Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey
by Henry Parry Liddon, D.D.
London: Longmans, 1894
Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
ENGAGEMENT TO MISS BARKER--REVISION OF THE–
AUTHORIZED VERSION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT --
ILLNESS -- CORRESPONDENCE WITH MISS BARKER.
'And onward still our earnest eyes were bent
To know and see the issue crowning all,--
The unravelling scene of long-drawn wonderment,
Of fights and restless travels long in thrall ;--
Unconscious bodings of the soul
Which eagerly thus pored upon the opening scroll.'
WILLIAMS, Baptistery ('The Christian Warrior').
PUSEY returned from Germany to find that his eldest sister, Miss Elizabeth Bouverie Pusey, had become engaged to the Rev. J. H. M. Luxmoore, a son of the Bishop of St. Asaph, and one of his own contemporaries at Eton. He was delighted, especially on his sister's account. 'Daily intercourse,' he wrote, 'with one so pious and rightminded as Luxmoore must be a means of improvement to any one. The wedding was celebrated at Pusey on October 24, 1827.
This wedding proved to be the herald of another. For nine years Pusey had cherished an affection which seemed likely to bring him only a lifelong disappointment. His own parents and Miss Barker's were opposed to it: Mr. Raymond Barker had been asked, and had declined, to sanction it. In January 1827, while Pusey was at Bonn, his brother had written him word that the refusal of his own parents to encourage his wishes was not necessarily final. 'I scarcely read the sentence,' he afterwards wrote, 'a second time. I passed it by as opening a painful vision--of bliss which might have been.' A kind message--probably from Mrs. Barker--which greeted him on his return from Germany, was equally unheeded. But the death of Mr. Raymond Barker in 1827 had modified the situation; and when it seemed possible that Miss Barker might form another engagement which, in the judgment of those who best knew her, did not seem likely to ensure her happiness, she was led, through the influence of a devoted cousin, to turn her thoughts towards Edward Pusey. They met at Cheltenham, where Mrs. Barker was staying, in the last days of September, 1827. The scene, which was to him as 'the melting of the ice after a Northern winter,' remained to the last fresh in his memory. Not many years before his death his daughter was paying a visit at Fairford Park, and, when taking leave, she asked for some flower which she might take back to her father. Her cousin, Mr. Raymond Barker, gave her a pot of lemon-scented verbena. On seeing it Dr. Pusey burst into tears; 'when I asked your mother to marry me,' he explained, 'I offered her a sprig of verbena, and I always associate it with her.'
The engagement was at first kept almost as a secret. But as the news became known, congratulations from Edward Pusey's friends who had known or guessed the secret of his life came in one by one. Among these a message from Berlin, through Jelf may be quoted, as illus–trating that kindly sympathy with all those whom they ever meet in life, which is an hereditary characteristic of our Royal Family: --
R. W. JELF TO E. B. P.
Berlin, Nov. 1827.
·I am desired by their RR. HH. to offer you their sincerest congratulations, as well as their best thanks for having confided to them so interesting a secret. You have their warmest wishes for your happiness. Prince George, too, was extremely flattered with your confidence in his being old enough to keep a secret; I am glad to say be has that power, and I felt no hesitation in intrusting him with yours, which he heard with the greatest pleasure. He desires me to give his best congratulations to [his] old friend Pusey.
It seemed likely that the wedding would be long delayed. Pusey was dependent on his father for the means of marrying. Marriage would forfeit his fellowship; and the handsome allowance which Mr. Pusey still paid regularly to his second son would not enable him to settle comfortably as a married man. Mrs. Barker was naturally anxious that her daughter should be adequately pro–vided for: and Mr. Pusey was still fully occupied with the arrangements for his eldest daughter's wedding. Edward Pusey thought it better not to raise questions which his father might be unwilling to entertain; and he returned from Pusey to his rooms in Oriel for a period of which he did not clearly foresee any termination.
Almost immediately on his second return from Germany, Pusey had taken in hand a task which, like the projected refutation of Dupuis, illustrates his passion for hard work and the enterprising character of his conceptions. He proposed to himself, alone and unaided, to revise the authorized translation of the Old Testament. His studies in Germany had satisfied him that the English Version was in many respects defective; and, on his mentioning the project to Bishop Lloyd, he received the warmest encouragement.
'It. does seem,' he wrote four months after beginning his task, 'a portentous undertaking. I read the other day that in forming our translation of the Old Testament about twenty persons were employed in three corps, for, I believe, nine years. It would be frightful enough; but that I am standing, as it were, on their shoulders, and with more implements at my command.'
He naturally communicated his plans to Jelf, who dis–cussed them with enthusiasm, not unmingled with some amusement, and common-sense advice: --
R. W. JELF TO E. B. P.
Berlin, Sept. 26, 1827.
What an extraordinary man you are! That Lloyd should have advised and you should have undertaken a new translation of the Scriptures is nothing wonderful. For I believe that, young as you are, few persons in England are so well qualified for the task as you. But that you should have already accomplished so much is to my slow mind incomprehensible. Your mind is certainly macadamized; mine resembles the road between this and Strelitz. . . . All I entreat is that however quick in preparing, you will be slow in publishing that which is of such vital importance. 'Emissum semel volat irrevocabile verbum' is an awful truth when applied to religious works--' No–numque prematur in annum.'
Soon after his engagement to Miss Barker, at the end of October, Pusey's health entirely broke down. He was ordered to leave Oxford, and to spend some time at Brighton. He went for a fortnight; but in the event his visit lasted for four months, during which time he was under the medical care of Sir Matthew Tierney. It does not appear that either his engagement or the subsequent collapse of his health had the effect of inter–rupting for more than a few days the work on which his heart was set.
When he reached Brighton Miss Barker remonstrated with him for not allowing her to share the interests of his occupation. She could not complain of his way of atoning for the omission.
E. B. P. TO MISS BARKER.
Nov. 28, 1827.
My object is, not a new translation, but, retaining the old as far as possible, to correct it, wherever it appears to me to have mistaken the original, or wherever, from alteration of our own language or from inadequate expression in it, it has left the meaning obscure. I purpose not to extend the notes further than the support of my alterations, using for this purpose all the aids which I can find for the better understanding of the Old Testament, and contributing what I can myself from any knowledge of the Eastern languages allied to Hebrew; and it is one motive for wishing to make Oxford our residence that there alone I can have access to books which I do not, or cannot, myself possess, and have intercourse with one or two men whom I can consult when in doubt. There is there also a valuable MS. of an Arabic commentator (i.e. a learned Jew who wrote in Arabic) which I may one day publish, and which I wish to employ. There is another in Syriac, which, on a better acquaintance with the language, I may also use. These never stir out of the walls of the Bodleian. The work goes on now as slowly as you could wish, but I hope effectually, and those who have seen parts of it are sanguine that much good will be done by it. I have at present done little finally: I began it soon after my return from Germany. Job and the Psalms I have corrected in a small Bible, but not having then fully arranged my plan, and so written no notes on these, they must be done over again, and probably not once only. The first nine of the Minor Prophets I have done with some notes and cleared much to myself, but am still doubtful about several points, particularly in Hosea, and must enlarge the notes. More fully have I gone through the first forty-two chapters (the hardest part) of Isaiah: and here I expect to have little to alter, though probably all my notes will be enlarged on revisal. This looks like Sisyphus' stone or Penelope's web; but as it is in fact an under–taking on which not my reputation only (about which I should not care) but the great question whether the received version of the Scrip–tures should not be revised, and be not capable of much additional clearness, will be probably much affected, every step must be taken with the utmost caution. There are many who dread all change, many who idolize our present translation, many who think a new translation will unsettle men's minds, many who in their principles of translation differ from mine; and I must therefore,--both to secure against these, and actually to avoid unsettling the minds of plain and honest Christians, which might be disturbed by versions unneces–sarily conflicting,--do everything in my power to make my corrections as little vulnerable as possible: and having done so honestly, to the best of my power, I shall be unconcerned whatever censures I may meet with, trusting that, upon the whole, I shall have been the instru–ment of making this portion of God's Word clearer. And though the most blessed work is to apply God's Word to the salvation of others, blessed it still is to be able to render that Word more intelligible for their use; and with this hope I am satisfied with the plan which I have chosen. Though all consider it incompatible with the active duties of a parish priest, I have mentioned the plan to no one who has not wished me 'God speed,' and expressed joy at the result we hope for. This is my first plan, and I trust that the sacrifice of income which it alone would in the first instance require, and the residence at Oxford, and the occupation of more of my time than might have been required by the mere duties of a parish priest, will not affect your comfort. Other theological plans you shall know hereafter, but I have not now space. Should you even now in reading any Eastern travels, or otherwise, meet with any illustrations of customs, &c., mentioned in the Old Testament, you would render me a service by noting down the book or page where they occur, but I do not wish anything to be read on purpose. Hereafter I shall be exorbitant enough to ask you to undertake no little trouble, in judging what is not sufficiently clear (for to the author himself everything is so), perhaps occasional transcribing, even in aiding to correct the press (which a writer never does so well for himself as another), reading to furnish illustrations (I hardly dare add &c., &c., but I need not say that I will never ask anything which you find irksome). Such are some of the fearful consequences of con–senting to share the lot of a student: but portentous as the prospect is, as I dare not contemplate the time when I hope the undertaking will be completed, you need at present be thunderstruck at nothing but my boldness in avowing the labour, to which I have the audacity to ask you to submit.
In January, 1828, he describes his work and intentions at a somewhat more advanced stage:--
'I have so far changed my plan about my employment that I intend, God willing, to publish, in the first instance, the Psalms, Job, Proverbs [Ecclesiastes], and the Song of Songs, separately. And having there–fore finished Isaiah, I have broken off in Jeremiah, finding a more detached employment suits me better, and have begun my notes on the Psalms. These I hope to finish in February. Two months more would finish Job; and then, whenever two months more might come, they would complete so much of the undertaking, and I should be willing to commit my bark to the winds and waves.... Of the more difficult books of the Bible, Ezekiel and Zechariah will alone remain un–touched.'
He started this new plan with the Book of Job, thinking that his fresh knowledge of Arabic would enable him to decide the question of the age of the book on philological grounds. His corrections, which are numerous and minute, are given in a small Bible, which still exists. Thence he went on to the Psalms, which also are corrected throughout. The corrections of and explanatory notes upon the first nine Minor Prophets, referred to in his letter to Miss Barker, are given in a larger and interleaved Bible; and it also contains his labours on the first fifty-two chapters of Isaiah. This is by far the most elaborate part of the work which remains; and it bears traces here and there of having been retouched at a later date. Besides these are some few corrections of Jeremiah, Ecclesiastes, and the first chapter of the Proverbs, and, finally, the notes upon the Psalms.
But while engaged in these preliminary labours, his thoughts returned to an undertaking he had previously planned of a criticism on Mr. Rose's book on German Theology. This work he felt to be more urgent, and therefore set himself to write what he hoped would be a short Essay on the Causes of Unbelief in Germany. 'The Psalms,' he wrote, 'are for the time laid aside.' So far as this effort was concerned they were, as events proved, laid aside for good.' His first book on Germany, his ordina–tion, his wedding, and the tour which followed, successively delayed the resumption of his task, until he found himself nine months afterwards, nominated to the Hebrew Chair, with many new and exacting duties thrown on his hands, and, above all, that of carrying on Dr. Nicoll's 'Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts.' This last work was not completed until 1835, and by that time Pusey had learnt sincerely to distrust some of the principles which he had taken for granted when he began his revised and annotated trans–lation. Of these principles,--besides too easy a deference to the authority of modern expositors,--the most important was concerned with the value of the cognate dialects as aids to the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. In common with older scholars, and it would seem with some more recent critics (who, however, apparently consider that they are employing a method previously undiscovered), he had taken it for granted that when the sense of a Hebrew word was obscure or doubtful, it might be explained with–out difficulty by reference to the use of the corresponding derivative of a common root in some other Semitic language. The insecurity of such a method, as Pusey used to say in later years, might be estimated if the meaning of a modern word in French were to be at once determined by that which it bears in modern Spanish or Italian. Words of common origin have, in fact, widely differing histories: they gather new associations in their different paths; and the importance of the Semitic dialects for Hebrew inter–pretation, naturally perhaps exaggerated by the great scholars who first studied them thoroughly, has been in later years, at least by the more discriminating students, far more accurately and less highly estimated.
But behind this consideration there was, as time went on, another. The question what the Universal Church might have to say about the meaning of the Book of which it is 'the witness and keeper' would have appeared to Pusey much more pressing and important in 1835 than it did in 1827. However this may be, it is certain that before many years were over he only looked at his early work to feel regret and pain at it. He only did not burn the volumes which contained it, because they also contained the sacred text, 'disfigured,' as he said, 'by my mistakes.' In the little Bible already referred to we may still read the note in his handwriting:--
'The alterations in this book were made in 1827, and I should not now adhere, perhaps, to most of them. Nov. 1839.'
And in the will which he made on Nov. 19, 1875, he expresses his desire that his executors should not publish:--
'any of my earlier corrections of the English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, or notes thereon, seeing that in maturer years I saw reason to withdraw many alterations which I made when young.'
This mature and deliberate expression of his mind will account for the absence of any further history of these, his earliest labours in the field of sacred criticism.
Yet whatever his occupations subsequently, Pusey at this time, as previously and all through his life, was busy with efforts to restore or re-establish those who were in danger of making shipwreck of their faith. For instance, in the autumn of 1827 he was again engaged in a correspon–dence with a person who had rejected Christianity, but who appears to have been powerfully influenced by him. This description might apply to his fellow-student at Bonn, Herr Boisen; but in that case his influence was chiefly moral and spiritual. In this it was also moral, but mainly intellectual.
'Your account,' writes Jelf, 'of the awakened state of the person who had been an unbeliever is indeed most deeply interesting and spirit-stirring. . . . The desire to believe has been through your means, under God's blessing, awakened.... You have been the means of restoring the appetite to a convalescent, if not to a healthy, state, and you must go on to stimulate and to satisfy the cravings of spiritual hunger. One reflection forces itself on my mind.... You have once been disappointed in your efforts to reclaim an unbeliever; I know that the disappointment sank deep into your mind. But see the result of the exertions which you then thought useless.... You were led to study the evidences ... and the labour was not lost.'
Referring to this person, Pusey writes, two months later:--
'I have a host of letters to write; among them one long and important one to an improving unbeliever.'
On hearing of his son's engagement to Miss Barker, Mr. Pusey had taken it for granted that the marriage would be delayed for two years. By that time Edward Pusey would have been ordained, and might have been presented to a living, whether by his family, or by Oriel College, or by the Bishop of Oxford. But Pusey, in agree–ment with Bishop Lloyd's advice, was convinced that it was his duty to remain in Oxford as a student. Consequently the possibility of a speedy marriage seemed very distant.
But relief came from an unexpected quarter. As has been said, Pusey's health had broken down, and he was ordered to Brighton. His father paid him a visit early in December, and Sir Matthew Tierney's report would not have been without its effect. 'My father,' he wrote to Miss Barker on Dec. 3,
'who is now here, induced by my state of health (though not at all alarming), has fully consented to my happiness being completed with–out waiting for additional professional income, as soon after the restora–tion of my health as your mother and yourself approve.'
Edward Pusey's bad health did not yield to treatment so soon as was expected. His violent headaches continued at intervals; and the date of his return from Brighton was again and again postponed. In January, 1828, he paid a week's visit to his father's house in Grosvenor Square, but he was again ordered back. At last it seemed that the prospect was improving: he left Brighton on March 18th, and went to London by way of Dover. The wedding was to take place on Thursday, April 17th, in the second week after Easter.
The lengthy correspondence with Miss Barker during their engagement is from many points of view extremely interesting. She became for the time a depository of his theological confidences; and indeed no other source of information exists which tells us so much about his mind as a young man.
Miss Barker, with her mother, had been residing for some time at Cheltenham, where the Rev. F. Close, afterwards Dean of Carlisle, was then beginning to exert considerable influence as a popular preacher. A leading feature of Mr. Close's teaching was the importance he attached, or was understood to attach, to feeling. Miss Barker appears to have spoken of the subject at some length with Edward Pusey; and his first letter to her enters into the question very fully:--
'I have taken an opportunity of talking over with my friend Luxmoore, who is a thoroughly practical and excellent Christian, without prejudice, several of the subjects of Mr. Close's sermons, which we together dis–cussed.... He thoroughly agrees with me, that the employing the feelings as a criterion of religion is mischievous, because delusive; unduly elating to some, distractingly depressing to others; that a deep repentance is perfectly distinct from a painful or distressing one; that the only repentance which one has a right to preach or induce others to look for is that which is defined by our Church with a beautiful moderation, "a repentance whereby we forsake sinä; and that whereas some minds are so constituted, or influenced by education, as to have predominantly the hatefulness of sin before their eyes, others contemplate principally the mercies of God in His pardon of it, and, filled with heaven-given joy at the glorious prospect of acceptance with God through Christ, though they equally strain to avoid sin, cannot equally dwell upon it, or be equally pained by it.'
Mr. Close's sermons appear to have led Miss Barker to discuss religious difficulties with Edward Pusey in a manner which shows that at an early age she must have thought and read much on such subjects. She was per–plexed by apparent contradictions in the Bible. Pusey replied that there were no contradictions in essentials to be found in Scripture; but he thought that some contradic–tions might exist in Scripture 'without diminishing from its sacredness, inspiration, authority, or credibility.'
'They, in fact, amount, if real (and probably in England they would not be generally admitted to exist), to slight differences in parts of narrations in the Gospels, which no way affect the truth of the history itself; and in which I suppose (the object of the Holy Spirit being to preserve us such a record as might serve as a foundation for our faith and means of edification, not to inform us of all the incidental minutiae of our Saviour's life, whether e. g. one or two blind men were on a certain occasion cured, whether in going in or out of the city, whether one or two angels were seen at the Holy Sepulchre) the author was left, as we 'see in matters of style he was left, to himself.'
As to supposed contradictions in respect of matters of fact in Holy Scripture, Pusey would probably have ex–pressed himself in later years with greater reservations: but he does not allow Miss Barker to forget the value of the practical and devotional study of Scripture.
'You will find in your daily reading of the Bible, that the use of the marginal references will both facilitate it, and make it more satisfactory.... The sole object of Scripture being to provide what is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we may be perfected, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,"all that is necessary (not indeed for a teacher, but for a learner) is willing study with a teachable heart.'
His correspondent had felt the religious perplexity which is occasioned to so many minds by the divided state of Christendom, by the divisions which separate Christian bodies, and even members of the same body from each other. Pusey replies:--
'The fact is not borne out, that in essentials (not what I or Mr. Close might deem essentials, but what Holy Scripture represents as such) there is such disagreement.'
At this time indeed Pusey does not seem to have con–sidered that there was any difficulty whatever in tracing a line round the so-termed 'essentials' of Christianity.
Modern differences, again, in faith and opinion suggested those which were supposed to have existed in Apostolic times. Answering a question as to the doctrinal contrast between the Epistles and the Gospels which was then often insisted on, Pusey's reply showed incidentally how warmly he repudiated the well-known thesis of Lessing that Christ was only the Teacher and not the Object of His religion. Pusey insists that apparent differences are not discordances; that
'Revelation was, and must be, progressive. There were many things, Christ told His disciples, which they then could not bear; it was when the Spirit of Truth came that they were to be guided into all truth. Christ, as if to show that His teaching was not the main object of His coming into the world,--that' He came to be the Object of a revelation, not merely to make one, --condescended, as a Teacher, to be Himself only a preparatory Instructor. In particular, it seems that everything which related to his own Person and Office could only be obscurely hinted at while He was yet with us; that man could not have endured to know with full certainty that God was actually visibly Present with him; that the Atonement could not be entirely (partly it was; see e. g. John i. 29) preached while the Blood, which was to procure it, was not yet shed; that faith consequently in that Blood could not in its full extent be insisted upon, or at least not to all (that it was occasionally see e.g. John vi. 5 i).'
Mr. Close had been preaching against worldly society and its dangers, in the style common among the Evan–gelicals of fifty years ago. Pusey, in his criticisms, though not exactly expressing his later thoughts, still makes some discriminating observations not unworthy of his maturer moral theology:--
'It seems to me a main and very extensive error in the school to which he belongs, to forget the extent of the natural varieties of con–formation of the human mind, and to suppose that the object of Christianity is rather to produce one uniform result, than to modify, chasten, exalt, sanctify, the peculiar character of each. Though I should agree with them, that few things were to any individual in–different, yet I must think that there is a large class of actions which are indifferent to any but particular individuals--I mean, whose noxious character, if they have any, depends entirely on the moral constitution with which they meet. In the moral as well as natural frame, what is healthful and nutritious to one person may be deadly poison to another: one e. g. society may only unbend, soften, humanize, and fit better for the discharge of his other duties; another it may enervate, dissipate, distract ;--one the absence of society may tend to render morose and discontented ; another, "never less alone than when alone,"it may lead up to the unseen Being Who is ever around our paths. Or, in things of a more decided character, the love of a child may render one parent only more grateful to God, more anxious for his own spiritual improvement; another it may make worldly, and alienate him from God: or, in our former illustration, one may be calculated actively to improve society by his intercourse with it; another may be never seen to less advantage than in it. Now the obvious rule in these cases seems to be to avoid what injures, and select what advances one s own mind; or, according to the analogy of St. Paul's rule, "Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that observeth the day, observeth it to the Lord; and he that observeth not the day, to the Lord he observeth it not. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."(Rom. xiv. 5.) The chapter. is full of good social principles. But men, instead of stopping here, forgetting that what is useful or injurious to themselves may not be so to others, censure others for not adopting the line which has been useful to themselves, and think that because they could not do with impunity what others are doing, neither therefore could these.'
A complaint as to the style of St Paul,--his broken or involved constructions,--drew from Pusey some sentences of great beauty and point, which are, it may be thought, sometimes applicable to his own style also:--
'You may perhaps have observed that it is the very fervour of St. Paul's mind, boiling over with the deep feeling of his subject, which produces these involved sentences. His mind is like an excited ocean, in which wave succeeds and towers over wave, in increasing weight and majesty. It must be the case in all writers of great energy, when full of their subject, that they cannot be content with the mere simple statement, but add continually fresh ideas which express some part of the fullness of their conception.'
Mr. Close had preached on the fewness of the saved, and on the reprobation of the Jews. As to the former question, Pusey calls attention to 'the great multitude, whom no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues' (Rev. vii. 9). Upon the Jews he observes:--
'We know far too little of the human heart to tell how far their blindness is now wilful or no. What they have themselves suffered, and the contempt and mockery which they still undergo from the Gentile Christians, is no very inviting preparation to acknowledge as the Saviour, Who should restore them, Him in Whose name they have been persecuted. They are educated in and to unbelief; and absurd as the expedients seem to us by which they rid themselves of their prophecies,--the double Messiah, the suffering and the victorious, the Son of Ephraim and the Son of Judah, or that God delayed for their wickedness the appearance of the Messiah, Who now lies hid, it is known not where,--absurd as these and a thousand other Talmudical phantasies appear to us, it is absolutely impossible to know how far a Jew, on whose mind they have been early and sedulously impressed, may honestly believe them. I feel confident that very many do: and the state of Christianity among us does not yet sufficiently correspond to the magnificent and holy ideal of the Prophets to give its full force to that most convincing evidence of their prophecies. Not that I think we should be slothful about their conversion--in Germany the blessed work has been richly prospered; but in the meantime they seem to me in the same light as the heathen, and that they will be tried by the degree of the spirituality to which under their dispensation they could attain, not by their acknowledging or non-acknowledging of Christianity.'
As to that practical personal question which at times weighs with all of us, and which Miss Barker raised in her early letters, 'Shall I be saved?' he writes in a letter interesting in itself, and also because of the reference to 'The Christian Year,' which had just made its appearance, and which he refers to as Keble's 'hymns.' 'The hymns,' he says, 'were published solely at his father's wish, to see them before his death. There is so much of Keble's own character impressed upon them that he published them very unwillingly, in filial compliance. He considers, I believe, much in them as an otherwise unjustifiable dis–closure of what should remain known only to his God.' Pusey quotes 'The Christian Year' as if it were already a classic.
'Is it expedient for us that we should know that we shall be saved? What difference would it make in our conduct, in our exertions? Here also I think that, Prudens (in his wisdom) futuri temporis exitum caliginosa nocte premit Deus; the knowledge might add to our ease, but might it not diminish our endeavours after holiness? Is it that God has not given us light enough, or that we are anxious for a flood of it, which mortal eyes might not endure? . .. But you wrote this part of your letter before you read Keble's beautiful hymn; and I think you would now be more inclined to acquiesce in those excellent lines:--
"But He would have us linger still
Upon the verge of good or ill,
That on His guiding Hand unseen
Our undivided hearts may lean,
And this our frail and foundering bark
Glide in the narrow wake of His beloved Ark'ä
But the question recurs at a later date, and his answer is more decided, and in accordance with the spirit of his later treatise 'What is of faith as to Eternal Punishment?'
'There is no human being on whose future misery I would venture to decide, because' there is no human being the strength of whose difficulties, whose proportional employment of the various means of improvement given him, whose entire state of heart, I know. As a preacher, as an expounder of Scripture, I would hold out no hope where Scripture does not give positive grounds for it: the hope would be used only by the careless, and by them abused; but, as a man, I may hope that there are means for the extension of mercy to thousands, whose case, to our limited view, would seem desperate.'
During the whole of his visit to Brighton he was a solitary invalid, under the care of Sir Matthew Tierney, and at times he had to lay aside the occupations which relieved his loneliness. He used to work with his head swathed in damp handkerchiefs; or he sought more com–plete relief by leeches, or, as at Bonn, by cupping. At last his headaches were too painful to be endured: he could work no more. His own experience suggested the advice which he wrote to Miss Barker for the benefit of an invalid sister:--
'Sickness has its duties as well as health, and often the more im–portant ones: our passive duties are often more important, in their performance, yo others; often, if not even generally, more influential informing our own character than our active ones.... Want of occupa–tion is one misery of ill-health; but the occupation of watching and correcting and improving our own hearts for the love of our Saviour, and in order not to bring discredit on His promises, or cause them to be undervalued, is one which will give an interest to seasons of pain which equals any of the active ditties of health in the most active existence. If one compares one's own petty sufferings with His sufferings, one feels ready to sink with shame into the earth for having given them a moment's thought. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah or the history of the Crucifixion is an antidote to the bitterness of any sorrow.'
Another letter shows that Pusey's feelings about society, which after 1839 led him to withdraw from it entirely for the rest of his life, were already shaping themselves.
'In 'Brighton,' he says, 'the tumult of fashion and gaiety, if such there be here, does not reach me: it is, as I said, as illegal here to extend the promenade to my abode, though on the edge of it, as in Cheltenham beyond the turnpikes; and though I have walked on the shingles below the Cliff (where each step in advance is accompanied by one in retreat), to avoid the spleen as well as to enjoy the roar of Ocean as he lashes the shore, I can generally preserve my com–posure. The feeling, however, is rather a mournful one, to see so many human beings apparently wasting their existence and forgetting its object.'
The same feeling was roused more powerfully by London; and the passage which expresses it anticipates many a conversation, and some of. his sermons:--
'It has long been to me a source of melancholy to see under any circumstances a crowded population, more especially where every countenance seems to express intentness on its own earthly object.... It is a morbid feeling, but it makes London, notwithstanding that it contains the mainsprings of religious activity as well as of all that is wretched and sinful, often appear to me like a great lazar-house, which I would willingly visit as a physician, but not as a spectator, much less as a patient.'
Pusey's correspondence with Miss Barker at this period illustrates what he afterwards felt to be a certain imma–turity of mind on subjects, some of which it fell to his lot to press with so much weight and learning on the conscience of the Church of England. He would say of these early days: 'we had no sufficient information, and we were feeling our way.' It will be remembered that he was not yet even a deacon.
Writing about the succession of fast and festival, 'our ancestors were,' he said, 'right in preparing for Easter, as they did, by humiliation and earnest thought. The bright prospect to which the Christian world is elevated by the recurrence of Easter Day was the more exalted and exalting from the previous passage through the gloomy valley of self-abasement.' Lent naturally sug–gested fasting ; and his correspondent was too practical not to wish for definite ideas on the subject. Pusey had written to Miss Barker, deprecating austerities, in the com–monplace generalities of the day; and she wanted some–thing precise and definite that might help her. Pusey was not yet quite equal to the occasion. But he said what he could:--
'My opinions upon fasting not being the result of reading, I can name no book which would support my views, simply because I have read none: I can, however, say that two excellent clergymen, Hawkins and Newman (both of whom, I trust, you will hereafter know, who would not abate one tittle of Christian strictness, and both indeed themselves abstemious), do not go in the least beyond me.'
Miss Barker consulted him on questions of Church history. One long letter to her is a condensed account of the controversies which led to the suppression of Port Royal. Another turned on a question which she had asked him as to what she was to think of her namesake, St. Catharine of Siena. His answer savoured somewhat of the shallow 'common-sense' of the eighteenth century, the traditional language of which he had not yet revised, and was unconsciously repeating. Thirty years later he would have judged it severely.
'Your namesake about whose vision you enquire was probably a half-distracted, visionary, and vision-seeing mystic. How far knavery may have mingled with her fanaticism, or whether she was only em–ployed as an instrument by others, can probably not be decided. She certainly was employed both for political and religious objects both in the schism of the Popes and the contest between the Franciscans and Dominicans about the superhuman birth of the Virgin Mary, in which she was the organ of a revelation in favour of the Dominican.... The vision (for she persuaded herself, it is to be hoped, that she was continually blessed with them) was the betrothing to our Saviour, which she had earnestly requested as a seal that she should never cease to be devoted to Him. She describes her betrothing, and that after the train had vanished, the ring (a costly one) remained on her finger.'
Answering a question as to the possible results of popular education, Pusey already displays the caution which, throughout his life, marked his attitude towards strong enthusiasms when diverted from religious principle.
'I wish I could share in Dr. S.'s exultation at the intellectual im–provement of the lower classes. I fear that it is very disproportionate to their moral and religious advance; that it is much more likely to make them real or practical infidels, as before the distress of the manufacturing districts the prevailing feeling was not merely being indifferent to, but above all religion. And this is one of the phenomena which makes me fear most for our country; and I fear a crisis is approaching (whether it come in the next decade of years or no) in which Christianity will have to struggle for its existence. God's will be done.'
Pusey's letters illustrate also not unfrequently his ardent political sympathies in early life. The unbending Toryism of their father may have had something to do with driving both Mr. Pusey's sons into the ranks of Liberalism. Political questions were kept much before men's minds in 1827 and 1828 by the frequent changes in the Ministry, and a widespread unsettlement in the country. The question of Roman Catholic Emancipation had been an open one in the Cabinet since 1812. The subject was frequently debated in Parliament; Pusey was a most warm supporter of the proposal. Although no measure was before the country in October 1827, Pusey wrote to Miss Barker in the subjoined terms:--
'If I wished to gain a clear view of the Emancipation question I should not allow my mind to dwell on the abstract objection, "that a R. C. must necessarily be a bad legislator for a Protestant country,"or let my mind roll from a vague contemplation of the one set of argu–ments to the other; but setting out on the side on which the general truth lay, i. e. that unless there were any special objection, none should be stigmatized for their religious opinions as unfit to be members of a Legislature, or be excluded from it, first consider all the arguments on this side, and then weigh what might be said against it. It might be that, after all, there might be some which I could not remove; but had I thus acquired a strong conviction that the demand should be granted, these objections would induce me to make allow–ance for those of opposite opinions, but not change or in the least affect the certainty of my convictions.'
The Emancipation question led him to state his ideas at that time on the subject of Roman Catholicism:--
'The Roman Catholics, though they have mingled up superstitions with and adulterated the Faith, have yet retained the foundations. I do not mean to deny the practical idolatry into which they have fallen, or that the "good works"of self-emaciation, hairshirts, flagel–lations, &c., have not had a merit ascribed to them which interfered with the merits of Christ: yet still, whatever they may have added, they did hold that acceptance was through Christ; and as to the mediation of the saints, it was, in theory, only the same as one asking a good man to pray for us. The danger was that it might be practically more, yet so as rather to lead to idolatry, than to an inter–ference with the Atonement. Yet I as well as you doubt not that there have been hundreds of thousands of sincere men among the Roman Catholics, and that every sincere man has been led into that degree of truth which was necessary to salvation; and that there are many . . at whose feet it would be happiness to think that we might sit in the kingdom of heaven. There may be much love where there is little knowledge, and vice versa.'
Similarly Pusey greatly rejoiced over the result of the battle of Navarino, and the immediate prospects of Greek independence.
In the early spring of 1828 Parliament was discussing Lord J. Russell's motion for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. As Miss Barker was in Portman Square she had many opportunities of learning what was going on. 'I do envy you,' Pusey writes from Brighton, 'the earlier knowledge how Lord John Russell's motion against these disgraceful laws, the Test and Corporation Acts, succeeds. According to the paper, it is for next Saturday: so that you may know it two days before me.' Four days after–wards he resumes:--
'I am very anxious about the Test and Corporation Acts. I think them both in their means and end a disgrace and deterrent to religion. They, more than anything else, keep alive the bitterness of party spirit among Christians, agreeing in the same essentials of faith, in England.'
And again, a week later, he expresses his
'extreme joy at the tidings which I heard yesterday of the triumphant majority of 44 against those Ministers, which assures, at least, a modification of this disgraceful and injurious system. Lord John Russell's speech, though not very brilliant, was solid, as his always are. His quotations from bishops of earlier days were very good, particularly Bishop K[en]. There was less timidity then than now. I was glad, too, to see Peel so moderate, and peculiarly glad that our "learned"body had not meddled. That vote, I hope, will .be a new era for us, and that we as well as our ancestors shall trust more in the goodness of our cause than in the might of legislation.'
Once more, on March 5:--
'It rejoices me to hear that the Test Act Repeal will probably be victorious in the House of Lords.... I should be perplexed to see any of the bishops voting for the continuance of the profanation.'
His Liberalism was however always strictly bounded by respect for monarchical institutions--a respect which was by no means a matter of course among Liberals in the days of George IV.
'A Republic is perhaps the very best Utopian government, and were I to make a constitution for that happy country it might perhaps be Republican; but unfortunately, constituted as men are, it is fit for no place beside, any more than to have no government at all. Bishop Wilson's maxim, though ill-timed, was very right (when asked by the late King whether he were not a Republican--you probably know it): 100 tyrants were 100 times as bad as one. The history of Greece convinced me that a Republic was the worst despotism except an Aristocracy, i. e. Oligarchy (and if so in Greece, much more so, you will allow, anywhere else); and the best politicians among the ancients agreed in thinking the most perfect government that which we have, a balance of the three powers. Poor Poland, with one of the finest people in the world, is an eternal warning against elective monarchies. There is no doubt but that, though our constitution might be improved in minor points, something of its kind will be the constitution of the civilized world.'