« AnteriorContinuar »
found its expression more in rectitude of conduct and method
‘pre-occupied, he lived on the edge of general society rather than in it. At this time too a trouble came into his life which tended to intensify the gloom natural to timid dispositions when circumstances are untoward. Pusey had fallen in love, and his father disapproved of the engagement. This state of things must have caused Pusey deep and real pain. He stood in awe of his father with conscientious reverence. He realized that there was a certain ‘tenor of mind which his father wished him to maintain.” He saw that to the eyes of outsiders his father's attitude on some matters might be viewed as amusingly over-rigid ; but he would not presume to criticise a line of conduct which he felt sure was directed to the furtherance of his happiness. Witness his letters written to Jelf respecting the proposed foreign tour which Pusey felt would not be sanctioned by his father. Compare this letter with what would probably have been written by any other young fellow under similar circumstances, and we gain a glimpse of that awed self-repression, that resolute self-distrust and dread of waywardness and wilfulness which seems to * been his dominant characteristic. The letter shows us the sincere endeavour to battle with himself. The effort is not perhaps very successful, but it reveals the distress of a conscientious nature at the existence of “morbid feelings’ which its own timidity and sensitiveness have created. The shadow of these feelings is much with him. When at length he is allowed to go abroad, his feelings colour his view of the magnificent scenery of Mont Blanc. The fading of the rosy light from the summit of the mountain and the chill which follows remind him of his own lot. The language of his friend Neave, bidding him take leave of the Aiguille Peak, finds “a gloomy correspondence’ with his own feelings. He is not in the mood to enjoy much. Lausanne Cathedral has no beauty for him. His interest is a self-absorbed one. Chillon attracts him, but it is because he is passing through the Byronic stage, for Byron, “the prophet of the disappointed” (as the biographers well call him), appealed to him at this time.
“While it (this Byronism) lasted, it did him harm by leading him to dwell morbidly on thoughts and feelings which would have better been repressed and forgotten, but which in fact coloured his native apprehension of nature and life.’
In much of this criticism of his biographers we agree; but Pusey's spirit at the time was a congenial soil for the Byronic seed. Nodoubt most young men of that age had their Byronic fever; few encountered it with more ready predispositions than did Pusey. Things were against him. He lacked the vigorous self-assertion, the physical buoyancy of other young men. His timidity in the face of opposition became gloom. Neither his spirit nor his conscience would allow him to dream of revolt; but he could surrender himself to the enjoyment of his grief.
“I loved my grief better than any hollow joy; and if my mother, in society when I occasionally forgot myself, expressed to me her pleasure at seeing me smile, it invariably brought again a gloom over my countenance.’ “
This is the mental attitude which can enjoy Byron.
‘That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears;
But there were elements in Byron which could find no welcome in Pusey's spirit. Coarse sensualism and blatant unbelief had no attraction for him. From one and from the other he recoiled with horror. The home influence which kept at long distance any teaching at variance with the political and religious tenets of the family found a ready support in the very timidity and sensitiveness of which we have spoken. Doubt and unbelief were giant forms of terror; their very shadow made him afraid. Safety lay in resolutely shutting the door against such foes. When he was twenty-two, he had been
* obliged to read an infidel book in order to help a friend who was in difficulties. That was my first real experience of the deadly breath of infidel thought upon my soul. I never forgot how utterly I shrank from it.’t
With this dread of conviction which might jeopardize faith there was joined the devoutness and self-distrust which impressed those who knew him. “He seems,' wrote Newman, “he seems growing in the best things—in humility and love of God and man.’ It is strange, even startling, to read on the same page Newman's prayer: ‘Let me never be eager to convert him to a party or to a form of opinion.' . Both these things were nearer to Newman and Pusey than either of them knew. Pusey spent his life in founding a party; and Newman, like an india-rubber ball which, having bounded from wall to wall, falls at length over the wall, withdrew himself from the game and ensconced himself behind the most inflexible of all forms of opinion.
Pusey's acquaintance with advancing thought was increased by his visit to Germany. He was to a degree and for a time fascinated, but with the fascination there sprang up dread. He listened to the lectures of Eichhorn and Pott. The thought flashed upon him as he sat in his room, thinking over the advanced opinions which he had heard:—
* Vol. i. p. 30. f Ibid. p. 49. flashed ash
‘This will all come upon us in England; and how utterly unprepared for it we are. From that time I determined to devote myself more earnestly to the Old Testament, as the field in which Rationalism seemed to be most successful.’
He came under the influence of Schleiermacher, and probably ‘owed the beginnings of some prominent features of his devotional life to his intercourse with him. By him he was reinforced ‘in his dislike of philosophical methods of handling theology.' Besides these, he met Tholuck, Neander, and Hengstenberg. In a second visit to Germany he met Freytag, Lücke, and Sack. He was also introduced to Ewald, from
whom he was widely separated in later times. During these visits to Germany he learned much and gained considerable insight into the condition of religious thought in that country. In this way he was specially well equipped for his controversy with Mr. Rose. Mr. Rose had delivered some sermons at Cambridge on ‘The State of the Protestant Religion in Germany.’ Pusey considered that Rose was mistaken in some points. He took a larger and more tolerant view of the position than did Rose. In doing so, he disclosed quite unconsciously how far he himself had felt sympathy with certain German teachers. He had recourse to his pen, but the drift of his book was mistaken. His orthodoxy was suspected. His German friends had taught him to speak of ‘the scientific spirit,’ ‘freedom from prejudice, and ‘a new era in theology’; for the time he was undoubtedly influenced by them in his statements both about ‘the inspiration of Holy Scriptures, and about the Creeds.” He recognized later that his language had justified suspicion. On some points he published a retractation, and declared in the most solemn way that he never doubted the plenary inspiration of the Bible. It had been his hope that the labours of men like Tholuck and Neander would result in much fruit, and this hope led him to view the prospects of religious thought in Germany with some measure of favour. But scarcely more than a dozen years had passed, before he had changed his “theological attitude.” He had been ‘too sanguine, too little alive to the character and extent of the concessions ‘made to the enemies of faith.” Between these two periods many things had happened. Events had spoken eloquently of impending dangers. The present generation takes little interest in the Hampden controversy; but the incidents which led to this controversy had many serious results. results. Pleasant intercourse between men of different schools of thought was rudely broken up. The borders of division became more clearly marked. Hampden attacked the accumulations with which tradition and scholasticism had, in his judgment, overlaid the primitive simplicity and purity of Christianity. In the view of Pusey and others, Hampden had attacked vital and essential truths of Christianity. This is not the place to enter into the merits of the controversy. We can easily understand that the views of Hampden startled and alarmed opinion in Oxford. His teaching was aggravated by his appointment as Regius Professor. Injury was added to insult. Pusey expressed his alarm in a pamphlet. He felt that the evil spirit of Rationalism had entered the University. His fears for the safety of the faith were intensified. Later there came other causes of alarm. The Government of Sir Robert Peel proposed some radical Church reforms. Pusey had been drawn towards the Whigs, but his Whiggism, which had been melting away, now disappeared. His attitude resembles Keble's at the time when the assault on the Irish Church was made—such attacks had in Keble's view been an act of national apostasy. The programme of Sir Robert Peel was to Pusey an act of sacrilege.
The result of all these events led Pusey into a state of mind in which dissatisfaction with ecclesiastical affairs as they were in England began to resemble very closely a yearning for Rome. He certainly cast wistful glances towards the Roman Church. “Is there quite love enough for the Roman Church?’ is his criticism on Manning's charge. “I only desiderate more love for Rome.’ Manning remonstrates. The tone which Pusey adopts seems to him “to breathe not charity, but want of decision.’ “The Church of Rome for three hundred years has desired our extinction. It is now undermining us.” Manning was perplexed.
The biographers candidly acknowledge that Pusey's ‘attitude at this juncture created perplexity in still higher quarters.' Pusey's explanations of his attitude betray to us how near his own vessel was running to the edge of the whirlpool which had drawn others down.
‘I cannot any more take the negative ground against Rome; I can only remain neutral. I have, indeed, for some time left off alleging grounds against Rome, and, whether you think it right or wrong, I am sure that it is of no use to persons who are really in any risk of leaving us.’”
* Life, vol. ii. pp. 454,455.