a sharp controversy with Mr. Pusey, as he was then, who thought that Mr. Rose had both exaggerated the fact itself and had not adequately given the historical account of it. He had the prudence, but not the backwardness, of a man of large knowledge, and considerable experience of the world. More alive to difficulties and dangers than his younger associates, he showed his courage and his unselfish earnestness in his frank sympathy with them, daring and outspoken as they were, and in his willingness to share with them the risks of an undertaking of which no one knew better than he what were likely to be the difficulties. He certainly was a person who might be expected to have a chief part in directing anything with which he was connected. His countenance and his indirect influence were very important elements, both in the stirring of thought which led to the Hadleigh resolutions, and in giving its form to what was then decided upon. But his action in the movement was impeded by his failure in health, and cut short by his early death, January 1839. How he would have influenced the course of things if he had lived, it is not now easy to say. He must have been reckoned with as one of the chiefs. He would have been opposed to anything that really tended towards Rome. But there is no reason to think that he would have shrunk from any step only because it was bold. He had sympathy for courage and genius, and he had knowledge and authority which would have commanded respect for his judgment and opinion. But it is too much to say either that the movement could not have been without him, or that it was specially his design and plan, or that he alone could have given the impulse which led to it; though it seemed at one time as if he was to be its leader and chief. Certainly he was the most valuable and the most loyal of its early auxiliaries.
Another coadjutor, whose part at the time also seemed rather that of a chief, was Mr. William Palmer, of Worcester College. He had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin, but he had transferred his home to Oxford, both in the University and the city. He was a man of exact and scholastic mind, well equipped at all points in controversial theology, strong in clear theories and precise definitions, familiar with objections current in the schools and with the answers to them, and well versed in all the questions, arguments, and authorities belonging to the great debate with Rome. He had definite and well-arranged ideas about the nature and office of the Church; and, from his study of the Roman controversy, he had at command the distinctions necessary to discriminate between things which popular views confused, and to protect the doctrines characteristic of the Church from being identified with Romanism. Especially he had given great attention to the public devotional language and forms of the Church, and had produced by far the best book in the English language on the history and significance of the offices of the English Church-the Origines Liturgicae, published at the University Press in 1832. It was a book to give a man authority with divines and scholars; and among those with whom at this time he acted no one had so compact and defensible a theory, even if it was somewhat rigid and technical, of the peculiar constitution of the English Church as Mr. Palmer. With the deepest belief in this theory, he saw great dangers threatening, partly from general ignorance and looseness of thought, partly from antagonistic ideas and principles only too distinct and too popular; and he threw all his learning and zeal on the side of those who, like himself, were alive to those dangers, and were prepared for a great effort to counteract them.
The little company which met at Hadleigh Rectory from 25th to 29th July 1833, met-as other knots of men have often met, to discuss a question or a policy, or to found an association, or a league, or a newspaper-to lay down the outlines of some practical scheme of work; but with little foresight of the venture they were making, or of the momentous issues which depended on their meeting. Later on, when controversy began, it became a favourite rhetorical device to call it by the ugly name of a "conspiracy." Certainly Froude called it so, and Mr. Palmer; and Mr. Perceval wrote a narrative to answer the charge. It was a "conspiracy," as any other meeting would be of men with an object which other men dislike.
Of the Oriel men, only Froude went to Hadleigh. Keble and Newman were both absent, but in close correspondence with the others. Their plans had not taken any definite shape; but they were ready for any sacrifice and service, and they were filled with wrath against the insolence of those who thought that the Church was given over into their hands, and against the apathy and cowardice of those who let her enemies have their way. Yet with much impatience and many stern determinations in their hearts, they were all of them men to be swayed by the judgment and experience of their friends.
The state of mind under which the four friends met at the Hadleigh conference has been very distinctly and deliberately recorded by all of them. Churchmen in our days hardly realise what the face of things then looked like to men who, if they felt deeply, were no mere fanatics or alarmists, but sober and sagacious observers, not affected by mere cries, but seeing clearly beneath the surface of things their certain and powerful tendencies. "We felt ourselves," writes Mr. Palmer some years afterwards, "assailed by enemies from without and foes within. Our Prelates insulted and threatened by Ministers of State. In Ireland ten bishoprics suppressed. We were advised to feel thankful that a more sweeping measure had not been adopted. What was to come next? . . . Was the same principle of concession to popular clamour to be exemplified in the dismemberment of the English Church? . . . We were overwhelmed with pamphlets on Church reform. Lord Henley, brotherin-law of Sir Robert Peel, Dr. Burton, and others of name and influence led the way. Dr. Arnold of Rugby ventured to propose that all sects should be united by Act of Parliament with the Church of England. Reports, apparently well founded, were prevalent that some of the Prelates were favourable to alterations in the Liturgy. Pamphlets were in wide circulation recommending the abolition of the Creeds (at least in public worship), especially urging the expulsion of the Athanasian Creed; the removal of all mention of the Blessed Trinity; of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; of the practice of absolution. We knew not to what quarter to look for support. A Prelacy threatened and apparently intimidated; a Government making its power subservient to agitators, who avowedly sought the destruction of the Church. . . . And, worst of all, no principle in the public mind to which we could appeal; an utter ignorance of all rational grounds of attachment to the Church; an oblivion of its spiritual character, as an institution not of man but of God; the grossest Erastianism most widely prevalent, especially amongst all classes of politicians. There was in all this enough to appal the stoutest heart; and those who can recall the feeling of those days will at once remember the deep depression into which the Church had fallen, and the gloomy forebodings universally prevalent."
"Before the spirit and temper of those who met at the conference is condemned as extravagant," writes Mr. Perceval in 1842, "let the reader call to mind what was then actually the condition as well as the prospect of the Church and nation: an agrarian and civic insurrection against the bishops and clergy, and all who desired to adhere to the existing institutions of the country; the populace goaded on, openly by the speeches, covertly (as was fully believed at the time) by the paid emissaries of the ministers of the Crown; the chief of those ministers in his place in Parliament bidding the bishops 'set their house in order'; the mob taking him at his word, and burning to the ground the palace of the Bishop Of Bristol, with the public buildings of the city, while they shouted the Premier's name in triumph on the ruins." The pressing imminence of the danger is taken for granted by the calmest and most cautious of the party, Mr. Rose, in a letter of February 1833. "That something is requisite, is certain. The only thing is, that whatever is done ought to be quickly done, for the danger is immediate, and I should have little fear if I thought that we could stand for ten or fifteen years as we are." In the Apologia Cardinal Newman recalls what was before him in those days. "The Whigs had come into power; Lord Grey had told the bishops to 'set their house in order,' and some of the prelates had been insulted and threatened in the streets of London. The vital question was, How were we to keep the Church from being Liberalised? There was so much apathy on the subject in some quarters, such imbecile alarm in others; the true principles of Churchmanship seemed so radically decayed, and there was such distraction in the councils of the clergy. The Bishop of London of the day, an active and open-hearted man, had been for years engaged in diluting the high orthodoxy of the Church by the introduction of the Evangelical body into places of influence and trust. He had deeply offended men who agreed with myself by an off-hand saying (as it was reported) to the effect that belief in the apostolical succession had gone out with the Non-jurors. 'We can count you,' he said to some of the gravest and most venerated persons of the old school . . . I felt affection for my own Church, but not tenderness: I felt dismay at her prospects, anger and scorn at her do-nothing perplexity. I thought that if Liberalism once got a footing within her, it was sure of victory in the event. I saw that Reformation principles were powerless to rescue her. As to leaving her, the thought never crossed my imagination: still I ever kept before me that there was something greater than the Established Church, and that that was the Church Catholic and Apostolic, set up from the beginning, of which she was but the local presence and organ. She was nothing unless she was this. She must be dealt with strongly or she would be lost. There was need of a second Reformation.
"If I thought that we could stand ten or fifteen years as we are, I should have little fear," said Mr. Rose. He felt that, if only he could secure a respite, he had the means and the hope of opening the eyes of Churchmen. They were secure and idle from long prosperity, and now they were scared and perplexed by the suddenness of an attack for which they were wholly unprepared. But he had confidence in his own convictions. He had around him ability and zeal, in which he had the best reason to trust. He might hope, if he had time, to turn the tide. But this time to stand to arms was just what he had. not. The danger, he felt, was upon him. He could not wait. So he acquiesced in an agitation which so cautious and steady a man would otherwise hardly have chosen.
"That something must be done is certain. The only thing is, that whatever is done ought to be quickly done." Nothing can show more forcibly the imminence and pressure of the crisis than words like these, not merely from Froude and his friends, but from such a man as Mr. Hugh James Rose.
"Something must be done," but what? This was not so easy to say. It was obvious that men must act in concert, and must write; but beyond these general points, questions and difficulties arose. The first idea that suggested itself at Hadleigh was a form of association, which would have been something like the English Church Union or the Church Defence Association of our days. It probably was Mr. Palmer's idea; and for some time the attempt to carry it into effect was followed up at Oxford. Plans of "Association" were drawn up and rejected. The endeavour brought out differences of opinion-differences as to the rightness or the policy of specific mention of doctrines; differences as to the union of Church and State, on the importance of maintaining which, as long as possible, Mr. Newman sided with Mr. Palmer against Mr. Keble's more uncompromising view. A "third formulary" was at length adopted. "Events," it said, "have occurred within the last few years calculated to inspire the true members and friends of the Church with the deepest uneasiness." It went on to notice that political changes had thrown power into the hands of the professed enemies of the Church as an establishment; but it was not merely as an establishment that it was in most serious danger. "Every one," it says, "who has become acquainted with the literature of the day, must have observed the sedulous attempts made in various quarters to reconcile members of the Church to alterations in its doctrines and discipline. Projects of change, which include the annihilation of our Creeds and the removal of doctrinal statements incidentally contained in our worship, have been boldly and assiduously put forth. Our services have been subjected to licentious criticism, with the view of superseding some of them and of entirely remodelling others. The very elementary principles of our ritual and discipline have been rudely questioned; our apostolical polity has been ridiculed and denied." The condition of the times made these things more than ordinarily alarming, and the pressing danger was urged as a reason for the formation, by members of the Church in various parts of the kingdom, of an association on a few broad principles of union for the defence of the Church. "They feel strongly," said the authors of the paper, "that no fear of the appearance of forwardness should dissuade them from a design, which seems to be demanded of them by their affection towards that spiritual community to which they owe their hopes of the world to come, and by a sense of duty to that God and Saviour who is its Founder and Defender." But the plan of an Association, or of separate Associations, which was circulated in the autumn of 1833, came to nothing. "Jealousy was entertained of it in high quarters." Froude objected to any association less wide than the Church itself. Newman had a horror of committees and meetings and great people in London. And thus, in spite of Mr. Palmer's efforts, favoured by a certain number of influential and dignified friends, the Association would not work. But the stir about it was not without result. Mr. Palmer travelled about the country with the view of bringing the state of things before the clergy. In place of the Association, an Address to the Archbishop of Canterbury was resolved upon. It was drawn up by Mr. Palmer, who undertook the business of circulating it. In spite of great difficulties and trouble-of the alarm of friends like Mr. Rose, who was afraid that it would cause schism in the Church; of the general timidity of the dignified clergy; of the distrust and the crotchets of others; of the coldness of the bishops and the opposition of some of them-it was presented with the signatures of some 7000 clergy to the Archbishop in February 1834. It bore the names, among others, of Dr. Christopher Wordsworth, Master of Trinity; Dr. Gilbert, of Brasenose College; Dr. Faussett, and Mr. Keble. And this was not all. A Lay Address followed. There were difficulties about the first form proposed, which was thought to say too much about the doctrine and discipline of the Church; and it was laid aside for one with more vague expressions about the "consecration of the State," and the practical benefits of the Established Church. In this form it was signed by 230,000 heads of families, and presented to the Archbishop in the following May. "From these two events," writes Mr. Perceval in 1842, "we may date the commencement of the turn of the tide, which had threatened to overwhelm our Church and our religion."' There can, at any rate, be little doubt that as regards the external position of the Church in the country, this agitation was a success. It rallied the courage of Churchmen, and showed that they were stronger and more resolute than their enemies thought. The revolutionary temper of the times had thrown all Churchmen on the Conservative side; and these addresses were partly helped by political Conservatism, and also reacted in its favour.
Some of the Hadleigh friends would probably have been content to go on in this course, raising and keeping alive a strong feeling in favour of things as they were, creating a general sympathy with the Church, and confidence in the peculiar excellency of its wise and sober institutions, sedulously but cautiously endeavouring to correct popular mistakes about them, and to diffuse a sounder knowledge and a sounder tone of religious feeling. This is what Mr. H. J. Rose would have wished, only he felt that he could not insure the "ten or fifteen years" which he wanted to work this gradual change. Both he and Mr. Palmer would have made London, to use a military term, their base of operations. The Oriel men, on the other hand, thought that "Universities are the natural centres of intellectual movements"; they were for working more spontaneously in the freedom of independent study; they had little faith in organisation; "living movements," they said, "do not come of committees." But at Hadleigh it was settled that there was writing to be done, in some way or other; and on this, divergence of opinion soon showed itself, both as to the matter and the tone of what was to be written.
For the writers of real force, the men of genius, were the three Oriel men, with less experience, at that time, with less extensive learning, than Mr. Rose and Mr. Palmer. But they were bolder and keener spirits; they pierced more deeply into the real condition and prospects of the times; they were not disposed to smooth over and excuse what they thought hollow and untrue, to put up with decorous compromises and half-measures, to be patient towards apathy, negligence, or insolence. They certainly had more in temper of warfare. We know from their own avowals that a great anger possessed them, that they were indignant at the sacred idea of the Church being lost and smothered by selfishness and stupidity; they were animated by the spirit which makes men lose patience with abuses and their apologists, and gives them no peace till they speak out. Mr. Newman felt that, though associations and addresses might be very well, what the Church and the clergy and the country wanted was plain speaking; and that plain speaking could not be got by any papers put forth as joint manifestoes, or with the revision and sanction of "safe" and "judicious" advisers. It was necessary to write, and to write as each man felt: and he determined that each man should write and speak for himself, though working in concert and sympathy with others towards the supreme end - the cause and interests of the Church.
And thus were born the Tracts for the Times. For a time Mr. Palmer's line and Mr. Newman's line ran on side by side; but Mr. Palmer's plan had soon done all that it could do, important as that was; it gradually faded out of sight, and the attention of all who cared for, or who feared or who hated the movement, was concentrated on the "Oxford Tracts." They were the watchword and the symbol of an enterprise which all soon felt to be a remarkable one-remarkable, if in nothing else, in the form in which it was started. Great changes and movements have been begun in various ways; in secret and underground communications. in daring acts of self-devotion or violence, in the organisation of an institution, in the persistent display of a particular temper and set of habits, especially in the form of a stirring and enthralling eloquence, in popular preaching, in fierce appeals to the passions. But though tracts had become in later times familiar instruments of religious action, they had, from the fashion of using them, become united in the minds of many with rather disparaging associations. The pertinacity of good ladies who pressed them on chance strangers, and who extolled their efficacy as if it was that of a quack medicine, had lowered the general respect for them. The last thing that could have been thought of was a great religious revolution set in motion by tracts and leaflets, and taking its character and name from them.
But the ring of these early Tracts was something very different from anything of the kind yet known in England. They were clear, brief, stern appeals to conscience and reason, sparing of words, utterly without rhetoric, intense in purpose. They were like the short, sharp, rapid utterances of men in pain and danger and pressing emergency. The first one gave the keynote of the series. Mr. Newman "had out of his own head begun the Tracts": he wrote the opening one in a mood which he has himself described. He was in the "exultation of health restored and home regained": he felt, he says, an "exuberant and joyous energy which he never had before or since"; "his health and strength had come back to him with such a rebound" that some of his friends did not know him. "I had the consciousness that I was employed in that work which I had been dreaming about, and which I felt to be so momentous and inspiring. I had a supreme confidence in our cause; we were upholding that primitive Christianity which was delivered for all time by the early teachers of the Church, and which was registered and attested in the Anglican formularies and by the Anglican divines. That ancient religion had well-nigh faded out of the land through the political changes of the last 150 years, and it must be restored. It would be, in fact, a second Reformation-a better Reformation, for it would return, not to the sixteenth century, but to the seventeenth. No time was to be lost, for the Whigs had come to do their worst, and the rescue might come too late. Bishoprics were already in course of suppression; Church property was in course of confiscation; sees would be soon receiving unsuitable occupants. We knew enough to begin preaching, and there was no one else to preach. I felt," he goes on, with a characteristic recollection of his own experience when he started on his voyage with Froude in the Hermes, "as on a vessel, which first gets under weigh, and then clears out the deck, and stores a way luggage and live stock into their proper receptacles." The first three Tracts bear the date of 9th September 1833. They were the first public utterance of the movement. The opening words of this famous series deserve to be recalled. They are new to most of the present generation.
TO MY BRETHREN IN THE SACRED MINISTRY, THE PRESBYTERS AND DEACONS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN ENGLAND, ORDAINED THEREUNTO BY THE HOLY GHOST AND THE IMPOSITION OF HANDS.
FELLOW-LABOURERS,-I am but one of yourselves-a Presbyter; and therefore I conceal my name, lest I should take too much on myself by speaking in my own person. Yet speak I must; for the times are very evil, yet no one speaks against them.
Is not this so? Do not we "look one upon another," yet perform nothing? Do we not all confess the peril into which the Church is come, yet sit still each in his own retirement, as if mountains and seas cut off brother from brother? Therefore suffer me, while I try to draw you forth from those pleasant retreats, which it has been our blessedness hitherto to enjoy, to contemplate the condition and prospects of our Holy Mother in a practical way; so that one and all may unlearn that idle habit, which has grown upon us, of owning the state of things to be bad, yet doing nothing to remedy it.
Consider a moment. Is it fair, is it dutiful, to suffer our bishops to stand the brunt of the battle without doing our part to support them? Upon them comes "the care of all the Churches." This cannot be helped; indeed it is their glory. Not one of us would wish in the least to deprive them of the duties, the toils, the responsibilities of their high office. And, black event as it would be for the country, yet (as far as they are concerned) we could not wish them a more blessed termination of their course than the spoiling of their goods and martyrdom.
To them then we willingly and affectionately relinquish their high privileges and honours; we encroach not upon the rights of the SUCCESSORS OF THE APOSTLES; we touch not their sword and crozier. Yet surely we may be their shield-bearers in the battle without offence; and by our voice and deeds be to them what Luke and Timothy were to St. Paul.
Now then let me come at once to the subject which leads me to address you. Should the Government and the Country so far forget their God as to cast off the Church, to deprive it of its temporal honours and substance, on what will you rest the claim of respect and attention which you make upon your flocks? Hitherto you have been upheld by your birth, your education, your wealth, your connexions; should these secular advantages cease, on what must Christ's Ministers depend? Is not this a serious practical question? We know how miserable is the state of religious bodies not supported by the State. Look at the Dissenters on all sides of you, and you will see at once that their Ministers, depending simply upon the people, become the creatures of the people. Are you content that this should be your case? Alas! can a greater evil befall Christians, than for their teachers to be guided by them, instead of guiding? How can we "hold fast the form of sound words," and "keep that which is committed to our trust," if our influence is to depend simply on our popularity? Is it not our very office to oppose the world? Can we then allow ourselves to court it? to preach smooth things and prophesy deceits? to make the way of life easy to the rich and indolent, and to bribe the humbler classes by excitements and strong intoxicating doctrine? Surely it must not be so;-and the question recurs, on what are we to rest our authority 'when the State deserts us?
Christ has not left His Church without claim of its own upon the attention of men. Surely not. Hard Master He cannot be, to bid us oppose the world, yet give us no credentials for so doing. There are some who rest their divine mission on their own unsupported assertion; others, who rest it upon their popularity; others, on their success; and others, who rest it upon their temporal distinctions. This last case has, perhaps, been too much our own; I fear we have neglected the real ground on which our authority is built--OUR APOSTOLICAL DESCENT.
We have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His Spirit to His Apostles; they in turn laid their hands on those who should succeed them; and these again on others; and so the sacred gift has been handed down to our present bishops, who have appointed us as their assistants, and in some sense representatives.
Now every one of us believes this. I know that some will at first deny they do; still they do believe it. Only, it is not sufficiently, practically impressed on their minds. They do believe it; for it is the doctrine of the Ordination Service, which they have recognised as truth in the most solemn season of their lives. In order, then, not to prove, but to remind and impress, I entreat your attention to the words used when you were made ministers of Christ's Church.
The office of Deacon was thus committed to you: "Take thou authority to execute the office of a Deacon in the Church of God committed unto thee: In the name, etc."
And the Priesthood thus:
"Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Priest, in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His Holy Sacraments: In the name, etc."
These, I say, were words spoken to us, and received by us, when we were brought nearer to God than at any other time of our lives. I know the grace of ordination is contained in the laying on of hands, not in any form of words;-yet in our own case (as has ever been usual in the Church) words of blessing have accompanied the act. Thus we have confessed before God our belief that the bishop who ordained us gave us the Holy Ghost, gave us the power to bind and to loose, to administer the Sacraments, and to preach. Now how is he able to give these great gifts? Whence is his right? Are these words idle (which would be taking God's name in vain), or do they express merely a wish (which surely is very far below their meaning), or do they not rather indicate that the speaker is conveying a gift? Surely they can mean nothing short of this. But whence, I ask, his right to do so? Has he any right, except as having received the power from those who consecrated him to be a bishop? He could not give what he had never received. It is plain then that he but transmits, and that the Christian Ministry is a succession. And if we trace back the power of ordination from hand to hand, of course we shall come to the Apostles at last. We know we do, as a plain historical fact; and therefore all we, who have been ordained clergy, in the very form of our ordination acknowledged the doctrine of the APOSTOLICAL SUCCESSION.
And for the same reason, we must necessarily consider none to be really ordained who have not thus been ordained. For if ordination is a divine ordinance,it must be necessary; and if it is not a divine ordinance, how dare we use it? Therefore all who use it, all of us, must consider it necessary. As well might we pretend the Sacraments are not necessary to salvation, while we make use of the offices in the Liturgy; for when God appoints means of grace, they are the means.
I do not see how any one can escape from this plain view of the subject, except (as I have already hinted) by declaring that the words do not mean all that they say. But only reflect what a most unseemly time for random words is that in which ministers are set apart for their office. Do we not adopt a Liturgy in order to hinder inconsiderate idle language, and shall we, in the most sacred of all services, write down, subscribe, and use again and again forms of speech which have not been weighed, and cannot be taken strictly?
Therefore, my dear brethren, act up to your professions. Let it not be said that you have neglected a gift; for if you have the Spirit of the Apostles on you, surely this is a great gift. "Stir up the gift of God which is in you." Make much of it. Show your value of it. Keep it before your minds as an honourable badge, far higher than that secular respectability, or cultivation, or polish, or learning, or rank, which gives you a hearing with the many. Tell them of your gift. The times will soon drive you to do this, if you mean to be still anything. But wait not for the times. Do not be compelled, by the world's forsaking you, to recur as if unwillingly to the high source of your authority. Speak out now, before you are forced, both as glorying in your privilege and to insure your rightful honour from your people. A notion has gone abroad that they can take away your power. They think they have given and can take it away. They think it lies in the Church property, and they know that they have politically the power to confiscate that property. They have been deluded into a notion that present palpable usefulness, produceable results, acceptableness to your flocks, that these and such like are the tests of your divine commission. Enlighten them in this matter. Exalt our Holy Fathers the bishops, as the representatives of the Apostles, and the Angels of the Churches; and magnify your office, as being ordained by them to take part in their ministry.
But, if you will not adopt my view of the subject, which I offer to you, not doubtingly, yet (I hope) respectfully, at all events, CHOOSE YOUR SIDE. To remain neuter much longer will be itself to take a part. Choose your side; since side you shortly must, with one or other party, even though you do nothing. Fear to be of those whose line is decided for them by chance circumstances, and who may perchance find themselves with the enemies of Christ, while they think but to remove themselves from worldly politics. Such abstinence is impossible in troublous times. HE THAT IS NOT WITH ME IS AGAINST ME, AND HE THAT GATHERETH NOT WITH ME SCATTERETH ABROAD.
While Mr. Palmer was working at the Association and the Address, Mr. Newman with his friends was sending forth the Tracts, one after another, in rapid. succession, through the autumn and winter of 1833.
They were short papers, in many cases mere short notes, on the great questions which had suddenly sprung into such interest, and were felt to be full of momentous consequence,- the true and essential nature of the Christian Church, its relation to the primitive ages, its authority and its polity and government, the current objections to its claims in England, to its doctrines and its services, the length of the prayers, the Burial Service, the proposed alterations in the Liturgy, the neglect of discipline, the sins and corruptions of each branch of Christendom. The same topics were enforced and illustrated. again and again as the series went on; and then there came extracts from English divines, like Bishop B.everidge, Bishop Wilson, and Bishop Cosin, and under the title "Records of the Church," translations from the early Fathers, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, and others. Mr. Palmer contributed to one of these papers, and later on Mr. Perceval wrote two or three; but for the most part these early Tracts were written by Mr. Newman, though Mr. Keble and one or two others also helped. Afterwards, other writers joined in the series. They were at first not only published with a notice that any one might republish them with any alterations he pleased, but they were distributed by zealous coadjutors, ready to take any trouble in the cause. Mr. Mozley has described how he rode about Northamptonshire, from parsonage to parsonage, with bundles of the Tracts. The Apologia records the same story. "I called upon clergy," says the writer, "in various parts of the country, whether I was acquainted with them or not, and I attended at the houses of friends where several of them were from time to time assembled. . . . I did not care whether my visits were made to High Church or Low Church: I wished to make a strong pull in union with all who were opposed to the principles of Liberalism, whoever they might be." He adds that he does not think that much came of these visits, or of letters written with the same purpose, "except that they advertised the fact that a rally in favour of the Church was commencing."
The early Tracts were intended to startle the world, and they succeeded in doing so. Their very form, as short earnest leaflets, was perplexing; for they came not from the class of religionists who usually deal in such productions, but from distinguished University scholars, picked men of a picked college; and from men, too, who as a school were the representatives of soberness and self-control in religious feeling and language, and whose usual style of writing was specially marked by its severe avoidance of excitement and novelty; the school from which had lately come the Christian Year, with its memorable motto "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Their matter was equally unusual. Undoubtedly they "brought strange things to the ears" of their generation. To Churchmen now these "strange things" are such familiar commonplaces, that it is hard to realise how they should have made so much stir. But they were novelties, partly audacious, partly unintelligible, then. The strong and peremptory language of the Tracts, their absence of qualifications or explanations, frightened friends like Mr. Palmer, who, so far, had no ground to quarrel with their doctrine, and he wished them to be discontinued. The story went that one of the bishops, on reading one of the Tracts on the Apostolical Succession, could not make up his mind whether he held the doctrine or not. They fell on a time of profound and inexcusable ignorance on the subjects they discussed, and they did not spare it. The cry of Romanism was inevitable, and was soon raised, though there was absolutely nothing in them but had the indisputable sanction of the Prayer Book, and of the most authoritative Anglican divines. There was no Romanism in them, nor anything that showed a tendency to it. But custom, and the prevalence of other systems and ways, and the interest of later speculations, and the slackening of professional reading and scholarship in the Church, had made their readers forget some of the most obvious facts in Church history, and the most certain Church principles; and men were at sea as to what they knew or believed on the points on which the Tracts challenged them. The scare was not creditable; it was like the Italian scare about cholera with its quarantines and fumigations; but it was natural. The theological knowledge and learning were wanting which would have been familiar with the broad line of difference between what is Catholic and what is specially Roman. There were many whose teaching was impugned, for it was really Calvinist or Zwinglian, and not Anglican. There were hopeful and ambitious theological Liberals, who recognised in that appeal to Anglicanism the most effective counter-stroke to their own schemes and theories. There were many whom the movement forced to think, who did not want such addition to their responsibilities. It cannot be thought surprising that the new Tracts were received with surprise, dismay, ridicule, and, indignation. But they also at once called forth a response of eager sympathy from numbers to whom they brought unhoped-for relief and light in a day of gloom, of rebuke and blasphemy. Mr. Keble, in the preface to his famous assize sermon, had hazarded the belief that there were "hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians, and that there soon will be tens of thousands, unaffectedly anxious to be rightly guided" in regard to subjects that concern the Church. The belief was soon justified.
When the first forty-six Tracts were collected into a volume towards the end of 1834, the following "advertisement" explaining their nature and objects was prefixed to it. It is a contemporary and authoritative account of what was the mind of the leaders of the movement; and it has a significance beyond the occasion which prompted it.
The following Tracts were published with the object of contributing something towards the practical revival of doctrines, which, although held by the great divines of our Church, at present have become obsolete with the majority of her members, and are withdrawn from public view even by the more learned and orthodox few who still adhere to them. The Apostolic succession, the Holy Church, were principles of action in the minds of our predecessors of the seventeenth century; but, in proportion as the maintenance of the Church has been secured by law, her ministers have been under the temptation of leaning on an arm of flesh instead of her own divinely-provided discipline, a temptation increased by political events and arrangements which need not here be more than alluded to. A lamentable increase of sectarianism has followed; being occasioned (in addition to other more obvious causes), first, by the cold aspect which the new Church doctrines have presented to the religious sensibilities of the mind, next to their meagreness in suggesting motives to restrain it from seeking out a more influential discipline. Doubtless obedience to the law of the land, and the careful maintenance of "decency and order" (the topics in usage among us), are plain duties of the Gospel, and a reasonable ground for keeping in communion with the Established Church; yet, if Providence has graciously provided for our weakness more interesting and constraining motives, it is a sin thanklessly to neglect them; just as it would be a mistake to rest the duties of temperance or justice on the mere law of natural religion, when they are mercifully sanctioned in the Gospel by the more winning authority of our Saviour Christ. Experience has shown the inefficacy of the mere injunctions of Church order, however scripturally enforced, in restraining from schism the awakened and anxious sinner; who goes to a dissenting preacher "because" (as he expresses it) "he gets good from him": and though he does not stand excused in God's sight for yielding to the temptation, surely the ministers of the Church are not blameless if, by keeping back the more gracious and consoling truths provided for the little ones of Christ, they indirectly lead him into it. Had he been taught as a child, that the Sacraments, not preaching, are the sources of Divine Grace; that the Apostolical ministry had a virtue in it which went out over the whole Church, when sought by the prayer of faith; that fellowship with it was a gift and privilege, as well as a duty, we could not have had so many wanderers from our fold,--nor so many cold hearts within it.
This instance may suggest many others of the superior influence of an apostolical over a mere secular method of teaching. The awakened mind knows its wants, but cannot provide for them; and in its hunger will feed upon ashes, if it cannot obtain the pure milk of the word. Methodism and Popery are in different ways the refuge of those whom the Church stints of the gifts of grace; they are the foster-mothers of abandoned children. The neglect of the daily service, the desecration of festivals, the Eucharist scantily administered, insubordination permitted in all ranks of the Church, orders and offices imperfectly developed, the want of societies for particular religious objects, and the like deficiencies, lead the feverish mind, desirous of a vent to its feelings, and a stricter rule of life, to the smaller religious communities, to prayer and Bible meetings, and ill-advised institutions and societies, on the one hand, on the other, to the solemn and captivating services by which Popery gains its proselytes. Moreover, the multitude of men cannot teach or guide themselves; and an injunction given them to depend on their private judgment, cruel in itself; is doubly hurtful, as throwing them on such teachers as speak daringly and promise largely, and not only aid but supersede individual exertion.
These remarks may serve as a clue, for those who care to pursue it, to the views which have led to the publication of the following Tracts. The Church of Christ was intended to cope with human nature in all its forms, and surely the gifts vouchsafed it are adequate for that gracious purpose. There are zealous sons and servants of her English branch, who see with sorrow that she is defrauded of her full usefulness by particular theories and principles of the present age, which interfere with the execution of one portion of her commission; and while they consider that the revival of this portion of truth is especially adapted to break up existing parties in the Church, and to form instead a bond of union among all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, they believe that nothing but these neglected doctrines, faithfully preached, will repress that extension of Popery, for which the ever multiplying divisions of the religious world are too clearly preparing the way.
Another publication ought to be noticed, a result of the Hadleigh meeting, which exhibited the leading ideas of the conference, and especially of the more "conservative" members of it. This was a little work in question and answer, called the "Churchman's Manual," drawn up in part some time before the meeting by Mr. Perceval, and submitted to the revision of Mr. Rose and Mr. Palmer. It was intended to be a supplement to the "Church Catechism," as to the nature and claims of the Church and its Ministers. It is a terse, clear, careful, and, as was inevitable, rather dry summary of the Anglican theory, and of the, position which the English Church holds to the Roman Church, and to the Dissenters. It was further revised at the Conference, and "some important suggestions were made by Froude"; and then Mr. Perceval, who had great hopes from the publication, and spared himself no pains to make it perfect, submitted it for revision and advice to a number of representative Churchmen. The Scotch Bishops whom he consulted were warm in approval, especially the venerable and saintly Bishop Jolly; as were also a number of men of weight and authority in England:
Judge Allan Park, Joshua Watson, Mr. Sikes of Guilsborough, Mr. Churton of Crayke, Mr. H. H. Norris, Dr. Wordsworth, and Dr. Routh. It was then laid before the Archbishop for correction, or, if desirable, suppression; and for his sanction if approved. The answer was what might have been expected, that there was no objection to it, but that official sanction must be declined on general grounds. After all this Mr. Perceval not unnaturally claimed for it special importance. It was really, he observed, the "first Tract," systematically put forth, and its preparation "apparently gave rise" to the series; and it was the only one which received the approval of all immediately concerned in the movement. "The care bestowed on it," he says, "probably exceeds that which any theological publication in the English communion received for a long time"; and further, it shows "that the foundation of the movement with which Mr. Rose was connected, was laid with all the care and circumspection that reason could well suggest." It appears to have had a circulation, but there is no reason to think that it had any considerable influence, one way or other, on opinion in the Church. When it was referred to in after-years by Mr. Perceval in his own vindication, it was almost forgotten. More interesting, if not more important, Tracts had thrown it into the shade.