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Russia and the English Church
During the Last Fifty Years
containing a correspondence between
Mr. William Palmer, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford
and M. Khomiakoff,

in the years 1844-1854.

Edited by W. J. Birkbeck, M.A., F.S.A.

Published for the Eastern Church Association.

London: Rivington, Percival & Co. 1895
pp 41-54



Mr. Palmer’s Harmony of Anglican and Eastern Doctrine.—Question as to whether the West is still a part of the Catholic Church—Inconsistency of the Eastern Church in this matter—Agreement possible between the English Church upon the question of the Invocation of Saints—Remarks upon various points raised by Mr. Khomiakoff.


MY DEAR SIR,—I am ashamed when I look at the date of your letter to me (August 18, 1845) to reflect that it is now nearly a year ago since I received it. My only apology for not acknowledging and replying to it sooner is this, that my eyes being still weak and unfit for much work, though getting better, and your letter being of considerable length, and deserving, as I felt, a full answer, and my eyes being generally tasked from day to day by business which I could not avoid, I was tempted or forced to procrastination. Besides this, I was employed during all my spare time on a work which is by no means irrelevant to the subject of our correspondence, entitled A Harmony of Anglican Doctrine with the Doctrine of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East. This work is at length finished, and I have requested my friend, Mr. Blackmore, our Chaplain at Cronstadt, for whom I have edited it, to send a parcel containing several copies of it to you in our joint names; ! you will perhaps do me the favour to dispose of the contents of this parcel in the following manner, according as you may find opportunities without putting yourself to any inconvenience. First, there will be a parcel enclosed for the Metropolitan [Philaret] of Moscow, containing six or seven copies, two for himself, one for the library of the Academy, one for the library of the Seminary, one for Mr. Kyriakoff and one for his colleague, Mr. Netzaeff, Professor of the Academy, and last, one for the Bishop Aaron, who I believe reads English. These I have mentioned in a separate letter to the Metropolitan, and I make no doubt he will be ready to take charge of them. Besides these, I must depend upon your kindness to let the following persons of my acquaintance have each a copy with my regards arid remembrances, viz., the Princess Dolgorouky, nee Davidoff, or her aunt, Mme. de Novotsittsova (which will be the same thing), the Countess Potemkin, the younger Princess Meshcher! sky (her mother-in-law also should have one, if she is yet alive), and Professor Redkin. Besides these, you can at any time obtain from Mr. Blackmore other copies for any persons who you may think would like to have them, and upon whom they would not be thrown away. I will only observe further on this subject, that I shall hope in due time to receive your criticisms or reflections upon this work, to which I shall attach great interest; also I may as well anticipate one just animadversion which you might otherwise make, by requesting you to make one correction in the book at p. 158, the seventh line from the bottom: Insert ‘as’ before the words ‘from St. Augustine.’ I am quite aware that the words are not from St. Augustine, but an interpolation; they express, however, very well the Latin doctrine. In the same way I have myself no doubt at all that the Letter of Pope Leo at p. 160 is interpolated, and should never have admitted it, if I had not thought it wo! rth while to draw attention to that part of Le Quien’s Dissertations on St. John Damascene, from which it is taken.

Now to return to your most interesting and valuable letter. I will begin by saying that I am very glad to find that you have avoided almost entirely entering upon any particular Doctrinal discussions, which I quite agree with you in thinking ought to have no place in such a correspondence as ours. On the other hand, all that relates to Christian morality, mutual edification, and to those first principles which common sense and common feeling tell us lie at the very foundation of Catholic or Orthodox Christianity—and about which all ecclesiastical authorities are agreed—all such topics as these may very well and very profitably be treated of even between private individuals. It was in this spirit that I addressed to you my short Poems and Hymns and the Prefatory Letter which accompanied them, and whatever ecclesiastical or doctrinal reflections were to be found in that letter, whether relating to the Anglican Church or to the Eastern, were not meant to involve anyt! hing like discussion, but only to excite good feelings by the application of principles already admitted. In the same spirit, I am happy to find, you have answered me; and in the same I now propose to continue our correspondence.

First then, so far as regards my ‘amicable reproaches’ of the Easterns. You very frankly admit their justice so far as concerns the relations of your Church to heathens, Mohammedans, etc., and thus my whole object is answered if only your confession goes on to practice, and tends in any way to produce a change. But as regards the West, you excuse that want of zeal which you do not deny to exist. I also can find excuses for you, both those that you mention, and one greater than any of these (which you do not mention) and which alone makes them available. And this is the following, viz., that you know in your own consciences—that the Eastern Church herself knows in her own conscience—that yours is only a particular Church, not exclusively the Catholic Church; and that the West, though it may have erred, yet has not vitally arid essentially apostatised from the Faith. On this being allowed, it is very natural and very reasonable that the Eastern Church shou! ld have little zeal or charity to convert the Latins—nay, that she even, as a particular Church, should be deficient in energy towards the heathens. But on any other supposition her present attitude as regards the whole world of those that are without her is wholly inconceivable. You, indeed, like most other members of the Eastern Church, do not see this, and are far from being ready to admit it: you are fully convinced that your Church has exclusively the truth, that the Latin Doctrine on the Procession, taken in its proper sense, is heresy; that we originally made the interpolation (when we ‘felt that we were come to our full youth and could act for ourselves’) in a spirit of immoral pride and lawlessness, and have been ever since kept only by the same evil spirit of pride and disdain from opening our eyes to see that the East alone has preserved the true faith, and from returning to that faith by confession and repentance. Now, in answer to this, I will only ! say that I allow and confess most freely that the West did act in a lawless and immoral manner in making the interpolation; and that this is so far, no doubt, a prejudice against the doctrine itself which was interpolated. Whether the Latin doctrine be in fact a heresy or not, I will not examine now, at least not on theological grounds; for that would be to do the very thing which I have already said neither I nor you ought to do in such a correspondence as the present. But this I will say, that if you think common people, laymen, or even priests, nay, if you think that even learned Bishops and Divines will for ever be content to rest their convictions upon such a point as the Controversy of the Procession upon their own private judgment concerning the intrinsic merits of the question alone—you are, I think, very much mistaken. To illustrate what I mean—the Nestorians, a community of perhaps 100,000 individuals in the mountains of Kurdistan, pretend that they have al! one preserved the true f.aith, and that the Greek and Latin Church has apostatised in a vital point: I say that, under the circumstances of the case, a reasonable man, so far from allowing himself to test the controversy by theological arguments alone, would be only showing his good sense, and his piety, if he utterly refused even to enter upon the question : and this, even if he were competent and learned; and much more should all common and simple people perceive the voice of God Himself in the relative circumstances of the two contending parties. In exactly the same way, I say that the man who (not being bred in the Eastern Communion) could for one moment suppose it possible that the Eastern Church alone was the true, and had alone preserved the true faith, and that the Latin Church had erred fatally and essentially, I say that such a man would seem to me at least to be wanting in common-sense—to be not far short of a madman. Now do not think that this comes of a spiri! t of pride or disdain. I am conscious of no such spirit; and can contemplate without any sense of absurdity the admission that the Anglican Church should have erred even fatally—nay, I even think that the prima facie probability runs that way—and I should be quite ready to deny my own spiritual existence, or that of my particular Church, if I were fully convinced that this was indeed so. Further, I am separated from the Roman or Latin, which is bitterly hostile to us; and in my individual sympathies and convictions on particular points, I greatly prefer the Eastern Church to the Latin, and so would not be likely without cause to give any advantage to the Roman side over the Greek. And yet, I assure you, I could more easily conceive myself to doubt of the very spiritual existence of the Eastern Church on account of her exclusive pretensions viewed together with the general comparative phenomena of the two rival Communions, than I could conceive myself tempted t! o acknowledge her as the sole true Church, on account of any conviction of my private judgment (if I could arrive at such a conviction), that she was right in taxing the Latin Church with essential heresy on the point of the Procession. You have said indeed that you account for such feelings existing in all classes of Protestants as well as in Roman Catholics by the hypothesis that the Protestants are still all Crypto-Papists, either as having inherited the Papal pride and disdain, or else from some other traditionary prejudice which influences them in spite of themselves. About pride and disdain, so far as I myself am concerned, I have spoken already, and will now say further, that though my conscience witnesses to me no such feelings, but rather a very lively interest and zeal for the Eastern Church, and a desire to see her have her due influence on the world and on other Churches, still it is contrary to my principles ever to justify myself when accused, and therefore I wil! l promise you both to seek myself and to try and induce others to cultivate especially the very contrary feelings to that pride and disdain towards the Eastern Church of which you accuse us. This being said, I must go on to give some reasons to show that pride and disdain are not the only motives (even if they exist) which forbid all the Westerns (may I not add, all the separated Easterns too?) to think for one moment that the Greek Church can be the sole true and Catholic Church. The great argument and motive, as I have said above, lies in the general comparative circumstances, history, and attitude of the Greek Church as compared with the Latin, since the division. This you and others bred up within the Greek Church tell me that you cannot see nor understand. Tell me then, can you understand the following 1 I assert that I have never yet met with a single member of the Eastern Church herself, whether layman, priest, or Bishop, who evinced the faintest sign of real conviction! that his own Church was the whole Church. I have never found one who did not, on being pressed, allow the true spiritual existence of the Roman and Latin Church; I have never found one who so much as invited me to conversion from the spontaneous movement of his own faith, far less who used zealous arguments and prayers, as is common even among the poorest and simplest Roman Catholics, to bring all whom they consider wanderers to their Fold. You claim indeed that you should not be judged by your conduct or habits of mind, but only by a candid examination of the point of the Procession, etc.; but you yourself must see that certain habits of mind (as well as certain circumstances) when they are very general or universal, impress a character on the Body, and are no longer mere individual defects. Individual members of the One True Church may be wanting in zeal to teach and convert the nations—but the Body as a whole, and very many of its members, will always and necessarily ! have and show forth, even in the eyes of the world, the spirit of its mission. And if any body, as such, is felt and seen by the world at large not to have such a spirit, this alone, without seeking for other arguments, is a sufficient refutation of its claim to be alone the True Church. Would you not even laugh if a Nestorian, or an Abyssinian, or Armenian, on your remarking that their universal absence of zeal to proselyte the world and the other Apostate Churches (as they consider them) gives the lie to their miserable pretensions—if they, I say, were to answer by excuses and explanations, drawn from the local and other particular circumstances of their history? Such excuses might be true and reasonable enough for heretical or schismatical Bodies, or even for particular Churches which are not heretical or schismatical, but being only parts are not bound to exhibit all the necessary marks and notes of the whole: but such excuses, joined with exclusi! ve pretensions to be the whole, only make the error more apparent, and the madness, because unconscious, the more pitiable. You must not judge us by the conduct or habits of our individual members, says the Nestorian: you must think only of the point of theology. You must not demand impossibilities. You see how we have been hemmed up in the mountains of Kurdistan; how we are poor and oppressed, only 70,000 or 100,000 souls: how the sword of the Turk and the Persian is ever hanging over our heads: how we are without learning, without means of communication, in all respects at a disadvantage when compared with those Greeks and Latins whom we rightly call heretics, and whom we are bound by our principles to wish to see converted; though circumstanced as we mutually are, we cannot pretend to act upon them; our only hope is that they may act upon themselves, and of themselves return to the truth which now we alone hold. Now this is, I know, a caricature; because the argument is exa! ggerated; but still it is the very same argument as is used in defence of the Greek Church. Who is there that does not see that it is at once and of itself an absurdity to suppose that the One True Church could ever come to be so circumstanced? Even if the Nestorians were alone in the world, and no other Christian communities to confront them, it would seem that Christianity has been a failure, that the promises had come to nought, if the true Church had ever come to such a state—or indeed if she had ever come to want any of her essential marks. But when there is, side by side with that Body, which pretends to be alone the true Church, and yet is wanting in some essential characteristic, another greater Body in full possession of that which the first wants, it is no longer merely the defect of the one which proves that it is not what it pretends, but also the comparative contrast presented by the other. Now the Latin Church presents not one only, but many and notable poin! ts of such superiority, when contrasted with the Eastern. Her own children, in common with all other Christians, disbelieve her exclusive claims; even when they most try to do otherwise, they still in some way or other show this. You will be surprised perhaps when I say that I can find this disbelief even in your own letter. ‘What can we do in the West?’ you ask, etc., etc. ‘The only way left to us is to wait with anxious expectation for the result of the struggle which is going on everywhere, and to express our sympathy by prayers to God that He may give victory to the better part of—what? Of the nominally Christian world? i.e. to the true Church and her representatives, for they are ‘the better part’ of nominal Christianity? no—‘to the better part of human Nature.’ Far different from this must ever be the language and feeling of the one true Church and her members, no matter how numerous, how great, how powerful, how learne! d, the Nation’s Bishops or Churches, heretical or schismatical, with which she may have to contend. This sentence alone, from you, even when you are most inclined to Orientalise, is a confession that you are either a nullity, or at best only a particular Church. How different is the language and attitude of Rome—of Rome, do I say? nay, even of the simplest and poorest old woman among the Papists, of such, that is, as have any piety. But it is not enough that there should be this contrast, and that its force should be added to the common sense and conscience of all Christians, your own Easterns included. In the very public acts and documents of the Eastern Church these have ever been used, and are still the most abundant avowals of her own inconsistency. I need only refer you to p. 161 of the volume which I have now sent you, and to the two following pages under the heads V., VI., VII, VIII., IX., X., XL.: from which it is clear, that the Eastern Church has all along ! been willing to drop the whole question of the sense of the Latin Doctrine on the Procession, and to leave the Latins in full possession of their own opinion, and to communicate with them, if only they would consent to restore the Creed in its canonical form. But if the Latin Doctrine were really intrinsically and necessarily a heresy subverting the true Faith, is it not blasphemy and absurdity even to suggest or think for a moment, that the True Church could communicate with its professors without exacting from them a full and unequivocal retractation and denial? Can you conceive Athanasius, even when all the world (and perhaps the Pope too) were against him, offering to communicate with the Arians or Semi-Arians, provided that they would only abstain from interpolating their heresy into the Creed? You cannot even imagine anything of the sort: nor can you conceive it possible that the True Church should at many different times, and often for many years together, have communic! ated with vast Bodies publicly professing Nestorianism or Eutychianism, and even adding it to their own particular Creed; certainly never retracting or condemning it. And yet this is what you well know, and all the world knows, the Eastern Church has repeatedly done with the so called Heretical Latin Church. Surely it is the greatest of all unrealities to persevere in this untenable and inconsistent language. You must see—you must feel—that whatever vehemence of language may have been used, even by Synods, against the Latin Church, such language must be modified and corrected, so as to make the Eastern Church consistent with herself. This, you may say, is difficult. I know it is so. It is difficult to correct any bad habit, or excessive feeling, even in an individual character, however inconsistent it may be with other parts of the same character; much more certainly must it be difficult to correct so deep-rooted a fault in such a Body as the Eastern Church. Still, i! t seems to me, it cannot remain for ever as it is: you must change eventually, either in one way or the other. You must eventually either say: ‘We have done wrong in so often communicating or offering to communicate with the heretical Latin Church without ever insisting upon an essential abjuration; we have done wrong, too, in showing so little faith in our own oecumenicity and consequent superiority, and so little energy or zeal for the conversion of the Latins; but now we will change, and attempt for the future to behave as becomes our exclusive pretensions.’ Either you must say this, or else you must say: ‘We have done wrong and inconsistently in pretending so long to be the whole, when we have not the necessary attributes of the whole, and know very well that we are only a part: we have done wrong in calling the Latins heretics, and their doctrine Heresy, when we knew all the time that they were not, strictly speaking, heretics, and that if they corrected th! emselves in a point of form, we might communicate with them freely: for the future we will do so no longer: we confess that the Latin Church is a living part of the same Universal Church with ourselves; that it has preserved the same faith essentially with our own. We accuse it indeed of certain acts of lawlessness and even perhaps of certain secondary errors in doctrine or ritual; we refuse to communicate with it till it returns to obedience to the Oecumenical law: we support by our authority and recognition all those Churches and Christians in the West, who contend for such a return; but we do not, as before, pretend that either they or the Churches to which they belong have ever so fallen away from the Faith itself as to need reconversion or reconciliation.’ This, in my opinion, is the alternative before you. Which of the two lines of conduct you adopt in the first instance matters, I think, but little: I care not which you think right and which you think wrong, provid! ed you only are serious and zealous enough to do either the one or the other. The only thing which I do really dread for you is the continuance of the present apparent insensibility and inaction. If you seem dead, you may be sure that you will exercise no influence upon us: we shall look more and more to Rome, which is evidently active and alive. If, on the contrary, you show signs of life, signs, I mean, of a returning sense of duties (of some kind or other) due to the whole Church, to the whole world, then we shall at any rate begin to feel an interest in you—we shall respect you, even though your energies seem to be directed against us. And you yourselves, even if you attempted to be Oecumenical (which seems to me impracticable) would yet assuredly be led on by the very effort to see your error, and correct yourselves if you were attempting an impossibility.

There remains only one other point in your letter on which I will say a few words: that is on the subject of addresses or Invocations to Saints and Angels. I agree with you that Anglicans as well as the Protestants generally are held in bondage on very many points by their habit of seeing all things through Roman phraseology and scholasticism, or rather through their own mistaken ideas of both these. I also agree with you in what you say of the word ‘service,’ and of ‘very earnest requests’; but in going into this question to the extent you have done, I think you must have failed to notice, that I had expressed beforehand, by implication at least, my agreement with you on the whole subject: my remarks tended to show that the Anglican Church certainly admits all that is necessary in this matter for unity. It is true that the opinion held by many Anglicans against ’serious addresses’ to Saints or Angels would be intolerable, if imposed by them up! on others; but as a private opinion they might hold it without breach of unity themselves. Neither the Latin nor the Greek Church has decided anything formally on this point: and the Eastern Patriarchs in particular distinctly offered their Communion to certain British Bishops in the last century, even though these latter should, through a mistaken caution, refuse to admit any direct addresses to Saints or Angels at all. See p. 174 of the book I have sent you. But as we are fully agreed upon this subject, I need say no more upon it.

In conclusion, I have one or two desultory remarks to make. (1) The passage from St. Augustine with ‘principaliter’ is not St. Augustine, but an interpolation, as Zernikoff has shown. It is the same as that which I have already referred to in a former part of this letter, as requiring correction in the book that I have sent you. (2) Theodoret never argued at all against the Latin doctrine of the Procession from the Father and the Son, but against a very different doctrine of a procession from the Son alone, either absolutely or (by delegation) intermediately. This also you will find acknowledged by Zernikoff in his great work. At the same time I fully acknowledge that Theodoret clearly shows that he knew not nor received either the language or the idea of the modern Latins. (3) I quite agree that M. Jager’s hypothesis is unworthy of notice. (4) What are the precise facts relating to the origin of the Inquisition which you allude to? Roman Catholic writ! ers do not ascribe to it anything like the antiquity which you do; nor do I remember anything which can fairly be identified with the Inquisition at that early period to which you refer. (5) I do not myself feel at all sure that the Symbol was really interpolated in Spain so early as you allow, i.e. in the middle of the seventh or end of the sixth century. However, this is generally affirmed. (6) Also Zernikoff and others have shown that it was by no means allowed as a matter of course, even in the West, at the beginning of the ninth century. (7) You will see from the book I send you, that I fully admit that the interpolation ought to be taken out of the Creed. I will say more; I fully admit that the Eastern phraseology is that of the Primitive and Universal Church, and, when rightly understood, and taken altogether, is fully sufficient for faith and piety. The Latin language can claim no more than to be a variety in the expression without difference of sense. (See p. 1! 56 (sic), 159, and 156 (sic) of the volume.) (8) Lastly, I must express my entire concurrence in your excellent remarks upon an error very common among Anglicans as well as Protestants generally: viz., that of supposing that not only every particular Church can run into partial errors without ceasing to belong to Catholicity, but that the whole of the Catholic Church can likewise be obscured by temporary errors, either the same in every part or different in the different communities, so that truth is to be distilled out of the corrupt mass by private reason following the rule Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. This is certainly a very common notion and a very false one—indeed heretical: that is, if the errors spoken of be supposed to be essential, whether in doctrine or practice. Otherwise, if you distinctly draw the line, and declare that you mean only secondary errors or abuses which do not subvert the faith, or amount to heresy; in this limited se! nse I cannot deny but that particular Churches, or even the whole Church, may at times be more or less infected with such abuses and errors; although, even so, piety will ever shrink from supposing any the least error or abuse to be prevalent even in a particular Church, without being absolutely forced to see that it is so. Thus, in the Roman Communion the sale of Indulgences—and thus, in your own Russian Church the uncanonical rebaptizing of Christians already baptized, was for many years prevalent, and even sanctioned by local Canons. Thus, for a time even great heresies (as Arianism) have infected the whole Church and seemed on the point of arriving at dominancy—for even this also is possible, so long as you do not suppose heresy to be established and taught by the public law of the Church; for that would indeed be inconsistent with Christ’s promise. (9) A ‘Reformed’ Church (if the word ‘reformed’ be understood of any essential point of fa! ith), must certainly be heretical.

I hope you will make my best remembrances to Professor Iletkin. I saw the other day at Paris a friend of yours, M. Moukhanoff. I was very much obliged for the books sent me through Mr. Williams, and exceedingly sorry to hear of the death of Mr. Voronieff.—Pray believe me to be always, my dear Sir, yours most sincerely,


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