Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/60

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ship with Bunsen), Berlin, and Bonn. He studied at first under Eichhorn and Schleiermacher, and enjoyed the friendship of Tholuck and Neander. It was not long before he fully appreciated the necessity for a careful preparation to resist the attack that was threatened upon revealed religion. He knew enough of the condition of theology in England to see how entirely unprepared English churchmen were to handle such questions. To complete his equipment as a champion of orthodoxy, he turned to the study of oriental languages, placing himself under the instruction—first of Kosegarten, the professor of theology at Greifswald, and then of Freytag, the professor of oriental languages at Bonn. His devotion to Syriac and Arabic studies seriously affected his health, but he was able to finish his work, and returned to England in June 1827. Very soon after his return he published his first book, ‘An Historical Enquiry into the Probable Causes of the Rationalist Character lately predominant in the Theology of Germany.’ It was an answer to a course of lectures which had been delivered before the university of Cambridge by Hugh James Rose [q. v.] on the same subject. Rose had endeavoured to trace German rationalism almost exclusively to the absence of that control which is provided in the church of England by formularies of faith and devotion and by its episcopal form of government. The natural conclusion from Rose's argument was that the English church, possessing as it did such safeguards, need not fear the rationalism into which the German protestant bodies had lapsed from want of them. Pusey was convinced that there was every reason for such a fear. He saw in German rationalism the outcome of ‘dead orthodoxism,’ of a merely formal correctness of belief without any corresponding spiritual vitality. The church of England seemed to him to betray similar symptoms. The aim of his book was to trace historically the working of this ‘orthodoxism’ in the decadence of the religious life of German protestants. Many of his expressions, and his evident sympathies with the German pietists, caused the book to be widely misunderstood in England. Its writer was supposed to have sympathies not merely with pietism, but also with rationalism, if not to be himself a rationalist. He defended himself from these charges at great length, and in guarded language, in a ‘Second Part;’ but, although he always maintained that he had not at any time, in any sense whatever, held rationalistic views, the charges reappeared from time to time through his life. In later years he was greatly dissatisfied with this first book and its sequel. He never reprinted them, and in a will which he drew up a few years before his death he forbade any one to do so.

On 1 June 1828 he was ordained deacon, and in the following November he was appointed by the prime minister, the Duke of Wellington, to the chair of the regius professor of Hebrew in Oxford; to this office was attached a canonry at Christ Church, Oxford, the acceptance of which necessitated Pusey's ordination to the priesthood. His position as professor was thus at once academical and ecclesiastical; his duties, as he understood them, were therefore at least as much theological as linguistic. But from the first he set himself a high standard of duty as regards the teaching of Hebrew in the university. The university statutes contemplated only one lecture twice a week; but from the first, with the assistance of a qualified deputy, Pusey provided three sets of lectures, each three times a week. In these lectures he treated the study of Hebrew as a religious subject, and deemed it unadvisable to confuse the minds of his young hearers with what he called the dryness of the ‘lower criticism,’ or with the precarious assertions of the ‘higher.’ He aimed at imparting a full idiomatic knowledge of the language, so that the student might ‘enter more fully into the simple meaning of God's word.’ He sometimes addressed large classes on general subjects, like inspiration or prophecy, but always preferred to give what he called ‘solid instruction’ in the deeper meaning of scripture to a small class of men of fairly equal proficiency. In the early years of his professorship the attendance at his lectures was large; it was chiefly made up of graduates preparing for ordination. In later years, owing to the establishment of theological colleges, the opening of fellowships to laymen, and other causes, far fewer students prepared in Oxford for ordination, and the demand for instruction such as Pusey desired to give diminished. In 1832, in conjunction with his brother Philip and his friend Dr. Ellerton, he founded the three Pusey and Ellerton Hebrew scholarships.

Pusey inherited, as a legacy of duty from his predecessor, Dr. Alexander Nicoll [q. v.], the laborious task of completing the catalogue of Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. To this he devoted nearly six years. When completed it proved a monument of patient learning. The only lectures that he published in direct connection with the Hebrew chair were on the book of Daniel (Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, Oxford, 8vo, 1864). His ‘Minor Prophets, with a Commentary, Explanatory and Practical, and Introduction to the Several Books,’ which ap-