Dublin Review—Notices of Books

Essays Critical and Historical. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN.
London: Pickering.

{207} WE had hoped to make these very interesting volumes an occasion for narrating the events belonging to the successive portions of the Tractarian movement with which these various essays are connected. And it is still indeed very possible that we may do this in an early number; but for the present we must confine ourselves within a far briefer limit.

F. Newman speaks very touchingly in his Preface of his past position, in that "from various circumstances he has been obliged through so many years to think aloud." We believe he is one of the extremely few men recorded in history, to whose reputation this circumstance will prove beneficial rather than injurious. Nothing will more impress every candid reader of these essays, whatever his school of thought, than the singular unity of principle pervading them all, and the steady and equable growth of opinion on the basis of such principle. F. Newman fears indeed that "the spectacle of two sides of a great ecclesiastical question, advocated with equal earnestness by one and the same author," may tend to create "a despondent or liberalistic or skeptical habit of mind on the subject of religious truth altogether." But for our own part we strongly think that the more hopeful view of this question, which was expressed by him in a letter of April 3, 1844 (Apologia, p. 331), is also the true one. Change of opinion, he there says, "is necessary, if truth be a real objective thing, and be made to confront a person who has been brought up in a system short of truth." And the whole of the letter should be read in this connection.

The present essays, with one exception, were written when he was an Anglican; and he purports to show in the notes, why the anti-Catholic arguments therein contained "have ceased to approve themselves to his own judgment." Those arguments may be referred to four principle classes, two aggressive and two defensive. The first class comprises those, which assail the Roman Church as having made additions to the One Faith. His direct answer to those arguments was of course contained in his Essay on Development; though there are many little supplements to that work in the volumes before us. It is most remarkable that a writer, as yet external to the Church, should have been the first (as far as we know) to treat expressly and systematically a great theological principle, which beyond question has been implicitly acted on by the Church from the first, and which is now explicitly recognized, not only by all theologians but in the official utterances of a Pope [Note 1].

The second class of aggressive anti-Catholic arguments comprises those, which assail the Roman See as guilty of usurpation in her claim to be the one divinely appointed center of unity. F. Newman, when an Anglican, appealed loudly to the case of S. Meletius of Antioch and to other events of ecclesiastical history, in which persons more or less separated from Roman communion were accounted Catholics. See these instances recapitulated in {208} vol. ii. pp. 101-2. He now replies (p. 102) that much depends on length of time and inveteracy; that there may be many separations, which are "threatenings and beginnings of schism," but not "perfected schisms." Our strong impression is (though we have no right to speak with confidence) that such a view of the case will command the acceptance of theologians; that there really is a difference not less than essential, between those two ecclesiastical conditions which F. Newman mutually contrasts. After a certain period, incipient separatists come to acquiesce in their state of separation; they fall on some heretical theory to defend it; they assume the aggressive; they become active assailants of Rome. This state of things does seem essentially different from the earlier stage, in which they are bewildered by press of circumstances, perplexed by mutually opposing principles which they have hitherto held in union, and unable for a period to discern the true and Catholic course. At the same time we wish F. Newman had given his mind to Mr. Rhodes's admirable work on the "Visible Unity of the Church," in which these very questions are so carefully and fully considered; and that he had expressed an opinion on the value of that writer's labours.

Those of F. Newman's Anglican arguments which we have called "defensive," are again mainly two. Firstly he maintained, that the Anglican orders are indisputably valid. Secondly he argued, that where there are a bishop and priests validly ordained, there is no strict obligation of Catholic communion; that each separate diocese is a perfect Church; that no diocese is "bound to union with others by any law of its being or condition of its prerogatives, but all free from all except as regards the duty of mutual love" (vol. ii. p. 91). We will begin with this latter proposition.

F. Newman has reasoned against it in this volume, far more energetically and successfully (we think) than on any former occasion; and no more crushing refutation of an opponent can well be imagined. He begins with the language of Scripture (pp. 91-97), and sums up this part of the matter with an undeniable and most conclusive statement. Whatever else, he says, may be left uncertain by the naked text of the New Testament, one thing is therein declared beyond the possibility of doubt; viz. that the Apostolic Church was one organized whole, under a central and supreme authority. He next (pp. 97-101) exhibits the utter absurdity of the Anglican theory in speculation, and its hopeless inoperativeness in practice. "It is a sure and easy way of not effecting those very ends, which ecclesiastical organization is intended to subserve." It cannot move one step—it cannot so much as "be attempted and break down"—it cannot be "brought into the region of fact" at all—except by State agency. There has been much Erastianism in many shapes, in many times, in many countries; but never and nowhere has there been or could there he "episcopal autonomy."

But now (2) as to Anglican ordinations. F. Newman touches powerfully on many other objections against their validity [Note 2]. But he lays his chief stress on the argument of Chillingworth and Macaulay (p. 86), that such validity depends on the question whether, during that long period which has {209} elapsed since Apostolic times "some thousands of events took place, any one of which may without any gross impropriety be supposed not to have taken place"; whereas moreover "there is not a tittle of evidence for any one of those events." To this Anglicans reply, that the same consideration tells equally against the validity of Catholic ordinations. No, rejoins F. Newman, not at all. The argument for Anglicanism entirely rests, the argument for Catholicity does not even partially rest, on some allegation concerning the validity of ordination. "Catholics believe their orders are valid, because they are members of the true Church; and Anglicans believe they belong to the true Church, because their orders are valid." (p. 87.) Because Catholics, on other grounds altogether, know that theirs is the true Church, therefore they know that God will "have prevented or remedied in His own way any faults which may have occurred in past centuries in the administration of His own ordinance, and will prevent or remedy them still" (p. 90). This argument was hinted at in a most able article of F. Coleridge's on Anglican ordinations, which appeared in the "Month" two or three years ago; but we are not aware that it has ever been distinctly put forth, till now by F. Newman. We are very confident that it is sound; yet we wish he had developed it at somewhat greater length. In particular we wish he had adverted to the fact, that Photian priests, on their conversion, are accounted by the Church as certainly priests, and receive no further ordination.

There is but one essay—the third—of which we regret the republication in its present shape; but in regard to this we certainly do wish, that it had been either withholden or accompanied by much fuller corrective comment. It was among the most anti-Roman which F. Newman ever wrote. He said therein that Lammenais was "the true disciple of the Gregories or Innocents of past times," in "not seeming to recognize, nay to contemplate the idea, that rebellion is a sin." (vol. i. p. 121.) He said that Gregory XVI.'s temporal sovereignty was "the immediate cause of his pusillanimous conduct" towards Lamennais (p. 120); that so long as the Pope has temporal dominion, "he cannot aspire to" spiritual sovereignty (ib.); that Lamennais "understood" the "interests and duties of the Roman Church" "better than the Pope" (p. 126); that Gregory XVI. "engaged in certain diplomatic transactions with the schismatical court of St. Petersburg, which indisposed, if not incapacitated him from exercising impartially" his "high spiritual functions" (p. 130); that, in issuing the "Mirari vos," "Rome" took up "a position, which goes far towards involving a reductio ad absurdum of her claim to infallibility" (p. 136). [Note 3] Surely there should have been some reply to all this, from the Catholic point of view.

However this is but a small past of the two volumes. The study of these as a whole is indispensable to any Catholic, who would successfully engage in the Anglican controversy; and they will be read eagerly in after-times by all who desire to understand that remarkable movement, of which F. Newman was not only the true originator, but for many years the one animating and guiding master spirit. With several of the essays as they originally {210} stood—and these among the best—Catholics will be in perfect agreement; and will recognize signal service as having been done to the Catholic cause. As an Anglican controversialist, F. Newman stood absolutely alone, whether in his hearty resolve to understand his opponent's strength, or in the thorough honesty and real force of his arguments. And as no one ever so ably defended the Anglican theory, so (to our mind) no one has ever more ably and conclusively demolished it.

[Dublin Review, vol. XVIII., January 1872.]

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1. See the sentences from Pius IX's "Ineffabilis" and "Ęterni Patris," quoted in our number for January, 1869, p. 28, note.
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2. We are a good deal surprised however, that he calls "the validity of heretical ordination," a matter "enveloped in such doubtfulness." (p. 83.)
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3. The Essay said that its author "agrees with" Lamennais in this opinion.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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