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of the Christian system to human nature and to human needs. That the Church of England then has a doctrine and a practice of Confession we do not here dwell upon. That neither in her doctrine nor her practice of it, does she regard it as necessary for all men or under all circumstances, is a question which, for the purposes of this paper, we take as already proved. An omission which we regret far more is that we have now neither space nor time to illustrate the position that from the fifth century onwards, private Confession, such as we now understand it, was nearly the only substitute for the lost public discipline which the Church had previously struggled to maintain. But we must add a word or two more as to what we consider the distinctly special position which private Confession holds in the system of the Church of England, that, namely, as aiding the soul which feels its need of it, as contrasted with the Roman view, which treats it as of actual necessity for all. Such necessity, if really existing, must rest either upon one of two grounds: it must rest either (1) upon authority, or (2) on some convincing reason derived from the nature of the case. As to authority, the Roman system fails utterly to adduce sufficient proof either from Scripture or from primitive antiquity. The whole effort of the early Church was to perfect a system of public Confession for grave offences, such as by their visibility, their scandal, or otherwise might be considered as affecting the whole Body of the Church, and the whole idea of a discipline of Penance was connected with grave and open sins. The action of the Roman Church in the fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, was a novelty. Then as to the nature of the case, we cannot but think that it is sufficient to say that a supposed necessity, of which no hint is given, either in the inspired writings or in the practice of primitive times, must rest upon a foundation so slender as to excuse us from its consideration. The Roman rule seems to us to stand as a warning rather than as an example, and a warning which it is especially necessary for us to heed now at a time when the reaction from past neglect involves the danger of excess. We do not suppose that any instructed clergyman or layman in the Church of England could maintain the necessity of private Confession. There is more danger of persons speaking of it so as to convey the impression which may be summed up in the common expression, 'no compulsion, only you must.' Perhaps, after all, the truest way of regarding it may be as a privilege rather than a duty, and a privilege branching out widely into many unexpected ramifications of help and blessing; helps and blessings so manifold
and various that it may be no wonder if those who know them should be somewhat over eager that others should share them. But just as Confession of sin made directly to God without that movement of the will which we describe as repentance is a barren thing, upon which no dews of Divine Grace descend, so also it would seem that private Confession made without that impulse which we have described above, is in terrible danger of degenerating into a formalism which may work disastrously upon the soul's health. The whole ordinance seems to us to postulate the sense of need as a condition of its usefulness. It is of no use to reply that we teach and train children to confess sins to God. There is reason for that; for the whole Christian life depends on the formation of the habit of personal communion with the Father of spirits. The sense of need in the case of private Confession arises when, from whatever cause, this personal communion with God is. so impaired or the faculty for it so weakened that some special help is wanted to restore and to invigorate it. We by no means mean to overlook the secondary use and value of Confession in the case of those who voluntarily have recourse to it as a means of discipline which they find useful to their own souls, and of practical advantage in deepening their own self-knowledge, in deepening their repentance, in deepening the reality of their spiritual life. But this is a separate and subordinate department of the subject and falls rather under the head of the collateral advantages than the primary intention and idea of the ordinance; and in any discussion of the subject the two ought to be kept jealously distinct. There is also another reason why at present we decline this branch of the subject; namely, that it would lead us into the discussion of Direction,' on which there would be much to say, and in which the danger of exaggerated action is perhaps the greatest of all. Such a pamphlet as Canon Perowne's, named at the head of this article, shows that even a strong opponent can recognise some good in Confession, and we may therefore hope that the true Church doctrine may gradually make its way. But while even opponents may thus be gradually owning that it is good thus to minister to a wounded soul, we have nothing but evil to fear from a priest allowing himself to stand in the place of Conscience to another. This must be not only wrong, but deeply injurious both to director and directed, and the danger is not imaginary.
Here therefore for the present we must pause. We cannot but feel that we have only touched on the multitude of topics to which the main line of our discussion has introduced us,
and that perhaps owing to our profound feeling of the solemnity of the subject we may have been deficient in our presentation of that brighter side of it which unquestionably exists the mighty uplifting of the soul's whole being towards its God and Saviour, which results from its due administration and its faithful use, the restoration to full and conscious communion with God which thousands have been privileged to obtain, who might otherwise (humanly speaking) have remained in their previous separation and distance from Him. These things are realities, and it is the knowledge of this brighter side which made us write what we did just now, when we said that to regard it as a mighty privilege was, perhaps, after all, the truest way of looking at it. There is the bright side as well as the darker and the graver, as both priest and penitent know full well, when, through the human ministration, Divine peace once more visits the storm-tossed soul, or when, through the counsel of the experienced guide, the clouds of doubt are dispelled, and the one pole-star once more shines clearly before the spiritual gaze.
The Via Media of the Anglican Church. Illustrated in Lectures, Letters, and Tracts. Written between 1830 and 1841. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, of the Oratory, sometime Fellow of Oriel College. In two volumes, with a Preface and Notes. Vol I. (Pickering, Piccadilly, 1877.)
THERE is a story told of some monkish controversialist during the middle ages who had the reputation of being an adroit disputant on the orthodox side (and was afterwards suspected of heresy notwithstanding), that after some unusually dexterous feat of orthodox logic, he cried out in his glee, 'O good Jesus, as easily as I have proved Thee, so easily could I disprove Thee, if I pleased!' Can any one help attributing something of this feeling to the writer before us? It has occasionally been known for a writer's controversial works to be re-issued with a refutation from some other hand. But surely it has seldom happened for a writer endowed with a degree of power and culture seldom entrusted to man, deliberately setting to work as an aged man to confute the arguments which he had constructed in the plenitude of his powers, between forty and fifty years before? It has the look, indeed, of an act done in obedience to superiors; we can hardly conceive it to have been entirely voluntary. Anyhow, here, whether it be voluntary or involuntary, is such a case. Dr. Newman, in re-publishing his Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, has prefaced them with ninety pages of refutation.
It would be an act probably of considerable temerity should we
cross swords with so redoubted a champion as Dr. Newman. at all events it will be edifying to observe how Dr. Newman, haud omni parte virium impar, advances to cross swords with himself.
When then we have perused these ninety pages of subtle distinctions, of brilliant theories, of demurrers to matters of doctrine, we arrive at one conclusion, and but one: that the Dr. Newman of 1830 is just the Dr. Newman of 1877; as dexterous in his logic, just as sure never to be found at fault for want of a theory. The general scheme upon which this rejoinder to himself is arranged is this, that Christianity is at once a religion, a philosophy, and a political power; that in each of these capacities it has separate and, in some ways, dissimilar interests; and that the peculiar line of action prompted by each will be checked and 'modified by the others, nay sometimes in a particular case the necessity of the others converted into a rule of duty for itself,' i.e. as we take this impenetrable ambiguity to mean, its own principles practically negatived in action, and others substituted.
To the abnormal action of one or other of these principles, i.l., its unchecked and disproportionate working, he would refer those instances of tolerated superstition, of selfish action, of theological lapse, which have been so constantly objected to the rulers and official heads of the Roman Communion by those who do not acknowledge its claims; and we do not know that to such an apology we have any rejoinder to make. It is possible that some Roman apologists might object that a good deal more is conceded here than is convenient; but with that we have nothing to do.
What surprises us, however, is that Dr. Newman should apparently suppose that his mode of tracing to their cause, or supposed cause, these actions objected to, is equivalent to justifying, if not them, yet the Church which permitted or approved them. He may be able to show that the massacre of S. Bartholomew was due to the Regal function' of Catherine de Medicis, working, however ignorantly, upon the 'theological element,' or, in other words, the conscience of her son Charles IX., and so extorting his consent to the murder; and, further, that it was the 'imperial policy' of Gregory XIII. venturing 'beyond the lines of theology,' which caused a Te Deum of thankfulness to be sung, and a medal to be struck to commemorate it. But when he has thus shown how these things came to take place, does it make them any the less wicked?
We have not space to do more than just indicate the heads of the rejoinder which we think ought to be made. But we would suggest to Dr. Newman whether his apology for his Church in doing these things does not rest on the tacit assumption, that being inevitable, they are right after all, or, at worst, are venial offences, mere errors of judgment as to the limits of conflicting duties, on which no person of candid mind will hereafter found a charge.
Specific allegations in the course of the argument are still more 'Not altogether tacit; see p. 83, where he says, 'No act could be theologically an error, which was absolutely and undeniably necessary for the unity. of the Church.'
astonishing than the fundamental assumption. Thus the author sees his way to put forth a sort of apology for the peccant Popes; saying, on p. lxxxii., ' acts simply unjustifiable, such as real betrayals of the truth on the part of Liberius and Honorius, become intelligible and cease to be shocking [italics ours] if we consider that these Popes felt themselves to be head rulers of Christendom, and their first duty as such to be that of securing its peace, union, and consolidation,' which were, we suppose, to be served by duplicity and disregard of doctrine ! But, in fact, there is a sense in which this excuse may be not unnaturally made. Pope Liberius, for example, fell under the stress of persecution; a thing whose cogency this generation knows very little about and probably does not appraise at quite its full value. Honorius seems simply to have erred with the best intentions. And it would be the cruellest thing to
'Drag their failings from their dread abode,'
to make them the subject of disparaging comment, as has been done so often of late, were it not for the claim to infallibility set up on behalf of the occupants of the Roman See. Nothing is gained by showing that an individual theologian, however high in station, on some particular occasion made a mistake. He was a man ; and 'to err is human.' But he who claims infallibility, official or personal, challenges criticism; and whether he be alive or dead, will be sure to be criticised.
It is an ill turn, therefore, that the pro-infallibilists have done to these unhappy Bishops, whose ashes might otherwise be suffered to rest in peace, and the fault which doubtless they each repented bitterly enough, be quietly forgotten. Of all the apologies that have ever been made for them, surely that made by Dr. Newman is the strangest. The principle on which these two Popes may be supposed to have acted,' as he says (and a very unlikely supposition it is), is one that does not at all remove the blame of this heresy or this apostasy; but only shifts it on to the original scheme or constitution of things. For we are shut up to two alternatives. Either the Popes were wrong in these two cases, and are to be condemned for them, in which case they (or at all events Pope Honorius, who delivered ex cathedrâ the Monothelite heresy) cannot be infallible; or they were justifiable; which they can only be on the ground of an original antinomy or incompatibility between what Dr. Newman calls the ‘regal function' and 'the rigorousness of a logical theology,' as he phrases it on p. 79.
But this would be to make the Founder of the Church the author of an imperfect or ill-contrived work; the claims of theology rightly understood and of a wise and far-seeing expediency can never be really incompatible; and hence our conclusion must be that Dr. Newman is trying to cover a weak place in his defences by a very ingenious theory that cannot be sustained. In fact this is the general purport of the new preface. Habemus confitentem reum. reflecting discredit on the Roman Church are not denied. by admitting,' says Dr. Newman, the general truth of the facts