(Not published, but sent to a certain number of residents.)

{3} I WROTE the following Letter and circulated it in the University in February, 1830, at a time when I was one of the secretaries of the Oxford Branch of the Church Missionary Society. At that time I was on the whole Protestant in doctrine, with a growing disposition towards what is called the High Church. I had for many years greatly esteemed the Church Missionary Society, but thought it ought to be under the Bishops. I had made inquiries with a view to the possibility of my becoming one of its missionaries.

My object then in this Letter was at once to enlarge the circle of subscribers to the Society, and to direct and strengthen the influence of the University and thereby of the Anglican hierarchy, upon it. And with this view I urged that the Society itself, by its rules, did actually pledge itself to welcome that influence which I thought so necessary for it, and I considered it a great mistake in the mass of the clergy not to accept a position so frankly offered to them. {4}

My Letter, however, gave great offence to the leading members of its Oxford Branch, to which I belonged; and at the next Annual Meeting, consisting mainly of junior members of the University, Dr. Symons of Wadham in the chair, they unanimously voted another, I forget who, into the office I held.

I did not leave the Association till, I think, four years afterwards, having in the meantime preached and had a collection in St. Mary's Church for it. On that occasion I recollect mentioning the "good man," (as I called him with great sincerity,) Dr. Wilson of Queen's, afterwards Canon of Winchester, a Calvinist by reputation, who introduced the Society to Oxford.

July, 1883.—This incident has been the occasion of much misrepresentation, and to prevent permanent mistakes I am obliged to add as follows:—

Four years ago, on Mr. L., a friend of mine, saying of me in a periodical of name, that there were various false stories in circulation about the part I played towards certain evangelical bodies (for instance at the time when I was secretary to the Bible Society, an office which I never held), a correspondent of the editor wrote to him to say that what Mr. L. treated "as an amusing myth," was an affair in which he (the writer) "was a personal {5} actor;" that "if I denied that I was ever a secretary to the Bible Society, the denial must have been barely that I was secretary in the year 1826," whereas he (the writer) spoke of 1829 and 1830; that "when" the secretary "presented his Report" I "moved 254 amendments" to it; that "the number of emendations" (he repeated) "was 254," though "Mr. L. made it 250;" that "they were designed to transform the evangelical style of the Report into one which was "perhaps better;" that "meanwhile I had written" and circulated "a most hostile tract" or letter; and that, at the Annual Meeting that followed, it was carried unanimously "that the Rev. J. H. Newman should be no longer secretary."

The two main points in this uncalled-for and unfounded contradiction to Mr. L.'s statement which I think it necessary to deny, are first, that the occurrence which my assailant writes about took place in the Bible Society, whereas it took place in the Church Missionary Society, as the pamphlet which follows sufficiently shows; and next, that I moved 254 amendments to the secretary's Annual Report.

1. As to the first charge, it does but involve a question of memory, and is important only so far as it bears upon the general trustworthiness whether of Mr. L.'s account, or of the one contradictory to it. Now I deny that {6} I ever was secretary to any Bible Society. I was indeed a member of the Oxford Branch, and spoke at two Annual Meetings, but I know I never was secretary to it, and never spoke or wrote against it. All that I recollect of my two speeches is, that Dr. Shuttleworth, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, said of one of them that it was the only good one delivered at the meeting. This my own denial would be enough, but in addition to it, it is pleasant to me to be able to say that Mr. L.'s opponent himself on second thoughts had the candour in a subsequent letter to withdraw what he had so strongly asserted in his first. He writes, "If Cardinal Newman means that the Letter or Tract to which I referred was directed to the question, not of the Bible Society, but of the Church Missionary Society, I am sure that his memory is likely to be better than mine; he scores a line under the words which I have printed in italics. He proceeds, "In fact I never had a copy of the Tract; I only read it at the time."

2. Secondly, as to the question of "amendments moved" by me, which he says ran to the number of 254, his using elsewhere the word "emendations" instead of what he calls "amendments," seems to explain the difficulty of the wonderful number to which they ran. Not one "amendment" did I "move," as far as I remember or {7} believe; but it is very likely, from what he says, that at a preliminary meeting the intended Annual Report was read to the Committee, of whom I was one; and, though I recollect nothing about it now, perhaps or probably I objected to the conventional Evangelical phraseology in which it was drawn up, and the friends of its author on counting up my proposed "emendations" of style, found 254 words affected by my criticism. I am sure there was no moving, voting, and dividing upon them. If this explanation will not hold, I can give no other; anyhow, in the received meaning of the word, the notion of 254 amendments is absurd.

I am glad that in my lifetime so wholesale a charge has been made and refuted.

P.S.—The following letter to me from Mr. [Archdeacon] R. I. Wilberforce under the early date of Oct. 2, 1828, will illustrate my pamphlet. It shows that my criticism on the Church Missionary Society was that of others also, in the years during which I made it, and that I was doing nothing unreasonable or unfair in attempting to make the Society's obedience to Episcopal authority a fact as well as a profession. Mr. Woodruff, I believe, was one of the chief officials of the Society in 1828.

Oct. 2, 1828.—I have just seen Woodruff here, who tells me that the only objection to such a rule as [Provost] Hawkins {8} seemed to desiderate in the Church Missionary Society was, that it would seem to imply that such a principle was not what they had acted on hitherto. But they had always acted upon the general rule of conforming to the laws of the Church, and have therefore conceived that their missionaries would, of course, be under Episcopal authority. Is there any law of the kind you mention in the Propagation Society?—R. I. W.

What Dr. Hawkins and I, not to say Mr. R. I. Wilberforce, felt in 1828 and 1830, Mr. Hope Scott independently of us felt in 1837. This appears from a passage in the (unpublished) memoir of him, on which the Editor observes, "It is remarkable that, in the year 1830 Mr. Newman, as the Secretary of the Oxford Association of the Church Missionary Society, had already printed and circulated a pamphlet in the University, in behalf of this very subordination which Mr. Hope in 1837 advocated," vol. i. p. 120. {9}




              PERSONS whose names carry weight with them ought not to consider the application of a stranger an intrusion. You are a sharer in that aggregate of influence which determines the movements of our Oxford community. I address you as such; and, unless I ask an audience of unreasonable length, find my apology in the very circumstance which induces me to seek it.

I am to speak a few words in behalf of the Church Missionary Society, which I would fain see generally countenanced by the clergy; yet so far am I from being blind to the existing defects of that institution, praiseworthy as are its aim and exertions, that it is a keen sense of them that has led me to the step I am now taking.

Perhaps the faults exhibited in its proceedings are felt by those who have closely examined them even more strongly than by yourself. I do not defend the circumstances of its origination, which must be ascribed indeed {10} to motives worthy of all respect, but at the same time evinced little regard for the duty of Church order and canonical obedience. Nor has it yet cleared itself, except in part, from the dishonour of its first irregularities; which, though not seated in its constitution, still are mischievous attendants on its actual operations. And because I think they are great, yet accidental evils;—evils especially as regards the interests of that Church to which the Society is attached, distracting her present and still more endangering her future peace; and yet removable at the word of our ecclesiastical rulers, without any compromise of principle on their part: on these accounts it is that I anxiously and earnestly call upon those who have the power promptly and with one accord to put an end to them.

The facts of the case are these. A society for missionary purposes, supported mainly by members of the Church of England, professing her doctrines and discipline, and making use of her name, has extended its operations into every diocese of the kingdom; and (as far as its object is concerned) has laid out anew the Church's territory, dividing it into districts of its own appointing. It has moreover remodelled our ecclesiastical system, the functions of which are brought under the supreme direction of a committee of management in London; with which all its members are in immediate or ultimate correspondence, and which at various times has sent out its representatives through the country, preachers and (indirectly) lay-advocates, to detail its proceedings in large assemblies, and collect contributions for its great object.

Moreover, its practice of addressing itself to the multitude in public meetings,—besides offending against the peculiar sobriety of our Church's character,—has a direct tendency to disarrange her parochial system; to give a {11} prominence to preaching over other religious ordinances, which neither her formularies nor the annals of her history sanction; and to make the people, not the Bishop, the basis and moving principle of her constitution.

And further, by sending out missionaries for the propagation of the Gospel, this Society has taken on itself a function which, not less than that of ordination, is to be considered the prerogative of the supreme rulers of the Christian Church.

To finish the summary of the evils existing in the proceedings of this Society, the doctrines held by some of its most active directors, though not acknowledged perhaps by the individuals themselves to be Calvinistic, still are more or less such practically, whatever dispute may be raised about the exact meaning of words and phrases.

The sum expended by the Society in the course of the last year exceeded 55,000l. It has two hundred and twenty-two Associations—It numbers, in all, nine Bishops among its members; and, as far as it is possible to form an estimate from the subscription list attached to the Report, above fourteen hundred clergy.

That a society thus availing itself of the name of our Church, yet actually conducted on principles so widely different from those which her doctrine and discipline imply, and advocated moreover with such zeal, and as yet with such singular success, is doing secret injury to her highest domestic objects—the pure, sober, and adequate religious training of her people,—can hardly be doubted.

On the probable increase of the mischief, some light is thrown by the circumstance, that, while there is a visible resemblance in actual administration between the system of this and other missionary societies of recent origin, there appears on the other hand an inclination in some persons who are favourable to these latter institutions to detach {12} it still further from the Church, and to connect it in a more formal way with their own bodies [Note]:—an object which, it is presumed, cannot be attained without the Church's losing many respectable members, lay, and even clerical, who support the Society; nor even prosecuted without weakening, to an indefinite extent, their attachment to her principles and interests.

—I have detailed plainly and openly the errors visible in the conduct of the Church Missionary Society; but do not suffer them to engross your attention. I have mentioned them not on their own account, but for the sake of exhibiting their unfavourable bearing on the well-being of the Church. Let me entreat you to go on, from considering these mistakes, to consider the EVIL. Contemplate this state of things, not as a fact merely exciting your disapprobation of the Society, but as a mischief of melancholy interest to a body of which you are a member. View it, not as if you were an indifferent spectator, but as feeling that it involves a grave practical question, which claims an answer from you.—How should the clergy act in relation to this Society?—This is a problem to be solved amid opposite difficulties; in considering which, provided no principle be compromised, we must be determined by the suggestions of an enlarged Christian expediency.

Now, in viewing this question, we must not dwell on the manner of its first establishment. The spirit which originated it gave no character to its constitution, and has in a great measure died away. We are considering the Society as it exists at present. Past faults may serve to confirm a condemnation, but cannot counteract a favourable {13} judgment formed on existing grounds; so we put them aside.

Taking the case then as it now stands, I beg you to observe, that all the existing evils are destroyed at once and for ever, directly the clergy throw themselves into the Society—which they may do without any sacrifice of principle on their part. In this respect there is a marked distinction between it and the Bible Society. To join the latter implies (as many think), a concession, that it is lawful for orthodox believers to co-operate with heretics, that the Bible directly supplies a complete rule of discipline as well as of doctrine, and that dissenters may be recognized as independent bodies on a footing with the Church. But in the case of this Society, the authority of our ecclesiastical rulers is acknowledged by its very name; which its regulations so well bear out, that you may search in vain through them all for any principle of a sectarian tendency. All clergymen who are subscribers are ex officio members of the managing committee;—the lay-members being limited to the number of twenty-four, six of whom vacate their seats at the end of every year. And for actual instances of their respect for our ecclesiastical system, when their foreign operations come in contact with it, I may refer to the uniform conduct of their Indian mission, witnessed as it is by the testimonies of Middleton and Heber, and illustrated by their munificent grant in aid of Bishop's College, Calcutta, first of 5000l., then of 1000l. annually for several years.

So much on the question of principle.—And as to the practicability of legitimatizing this Society, its admission into the bosom of the Church is easy, because it may be done without compromise of principle. Not only has it placed itself in the hands of the Church by its rules, it has also (I believe) taken every opportunity, or rather used every solicitation, by which an approximation might {14} be made towards a system of episcopal and archidiaconal superintendence. The conduct of its leading members has been on the whole marked by fairness, candour, a simple desire to do good, and an unaffected willingness to listen to advice offered from authority. Whatever is irregular in their proceedings may be attributed partly to their deficient insight into the duties implied in Church union, and into the genius of our ecclesiastical system; and partly to the mere absence of spiritual authorities, who alone can confirm the acts of a religious body. Its present irregularities spring from circumstances of a negative, not a positive character. Its directors are, it is plain, involved in a difficulty arising from the anomalous mode of the Society's first establishment—a difficulty from which the Church alone can extricate them, by supplying her sanction and guidance—and this, which they have no right to claim, I call upon her to do, not for their sake, but for her own. Why should we stand aloof, and allow our name to be used by a Society, without availing ourselves of that right of control over its movements which the assumption of that name gives us? Why should we not put an end at once to so distracting a state of things by the only way left us for remedying it, now that the time is gone by when we might hope to stop the progress of the Society by discountenancing it? And why should we not avail ourselves of its influence and its resources for those great missionary objects which it is our duty ever to keep in view; and in so doing, far from weakening our Church's exertions (according to the common objection) by diverting contributions from the Propagation Society, actually add ready-made, and at a small cost, and for an object which needs provision, a most efficient organ of Christian benevolence to the number of those through which the Church at present fulfils her peculiar duties? Why, because she has rid herself of the corruptions of the {15} Papal times, and the rashness of the age of Laud, should she not still retain some portion of the vigour and fearlessness which she possessed in both those periods of her history?

Things cannot remain as they are. This Society must approach to the Church, or recede from her. If with an unwise timidity we let things take their course, it will insensibly be familiarized to the principles and practices of schism, and be lost to us with its resources, actual success, prospects for the future, its piety and activity; in the process of its separation, perplexing and enfeebling that Church, which has already enemies enough without our providing others for her. As yet, however, our seats are kept for us in its ranks, and we may claim them. The clergy still may direct its movements and regulate its associations, and substitute the decencies of parochial order for the excitement of fortuitous and unauthorized speakers at a public meeting. In a word, they may annex it to the Christian Knowledge and Propagation Societies, as a sister-institution in the work of evangelical charity.

Even if the accomplishment of so great an object involved the temporary distraction of the Society, and the ultimate defection of a portion of its members, still it would be supremely desirable. But in fact, an important advantage is rarely attainable by so certain and unostentatious a proceeding as is here open to us. It is only necessary for the clergy of each diocese and archdeaconry to take upon themselves the management of the Associations in their own neighbourhoods. This would be a gradual mode of connecting the Society with the Church, should it be thought unwise for her higher authorities to take the lead, by giving their support to the Parent Institution. To existing irregularities in preaching and public meetings, a stop would be put at once; and the influence of the Associations would soon be felt reacting on the Committee in London. When {16} a beginning is once fairly made, I have good hope the ultimate completion of the design is secured; and honoured will be his name—whoever that dignitary or man of station be—who is the first to give his countenance to it, recommending it by the weight of his influence to a number of sound and right-minded clergy, and then securing for it the direct patronage of our spiritual rulers.

I have addressed you, Rev. Sir, as having your share of influence in our Oxford circle;—and I address you at this time as believing that a crisis is at hand in the ecclesiastical history of the Society. It will be something to have succeeded merely in awakening your attention to an important subject, though I fail to guide your judgment to the conclusions I myself have adopted. I take my leave, acknowledging the favour you have done me in giving me this patient hearing.
I am, etc.
Feb. 1, 1830.


Extract from The Laws and Regulations of the Church
Missionary Society.

1. THIS institution shall be conducted by Patrons, Vice-Patrons, a President, Vice-Presidents, a Committee, and such officers as may be deemed necessary, all being members of the Established Church.

3. Annual subscribers of one guinea and upwards, and if Clergymen, half-a-guinea,            *            *            *            *            *            *            shall be members of this Society during the continuance of such subscriptions.

11. The Committee shall consist of twenty-four lay-members of the Established Church, and of all such Clergymen as are members of the Society. Eighteen members shall be annually appointed from the old Committee, and six from the general body.

17. The general Committee shall appoint the places where missions shall be attempted, shall direct the scale upon which they shall be {17} conducted, and shall superintend the affairs of the Society in general.

According to the Table prefixed to the last Report, the Society has 9 missions; viz. to West Africa, Mediterranean, North, South, and Western India, Ceylon, Australasia, West Indies, and Northwest America—And in these 51 stations employs 28 Episcopal Clergy, 17 Lutheran ditto; 63 lay-teachers, men and women; and 205 native teachers; and supports 295 schools, for boys, girls, or adults, containing in all 12,419 scholars.

The Oxford Association includes 40 Clergymen, of which number about 30 are resident members of the University.

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Vid. New Model of Christian Missions, by the author of the Natural History of Enthusiasm; and Eclectic Review, January, 1830. On the other hand, it is a gratifying fact, that within the last few months, the Society has given up its connection with the Missionary Register.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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