Edward Bouverie Pusey

Edward Bouverie Pusey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are like me, you mostly find sermons these days unsatisfying. It doesn’t matter much whether you’re Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist or almost any other variant of Christianity, nearly all of what we hear in church any more is pap. We know, of course, that God is Love but, we also know that he is also a God of Judgement, and we are not to set ourselves above him. It seems to me that many of our churches and their hierarchies do so these days.

I, and you, know it wasn’t always so, even in my lifetime, the tone of church has softened much, but earlier it was a much more vital, dare I say virile, religion, and that’s why it remained at the center of our culture so long.

In the nineteenth century there was a movement in the Anglican Church in England called the Oxford Movement. It was quite a group, it’s most famous member was the blessed John Henry Newman, who eventually crossed the Tiber into the Roman Catholic Church, and ended up as a Doctor of the Church. The site I’m sending you today, is filled with his writing, and if you are a traditional Christian (especially a Catholic one) you will find much to your liking. His English and his logic is worth the reading alone.

But as I’ve repeatedly said, conservative Lutherans and conservative Anglicans have much in common, last Monday, the historian who runs the site, and yes, he is a friend of mine, a very good one, started a series on Edward Bouverie Pusey, who stayed in the Anglican Communion, and is decidedly out of fashion in that church now, and likely yours as well.

Here’s a bit of Dr. Charmley’s introduction. Enjoy!

[…]Pusey is indigestible material for the contemporary modish Christian sensibility, even as he is for those who like their clergymen to reflect contemporary mores. He has been criticised for everything from his treatment of his wife and children, through to his opposition to university reform, and his insistence on the reality of damnation; he was the very model of a Victorian clergyman, and as that model is out of fashion and likely so to remain, so is Pusey. Remaining, as he he did, in the Church of England, he wants the support and reverence which Newman has always attracted from those who followed him across the Tiber; and the modern Church of England makes but little of him, perhaps because it would find his legacy difficult to reconcile with the direction it has felt compelled to take. Yet he remains one of the giants of Anglican history, and his sermons repay serious attention.


My recommendation? Subscribe to the site, it’s easily worth your time.

And since we are speaking a bit today about Newman, as John Hayward at Powerline reminds us, he had great fun needling his friend Bernard Shaw. Here’s a piece of that:

A peculiar difficulty arrests the writer of this rough study at the very start. Many people know Mr. Bernard Shaw chiefly as a man who would write a very long preface even to a very short play. And there is truth in the idea; he is indeed a very prefatory sort of person. He always gives the explanation before the incident; but so, for the matter of that, does the Gospel of St. John. For Bernard Shaw, as for the mystics, Christian and heathen (and Shaw is best described as a heathen mystic), the philosophy of facts is anterior to the facts themselves. In due time we come to the fact, the incarnation; but in the beginning was the Word.

This produces upon many minds an impression of needless preparation and a kind of bustling prolixity. But the truth is that the very rapidity of such a man’s mind makes him seem slow in getting to the point. It is positively because he is quick-witted that he is long-winded. A quick eye for ideas may actually make a writer slow in reaching his goal, just as a quick eye for landscapes might make a motorist slow in reaching Brighton. An original man has to pause at every allusion or simile to re-explain historical parallels, to re-shape distorted words. Any ordinary leader-writer (let us say) might write swiftly and smoothly something like this: “The element of religion in the Puritan rebellion, if hostile to art, yet saved the movement from some of the evils in which the French Revolution involved morality.” Now a man like Mr. Shaw, who has his own views on everything, would be forced to make the sentence long and broken instead of swift and smooth. He would say something like: “The element of religion, as I explain religion, in the Puritan rebellion (which you wholly misunderstand) if hostile to art—that is what I mean by art—may have saved it from some evils (remember my definition of evil) in which the French Revolution—of which I have my own opinion—involved morality, which I will define for you in a minute.” That is the worst of being a really universal sceptic and philosopher; it is such slow work. The very forest of the man’s thoughts chokes up his thoroughfare. A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.


Heh! I wish I could write like that! In fact, I wish there were more people around with a mind like any of the three we’ve spoken of today.


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2 Responses to Pusey — NEWMAN LECTURES

  1. Myself as one that has read Newman since my young teens, (I’m 65 on the 24th), I would hope that Americans especially would read things like this… http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/crockett-oxford.shtml on the history and essence of so-called Tractarianism. I would maintain that there is no way to theologically and biblically connect the Reformation and the Reformers with this! And it is not a question of who is personally a Christian, but of course what is the essence and reality of the Gospel and “kerygma” (Message) of God In Christ itself! And here I would recommend C.H. Dodd’s book: The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, first published in 1936, and reprinted, second edition (re-set) 1944. I have myself a 1949 edition, and signed by Dodd. (And btw, Dodd was not an Anglican, but the first non-Anglican at Oxford, a Congregationalist).

    And this is NOT an attack, since I read Pusey myself, and still again even Newman. But, we simply MUST draw the true and historical theological lines! When I hear lines like “the Puritan rebellion”? Newman is simply not the man to trust on this subject, thank you!

    And btw, just a point, but I went to a Catholic funeral the other day, and I heard the priest say that the departed man was most certainly in heaven! And then we sang John Newman’s song (a Calvinist himself btw), Amazing Grace. I have quite noted that in the Roman Catholic Church today, that just about everyone departed, at least at the funeral, is said to be in heaven! Yes, the times they have a changed! But, not one challenge to the real Gospel, with Repentance and change for the living!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And btw, I was at this funeral as an Anglican priest/presbyter, invited by my younger Roman Catholic priest and fellow chaplain (as some of his friends were also known by me). But, I of course did not say anything, as per the Catholic priests wish. But, I did know the departed! And he was an older (even than me! ;)) one time Roman Catholic, who called himself an “agonistic”. I would myself have given him some benefit as a man and onetime baptized RC, but died as a combative thinker towards religion, but in the hands of his Creator and maker after death! (Ecc. 12: 7) GOD alone knows the heart & soul!


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