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Spiritual Letters of Edward Bouverie Pusey

Edited by J.O. Johnston and W.E. Newbolt

transcribed by Walter Hannam
AD 2001

Reading in Preparation for Holy Orders.

I suppose one may take it for granted that any one who comes to ask for a course of theological study is, at least, well acquainted with the letter of Holy Scripture, such as might be acquired through the Daily Lessons, and the frequent reading of Holy Scripture in church. Otherwise, the first step would be a knowledge of the Holy Text itself, and especially a careful study of the Historical Books of the Old Testament. This presumed, the object would be to deepen the knowledge of Holy Scripture, of the substance of the Faith, and of practical wisdom, with some knowledge of the History of the Church.

In this we should begin with the Gospels as the centre; and in this, I suppose, what persons would chiefly need, would be the deeper meaning of the whole, and of the several words as drawn out by the Fathers, rather than mere verbal criticism. It would then, probably, be best to begin to study the Gospels, either with the ‘Catena Aurea’; or each Gospel with some one Father who had commented on it: – St. Matthew with St. Chrysostom and St. Hilary; St. Luke with St. Ambrose; St. John with St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom.

This study would not only bring out the context, and connexion, and meanings of Holy Scripture which people are not in the habit of thinking of, but would, incidentally, bring a person acquainted with a good deal of exposition of other parts of Holy Scripture. It is like reading Holy Scripture with a new sense. St. Ambrose, especially, brings one acquainted with a great deal of Holy Scripture. Besides, in this study of the Gospels, much might be learnt by way of meditating on them.

If the ‘Catena Aurea’; were used, it would probably be best to take two chief Fathers only at first, that a person might not be lost in the manifoldness and fullness of exposition. Other expositions might be reserved until afterwards.

The reading of the Fathers themselves has the advantage of their being a whole, and that their mode of practical teaching, in connexion with the exposition of Holy Scripture, is so learnt.

After, or with this, might be taken the Exposition of the Psalms, by St. Augustine, both as teaching the spiritual meaning of the Psalms (which it does even amid variance of translations, but much more when the translation is the same), the relation of their meaning s to our Lord and His members, and for the great value of its moral teaching.

For a first study of St. Paul, no work would perhaps give such a general view of the scope and connexion of the Epistles as St. Chrysostom. St. Augustine, again, beautifully unfolds St. John’s Epistles.

Together with this, it would be best to take some hard book, which should be the subject of real study, in order to make it your own. Butler’s ‘Analogy’ may be presupposed. Then Hooker, Bk. V, ought to be turned ‘in succum et sanguinem.’ The deep view of the connexion of the Sacraments with the Incarnation is probably hardly to be found elsewhere, save in the Schoolmen. ‘Pearson of the Creed’ should follow, and later ‘St. Athanasius against the Arians,’; with the notes in the Library of the Fathers. There is in these a very important doctrine, upon which people, if not instructed how to think, are continually thinking amiss, and even unconsciously falling into heresy. On the doctrine of Justification should be read Bishop Bull’s ‘Harmonia,’ or Mr. Newman's work

Bishop Bull’s ‘Defensio Fidei Nicenae’ should be taken later, if there is opportunity; and, as a great repertorium on all the questions which have been raised on sacred doctrine, Petavius ‘de Trinitate’ and ‘de Incarnatione.’

For History it might suffice, in this stage, to read Eusebius and Collier’s ‘English History.’ Parts of Bingham’s ‘Christian Antiquities’ might also be read. Eusebius is a very suggestive book as to further questions.

On Moral Subjects, and as to practical teaching, I suppose he could hardly do better than take Bishop Andrewes’ Festival Sermons, on account of his reverent and loving way of dwelling on the Divine Mysteries. Bishop Taylor’s Sermons, ‘Life of Christ,’ ‘Holy Living and Dying,’ for personal practical experience. Newman's Sermons for deep moral and religious truth, and to read himself. Manning’s Sermons for vivid realizing of things unseen, and the end of our being. St. Augustine’s were named, and those on Select Portions of Holy Scripture (Library of the Fathers) might be added to them, as models of clear, affectionate, fatherly teaching. Perhaps on Penitential Subjects might be added the ‘Sermons at St. Saviour’s, Leeds.’ More direct spiritual guides are à Kempis, and the ‘Spiritual Combat, the Way of Eternal Life’; for Devotion one might name Bishop Andrewes, and the ‘Paradise of the Christian Soul.’

In this whole course of study it is best to prevent weariness by combining at least several portions of it. Especially every day should be taken one of the harder books, upon which, for some time, the whole mind should be concentrated, if but for a short time, half an hour or an hour ; and then the main extent of study be given to Holy Scripture, keeping always some time for Practical Reading, and that with a view, primarily, to the person’s own soul.

Begin and end all study with at least a short prayer.

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