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Transcribed by Charles Wohlers, 2006





I THINK it right to state, that though I have received Archdeacon WILBERFORCE'S kind permission to address him on the subject of this letter, he will not be acquainted with the contents of it till he sees them in print.





A LETTER has appeared during the course of the present month, "On the State of Parties in the Church," That it is entitled to great attention, and will receive as much as it deserves, I need not tell you, when I say that it is addressed by Dr. Hook, of Leeds, to the Bishop of Ripon. In this letter I find the following passage:--

"We can no longer blind ourselves to the fact that the Church of England is now a divided body. It cannot be injudicious to say this when it is evident to all that the fact is as I have stated it to be. The most unhappy determination of the Hebdomadal Board at Oxford to censure Mr. Newman--a censure which I have little doubt the convocation of the University would, if summoned, reverse--has proclaimed this from the one end of the country to the other. The meeting of the Pastoral Aid Society in Leeds, which was regarded as a demonstration against me, the Vicar of the Parish,--a 'rally,' as it has been called--declared it to my Parishioners. It would indeed be worse than affectation and a want of moral courage to deny what is evident to all.

"It is a fact, an undeniable fact, that there are two Parties in the Church of England; the High Church Party, and the Low Church Party. And the act of the Hebdomadal Board renders it absolutely necessary for us to range ourselves on the one side or the other. That is to say, we must join that party with which in general principles we agree, and not desert it merely because we may think that a few individuals may have expressed themselves on some points incautiously, or have been hurried into acts which a colder and calmer judgment may condemn. I cannot illustrate my position better than by mentioning what occurred to myself and to several other clergymen, whose names I have no objection to mention in private to your Lordship. On the publication of the 90th Tract for the Times, I determined to point out in a pamphlet what I considered to be its errors. But the moment I heard that the writer was to be silenced, not by argument, but by a usurped authority, that moment I determined to renounce my intention: that moment I determined to take my stand with him; because, though I did not approve of a particular Tract, yet in general principles, in the very principle advocated in that Tract, I did agree with Him: in a word, I was compelled by circumstances to act as a Party man. And in justice to one whom I am proud to call my friend, I am bound to say that Mr. Newman's explanatory Letter to Dr. Jelf is to my mind perfectly satisfactory.

"What I maintain on this point is, that, under existing circumstances, we must become party men. We cannot halt between two opinions. We must take our side. Minor differences must be forgotten when our general principles are attacked."

Such sentiments as these scarcely require the authority which they will derive from the name and character of their author. They are exactly what a great majority of our countrymen have adopted for years. "There is an absolute necessity to range ourselves on one side or the other;" "we must become party-men;" "we cannot halt between two opinions;"--these phrases are tolerably familiar to most of us. The difficulty has been to shut our ears to them, to find some other maxims upon which we might act. If I am asked why we have put ourselves to this difficulty; I answer, the motives may have been various: Experience may have taught some that they could not take a plain honest course while they were bound to follow certain leaders and adopt certain shibboleths; some may have found that course, and all the habits of service which it involves, most unfavourable to their personal character; some may have been tempted so often to change one party for another, with so little increase of peace to themselves and of good to their neighbours, that they may have at last begun to inquire whether there were no means of escaping the obligation altogether. But the one great argument, I believe, of late years, against the popular doctrine is, that the words Party and Church are essentially hostile to each other; that he who says, "I will be a Churchman," says, in effect, "I will not be a Party-man;" that he places himself under bonds and conditions, with which those other bonds and conditions are, in principle as well as in practice, incompatible. This feeling has been growing strongly amongst us. We have been taught that Church maxims and principles are in nearly all cases opposite to those of the world; that, nevertheless, they may be followed out by those who will follow them out. It was nothing then to be told--"This notion that Party is indispensable has a very wide currency; good men have adopted it, and are adopting it; you yourselves are continually falling into it unawares." All this might be very true; but it is true of a hundred notions and practices which we are to hate and denounce, to which we acknowledge that we are prone, and from which we. desire that we may be purified. And the belief that freedom from this particular anti-Church doctrine, if it may not be rather called the great anti-Church doctrine, is possible, was strengthened by the words of various persons whom we revere, though we may not, in defiance of their own commands, accept them as oracles. In his Letter to the Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Pusey repudiated the notion of belonging to a party, with the earnestness which belongs to his character and to every thing that he utters. Dr. Hook delivered a sermon to the Clergy, which was from first to last an eloquent and passionate "Call to Union."

My surprise, then, at reading these words, was not at all occasioned by their novelty; but I did feel most deep and unfeigned surprise to see from what quarter they proceeded, and by what arguments they were enforced. To be told by Dr. Hook that what I had believed--and I thought upon his authority--to be a sin, though of course a most natural sin, and one for which we were not to judge and condemn any but ourselves, was become a duty; and then, that this amazing change had been wrought by the vote of a Weekly Board at Oxford--this did seem to me most strange. The circumstances and obligations of the whole body of English clergy, (for the word "us" cannot refer merely to the clergy in the diocese of Ripon--it must mean those in the diocese of Winchester just as much; it cannot refer merely to conspicuous clergymen like Dr. Hook--it must take in the most insignificant,) are entirely altered; that which was m be avoided is to be sought; that which was wrong is right, because certain heads of houses in one of our Universities have condemned the 90th Number of the Tracts for the Times!

It seemed to me so difficult to believe that this could be the author's meaning, that I tried what my critical ingenuity could do in discovering some other. His first words, that it was impossible to conceal the fact of our divisions, made me hope, for a moment, that it was a fact of which he was speaking, and not a duty; that he wished to say, "We are divided," not we are under an obligation to adopt division as our law. But, then, I asked myself, "Were we not divided before the vote of the Hebdomadal Board; or was Dr. Hook in ignorance of that fact, or did he think it one which could be safely kept secret till five weeks ago? What then was the meaning of his sermon at the Bishop of Ripon's visitation? Surely it presumed this fact, and proclaimed it to the world; for will anyone say that a grave and practical preacher would in the most solemn manner exhort his brethren to repent of a sin which he did not believe that they had committed; or would he have suffered that exhortation to go forth, if he did not believe the grounds for it to be so notorious, that it was absurd, as well as dishonest, to affect the least disguise in speaking of them?

Again, it seemed to me just possible, that Dr. Hook might intend only, by the words "we must become party men," "we must frankly declare Our opinions, be they what they may." In writing a hasty pamphlet, the most considerate person may easily adopt a phrase which in the world's dialect is equivalent to some other that he wishes to utter: he may dislike the phrase, but it cleaves to him unconsciously; nay, he may persuade himself, that it was the only one which would be intelligible to his readers. And, though such an excuse ought hardly to be pleaded, respecting a letter to a bishop; yet as that form may be taken for a discourse which others are meant to hear, there was less difficulty in admitting this explanation. But, then, I was obliged to consider again, whether this obligation of declaring what we think and believe has been suddenly imposed upon us by the Hebdomadal Board at Oxford. It has been generally supposed that there are times when silence is a man's privilege and duty; when he is to be esteemed wiser and better for not intermeddling. But this silence has been referred to a principle: we have been taught, that no honest man will suppress what he thinks, merely because it is more prudent and politic for his own sake to do so. I cannot conceive how the case has been changed by this vote. It is not, I hope and trust, everyone's duty to be I speaking and writing about the Tracts for the Times; the right of silence is not to be wholly taken away. And the law, that we should speak exactly what we think, and not something else, whensoever we do speak, is surely of very old enactment. Even though no Oxford Board existed, it would be Dr. Hook's duty, if he agreed in the general opinion, that we must be party-men, to state that doctrine boldly; it would be mine, if I thought I might venture to open my lips at all, to say why I dissent from it.

I fear then that the author of the Letter to the Bishop of Ripon, must intend to retract the sentiments contained in his sermon. Union may still be a good, but it is an unattainable good. He plainly intimates, that let the theory of the matter be settled as it will, any honest person, since the recent events in Oxford, will find it practically impossible not to avow himself a member either of the High Church or the Low Church School. On this point I wish to say a few words.

I must begin with taking all objection to the names by which Dr. Hook has described these schools. Popular catchwords are nearly always deceitful; in this case they are singularly so. The phrase "High Churchman" is most equivocal; it would be claimed by persons with whom Dr. Hook has no sympathy, and who have no sympathy with him. I do not say which has the older or better title to the name; at all events, in our generation it has been appropriated to both, but more commonly to those who care nothing for the Catholic Church, and, except in their pews on Sundays, never use the words, but in the way of reproach. The phrase "Low Churchman" is equally inconvenient: it includes persons so opposite in feeling and opinion as Bishop Hoadly and Mr. Scott of Aston Sandford; and what is worse, it describes merely the negative opinions of men who at all events believe that they hold something very positive. I would therefore venture to substitute for these names, two which these schools have respectively chosen for themselves, "Anglo-Catholic," and "Those who hold the peculiar doctrines of the Reformation." Mr. Newman, I am sure, would not have the slightest unwillingness to give up the latter title to his opponents: if Dr. Hook should object for a moment, I am sure he will withdraw his opposition, when the phrase is explained. He approves, we all know, of the principles of the English Reformation; but then he approves them just in those points wherein they were different from the principles of the foreign reformation. Now, by "doctrines peculiar to the Reformation," I mean those doctrines which were common to the English with the foreign Reformers--doctrines, therefore, which do not belong to the Catholic side of our Reformation, though, whether they be contrary to it or not, is precisely the question which I imagine is now at issue.

Adopting then this description of these two schools, as one to which neither can object, a person who believes that he cannot join either of them might give some such reason as this of his faith:--He might say, that having endeavoured to study the history of that which is called the Low Church School, he had become deeply convinced that the Protestant principles have a deep value and meaning; that they interpret to a man his own personal being; that, whenever they have been lost or kept out of sight, or merged in any others, men have become unintelligible to themselves, and have lost all sense of their distinct relationship to God; that then they must be recovered with a great struggle, and at considerable peril; but after they have been so recovered, they are felt for a time to be all-sufficing; that the generation which has embraced them with a first-love ardour, amidst much opposition and resistance, passes away, and that a new generation grows up in which they are received as household words, and become little more than phrases; that then a want is experienced of something to quicken and support them; that first it is fancied they have been too much mixed with other notions, and that they must be separated, and put forth more exclusively; that the experiment of so doing is tried and fails; that then the notion gets abroad that they are not sufficient, that other truths are necessary to satisfy men's deepest wants,--truths which refer not to man's personal life, but to the constitution of society, and the being of God; that there is a struggle in various directions to find what these truths are; that a Catholic school springs up to meet this necessity; that it is stoutly resisted as dangerous, and as introducing ideas which are not wanted for man's individual interests and salvation; that nevertheless its words go forth, and are heard, and that there is something in men which testifies that these ideas are needful to their inmost hearts, whether they can be brought under the head of doctrines necessary to salvation or no. From these observations, an inquirer might draw the conclusion that Protestantism cannot exist without Catholicism. He would not mean by this that it cannot exist safely--that it requires to be balanced by Catholicism; he would not mean this at all; but, on the contrary, that it has not its proper strength while it stands alone; that this union is the condition of its vitality. He might go on to say, that having tried to watch the progress of the Catholic school, he had noticed that it was welcomed by the deepest, humblest, most earnest minds, when it spoke of that which it seemed appointed to speak of--the law of our fellowship, the duties growing out of that fellowship, the manifestation of God, the unfathomable mystery of His being and unity; that it was resisted by the deepest, humblest, and most earnest minds, when it ventured to decide questions respecting the conscience, and whatever appertains to us as distinct individual men; that when it meddled with these matters, all its life, and power, and freedom, seemed to depart--the Catholic truths which it maintained, to become changed, distorted, crippled; nay, that the maxims which it introduced upon subjects with which it appeared to have no natural connexion, often contradicted the principles it was commissioned to defend; in other words, that seeking to be all comprehending and circular, it became inefficient and narrow, and roused up that conscience against it, which would else have been most willing to witness in its favour. On these grounds he might arrive at the conviction, that Catholicism cannot exist without Protestantism. He would not mean that Catholicism becomes dangerous when it has not this qualification; he means that it becomes weak, if it have not this support. I say, a person might take this view, and be ready--probably, many are ready--to maintain it on historical grounds. And if he did this, I do not see how Dr. Hook could drive him from his position by the ipse dixit, "We must become party men." He might answer, "so far as I see at present, I cannot be a party man; I cannot be so unjust to either of these schools. I cannot so injure the Protestant school, as to set it up against the Catholic; or so injure the Catholic, as to set it up against the Protestant".

But a student who takes this ground, is not bound to defend it by any such arguments as those at which I have hinted. Leaving history and reasoning out of the question, he may say "This is the actual position which is given me by the English Church, and which she bids me keep." Do you ask for the proof? I turn to the purely Protestant or Evangelical school, and I find its members working hard to explain away the meaning of our Catholic formularies. "The Baptismal Service does not quite mean this." The Catechism says, "that being baptized, we are members of Christ, children of God, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; but these words must be understood in a peculiar sense." I do not say that those who take this course now, or who took it in former times, ought to be called Jesuits. I do not think so. I think that some of them were as honest, conscientious men, as ever lived upon this earth. I do not believe they clung to the Church because they could not consent to give up the respectability which it confers; I believe many of them would have been inclined by their peculiar tempers to give up that respectability--to court obloquy and contempt--and that they clave to the Church from principle, and from love, preferring the less contradiction of assenting to forms which they did not heartily agree in, to what struck them as the greater, more practical contradiction of making a schism. I do not wish that they had left the Church. I rejoice that such valuable members of it could contrive to abide in it. But I do not the more for this envy their position. I do not the less for this rejoice I that I can receive these formularies in their simple sense, and can feel and give God thanks that that sense pervades the whole liturgy.

I turn again to the Catholic school. I find the most accomplished and logical of its members working hard to explain away the meaning of that formulary which the Reformation bequeathed to us, and in which the Protestantism of that age is, as I and most other persons believe, embodied. He thinks that this may not mean what it seems to mean; it is susceptible of another possible interpretation. Well! I do not call this commentator a Jesuit. I believe of him, as I believe of Mr. Scott or Mr. Newton--that he is perfectly conscientious, thoroughly self-denying, ready to give up anything for the sake of his principles. So far from charging him with a dishonest intention in this particular matter, it seems to me that he has followed out more strictly, and to more unpopular results, than any other member of his school, the maxim which they hold in common,--that Catholicism, though entirely different from and even opposed to Romanism, is nevertheless to supersede Protestantism. I do not believe that he or they cleave to the Church of England from any other motive than a feeling of deep attachment and reverence, and a high sense of duty. I earnestly hope and trust that they may be able to continue in it always. I believe that would be a most sad day for us which took them from us. But because I say this, I am not bound to envy their position. I am not bound to acknowledge myself the disciple of those who think that the Articles which I have subscribed and accepted as the text-book of my studies and teaching, need to be reduced to the minimum of meaning, any more than to be the disciple of those who would oblige me to impart to the Prayer-book, which I have accepted as the guide of the devotions of myself and of my flock, a sense which seems to me equally at variance with its letter and its spirit. But these are the two bodies between which I am to make my election. Under one or other of these, Dr. Hook tells me, I must range myself.

There is yet another point which I would touch upon before I conclude. I cannot submit to Dr. Hook's judgment, greatly as I respect it, upon a matter which concerns my own duty and responsibility; but possibly there may be no better authority respecting the school to which he has attached himself, and of which he is so distinguished an ornament. He declares that this school is, and must be considered, henceforth a party. I am deeply concerned to hear it. I believe it is a school which has done great good, and some harm; from this time I greatly fear, if these words be true, the good will become weaker every day, the harm more powerful. The Evangelical school under its first teachers was perhaps more narrow than it is at present: but what an amount of spiritual strength there was in it; what courage, what self-sacrifice! It became a party; it had its coteries; its consistories; its newspapers. It began to produce an effect; the press said it was so respectable and successful, that notice must be taken of it; the divines clapped their hands, and declared that the Gospel was spreading every where; editors were becoming real believers in troops; the millenium was at hand. Alas! what a shrivelled thing has this popular successful system become. The holy and pious-minded men who are spoken of as maintaining it, do not really represent it. They are determined not to part with the principles which their forefathers bequeathed them, and which they feel to be necessary to their own spiritual life: but they are by no means certain that these are the only important truths; they wish to acknowledge good men who have started from a different point; they like better to call themselves Churchmen than Evangelicals. But the system has become a newspaper, cheap book, lecture machinery; not for propagating certain principles, but for attacking and slandering those who are supposed not to hold them, or to hold others different from them. From such melancholy specimens of the vulgar material force which has superseded the spiritual force, whereby the Evangelicals effected their early triumphs, it was, indeed, a refreshment to turn to some of the words and acts of those who called themselves Anglo-Catholics. Such brave faith in the existence of other powers than those which act upon brutes, of other channels through which they work than state decrees or the changeable breath of public opinion, of another source from which they are derived, than the choice or will of man! Such confessions of sloth and sin taking place of the apologies for both which had been called good Churchmanship! Such hearty sympathy with the poor--such courageous, unselfish willingness to bear the reputation of selfishness in the defence of institutions which were established as witnesses against it! Such zeal for theological learning in a day when it is so commonly despised! These feelings, and the deeds which corresponded to them, may well have won the sympathies of earnest, generous minds, and happily there 's a life in them which cannot pass away. But along with the head of gold there have been feet of clay; and as in the former case, it is these that will come into prominence, as soon as ever the name and notion of party shall be fairly adopted by our English Catholics. Already we may see melancholy symptoms of a tendency to seek for strength in vulgar helps and earthly expedients. I do not complain, that persons who a few years ago protested strongly against all ridicule on sacred subjects, should now keep a jester to write articles in their Review on the Religious State of the Poor, or the follies and sins of the Clergy. We may try to believe that where there is some good-humour there is not much ill-nature. But there are some defenders of the cause who have no wit to compensate for their violence and feebleness. Why is it more shocking to read advertisements in a religious newspaper, about a clergyman who will preach justification by faith alone, for six weeks at the sea-side, than to read letters and leading articles in a fashionable newspaper about the Sacraments? Why is the quack machinery of the age less offensive, when it is employed in support of "Catholic Consent," than when it used to support the principles of the Bible? But when was a party ever able to disclaim those who resort to these weapons? When has it ever been able to prevent them from acquiring supremacy? The talkers in streets and clubs, for all the purposes of a party, must be more important than the men who live in closets, and keep lonely vigils. And what is more sad, the first do exert an influence over the others: there is a pressure from without to which they unconsciously yield; their pure and noble thoughts take a taint from the vulgar men who call themselves by their names, and bedaub them with their flattery; their big manly voices shrink into childish treble; what they uttered truly in a spiritual sense, is translated by those who hear them, possibly even by themselves, into an earthly sense; and by this most natural process, Catholicism passes now, as it did in former days, into Romanism.

That this dreadful calamity may be averted from this generation, should surely, my dear Mr. Archdeacon, be our constant effort and prayer. I do I believe that it will be averted; I do believe that God is preparing some of his servants in the furnace of affliction, that they may be instruments in averting it. Party in both its forms, as opposing Catholicism, and assuming to exalt it, is, I believe, that against which they will have to struggle in themselves, and in the world. If I can do nothing against it, I may at least by these few words stir up others to think whether they must necessarily bind them. selves with its fetters. I do not ask anyone to shake them off by deserting the school to which his education or a feeling of his own necessities has attached him. I believe in that school God has meant him to learn, at all events, his first lesson; and that if he learns that lesson humbly and diligently, all others that are good for him will be taught him. I only protest against that loss of humility and diligence which it seems to me inevitably ensues, when we begin to fancy that we are sent into the world to rob other men of their principles, and not to defend our own. It has been painful to me to write what I have written, because I feel that I am censuring men very far wiser and holier than myself. But it is a comfort to me, that I am writing to one whose kindness will impute my presumption to a right motive, who has an ecclesiastical right to correct me, if I am in error, and whose name carries with it a witness that the spirit of party may be defied, even in a region in which it is usually thought to be omnipotent.

Wishing you, my dear Mr. Archdeacon, all comfort and peace in the belief of that Communion of Saints, from which the names and causes of division are banished,

I remain yours,

With great esteem and affection,


April 22nd.


GILBERT & RIVING'I'ON, Printers, St John's Square, London.

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