The subject of debate in this particular volume (composed as a letter to John Henry Newman, former leading figure of the Oxford Movement) is the Virgin Mary and the doctrines put forth concerning her. Specifically, Pusey defends the ancient doctrine of her as Theotokos (“God-bearer”), as affirmed at the fourth Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Early Church, but also makes the case that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as put forth by Rome is theory and speculation, and as it may not be proved it ought not to be required of any man to be believed.
In 1845, after a long personal struggle over the validity of Anglican Orders, Newman converted to Roman Catholicism. From that point forward, most of the relationships that continued between Newman and his Oxford Movement peers were at best strained. This was particularly the case with Pusey. However, following a chance meeting, they began a dialogue in letters to one another, in which Newman tried to convert Pusey to the doctrines of Rome, and Pusey continued to resist such conversion and rather hold fast to his fight for the ancient Faith within Anglicanism. This volume is one such letter.
Well-researched and documented, Pusey’s work cites key figures on all sides of the debate, and appeals to the Fathers to support his argument. These include Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Alcuin, and John of Damascus. Also included is a section of analyses of various passages of Scripture, designed to build the case that the method of transmission of Original Sin remains a mystery.
- Title: First Letter to the Very Rev. J. H. Newman, D. D. in Explanation Chiefly in Regard to the Reverential Love Due to the Ever-Blessed Theotokos, and the Doctrine of Her Immaculate Conception
- Author: E. B. Pusey
- Publisher: James Parker & Co.
- Publication Date: 1869
- Pages: 520
About E. B. Pusey
E. B. Pusey(1800–1882), leader in the Anglo–Catholic Oxford movement within the Church of England
Pusey was Regius Professor of Hebrew and canon of Christ Church at Oxford. He shared with other brilliant young Oxford conservatives concern about the rising tide of biblical and theological liberalism and the reform spirit rampant in Britain during the late 1820s and 1830s. He contributed to reviving a “dead” High Church orthodoxy by stimulating knowledge of the early church fathers and of non–Puritan Anglicans of the seventeenth century. Their teaching had been obscured, in his estimation, by Deism, Broad Church theological indifference, and the evangelicals’ concentration upon God’s work alone in justification and the experience of that. Pusey began to warn against the dangers of the new German theology, which he had studied firsthand. He began in late 1833 to contribute to the Tracts for the Times edited by John Henry Newman and to make the Tracts significant expressions of Anglo– Catholic teaching. He established a residence for theological students and a society for professors, tutors, and graduates in order to spread his principles. In 1836, he commenced editing translations of early Christian writers under the title The Library of the Fathers, which became a lifetime project, the last of the forty–eight volumes being published after his death. He was the first person of prominence to identify himself publicly with the movement, causing “Puseyism” to become the sometimes popular designation for it.
Because of an 1843 sermon, “The Holy Eucharist,” he was suspended two years from preaching at Oxford for the Romish views expressed, an event that contributed to the conversion of Newman and others to Roman Catholicism. Pusey, however, remained steadfastly within the Church of England. He had learned to bear much sorrow in his private life through strict discipline and such practices as the wearing of a hair shirt. Nor did he share Newman’s view that officials were to be obeyed absolutely. Pusey’s strength helped retain others. He was instrumental in 1845 in establishing an order of sisters in London. This was evidence of his personal charity and of new vitality among Anglo–Catholics in reaching the poor, as well as of the Church’s ability to accept Anglo–Catholic concepts. In 1846, he resumed his university preaching, taking up theologically where he had left off. Later, a new wave of liberalism in the church provided Pusey his final thrusts of public activity against the influence of Benjamin Jowett and biblical higher criticism.