Project Canterbury

Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey
by Henry Parry Liddon, D.D.

London: Longmans, 1894
volume four

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002











 'THE thought of  " Eirenica" had been a dream and interest of my life,'  Pusey stated in a letter to the Times at the end of February, 1876: but he for ever laid aside all hope of those dreams being realized in his lifetime when his great efforts for reunion with the Church of Rome were brought to naught in 1870. Union with the  'Old Catholics'  who had seceded from the Church of Rome at that date because they could not accept the Vatican decrees, was to many others a tempting proposal; but Pusey would not do anything to assist it. He was no mere enthusiast for unity: the Faith was to him the primary consideration. Even when he was in Germany at the time of the second Old Catholic Congress at Cologne in 1872, and was invited to attend, he declined, from a well-founded fear of com–mitting himself to connexion with a body whose principles had not been stated clearly enough to rescue their name from an obvious ambiguity. He explains his refusal to Liddon:--

E. B. P. TO REV. H. P. LIDD0N, D.D.

Reichenhalle, Sept. 13, 1872.

I let Dr. Wingerath see that my main ground for not going to the Congress was that they did not make clear their own position. Their title of  'Old Catholics'  seemed at first to mean that they were on the same basis as they were before the Vatican Council, believing every–thing which they believed before. [But]  'Old Catholics'  might mean those who, like ourselves, believe all that was matter of faith to  'the undivided Church,'  an expression which the Bishop of Lincoln notices that they had used. This would be a position such as, there seems reason to think, the Latin Church was ready to take at the Council of Florence, ignoring all mere Latin Councils. But then what was held of faith by  'the Undivided Church'  would be open to different questions which might be answered differently. The Greek Church, I think, had them at advantage, saying that if they were Old Catholics they must go up higher; for the Vatican Council only developed what might be the meaning of previous Councils. . . . But then what is the ground of the Old Catholics on all those subjects, as of grace or the sacraments, which the Council of Trent laid down so elaborately? I thought it best not to advance towards the Old Catholics, if afterwards one has to withdraw. I wished to know their position. Dr. W. might have told me. Perhaps he had not time. I had no answer either from him or from Dollinger. I softened my answer by saying that,  'under these circumstances, I thought it best to stay here, whither I had come for health.'  Had I had a satis–factory answer, I should not have minded the loss of a week' s quiet or the journey.

The same resolve not to encourage any movement that appeared to him in the least to imperil the Catholicity of the English Church caused him to stand somewhat aloof from the projects for reunion with the Eastern Church. Since the establishment of the Eastern Church Association in 1864, he had been a member of it, and had not un–frequently contributed papers which were published by the Association. But the bright hopes of the possibility of Reunion with the Churches of the East, which at that time he had entertained, and had expressed in some of the closing pages of the First Eirenicon, had now faded away before the impracticable attitude of the Russian Church. He also began to feel that the hold of English Churchmen upon the truth expressed in the Filioque clause of the Nicene Creed was being undermined by the language which some of the ardent advocates of Reunion allowed themselves to use with regard to it. He was so firmly convinced that it was impossible for the Western Church to remove that word from their Creed without serious danger to the faith, that when he thought it clear that the action of the Eastern Church Association was endangering that clause, he quietly ceased to be a member of it, and expressed his fears to the Secretary.


Nov. 5, 1872.

I think that we are doing mischief to our own people by accustoming them to the idea of abandoning the Filioque, and to the Russians by inflating them. They look upon every longing for unity as so much incense offered to them as the one true Church. So they answered the  'Old Catholics.'

When however the Reunion Conferences between Old Catholics, Anglicans, and the Eastern Church were held at Bonn in 1874 and 1875, Pusey followed the discussion with great interest, especially on the second occasion, when the Filioque clause of the Nicene Creed was under discussion. This clause,  'and the Son,'  which occurs in our form of the Nicene Creed, was not in that form of the Creed which was accepted by the Undivided Church at the Council of Chalcedon in A. D. 451. It is found only in the Western forms of the Creed; its earliest recorded use being at a Council at Toledo in 589. With regard to this later addition, the Eastern Church maintains that the West had no right to add anything to a Creed which had been sanctioned by the whole Church, and further that this additional statement is theologically inaccurate, because, they maintain, it implies the existence of two  'Principles'  (àpxai) in the Godhead, which would be incompatible with a belief in the Unity of God. The Westerns acknowledge that the words are an addition, but hold them to be true, always explaining that they were never intended to assert or imply the existence of two Principles.

Pusey was very anxious lest the Western position should be incautiously surrendered by the more ardent promoters of Reunion; especially he feared lest Dollinger' s strong anti-Roman feeling should prejudice his mind in favour of the Eastern form. Both he and Bishop Forbes sent com–munications to the Bonn Conference on the question. The Bishop' s'  letter was a short and clear suggestion of a basis for agreement; Pusey sent the Preface to his son' s translation of St. Cyril' s Commentary on the first eight chapters of St. John, which he had written in the preceding year; this contained a large number of quotations from the Greek Fathers expressing the truth which the disputed words were intended to convey though in different terms.

At the Conference in 1875 a formula was drawn up which all who were present found themselves able to accept. Pusey saw that it was practically a surrender of the position for which the Western Church had contended for so many centuries. He writes anxiously to Liddon:--


West Malvern, Aug. 19, 1875.

... I do not see any occasion for any formula in which the Greeks and we should agree. We are content to let them alone. They have all along been on the aggressive. I fear that it has been their way of keeping off the question of the Papal authority. On one or two occasions it has been owned by writers on their side that the real question was about the thpóvoi.

We ask nothing of them, in case of reunion, but to go on as we are. We do not ask them to receive the Filioque, but only not to except against our expressing our belief in the way in which their own great writers St. Epiphanius, St. Cyril, and others did. Why should they refuse our communion on the ground of our using doctrinal language, used so freely by the great Doctor Ecciesiae who presided over the Third General Council?... If ever there is to be an agreement, and we are not to be simply merged in the Greek Church and to embrace false doctrine, I am sure that this is the only way that they should (as Wassilief did) accept our rejection of the heresy which they impute to our formula and leave us in possession of it. But I fear that they are animated now by an evil spirit of ambition; and that they are unwilling to have their old battle-cry against Rome  'You are heretics as believing two apxai in the Godhead,'  taken from them.

This correspondence, with regard to the Bonn Conference, was the last occasion on which Pusey and the Bishop of Brechin acted together. In spite of sixteen years'  difference in age between them, they had been on terms of most inti–mate friendship since 1846, when the Bishop was curate of the parish of St. Thomas the Martyr, in Oxford. Pusey was attracted to him by his simplicity of life and deep piety, as well as by his intellectual ability, courageous loyalty to revealed truth, and keen theological insight; others saw in him a great likeness to Pusey both in these characteristics and also in his unstinted charities and his self-sacrificing labours for the sick and poor. Throughout the troubles of the early years of his episcopate, Pusey and Keble had been his chief advisers; after Keble' s death, no one entered with greater eagerness than the Bishop into Pusey' s san–guine efforts towards the Reunion of the Western Church. Whenever he came to Oxford, Pusey' s house was his home, and he had been staying there towards the end of May, 1875. Four months later his health began to fail, and he passed away suddenly on the evening of Friday, October 8. Liddon, knowing full well how keenly Pusey would feel his loss, and fearing the effect of the shock on him in his weak state of health, wrote to him immediately.  'Kindest thanks,'  was the answer,  'for your loving letter. It chokes one; and it seems unnatural to do anything but follow him with prayer to those worlds unknown.'  About two months later in a letter to Liddon he gives the following sketch of the Bishop' s character:--


Dec. 5, 1875.

What strikes me most about the dear Bishop in looking back are his great love, tenderness, simplicity, and self-forgetfulness, and his sensitiveness about whatever bore on doctrinal truth. That trial was like the piercing of a sword to him, for fear the truth should be compromised, or in the defence lest he should any way com–promise it. He did not recover the physical effects of it, in any degree, for two years. I saw his nervous system gradually tranquillize: but during those two years it was preternaturally alive. His happiest time was that which he spent in the hospitals by the sick, or in the alleys of Dundee, if so he might minister to souls or bodies. Then there was his utter want of self-consciousness. He had, as you know, brilliant conversational talents, yet one never could detect the slightest perception that he was aware of it. So also as to his theological knowledge. He had a large grasp of mind, devoted loyalty to truth, sorrow for those who had it not, tender feeling for them; but for himself utter unconsciousness of his gifts. It was all a matter of course. Of his humility to God... I can only say the Day of Judgment will show how deep it was.

But in the meanwhile Pusey had gone steadily on with his defence of the Western form of the Creed, endeavouring for this purpose to remodel his Preface to St. Cyril.


Christ Church, Oxford, Oct. 11, 1875.

How death has been sweeping all around one! What memories T. Keble' s departure brings vividly back, and now Bp. Forbes, whom I never imagined myself surviving! Will you say Mass for him? It is a great gap to me; he was so tender and loving.

I am recasting that little Preface to my son' s St. Cyril, which I sent you: so many stupid prejudices against the Filioque seem rising; and now that the Vatican decree has so scared people, they are looking to the Greek Church for reunion, and seem ready to part with the Filioque from the Creed. Do you know any book which would throw light on the use of the Athanasian Creed in early Breviaries? My impression is that the Filioque came into the Nicene Creed through the Athanasian, in that, through the Athanasian, as being de–votionally recited, it became our Western formula and so crept unawares into the Nicene, which seems to have been little known in the West until the Third Council of Toledo directed it to be sung at Mass. . . . My question is, whether there are traces of the Qui–cunque being said so widely at Prime on Sunday that it was probably an integral part of the Breviary at an early time?

In December he found that the Eastern Church Association was petitioning Convocation to take the Resolution of the Bonn Conference into consideration. This light-hearted method--as it seemed to him--of treating an extremely difficult and profound theological question was a cause of astonishment to Pusey. He immediately wrote to the Times, a popular and untechnical statement of his reasons for objecting to these propositions.


Christ Church, Dec. 27, 1875.

Having been formerly a member of the Eastern Church Association and having publicly taken part in its proceedings, but having silently quitted it, on the ground of the aggressive line as to the English Church adopted by Russian ecclesiastics and of some other apprehensions, may I ask you to allow me, through the Times, to disclaim any connexion with the petition to the Convocations of Canterbury and York now being circulated by the Committee of that Association, and that on the following grounds:--

1.       That (although not in the minds of the framers) it really prepares the way for the abandonment of the expression of our belief in the mode of existence of Almighty God--i.e. in God as He is.

2.       That the question of abandoning the expression of our belief, which we have had for at least 1,200 years, would very much distract the minds of our people, and its abandonment would, in the practical English mind, be followed by the abandonment of the belief itself.

3.       That one of the propositions to which we are requested to express our consent is misleading, and calculated to raise prejudices against the truth, since the reception of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in the Western Church for itself, together with the addition of the Filioque, is no more ecclesiastically irregular than the additions to the Nicene Creed by the Council of Constantinople, wholly a Greek Council, for its necessities in the East. The Creed, also with this addition, was notoriously received under the impression that it was the Creed enlarged by that Council.

4.       That another of these propositions is contradictory to our Creeds and Articles in that it states absolutely that  'the Holy Ghost goes not forth out of the Son,'  whereas they declare that He proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and furthermore St. John of Damascus, in the passage quoted, meant to reject our Western mode of expressing our faith, which in earlier times was the predominant language of Eastern Fathers also.

5.       That any proceedings on the part of the English Church with regard to the Creeds on this great truth would be utterly useless as to the object alleged,  'the removal of our unhappy divisions,'  since there are other grave points which would hinder the Eastern Church from accepting our communion, the more so since we are still so divided among ourselves.

6.       That whereas it ought to be a first principle that in religious matters nothing ought to be done by majorities, and it is one charge against the late Vatican Council that the majority overrode a consider–able minority in enacting a new matter of faith, it is manifest that in the English Church also even the majority is not now prepared to enter into communion with the Eastern Church, not knowing what consequences it would involve as to ourselves. Particular questions are therefore better left to the discussion of private theologians than, to bodies speaking in behalf of the Church, as the Convocation, of which the Lower House of this province inadequately represents the clergy, however adequate for ordinary practical purposes.

7.       That even if such negotiations did not end (as I myself think probable) in the disruption of the English Church, they would, while pending, increase divisions among ourselves rather than promote unity with the Eastern Church, and that while grasping at a shadow we should, like the dog in the fable, lose the substance.

In deprecating such authoritative negotiations I do not mean to throw any slur on the pacific endeavours of the theologians assembled at,, Bonn, although, in regard to this great doctrine, I think that the results are unhappy, and that it would have been much better simply to claim, in case of reunion, the possession of our hereditary Creed (with which our faith is practically bound up), while disclaiming any error which the Greeks have erroneously imputed to it, or any wish that they should adopt it.

I think it also a misstatement that the words  'and the Son'  have for so long a time divided the East from the West. Writers on the Greek side have said that  'the dispute was not about the Creed, but about the sees,'  i. e. the absolute authority claimed by the See of Rome over the Eastern patriarchates, so different from the relation of earlier times.

It was hinted in reply that the Lambeth Conference of 1878 might remove the Filioque, and that Pusey was the only theologian of reputation in England who thought that its insertion could be justified. Certainly the American deputies at Bonn, as was well known, were eager to drop the clause, and Dollinger also had spoken strongly against it. But Pusey still fought the matter in the press without a sign of shrinking. In the Times of January io, 1876, there is a second letter reasserting his previous position, although admitting a slight modification. He still main–tained that the Eastern and Western forms of the Confession, if rightly understood, now confess the same truth under different language: but if we, after using the Filioque for so many centuries, were to abandon it, we should forfeit part of the truth. We could not give up a portion of the Creed, and repeat the remainder with unaltered meaning. He ends,  'I write this simply as an individual, never having been a  " leader," and having now survived almost all in harmony with whom I once acted.'  Two days later he heard from Newman.


The Oratory, Jan. 10, 1876.

I have read with great interest your letters in the Times. To-day' s is particularly good. Your last sentence is very sad. I hope it does not mean that there are any who are differing from you on the point on which you write, whom you have hitherto acted with.

Pusey explained his allusion at once.


Jan. 11, 1876.

The last sentence did not allude to any defalcations: it was a tacit answer to one who taunted me with writing as a  'leader.'  We never had one. It would have been better for us had you allowed yourself to be one. As it was, the tail always guided. There are no apparent defalcations. But now that the Vatican Council seems to us generally to have shut the half-open door in our faces, there is a prominent feeling,  'Union 'at any cost' ; and so, since the Greeks set their faces against being in communion with those who retain the Filioque in the Creed, there is the disposition to abandon it.

Dollinger, of course, attempted an impossibility--to squeeze the principle of our Western Confession into the words of St. John Damascene, who rejected it. But people do not yet see this, and are carried away by his name; but our English people are not prepared, God be thanked, to give up the Filioque.

There is, as I said, an active party in the United States who are ready to give up the Filioque, retaining, as they think, the faith contained in it. It was for them that I wrote that Preface.

The attitude which Pusey assumed toward the Bonn propositions caused a good deal of anxiety among those who had consented to them. Explanations of a reassuring character were addressed to him; and the public corre–spondence ended with the insertion in the Times of a private letter from Pusey to Liddon dated Feb. 8, showing the nature of these assurances. They had removed some of his fears about the Conference; it was clear that the English representatives at least were more like-minded with him than the proceedings seemed to suggest. He concluded:--

 'With your object of promoting the restoration of communion with the East I, of course, with my whole heart, sympathize. Great as the difficulties may be, they are not insuperable by prayer. It has been my conviction for above forty years that since the Latins believed in the Monarchia, and the Greeks of old believed in the Eternal Procession through the Son, their belief must be the same. And this must have been the mind of the Westerns generally, since Roman writers (as far as I know) did not call the Greeks  'heretics,'  but  'schismatics'  only. I should be very glad of any explanation to the Greeks, as promoting the great cause of unity, if only we do not there–with give up that which has been the expression of our faith for 1,200 years at least and which could not be replaced.'

He had been attempting to recast the Preface to his son Philip' s translation of St. Cyril on St. John, so as to suit the exact form of this discussion; but Liddon begged him to write a public Letter instead, stating how the Bonn propositions could be amended so that they would not, to his mind, involve any sacrifice of truth. This letter was greatly delayed, and was not completed until the middle of July, 1876, when it appeared under the title of  'On the clause  " And the Son," in regard to the Eastern Church and the Bonn Conference.'  This valuable treatise consists of about 200 pages, and is the fullest discussion of this clause, historically and doctrinally, in the theology of our Church. The Bonn propositions are asserted to be too ambiguous and incomplete to be considered by Convocation, and in an Appendix several amendments are suggested. But, on the whole, it seems that the difficulties which Pusey found in the actual wording of the propositions arose rather from inaccurate language or inadequate translation, than from fundamental diver–gences in doctrine. The  'Letter'  is on a subject too technical to be widely appreciated; but the clearness of its thought, and its theological insight, show that neither ill health nor old age were diminishing the keenness of his mental powers.

Pusey interrupted the preparation of this book for the press by another piece of work which proved to be a solid contribution to Biblical literature. Some years earlier, whilst he was preparing one of his sermons on the Jewish interpretation of the prophecies about the Messiah, he had felt that the difficulty of the subject was increased by the scantiness of the accessible materials. Most of the books in which the statements of Jewish Commentators were to be found, were beyond the reach of the ordinary student. To remedy this, in 1874, he requested Dr. Neubauer to undertake the task of editing a complete catena of Jewish Commentaries on the Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah-- 'the remarkable chapter which has for ages formed one of the principal battlefields between Christians and their Jewish Opponents.'  This collection was, at Pusey' s request, trans–lated into English by the united labours of Mr. Driver, who afterwards succeeded to Pusey' s Professorship, and Dr. Neubauer. Pusey himself contributed to the volume an Introduction of thirty-five closely printed pages, which are dated December, 1876. This Introduction contains incidentally a learned defence of the valuable work of Raymond Martini, entitled  'Pugio Fidei,'  a collection of Jewish interpretations which had been made in the thir–teenth century, and which had been recently denounced as containing important and audacious corruptions of the text. But one of the most interesting points in this Preface is his apology for the apparently paradoxical attempt to defend the Christian faith by reprinting at length the anti-Christian interpretations of Messianic predictions. His reply is that he hoped that these attempts to avoid the Christian appeal to the Old Testament Scriptures would enable Christians to appreciate more vividly the difficulties of the Jews of the present day, while at the same time they would illustrate, rather than overthrow, the truth of the Christian interpretation. Jews of the greatest ability had for centuries tried to find some other satisfactory interpretation, but had been unable with all their labour and ingenuity to discover any person, or body of people, who could be said to be the object of this great prophecy. Their continued failure Pusey regarded as of great evidential value; it contributed some further cogency to the general argument from the fulfilment of predictions, on which he always, especially in the later years of his life, laid so much stress.


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