6 JULY 1867, Page 17


THE "SPECTATOR."] SIR,-It is not usual to offer any criticism on reviews of books, but there are two circumstances which, I think, entitle me to appeal to your accustomed liberality towards those who differ from your views, to let me say a few words in reply to some of your strictures last week on Dr. Dollinger's First Age of the Church. In the first place, I am not the author, but the translator of the inculpated work, and am not, therefore, writing in my own defence ; in the next place, your reviewer brings very grave charges, not against the literary competency, but the honesty and candour of the author, who is one of the first of living Catholic theologians, and, as being a foreigner resident in Germany, is in no position to defend himself. Perhaps I may be allowed to add that, having the privilege of an intimate personal acquaintance with him, I feel the more keenly on the subject.

To say the truth, the tone, though not the language, of a great part of the article is such as I should rather have looked for in the Record, or perhaps the Westminster Gazette, than in the Spectator, but I will confine myself here to two or three particular passages, which appear to me, if you will pardon my saying so, quite exceptionally unfair. And I will begin with the worst of them.

1. After complaining that Dr. Dollinger—in common, you must be aware, with the whole body of Christians before the Reforma- tion, and the great majority of them now—" professes to find a warrant in Apostolic teaching for confession," you proceed to com- ment as follows :—" For those who determine to resign their intel- lects into the keeping of a priest, and to hold their creed not because their own spirit and conscience are convinced of its truth, but because the Church orders it, we do not attempt to write ; everything except dogmatic statement must necessarily be wasted on those who ex hypothesi decline to reason." Surely, Sir, this is simply to confound two things wholly distinct. Confession to a priest is one thing ; resigning your intellect into his keeping is quite another; and there is no necessary or even natural connection between the two. Those who believe, as do all Catholics and a great many who are not Catholics, that confession is the means divinely ordained for the remission of post-baptismal sin will, of course, uphold and follow that practice ; those who do not so believe, will as naturally reject it. But they need not therefore throw out taunts of abnegating the use of their reason against all who hold what—to adopt your own lan- guage in another part of the same paper—" is the creed of half Christendom (in this case of three-fourths of it), was our own little more than 300 years ago, is believed by some of the wisest, and not a few of the noblest Englishmen among us." Confession, as such, has nothing directly to do with the intellect. That con- fession, or rather " direction," has often been misused for pur- poses of intellectual domination I am far from denying. Are you prepared to deny that the Protestant pulpit has been quite as often and as easily misused for a similar object? If the early Jesuits are accused of making the confessional an instrument of political influence, so most assuredly did the early Puritans abuse the pulpit. But you do not therefore deny preaching to be a useful, or perhaps a divine ordinance. I may, at least, safely challenge you to produce from the book I have translated, or from any other work of Dr. Dollinger's, a single passage which can be fairly interpreted as advocating—what I feel certain he would emphati- cally repudiate—the duty of resigning your intellect into the keeping of a priest, and stifling your reason in deference to the claims of a creed which does not convince your conscience.

2. You again accuse the author of dishonesty because, while he " allows "—insists would have been a more accurate term—" that there are nowhere fixed names of offices in the New Testament," he yet maintains that the Episcopate is a divine institution, and had already been inaugurated in the Apostolic age. I need not stop to point out that in this latter view he is supported not only by all Catholic and Greek, but by the immense majority of Anglican divines, though they have not always been so candid in admitting the former. But what I do complain of is, that while his explanation of the supposed inconsistency, and of a great deal

more besides, by the principle of development in discipline and teaching, as held by the German School of Liberal Catholics, is a prominent feature of his book, and one of its main claims to atten- tion, you do not even drop a hint of the existence of the theory, while you base on the supposed inconsistency a charge of want of candour against him. You are of course at liberty to say or to argue that his principle is wrong, but it is at least one there is a good deal to be said for, and his open assertion of it is a complete refutation of your charge of manipulating the facts.

3. The last case which I shall refer to is one where I cannot undertake to answer your arguments, for you have not con- descended to use any ; you simply quote, as a crowning and crucial instance of want of candour, Dr. Dollinger's application of our Lord's words to the Samaritan woman, about the future worship of His Church, to the Eucharist as the central and distinctive act of Christian worship,—an application made in language of such deep and noble spirituality that I should certainly have expected the Spectator to respect, even if it had been unable to endorse it. You give, as I have said, no reason whatever for condemning this application as not only false, but so glaringly uncandid as to damn for ever the honesty of the writer and of all " Roman Catholic divines." And I must, there- fore, content myself with reminding you that so far from its being peculiar to Dr. Dollinger, our Lord's words are probably under- stood in that sense by almost every one who holds the Eucharistic sacrifice to be the central act of Christian worship, that is, to say the least, by the whole body of Christians, from Justin Martyr to the Reformation, and by about four-fifths of Christians now. You will not, perhaps, think it out of place if I add, as matter of personal testimony simply, that it is the sense in which I have always understood them myself, and that for years before I be- came, or thought of becoming, a Roman Catholic.

I must apologize for the length to which this letter has run, and can only say in excuse that I have done my best to compress. it within as narrow limits as I could.—I am, Sir, &c.,

H. N. OXENHAM, Translator of the First Age of the Church.

[If Mr. Oxeuham had not been too zealous for his friend to read our words calmly, he would not have fallen into the error he im- putes to us, and have entirely misrepresented our meaning. He must see on a second perusal that we never accused Dr. Dollinger of any dishonesty, or him personally of anything. The gist of our whole article was to show that those who hold the Roman Catholic theory of the Church, of divine authority belonging to a priesthood, as a fundamental principle, are intellectually fettered so completely that they cannot argue soundly on questions affect- ing that theory. As for his specific charges against us- 1. Mr. Oxenham has omitted three or four sentences between his two quotations, which amply explain our meaning to be very different from that which he imputes to us. Our hostility, most: plainly expressed, was not to confession in particular, but to the whole theory of priestly power, and this Mr. Oxenham does not attempt to defend. He limits himself to an irrelevant defence of a specific practice which we never specifically attacked.

2. Mr. Oxenham's argument is a mere petitio principii. If the Church has continuing divine authority, the institutions it.

developed are of coarse divine ; but we start by denying that divine authority which alone can give divine sanction to the developments ; and mere reassertion of that authority, or of any theory of development dependent on it, is not argument.

3. The assertion that four-fifths of Christendom believes in the sacerdotal interpretation of St. John iv., 21-24, may or may not be accurate ; but if it be so, we need no further justification for language far stronger than we employed as to the paralyzing in- fluence upon the mind of a belief in Sacerdotalism.

In fact, Mr. Oxenham's whole letter goes far to support our- previous conviction that a creed which adopts as its basis deference to any authority intermediate between man and God, is destructive✓ to the reasoning powers of the ablest men.—ED. Spectator.]