Project Canterbury

Alexander Penrose Forbes:

Bishop of Brechin, the Scottish Pusey

by William Perry

London: SPCK, 1939.




IT is not so much the doctrinal standards as the practical systems of Christian bodies which constitute the chief obstacles to Christian unity. There is more in common between the Shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian Church and the Church Catechism of the Anglican than is popularly understood. Presbytery and Episcopacy are not irreconcilable, if both are interpreted by official standards. But the differences between the two appear almost insurmountable in their practical working, in the worship, in the Sacramental observance, and even in the moral and spiritual outlook of the two communions.


Forbes believed that this was especially true of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. The Thirty-nine Articles and the decrees of the Council of Trent had more in common than the average Roman Catholic or Anglican imagined. The English liturgy, reasonably interpreted, was as Catholic a mode of celebrating the Holy Eucharist as the Roman Mass, while the latter, apart from late rubrics and popular devotions, was as free from the doctrine of transubstantiation as the former. At the Reformation the Church of England swung too far to the left on non-essentials, as the Roman Church had gone too far to the right. Forbes knew that Ultramontanism had grown much stronger since his early visits to France and Italy, but there were still moderate men within the Roman communion both in France and Germany, some of them survivors of the old Gallican party, others Ultramontanes of liberal views like Count Montalembert. Forbes, however, under-estimated the power of the new Ultramontanes abroad and of their leader, Archbishop Manning, in England. His brother George, who knew the French Church and its clergy more intimately than the Bishop, was under no illusions as to the change of emphasis which had taken place in French Catholicism since the fifties. A Catholic priest in France had said to him: "These gentlemen [the Ultramontanes] have certainly simplified matters greatly. They have reduced the Creed to a single article 'I believe in the Pope'; the Bible to a single verse, 'Thou art Peter', and duty to a single rule--in every difficulty consult the sacred congregation at Rome and obey it exactly. And really there is not much exaggeration in this."

On October n, 1865, Dr. Pusey went on a tour in France to discover for himself the views of certain French prelates on the question of reunion. A letter to Bishop Forbes, giving an account of this journey, will be found in Liddon's Life of Pusey (II, 114, 115). The first sentence was excitingly hopeful. "The first stone", writes Pusey, "is, I trust, laid on which the two Churches may be again united--when God wills and when human wills obey." But the subsequent account of his meetings with Roman Catholic bishops was very far from justifying his expectations. The letter actually contained little more than a report of sympathy and encouragement from one man; the plain truth came out in the concluding words, "When I spoke of the first stone being laid, I meant the fact that the Archbishop of Paris is so thoroughly interested in it."

Three months later "the dear Doctor" again visited France on a similar journey, and on his return early in 1866 sent an account of his interviews to the Bishop, who wrote, "You have got much more from the Archbishop of Paris than I expected you would get from any Roman Catholic bishop, in view of the terrorism of the Jesuits." Meantime it became known that Pope Pius IX proposed to summon a council to settle the questions of the temporal power and infallibility of the Pope. It was, therefore, necessary for the Bishop to hurry on with his work on the Thirty-nine Articles, if it were to receive attention before the Council met. But in November 1866 he was warned of the danger of spending the winter in Dundee, and early in the following month he left Dundee for the Isle of Wight, taking with him the materials he had collected for his book. He went steadily on with this work, consulting Pusey by letter on many points. On March 29 John Keble died at Bournemouth, on which the following short letter appears, one of the few which have survived the indiscriminate holocaust of letters that took place after the Bishop's death. It is addressed to the Vicar of Ampfield near Romsey, a mutual friend of himself and Keble.


Thank you much for your kind letter. I hope that I shall get an invitation, for considering how Mr. Keble came down to Scotland in my hour of need, I would not be absent at his obsequies.

Therefore, I will gladly accept your kind invitation for Wednesday evening and come to you by the boat that leaves at 4.40 getting to Southampton an hour later, and leaving Southampton at 7.15". I had better, I suppose, make for Chandler's Ford about 7.40 for fear of mistakes. I should like to stay longer with you, but the dear Doctor is sadly cast down and I fancy that I am of some little comfort to him.

The Bishop briefly describes the burial on April 6, 1866:--

My last visit [to Hursley] was to lay him in the grave. This was done amid the tears of hundreds. The sight was so startling, that one of the Oxford Liberals present said, "This is enough to convert a Sadducee."

My friend was laid in his peaceful grave, under the shadow of Richard Cromwell's lime trees, close by the tower of the church. Soon after that grave was opened again to admit all that is mortal of the faithful partner of his joys and sorrows. With her he will rest till the great summons of the resurrection sounds through the sepulchres of the regions; but the work for which he lived--the spread of Catholic truth, the adornment of the sanctuary with the spirit of beauty, the consecration of all that is lovely at the foot of God's altar, the reunion of Christendom, and the moral and dogmatic restoration of the Church of England--lives on and prospers. It has been said, "Man goeth forth to his labour unto the evening": the evening comes and finds the work undone. One only went forth to His work, and finished it.

Here may follow two letters after he returned to Scotland:--

July 4, 1866.


If the Winchester Boys are not yet gone home, my young friend, Master Moor, at Dr. Moberly's, will bring down the precious pen [Keble's], and anything else that you may charge him with. If you will kindly explain to him that it is for me, he will send it to my sister's house in Shandwick Place, Edinburgh.

I hope you will not think me persistent, but I do think that something decided should be done about the Life; letters should be collected, anecdotes called for, documents sought out. Otherwise the tradition soon perishes.

I lost a bit of the ivy I picked in the Church yard of Hursley; next time you are there, please pluck me a little bit that I may put into my Christian Tear. I trust Mrs. Moor is well and all your family.

Edinburgh 1866.


On my arrival here, I found the parcel from Hursley which you have been so kind as to send me. I need not say to you how much I am obliged to you for all the contents. The pen shall go to the place where we keep our treasures in the Diocesan Library, with the leaves from Fairford and Hursley.

I was not aware that Mr. Thomas Keble had sent me the two volumes of Butler. If I knew where he was resident I would write at once to thank him, but as I do not know his direction, will you when you write to him, say what a very great gratification it is to me to possess so characteristic a book from the library of my sainted friend? He was imbued with Butler, and I could not have anything so suggestive of many a long and interesting talk in the forest walks about Hursley.

In the late autumn the Bishop's health again failed. He had within two and a half years been twice seriously ill for over six months; this third attack was fortunately short, and he was able, though still weak, to take his place at St. Paul's on the Sunday after Christmas, preaching and celebrating in the morning and conducting a confirmation in the afternoon. In March proofs of the first volume of the Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles were in his hands, and the Epistle dedicatory to Dr. Pusey was finished early in May. The Epistle is the expression of a friendship between two men as intimate and unbroken as any in history, all the more remarkable in view of the fact that the Bishop was seventeen years younger than Pusey.

My dearest friend [the Epistle begins], there seems a moral fitness, in the permission which you have so kindly accorded to me, that a work, undertaken at your suggestion, and assisted by your learning and counsel in each step of its progress to maturity, should be, with every assurance of the most devoted affection, dedicated to you. This enables me to express, in however inadequate terms, the veneration in which I hold you; and to acknowledge the deep debt of gratitude which I owe you, for the many benefits which you have bestowed upon me, during a friendship which has lasted for more than twenty years, and which has been one of my greatest earthly blessings. To have been trained in your school of thought has been the best discipline for the discharge of the onerous duties of the Episcopate: to have been admitted to your intimacy has been the greatest social and spiritual privilege I could have desired. It is the prerogative of noble and affectionate characters, that they who know them best love them most; and you have the mighty gift of a tender sympathy for those devoted friends from whom you draw forth the sentiments of the most loyal and sincere attachment. Among those friends, there is none that you have distinguished with a more affectionate regard than myself. I can only say that I am deeply grateful.

The Bishop in eloquent language extols the work which Pusey had done for the Church of England by his patristic and theological learning, by his Scripture commentaries, his works and adaptations of devotional works, by "the guiding of individual souls into the higher life", and by the foundation of religious communities.

By all this and more you have earned the gratitude of all true members of the Church of England. Trained and disciplined within her sheltering care, you have acted upon the advice of the oracle in the thoughtful heathen story, and have adorned that Sparta in which the Providence of God has placed you.

The Epistle ends with this statement of the purpose of his work:--

In all that I have written, I have had in view the future reunion of the Church. Recognizing the providential position of the Anglican Church, as stretching forth one hand to the Protestant bodies, and the other to the Latin and Greek Churches, I have tried to do justice to that position, by acknowledging on the one hand the great necessity for a reform in morals and discipline at the time of the separation, and on the other by minimizing the points of dissidence between ourselves and those venerable institutions. It is no longer a question of opinions on either side.

The basis of reunion must be on that which is ruled as de fide, and of this nothing is to be assumed as such, but the contrary of what is published under anathema. This reduces the difficulty, and leaves a wide margin for negociation and explanation. May God in His good time incline men's hearts to this, and let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad, for that the wall of partition is broken down.

That the friendship was no one-sided affair is perhaps best proved by Pusey's moving dedication of an adaptation of Gaume's Manual for Confessors, published two years after the Bishop's death:--

To the Memory of the Right Reverend Alexander Penrose Forbes, Bishop of Brechin, this work is inscribed, begun amid his loving co-operation, closed when God had withdrawn the gift which He had bestowed, while it seemed Him good, upon the Church and those who loved him because they knew him.

It was one thing in the study to see the gap between the Roman and Anglican Churches; it was a very different thing to secure even a hearing from the authorities in Rome, now that the Jesuits were in the ascendancy. But Döllinger was hopeful, and on August 15 the Bishop wrote to Mr. Gladstone:--

Dundee, August 18th, 1867.

Now that your parliamentary toils are over, I venture to crave your attention to a very different subject.

One has sat down under many of the difficulties of Anglicanism, in hopes of better times, and in appeal to a future Oecumenical Council. For the first time since that of Trent, a Synod of the Latin Church, from whence we sprung or revolted, is to be held next year. The Anglican position will be either much bettered or deteriorated by its action.

If it merely registers the foregone conclusions of the Gesu, our way is clearer; if it takes up questions in a moderate and Christian spirit, we have no standing-ground for the future but acceptance, or simply Protestant rebellion. How much may be done beforehand! Döllinger is by no means hopeless that matters may be so ordered, that a statement of our position would be received, and the question of our orders candidly considered. With your great knowledge and commanding position in Europe, I can conceive no nobler task, than to contribute to the revivification of the Church, or one in which you might do so much good. Might I ask you very earnestly, to pass the matter through your mind, and see whether you could act with advantage?

The present condition of Anglicanism is not only essentially provisional, but eminently perilous. The days of establishments are passed, and the two issues are Rationalism or Catholicity. None knows this better than yourself. Indeed, I feel I must apologise for saying so much, but I throw myself on your tried friendship for myself, and my claim for forbearance founded on it.

Mr. Gladstone feared that more harm than good might be done by an application for a hearing at Rome and expressed some concern about the approaching Conference of Anglican bishops:--

Penmaenmawr N.W., August 17, 1867.


I wish I could feel sanguine as to the probable temper and proceedings of the Synod announced for next year at Rome. Were there many Dollingers in the Roman Church, or were there (perhaps we might say) any among the Bishops, doubtless much might be hoped from it. But every occasion that arises for an ecclesiastical proceeding at Rome seems to be made use of as a preconcerted plan for the purpose of tightening every definition needed to complete that extreme theory of Papal power upon which more and more the Roman Church seems determined to stake its fortunes.

Now Döllinger himself is, I fear, regarded as half-heretical. And I ask myself where are the men, or where is the man, in the Roman Church, who contains will and power to take an equitable view of the Christian world, and to gain in the Synod a preference for wider not narrower interests? I daresay there are good tendencies in many places among the clergy. At Rome last winter I thought such tendencies might be discovered. But all men of this kind seem to be systematically kept down, or if they emerge, put down. Now I do not fully understand the case of Cardinal Andrea. But my impression is that what he struggled for, in the matter which led to his dismissal from office, was simply the recognition of something like law in the Church, apart from the mere utterances of the Pope. I therefore fear the result of the Council will be rather to "improve" (in a way one cannot desire) the canonical position (so to call it) of the Anglican Churches, than otherwise. I should be sorry to see authority, among us, committed by overtures which were only to give opportunity for scornful rejection. Nevertheless I fully admit the singularity and importance of the occasion and I quite agree also that it is by previous preparation, if anything, that progress will be made. But it seems to me that much might be done to widen the breach, which would be very sad. Down to this time I do not know that the Church of Rome is committed to any absolute condemnation of the Prayer-book, the Articles, or the Anglican Orders. I am afraid that in matters relating to England Manning would be the oracle: and if he were, I fear there is little doubt as to the course he would recommend.

In connection with this subject, I cannot but regard with interest and with anxiety the approaching assemblage at Lambeth. I can conceive its doing great good. I most earnestly hope it will avoid polemics, and will condemn no persons or bodies either on the Protestant, the Roman or the Eastern side. There is something in all, it seems to me, that is to be cherished, though of course with great differences in the three cases. In what I have said I do not mean to imply that Bishop Gray should not be supported: but I trust it will not be upon narrow grounds.

It is, however, very difficult, in a letter like this, not to say both too much and too little. What I would propose is that, if agreeable to you, you should take Hawarden on your way to or from the South at any time after Sept. Ist, when I am certain my brother-in-law, Sir S. Glynn, would be particularly happy to see you, and when, if you think it can be of the smallest use, we could converse fully on the subject.

The Bishop replied, "All that you say about the Roman Council is too probable, but we must believe in the overruling of God the Holy Ghost." It was something that Döllinger thought "a too strong assertion of papal prerogatives" would be resisted, though he looked forward with great solicitude to what might be done. Rome was the last place where one would expect sympathy with candid views; yet "thoughtful people, like Cardinal Pentini and Michael Angelo Castoni, must make themselves heard". "I have understood", he continued, "that Cardinal Andrea was rather a feather-headed person, with that peculiar element of trifling which forms such a curious streak in the fervid Italian character." "It is", he added, "a sore temptation to me to have the power of paying you a visit at Hawarden, and I should try to come either immediately before or after the meeting at Lambeth." Like Mr. Gladstone, he was anxious about the deliberations of the first Lambeth Conference, because "the Anglican bishops know so little about precise theology and there is no provision for the presence of learned theologians, as there ought to be, on such occasions".

A month later he was obliged to write to Mr. Gladstone:

The state of my health is such that I don't feel fit to attend the Lambeth meeting, and have sent my excuse to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Under these circumstances I shall ask you to allow me to put off my visit to Hawarden for a month. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of coming to you, for I have much to ask you, and that about which none can help me like yourself. I venture to send you a sermon I preached to the British Association when lately here.

The Bishop took the liveliest interest in the meetings of the British Association held in Dundee in the autumn of 1867. He arranged for special sermons in all his churches in Dundee and secured the President of the Astronomical Section for St. Paul's. He preached himself on the Sunday evening on the principle which had governed all his social work, that the Incarnation was the hallowing of human life in all its interests. "It was not the Pantheistic God or the impersonal God of the Mohammedan but God in Christ who transfigured the idea of life, cast its impress upon science and every pursuit, and consecrated nature itself."

Few in Dundee knew anything about the Bishop's oecumenical activities, his correspondence with Pusey and Gladstone on the possibilities of reunion with Rome, his friendship with Dollinger in Germany, his intimate knowledge of the Gallican and Ultramontane parties, and his interviews with French and Italian bishops and priests. His people in the diocese of Brechin saw him constantly engaged in episcopal and pastoral duties, and imagined that his interests were confined to these. In the autumn of 1867 he busied himself with the erection of a new reredos of alabaster for St. Paul's; he laid the foundation stone of the new church of St. Salvador's designed by Bodley, and of a mission church in the fishing village of Cove; he confirmed at Stonehaven, Arbroath, and Muchalls; presided at his Diocesan Synod, and took an active part in arranging a bazaar for the Baldovan Orphanage, which was now under his own superintendence; he also wrote an essay on Greek Rites in the West for a volume edited by Mr. Orby Shipley.

Early in 1868 the gastric attacks to which he had been subject for several years were aggravated by symptoms of diabetes. The expert who diagnosed this disease assured his patient that there was no immediate danger, but warned him that he must in future discipline himself to a less rigorous life. The Bishop left Dundee for the south of France in February, and in March went to Paris for an interview with the Archbishop. From this large-minded prelate he received not only a gracious welcome, but also a letter to the French Embassy in Rome requesting one of its staff to introduce the Bishop to some distinguished members of the Pontifical Court. He left the Archbishop with some hope that propositions on the Anglican position might be considered in Rome, but he was quickly disillusioned when he reached the home of the Papacy. There he found the extreme party supreme; moderate men had been driven into Ultramontanism by the recent political troubles in Italy; the Archbishop of Paris was out of favour. In short, it would be folly to attempt any sort of negotiations under present circumstances.

He returned to Dundee, visiting Dr. Pusey on the way, and finding copies of the second volume of his work on the Articles in the Oxford bookshops. He at once posted a copy of the book to Dr. Döllinger, who, in acknowledging it, wrote on October 15, 1868, "The impression which you have left on my mind is, that you have given the best and certainly the most Catholic commentary on the Articles. I wish only it may be read, or rather, studied and pondered in wide circles." The author expressed the hope that the rising generation of the clergy of England would not be prevented by three or four Articles from adopting views which, under God's gracious dispensation, might lead to a future reunion. "But", he continued, "several important changes or reforms must take place in the Roman Catholic Church of the West; the Ultramontane party (particularly in France and England) refuse to see the beam in their eye, and talk constantly as if they were invulnerable and immaculate, and as if the Oriental and Anglican Churches had to submit unconditionally to every error in theory and every abuse in practice." Döllinger viewed the approaching Council in Rome with dismay, and could only hope that "a small and resolute knot of bishops" would make resistance sufficient to frustrate the designs of the Ultramontanes.

The Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles at a first inspection seems to be a dry piece of work. It is overloaded with patristic references and notes, many of them supplied by Pusey. But readers who refuse to be intimidated by this feature will find in the two volumes the authentic Forbes, social reformer, historian, theologian, and mystic. Take this on the Article of "Christian men's goods":--

Poverty is one thing, pauperism is another. Poverty is the momentary or even permanent deprivation of the enjoyments of means; it is the state in which man is condemned to work for the necessaries of life: but pauperism is a chronic, normal, almost fatal state of misery, which hands over a notable portion of living humanity to moral degradation and physical suffering, while a small and privileged class live in the most unexampled luxury. For here is the awful fact, that pauperism is measured by the advance of industry, and progress in wealth goes on side by side with progress in misery.

The chief causes of this disastrous state of things are, (I) the exaggerated preponderance of industrial over agricultural production, and the abnormal displacement of the powers of labour, so that on the occurrence of a crisis great distress is produced. (2) the separation of interest between master and workman. (3) the aggregation of labour in great workshops, and hence the creation of great industrial towns to the prejudice of the moral and physical health of the people. (4) the extreme division of labour, which makes man more and more of a machine, and impoverishes him mentally and morally. No wonder that all this produces pauperism, that pauperism is misery, and misery cries aloud, why should these things be? God permits the existence of property, but only as a necessary evil, to avoid a dead level of unprogressive barbarism. He allows one man to have, another to want; but in allowing this apparent injustice, He corrects the disparity by the sense of responsible stewardship. The children of the kingdom must have nothing selfish about them; their citizenship being in heaven, they must use what God has given them, for His glory, and for the benefit of His creatures.

Sympathetic as Forbes is to the Church of Rome, he does not hesitate to expose its errors:--

It cannot be denied that superstition is still tolerated if not actually encouraged by the authorities of the Church abroad. Loretto still draws her gains from the credulity of the faithful. Nay even in France, where the battle of the faith is being fought by an able body of clergy, whose tone in some respects presents a very marked contrast to that of the moderate and learned school of divines who adorned the Church of France before the first Revolution, it is to be feared that, as in the notorious instance of the shrine of La Salette, too many are using the weapon of superstition to combat the growing irreligion.

He offers the evidence of his own eyes:--

The doctrine of Purgatory, against which the Article excepts, is that which is made patent to the eye of every traveller as he passes from Germany into Italy. The wayside shrines which so edify him still continue, but the subjects are changed. In place of the affecting representation of the sufferings of the Eternal Son, and the touching impersonations of the Lord crowned with thorns, with the purple robe and the reed in His hand, which speak to the soul of the wayfarer, terrible representations of the holy souls in flames appal him. They are the predominant, although not the exclusive subject. Sometimes the Madonna is placed in relation to those souls, but oftener still they are by themselves, appealing for a few pence to the awakened sympathies of the passers-by.


The Bishop, however, was concerned with the Roman question in Dundee as well as in Rome. In the year 1864 he offered a title to a theological student at Glenalmond who had originally been a Presbyterian, one William Humphreys, who had caught Roman fever from a reading of Newman's Essay on Development and Ward's Ideal of a Christian Church. This young man took his doubts to the Bishop, and describes the interview which reveals the mind of Forbes so vividly that it should be given in full:--

The Bishop heard most patiently what I had to say. He then remained for some moments apparently absorbed in thought. He broke the silence by saying slowly, and as if soliloquizing, and following by himself alone the current of his thought: "What a marvellous creation is the Roman Church--so strong at its extremities, and so rotten at its centre." Turning to me, he then said most feelingly: "My dear fellow, they will make you miserable. Instead of escaping from our difficulties, you will land yourself amidst far greater difficulties than any from which you are suffering. You will have to choose your party in the Roman Church. Either you will proclaim yourself a Gallican, and keep your reason--or you will give up your reason and attach yourself to Manning's party. If you join the Gallicans, you will expose yourself to a relentless persecution. They are in a minority, and the Ultramontanes are at present the dominant party in the Church of Rome. Moreover, and this is what is worse, it is their party that you will as a convert be logically bound to join. It is all very well for hereditary Roman Catholics, who have been born and bred in Gallicanism, to remain in it, but it would be absolutely absurd in you, as a convert to the Church of Rome, to join a party which is barely tolerated in it. A convert's very reason, if he desires to keep his reason, demands that he should surrender it to the dominant party, the spirit of which is at present the real spirit of the Latin Church. We in the Anglican Church have our difficulties, it is true, and no one can feel them more keenly or suffer from them more acutely than I do-- our isolation from the rest of Christendom--our disunion amongst ourselves--the toleration in our midst of erroneous or inadequate doctrine--neglect of the Daily Sacrifice and the like--but, thank God, things are bettering and mending. Our difficulties are not of our own seeking or of our own making. They have fallen to us in our appointed lot. We have inherited them. They surround us in the providence of God, and in the same providence we are called upon to co-operate in the work of the restoration of the Church's unity. You, dear friend, have been captivated by the beauty of a glorious ideal. I cannot give you hope that you will find the ideal that has presented itself to you realized in the Church of Rome. The unity that you imagine does not exist in the Roman Church.

"Döllinger, their most learned historian and the greatest of their theologians, does not encourage individual secessions to Rome from the Church of England. He said to a common friend of mine and his, a well-known statesman, that there are three classes of English Churchmen who became Roman Catholics. There were the very intellectual--men like Newman--men who had, and knew it, along with their intellectuality, a strong strain within them of latent infidelity. Those men felt that if they would keep their faith, they must place themselves under lock and key, and plant their feet against the door of entrance to any doubt. It was an almost necessity for such men to go to Rome.

"There were other Church of England men who were very materialistic, men who were carried away by the sensuous attractions of a gorgeous ritual, with splendid vestments and smoking incense, and who found what they sought and longed for in the pomp and pageantry of Roman ceremonial worship.

"There was also a third class of converts composed of High Churchmen, whose character was concupiscible rather than irascible, in the sense that they sought to have the bonum sine arduo. They wanted the spoils of victory without the conflict--the crown without the cross. These men found ready to their hand in the Church of Rome the spiritual luxuries for which they had to fight and suffer in the Church of England."

In this latter class I seemed to find myself at the end of the Bishop's conversation. He had been most kind and sympathetic. This soothed me. A tone of compassion for what he feared would be my disappointment in the Church of Rome, infected me with a corresponding dread of the possibility of disillusionment. It must be remembered, also, that neither the theory which had fascinated me, nor either my own conception or the Bishop's conception of a Universal Church, rose higher or nearer to the truth than that of a confederation of particular churches or episcopal dioceses, under the presidency of one Bishop of Bishops.

If Dr. Forbes had met me with upbraiding, remonstrance, or argument, I should have had much to say for myself and in defence of ideas which had absorbed my mind, and I might have shown that in my temperament there was rather more of the irascible than of the concupiscible. His clever treatment of me not only disarmed me, but impressed me with a sense of my own ignorance, and with a feeling that I had been standing on the verge of the abyss of a grave imprudence, from the lifelong consequences of which his wisdom had wisely saved me. Dr. Forbes had lived in Rome, and I had never been in Rome, and so had no judgment of my own to oppose to his, with regard to the "rottenness at its centre" of the Roman Catholic Church. The Bishop had intimate friends, and these not a few, both among the Gallicans and in "Manning's party", while I had not even chance acquaintances in either set.

Unfortunately Mr. Humphreys was sent as a deacon to establish a new church in the lonely village of Cove near Aberdeen, and this mistake was followed by another, his appointment to St. Mary Magdalene, one of the Dundee churches, the congregation of which consisted to a large extent of Orangemen from Ireland. Humphreys was not the man for such a post. He was ardent, intolerant, and inflated by an exaggerated opinion of his knowledge of Thomas Aquinas. " I used to see", he writes, "a great deal of the Bishop during my residence of two years in Dundee. He was a fascinating man, with most charming manners. His conversation was refined, instructive and somewhat cynical. We two had much in common and there were some functions in which we were confederates. These were the consecration of holy oils and the consecration of altar stones."

Humphreys, who could not distinguish between ritual and religion, proved a sore trial to the Bishop. Less than a year of his ministry was sufficient to turn a growing congregation into a Babel of confusion and strife. He showed no consideration for the pardonable prejudices of the Irish element, and introduced changes of ritual for which the people were quite unprepared. The priest mistook driving for leadership and self-will for courage. A number of ignorant members threatened to form "an independent English church". So bitter did the feeling become that the Bishop felt bound to accept Mr. Humphreys' resignation, and in his presence publicly intimated that the incumbent would officiate for the last time on Christmas Day. A few days later the Bishop was astounded to read a letter in the local paper from Mr. Humphreys contradicting "the report that he had resigned". Though ill at the time, the Bishop remained in close touch with the three parties to the quarrel: the malcontents, the incumbent, and his supporters, who were all equally to blame, and for a time the Bishop's charity averted a schism. Mr. Humphreys continued to minister in his church for three months, when his nerve suddenly failed. He set off to London for a week's holiday. In the train he suddenly changed his mind, and on reaching London went straight to Manning, who told him to forget "all the Christianity he had ever known and be taught like a schoolboy". He afterwards wrote in the Roman Catholic magazine, The Month, an account of his Romeward pilgrimage, a pitiful exhibition of vituperation, redeemed only by an admiration for the Bishop which he could not suppress. The upshot of the story, which the curious will find in a slim volume written by Father Humphreys under the title of Recollections of Scottish Episcopalianism, was a claim that the decision suddenly reached in the train to London was inspired by a "Divine vision": "In one moment the light was shed into my soul and I saw the One Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church of God"!


Thankful to escape from these petty squabbles, the Bishop again went abroad early in 1869 in search of health. He broke his journey to visit Pusey, who was then in correspondence with Father de Buck, a Belgian Jesuit friendly to the Anglican Church, which he was eager to see represented at the Vatican Council. De Buck, who had read Forbes' book on the Articles, urged the Bishop to attend the Council, and painted a glowing picture of the prospects of reunion from the Roman side. The Bishop reported de Buck's proposal to Dr. Pusey, who replied, " I do not, my dearest friend, like the idea of your going to the Council, at least at first." It is evident that Dr. Pusey suspected de Buck's motives, for he ended his letter with these words: "I suppose that de Buck calculates on the effect which the sight of so many bishops in Rome assembled from different parts of the world would have on two or three, and that they would give way. You are impulsive, and I should think that he did not miscalculate about you." The sting of that letter lay in its tail. By nature the Bishop was far from being impulsive, but undoubtedly in the great cause of the Unity of Christendom he was prepared to go far in the direction of conciliation with Rome. Soon, however, he began to distrust de Buck's highly coloured impressions of the attitude of the Roman authorities, and frankly warned him that reunion was impossible, if" such follies as the corporal Assumption of the Virgin Mary or the infallibility of the Pope " were to be stereotyped. He was well aware of the malignant activities of Manning, whom he never trusted, and was sure that no overtures to Rome from individuals like himself or Dr. Pusey would be entertained. But Father de Buck as late as December 1869 persisted in his optimism, and by way of proof described an interview with Cardinal de Lucca, the first President of the Council. So plausible was this report of the Jesuit that Forbes replied: " For the first time I begin to conceive hope that something may be done in a matter so fraught with important results to the interests of Christianity." But he added, "In order that the Cardinal may not be deceived or disappointed, I shall endeavour to lay down our position, (i) The High Church party in the English Church accept ex animo the formularies of their own Church. (2) They deplore the schism which took place at the Reformation, though alive to the advantages which attended it. (3) They firmly believe in the validity of their own orders and Sacraments. (4) They have a conservative horror of what are called the extremes of Romanism. (5) They acknowledge that the condition of Anglicanism in reference to the great Church of the West is unsatisfactory." It was not likely that such a statement would pass the vigilant eye of Manning.

Dr. R. F. Littledale, one of the lesser lights of the Tractarian revival, who was aware of the correspondence between the Bishop and de Buck, entertained no illusions as to the worth of de Buck's specious pleas. On January 7, 1870, he wrote to Forbes a long description of a letter he had just sent to the Jesuit, who had justified the prominence of Archbishops Manning and Cullen at the Council on the ground that some position of honour could not be denied them.

These [wrote Littledale] are just the two men in all the world who ought not to have been named, Manning as having been himself re-ordained sine conditione and being a man of vanity far too morbid to confess himself in the wrong. I cite Cazenove's language about him as a man incapable' of being fair in controversy. I add of Cullen that in his charge of 1868 he denounced English orders. He is afraid to denounce landlord murder and rebellion, and it is not to be expected that he would be bolder in other respects. Then I say that if Manning must have some post of honour, by all means set him to settle the cut of a vestment or the intonation of an antiphon, but not to meddle with theology of which he knows nothing. Then as to de Buck's not knowing what 'Italianism' means, I suggest that if he really wants to know, he had better ask Hefele or Dupanloup and he will get an answer. Then I put in your suggestion about the two sides in the great schism, and say that as the Gesu has managed to lose Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal in our life time, the same policy will certainly not bring back England. Lastly I say that if they [Roman Catholics] do not make haste, the Eastern Church will be beforehand with them, and probably, if the Infallibility gets through, a Gallican and German Church also. I think that pill is enough for one dose, after de Buck's trying to draw a straw before the nose of such an old cat as I am.

By this time the decision of the Council was no longer in doubt; at a late stage in its proceedings the majority for Infallibility was 452 and the opposing minority only 88, 62 voting for a fresh examination. The minority withdrew from Rome, and on July 18, 1870, the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope was acclaimed in St. Peter's by 533 to 2. The late Baron von Hügel told the present writer a strange story of Manning's view of the Council long after 1870.

"Well, your Eminence," said an acquaintance to him, "no doubt it was willed by the Providence of God that the dogma of Infallibility should be promulgated." "Yes," replied the Cardinal, "and we won." Had the Bishop heard that almost incredible remark of Manning, he would probably have said, "Yes, Manning and his party did win; so there is hope that the truth may yet prevail."

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