The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XIII. The Growth of Liberal Theology

§ 19. Father Tyrrell

Cross-currents of theological opinion have become in recent years increasingly noticeable. If high churchmen have adopted a freer biblical criticism, broad churchmen and free churchmen have ceased to belittle the idea of the church. Theology becomes more and more cosmopolitan, and oversteps denominational boundaries. Even that church which rates highest the principle of authority has had its disciplinary difficulties with those sons who seek to create a catholic atmosphere in which the modern mind may breathe more freely. The modernist movement is yet too near and unexhausted to find historical treatment, were it not that its most brilliant English representative, George Tyrrell, has already written his last word. The title of one of his earlier books, Nova et Vetera, is a fit symbol of his lifelong attempt to adjust new and old. His mind was delicately sensitive to every modern pressure, yet he loved the past and would lose none of its heritage: “The new must be made out of the old, must retain and transcend all its values.” The very word catholic, said the Abbé Brémond at his graveside, was music to his ears; he was more securely catholic than Christian. Now he would be wondering whether the Christianity of the future would consist “of mysticism and charity, and possibly the Eucharist in its primitive form as the outward bond”; now he would look longingly back to the church of his baptism; and yet again give a last loyalty to the church of his adoption. He was still probing this way and that for sure foothold when death interrupted his pilgrimage. “Had I been Moses I don’t think I should have felt not entering the Land of Promise one bit, so long as I knew that Israel would do so one day.”

It is inevitable that Tyrrell’s career should be compared with Newman’s; he made the comparison himself in one of the latest of his essays.

  • “Be my soul with the Saints!” says Newman, looking away from Anglicanism towards the altars of Rome. But is there not a wider Communion of Saints, whereof the canonised are but a fraction, and whose claims are founded, not in miracles or prodigies, but in that sincerity to truth and righteousness, without which even orthodoxy were nothing worth? Be my soul with such saints, whatever their creed and communion!