Ijov’s Blog

January 18, 2009

Khomyakov´s letters to Palmer

Alexei Khomiakov

First Letter to William Palmer
10 December 1844



The sign of the Cross * Communion of prayer between living and dead * Misrepresentations of Khomiakov’s opinions about England * Reunion of Christendom * Different views of Rome and the Orthodox Church * Obstacles to Reunion between Eastern and Western Communities * Palmer’s eyesight * Report of Newman’s secession

Sir, —

The elegant and faithful translation of some stanzas written on the death of my first children, which you have had the goodness to include in your letter to Mr. Redkin, has been received by me with the utmost gratitude and pleasure. Yet give me leave to say, that, highly as I value the honour conferred on my poetry, I rejoice still more in the consciousness that it has been paid rather to the human feeling which has inspired my verses to the merit of the expression. It is indeed a great joy for me to have met with your sympathy, and the more so as I have met with it in the highest of all regions, in the communion of religious sentiments and convictions. In one respect it is even more than I could have anticipated, [inasmuch] as the sign of the Cross and the belief in communion of prayers between living and dead are generally rejected by the over-cautious spirit of the Reformation.

You are, methinks, very right in approving of them. Those who believe that the Holy Cross has been indeed the instrument of our salvation cannot but consider it as the natural symbol of Christian love; and if they reject a most natural and holy sign for fear of idolatry, they seem to be almost as inconsistent as a man who should condemn himself to voluntary dumbness for fear of idle words. In the like manner I think [it] rather reasonable to believe that no bond of Christian love can be rent asunder by death in the spiritual world, whose only law is love. The Episcopal Church of England seems in the last times to have adopted that principle.

Perhaps I should add a few words for my own justification, as some ridiculous calumnies have been circulated in Germany about my having expressed sentiments of hate towards your noble and highly enlightened country, and may have found their way to England. These calumnies originated in the writings of an Oratorian (Theyner), and were repeated by Jesuits and reprinted in some newspapers. It was a strange thing to see England’s cause defended by unlooked-for champions seldom considered as her friends. But a deep and implacable hatred towards Russia and the Eastern Church had inspired them suddenly with a fervent love towards England. Yet, I will not attempt a justification; I am sure that English good sense and justice will always prove a sufficient defence against the brazen-faced hypocrisy of an Oratorian or a Jesuit. Permit me rather to add some few observations on the last passage of your letter to Mr. Redkin, which he has communicated to some of his friends.

You say: Those who desire to be true patriots and true cosmopolites should repeat, not with their lips only, but from their inmost heart, the words “о соединеніи веѣхъ” For the union of all, taken from the third clause of the Great Litany: For the peace of the world, for the welfare of all the holy Churches of God, and for the union of them all, let us pray to the Lord. ℟ – Lord, have mercy. The Great Litany is said at the Divine Liturgy and many other services of the Orthodox Church. whenever they occur in the services of the Church. Indeed, sir, I think that many are the cultivated Russians who repeat that part of the Divine Liturgy not only with their lips and breath, but with their heart and soul. I, for my part, having been educated in a very pious family, and particularly by a pious mother, still living, have been taught to join sincerely in that beautiful prayer of the Church. When very young, almost a child, my imagination was often delighted by a hope of seeing al the Christian world united under one banner of truth. Later, that became less vivid as the obstacles grew more and more visible. At last, I must confess it, what was a hope has dwindled into a desire relieved from despair by nothing but a faint glimmering of a possible success after many and many ages. The South of Europe, in its dark ignorance, is out of the question for a long while. Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity. England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might give some hopes; but — permit the frank expression of my thoughts — England is held by the iron chain of traditional custom.

You add that most serious people in England think only of union with Rome.

This conclusion seems to me very natural. Union cannot be understood by any Orthodox Christian other than as the consequence of a complete harmony, or of a perfect Unity of Doctrine. (I do not speak of rites, excepting in the case when they are symbols of a dogma.)

The Church in her structure, is not a state, and can admit of nothing like a conditional Union. It is quite a different case with the community of Rome. She is a state. She admits easily of the possibility of an alliance even with a deep discordance of doctrine. Great is the difference between the logical slavery of Ultramontanism and the illogical half-liberty of Gallicanism, and yet they stand both under the same banner and head. This was written before the suppression of Gallicanism by Pope Pius IX. The union of the Nicene Symbol and Roman obedience in the Uniates of Poland was a thing most absurd, and yet those Uniates were admitted by Rome very naturally, because the community of Rome is a state, and has a right to act as a state. The Union with Rome seems to me the more natural for England, [since] England in truth has never rejected the authority of the Latin doctrine. Why should those who admit the validity of the Pope’s decree in the most vital part of Faith — in the Symbol — reject it in secondary questions or in matters of discipline?

Union is possible with Rome. Unity alone is possible with Orthodoxy. It is now more than a thousand years since Spanish bishops invented [the] Inquisition Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer (in the time of the Goths), and an addition to the Symbol. It is almost as much since the Pope confirmed that addition the Filioque by his own authority and words. Since that time, the Western communities have nurtured a deep enmity and an incurable disdain for the unchanging East. These feelings have become traditional and, as it were, innate, to the Latin-German world, and England has all the time partaken of that spiritual life. Can it tear itself away from the past? There stands, in my opinion, the greatest and invincible obstacle to Unity. There is the reason why so many individual attempts have met with no sympathy and no success at all, and why communications on points of theological science not unknown to many of your divines (as, for example, the Bishop of Paris Bishop Luscombe, consecrated at the request of British residents in France, with the consent of the English hierarchy, by bishops of the Scottish Church. to Dr. Pusey and others), have not even been brought forward to the knowledge of the public. It is an easy thing to say: We have ever been Catholics; but the Church, being sullied by abuses, we have protested against them, and have gone too far in our protest. Now we retrace our steps. This is easy, but to say, We have been schismatic for ages and ages, even since the dawn of our intellectual life, is next to impossible. It would require in a man an almost incredible humility to adopt that declaration.

These, sir, are the reasons why, in Russia, the most ardent wishes for universal unity are so little mixed with hope, or why hope (where it exists) turns itself rather to the Eastern communities, Nestorians, Eutychians, and so forth. They are certainly further from Orthodoxy than the communities of the West, but are not withheld from a return by feelings of proud disdain.

Now, my dear sir, permit me to turn to a question more individual, but extremely interesting for me, as it concerns a man for whom I feel the sincerest esteem, and who has had the goodness to give me a never-to-be-forgotten proof of sympathy and goodwill. You complain of the weakness and irritation of your eyes, a terrible complaint for one who loves study as you do. I am somewhat of a physician (a quack doctor, if you like it), and though I am sure you have had the counsels of men by far more able than I am, I will take the liberty of proposing to you a remedy of which I have made many experiences with the best and most astonishing effects. The remedy is simply a dilution of one part of alum with one hundred and fifty parts of water, to be applied to the eyes on very fine linen three or four times a day. If you find it worth trying, I hope it will do you good; if you do not, I am sure my good intention will excuse the absurdity of the proposition. I forgot to say that the first application is a little irritating, but generally the amelioration is very remarkable in the space of a few days.

I pray you, my dear sir, to excuse the barbarous style of a foreigner and the indiscretion of a man who has taken the liberty of addressing himself to you without having the honour of a personal acquaintance, and to accept the assurance of the most sincere respect and gratitude of, you most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

P.S. Since this letter was written, I have seen in the newspapers the conversion of Mr. Newman and many others to the Latins, and must confess that I think a critical moment very near at hand for the Church of England. My address is [omitted]. Perhaps the way indicated by yourself, through the medium of Mr. Law, will yet be the surest and best. Knowing the interest you take in Russian literature, I take the liberty to send you a little selection of verses by Yazikov.

10 December 1844

Alexei Khomiakov

Second Letter to William Palmer
18 August 1845

Obstacles to Reunion of Western communities and the Eastern Church, moral even more than doctrinal * Palmer’s strictures upon the Eastern Church partly, but not entirely, fair * Invocation of Saints * Protestant objections to it due to inheritance of Latin traditions * the Procession of the Holy Spirit * Western breach of the Church’s unity * Khomiakov’s opinion of the English Church.

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my sincerest thanks for your friendly letter and the copies of your short Poems and Hymns, which I have received by post, and the expressions of my gratitude for the Letter Dedicatory which is printed at the head of that instructive and elegant edition. The honour you have conferred on me in affixing my name to your Poems, unforeseen and unmerited as it was, is deeply appreciated, and shall always be cherished by me as a proof of a dear and never-to-be-forgotten sympathy. I should be happy indeed if I could by work or word show myself not unworthy of it.

The reflections you have been pleased to address to me on ecclesiastical matters call for a reply. They have not been inspired by a cold spirit of scholastic dispute, but by a warm and Christian desire of universal unity; and deficient as I think myself in many points of theological knowledge, I feel that I have no right to evade the duty of answering the questions you have proposed and the opinions which you have stated about Church and doctrine.

Both your letters contain some friendly reproaches directed to me personally, and some which seem addressed to all our Eastern churches. There is in them much of truth which I will not attempt to extenuate, but I will take the liberty to say a few words of justification, as I think you are not quite right in the point of view which you have chosen.

In the first place, I readily admit that the hopelessness with which I consider the obstacles that oppose the return of the Western communities to Orthodoxy may prove and proves me indeed but of little faith and of a faintness in my desires for that return. Warmer feelings and a more Christian disposition would probably have shown me things in a different light, or at least would have turned my eyes from the calculations of worldly probabilities to the thoughts of divine Providence and its inscrutable ways. This fact being once admitted, I may be allowed to say that I think myself right in the statement of things as they stand at present (the future being in the hands of the merciful God), and in the opinion that the greatest obstacles to Unity are not in the visible and formal difference of doctrine (as theologians are apt to suppose), but in the spirit which pervades the Western communities, in their customs, prejudices, and passions, but, more than all, in a feeling of pride which hinders a confession of past errors, and a feeling of disdain which would not admit that divine truth has been preserved and guarded for many ages by the long-despised and darkened East. My words have not been, perhaps, quite useless, if they have turned your attention to the latent feelings which widen the chasm between the Eastern and Western communities.

The reproach you seem to address to all Eastern churches, and particularly to Russia, for want of Christian zeal and energy, and for evident indifference about the diffusion of true doctrine is a bitter one, and yet I will not deny its justice. Perhaps we could find some excuses in the long sufferings of our country, and of Greece, in the Mahometan yoke, in political causes, and in the spiritual battle which is unceasingly to be fought within the precincts of our own country against errors, schisms, and the continual attacks of modern scepticism; but all such excuses are insufficient. More than half of the world is still in complete darkness; our nearest neighbours in the East live still in utter ignorance of the Word and Doctrine of Christ; and that could not have happened if we had inherited the burning zeal of the Apostles. We have nothing to say against these proofs. We stand convicted, and should be quite unworthy of the grace and mercy that have been shown to us if we did not confess how worthless indeed we are. Humility is a duty not only for individuals, but also for nations and communities. In Christians, it is not even a virtue; it is simply obedience to the voice of reasonable conviction. We can only request and expect that the Faith which we hold may not be judged by our actions. The justice of your reproach being confessed in its full extent, I think I may add that it cannot, at least, be inferred from our seeming indifference for the reconciliation or conversion of our Western brethren. Apostles brought to the world new tidings of joy and truth; our missionaries could do the same in the pagan or Mahometan East; but what can we do in the West? What new tidings have we to bring? What new sources of information can we open to Europe, and particularly to England? Is not the Holy Scripture as well and (to our shame be it said) better known to the majority of your nation than to ours? Is not your clergy, and even a part of your laymen, as conversant with the Fathers and Ecclesiastical history as our most learned divines? Is not Oxford a centre of Science which we cannot rival? What can a missionary bring to you, except unavailing eloquence and, perhaps, some individual errors from which no man is sure to be free, though the Church is? There was a time when Christian society preached by example even more than by word. The individual example of a missionary would prove nothing at all; and as for national example, what shall we say? Our only request should be that your eyes may be turned away from us; for our good qualities are hid, and our vices are audaciously brought to view, particularly in that capital and that part of society which are foremost to meet the observation of a foreigner. The rites and ordinances of our Church are despised and trampled on by those who should set the example of obedience. The only way left for us (though it may subject us to seemingly just accusations), is, perhaps, to wait with anxious expectation for the result of the struggle which is going on everywhere (and in England certainly with more earnestness than anywhere else), and to express our sympathy by prayers to God that He may give victory to the better part of human nature.

Now, to return to your reflections on matters of ecclesiastical doctrine. I am well aware that Luther himself was inclined to re-admit the Sign of the Cross and the communion of prayer between living and dead (which he has attacked many times), and that the Anglican Church has never formally rejected them; but a practical rejection seemed to prove that Anglicans had gone further on in the way of Protestantism than in earlier ages, and I could not but rejoice in seeing signs of return to good and Christian doctrines. Yet, allow me a remark which, though directed to a single point, seems to me extremely important, as it brings on conclusions about the whole spirit of the Western communities.

You say that even those Anglican bishops who are least inclined to favour the spiritual movement called Puseyism, nevertheless do not fail to acknowledge that their community has never, in any way, condemned apostrophes and poetical addresses to saints and angels, but that the real objection of intelligent and well-disposed Anglicans is against prayers in prose seriously addressed to Spirits and Souls not present in the body as a service of homage and devotion. I think the word service, though certainly often used in the acceptation you give you give to it, throws some confusion on the question. The song of triumph which meets the victorious warrior on his return to his native land has never been called a service, though it is assuredly joyful homage and an expression of gratitude and devotion. In the like manner, the homage paid by Christians to the noble warriors who have fought the Spiritual battle of the Lord through ages and ages, and have held aright the tradition of the Church, should perhaps not be called a service, but an expression of joy and humble love. We cannot properly be said to serve our fellow-servants, though their station be infinitely exalted above our own. The objection of Anglicans and other Protestants has truth in it if directed against the word, none if against the thing itself. No enlightened member of the Orthodox Church could indeed understand it unless he was acquainted with the Latin definitions i.e., the word service used with the honour given the Saints as in Servitium beatae Mariae, etc. The Orthodox Church does not use the Western terms dulia or hyperdulia, but retains the ancient terminology of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod that differentiates between λατρεία (the absolute worship due the Holy Trinity alone) and τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις (the secondary honour given to the Saints, the Ikons, the Book of the Gospels, etc. and theories which have in fact given birth to almost all the errors of Protestantism. But another objection remains. We address to created Spirits not only the homage of our praises, but very earnest requests (as this expression would in this case perhaps be more correct than the expression prayers), asking for their intercession and prayers before the Majesty of our Saviour. Where is the use of such requests? Where is our right to them? Do we want any other advocate but Christ our Lord? There can be no serious meaning in our addresses to created beings, and we may as well reject all those useless and idle forms. There is the question. I will answer it with another. Was the Apostle serious when he asked for the prayers of the Church? Are the Protestants serious when they request their brethren (as they often do) to pray for them? Where is, if you please, the logic of the distinction? A doubt about the possibility or reality of a communication between living and dead through Christ and in Christ is too un-Christian to want an answer. To ascribe to the prayers of living Christians a power of intercession which is refused to the Christians admitted into heavenly glory would be a glaring absurdity. If Protestantism were true to logic, as it pretends to be, I may boldly affirm that not only Anglicans, but all Protestant sects (even the worst) would either admit serious and earnest addresses to saints and angels, or reject the mutual prayers of Christians on earth. Why, then, are they rejected, nay, often condemned? Simply because Protestantism is for ever and ever protesting. Because the semi-Pelagianism of Popery and its doctrine about merits and, as it were, self-worthiness of the Saints is ever present to Protestantism. Because Protestantism is not, nor ever can be, free. In short, because of its unceasing cry, No Popery, it stands on Popish ground and lives on Popish definitions, and is as much a slave to the doctrine of utilitarianism (which is the groundwork of Popery) as the most fanatical Ultramontanist. Now we are free, and, though well aware that we want no intercessor but Christ, we give vent to our feelings of love and to our earnest longings for mutual prayer and spiritual communion not only with the living, but with the dead, who have not been saved by their own worthiness (for no one, even of the best, was worthy, save Christ alone), but by the grace and mercy of the Lord which, we hope, will be extended to us likewise.

I readily concur with you in the opinion that if Anglicans would only practically admit and appreciate the beautiful poetry of hymns addressed to saints and angels, there would be no fear of any great difficulty remaining afterwards on this point in the way of peace; nor would I have spoken on the matter if I had not considered it as an example and a proof of the constant subjection of all the Western communities to the doctrines and spirit of Latinism. This subject is as evident in the negation as in the affirmations of Protestants, and the illustration of it which I find in their rejection of prayers addressed to the Church invisible could be corroborated by many other examples; such as the dispute about Faith and Works, about Transubstantiation, abut the number of the Sacraments, or the authority of Holy Scripture and Tradition; and, in short, by every question about ecclesiastical matters and every Protestant decision concerning them. But it is certainly most evident in that all-decisive point which you agreed with me in considering as the greatest obstacle not only to Unity between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, but even to the thought of Union.

I will not enter upon the question [of the Filioque] itself, nor attempt to defend the Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Creed in its original form; I will not say that the West has not authorities for it, excepting falsified passages of the Fathers, or texts from them which prove nothing, as regarding only Mission ad extra, or even texts which, rightly understood, would prove the contrary of the Latin doctrine. Such is the passage of St Augustine (if my memory fails me not), where he says, principaliter autem a Patre (that is, quod principium), which if rightly translated means: the Spirit comes (i.e. ad extra) from the Father and Son, but originates from the Father. Khomiakov refers to a passage from On the Trinity, 25:12: Et tamen non frustra in hac Trinitate non dicitur verbum nisi Filius, nec donum Dei nisi Spiritus Sanctus, nec de quo genitum est verbum et de quo procedit principaliter Spiritus Sanctus, nisi Deus Pater. Ideo autem addidi principaliter, quia et de Filio Spiritus Sanctus procedere reperitur. Adam Zernikov proved that the highlighted passages were later interpolations. I will not recall the decisive approval given by an Ecumenical Synod Fifth Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople/New Rome, 553) to the anathema of Theodoretus against the doctrine of Procession from the Father and Son. (The absurd explanation given by Jäger in his life of Photius and by other Latin writers who pretend that the anathema was directed against Monophysite tendencies looks like anything rather than fair and Christian discussion of a theological question.) All this I leave aside. I could add nothing to promote knowledge, or to the strong attacks of the illustrious Zernikov and Theophanes. I will only add an observation of my own. The Protestant world has been torn asunder by all sorts of errors; it has given birth to most strange sects which differ widely the one from the other in almost every point of doctrine. Now this point [the Filioque], every candid Protestant will admit to be at least a doubtful one (though in my opinion there is not even place for a doubt). How does it happen, if you please, that not one of these numerous sects has readmitted the [original] Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Symbol? How happens it that some of them (evidently feeling doubts) have preferred excluding the words about the Procession altogether to the necessity of using the orthodox form, though it is literally transcribed from the words of our Saviour? Does not that circumstance go far to prove undoubted though unconfessed subjection to Latin precedents, and a deep-rooted feeling of repulsion against anything that could seem to confirm the truth of Orthodoxy? I hope you will not accuse me of judging our ecclesiastical adversaries unfairly.

The matter is most important in two respects, as it is not only a question of doctrine, but a question of morality. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. In the seventh century, the Catholic Church was one in full communion of love and prayer, from the depths of Syria and Egypt to the distant shores of Britain and Ireland. About the middle of that century (perhaps even at the end of the preceding one) a change was introduced in the Symbol by the Spanish clergy. Khomiakov is mistaken about the date: the change was introduced in the middle of the sixth century. In the first letter I had the honour to address you, I added that this change was made at the same time when the Inquisition was first introduced in its worst forms, Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer and by the same provincial synods, with the intention to recall to your memory that the first step towards schism was taken by the worst, most corrupted and most un-Christian clergy, swollen with pride of exorbitant political rights. The innovation was left unnoticed, as having been made in a distant country which was soon overrun and conquered by Mohammedans. Still, unnoticed as it was in the East, and even in Italy, the new teaching crept on further and further through the Western communities. About the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries, the new Symbol was admitted by most of them as a thing of course. We have no right on that occasion to accuse the Roman See. The Popes felt the unlawfulness of the proceeding, they foresaw its dreadful consequences, they tried to stem the flood, but could not. Their only fault (and a great one it was) was to have shown a want of energy in their resistance. The West felt itself of age; it could speak for itself; it had no want of anybody’s opinion or assent in things of faith. The innovation was solemnly adopted, without a general Synod being held, without the Eastern Bishops being invited to give their assent, without even so much as a notice being given to them. The bonds of love were torn, the communion of faith (which cannot exist with different symbols) was rejected in fact. I will not say, Was that lawful? The idea of law and lawfulness may do for casuists and disciples of the jus Romanum, but cannot do for Christians. But I will ask: Was that moral? Was it brotherly? Was it Christian? The rights of the Catholic Church were usurped by a part of it. An unmerited offence was given to unsuspecting brothers, who till that time had fought with the greatest perseverance and certainly the greatest ability for Orthodoxy. This action was certainly a most heinous sin, and a most shocking display of pride and disdain. The bad inheritance has been accepted and held till now. Must it be held for ever?

Let worldly societies deviate from moral law; let them sin and glory in their sins, and in the temporary advantages they have gained by them. I am not, nor can ever be, a political man; therefore, I will not judge political communities, though I do indeed suspect that every bad action of the fathers is or shall be visited on their children by the logic of provident history. But I know for certain that every man must answer for his sins and be punished for them until he confesses and repents. Still more assuredly do I know that there can be no sin in the Church of God, in the holy elect and perfect vessel of His heavenly truth and grace; and that therefore no community which accepts the inheritance of sin can be considered as a real part of it.

You may remark, most Reverend sir, that I have not entered on the dogmatic part of the question, and only considered the moral part of it. I may add that, left alone and rejected as we were by our usurping brethren, we have had a right to decide all sorts of questions by ourselves and by the authority of our own clergy and laymen; yet we have not used that right. We are unchanged; we are still the same as we were in the eighth century, before the West had rudely spurned its Eastern brethren. Let us be brought to the test. Oh that you could only consent to be again what you were at that time when we were united by Unity of Faith and communion of spiritual love and prayer!

Some words more must be said in answer to the last part of your printed letter. You are right in giving the following rule: We should be jealously fair and charitable in ascertaining that we do not misrepresent or calumniate the belief of our separated brethren, and so wilfully make a difference when there would be none, or, when there is one, make the difference greater than it really is. I do not think that we are much inclined to fall into the said error, and, by the knowledge I have of my countrymen, I should rather suppose that they lean to the opposite extreme; yet if the thing be disputed, I will readily admit that no man can be impartial either in his own cause or in the cause of his nation or community. In the present case, I confess that I do not clearly see the possibility of an error. Either the addition has the meaning generally ascribed to it by the Latins as concerning the original Procession of the Spirit, which cannot be considered by us in any other light than as an heretical proposition; or it expresses only the procession ad extra, which no Orthodox Christian can or dare dispute. In the first supposition, the difference is immense, and the question must be solved by scriptural and moral proofs, viz.: by considering whether the Western communities have any authorities for them in the Holy Scriptures, or in their early commentators, or in the decisions of Ecumenical Synods, and whether there is any probability that the grace of the Holy Spirit may have dictated a change, which was accompanied by such an open usurpation of rights, and such an evident and un-Christian disdain shown to a considerable part of the Church. I think that both propositions would easily be proven false. In the second case, there is indeed no difference at all. But the duty of rejecting the addition becomes still more imperative. Who can continue to use equivocal expressions when this double meaning has had, and has even now, such dreadful consequences? Who can hold up the standard of ancient usurpation condemning at the same time in his heart the usurpation itself? The line of moral duty seems, in this case, to be quite evident.

My real opinion of the Anglican Church is, in many respects, very near to your own. I believe seriously, that it contains many orthodox tendencies, perhaps not quite developed, but growing to maturity; that it contains many elements of unity with Orthodoxy, obscured, perhaps, by nothing but unhappy habits of Latin scholasticism, and that the time is at hand when a better understanding will be followed by real union between long separated brethren. The seemingly heretical, or at least equivocal, language should only be explained in an orthodox sense, and the language and spirit of heresy should be formally rejected and disused for the future. These are your own expressions. In the first point, the power usurped in the change of the Symbol should be frankly condemned as offensive to charity and love; but there stands the great moral obstacle; for such a condemnation would seem, and indeed would be, a confession and an act of penitence; and, sweet as penitence is in its consequences, it is at first bitter and repulsive to the pride from which no man is free. And yet, what good can be done without moral renovation, when every good consequence is sure to be derived from it, as it brings with itself the perfect grace of the Father of lights? But, it is indeed no easy thing; and that is the reason why, with so many apparent causes for hope, my hopes are so faint and null. I know I am not right in giving way to my fears, and yet I should be still more wrong if, entertaining such thoughts, I should not express them frankly. Certainly my greatest joy would be to be convicted of error and pusillanimity by the event.

Having gone thus far, I will take the liberty to observe that, in my opinion, many, even of the best disposed amongst English divines, are apt to fall into a strange and dangerous delusion. This delusion is to suppose that not only every particular church can run into partial errors without ceasing to belong to Catholicity, but that the whole of the Catholic Church can likewise be obscured by temporary errors, either the same in every part of it, or different in the different communities, so that Truth is to be distilled out of the corrupt mass by the rule of quod semper, quod omnes, quod ubique. This is the phrase of Saint Vincent of Lerins: That which is believed everywhere, always and by all, is truly and properly catholic. It is sometimes called the Vincentian Canon. I have lately had the pleasure of reading a book, with which you are probably acquainted, of Mr. Dewar about German Rationalism. Edward H. Dewar: German Protestantism and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture: A brief history of German theology, from the Reformation to the present time, in a series of letters to a layman, Oxford, 1844. I consider it a masterpiece of fair and sound logic, free from passions and prejudices. The sharp intelligence of the author has not only perfectly found out the reasons of the inevitable development of Rationalism in Protestant Germany, but has found its traces in Latinism, not withstanding its continual pretensions to the contrary. This is certainly a great truth which could be corroborated by many other and even stronger proofs; but, strange to say, Mr. Dewar excepts the Anglican Church from the general accusation, as if a community which confesses to a reform did not stand self-convicted of Rationalism! Indeed, if the totality of the Church could ever have fallen into errors of doctrine, individual criticism would have become not only a right, but an unavoidable necessity; and that is nothing but Rationalism, though it may hide itself behind the well-sounding words of Testimony of the Fathers, whose writings are nothing but heaps of written pages; or, Authority of the Catholic Church, which has no meaning at all if it could not escape error; or, Tradition, which, once interrupted, ceases to exist; or even Inspiration from heaven, which every man can pretend to be favoured with, though no other believes his pretensions. The continual presence of the Holy Spirit is a promise given to us by Truth Itself; and if this promise is believed, the light of pure doctrine must burn and shine brightly, through all ages, seeking our eyes, even when unsought for. If it is once bedimmed, it is obscured for ever, and the Church must become a mere word without a meaning in it, or must be considered, as many German Protestants indeed do consider it, as a society of good men differing in all their opinions, but earnestly seeking for Truth with a total certainty that it has not yet been found, and with no hope at all ever to find it. These consequences are unavoidable, though some of your worthiest divines do not seem to admit them, and this is certainly a dangerous self-delusion.

If you find some expressions of this letter rather harsh, I beg of you not to judge them too severely. It is perhaps in my turn of mind to see obstacles rather than the means by which they may be avoided; and I hope I have been actuated by no desire of giving offence; but by an earnest wish that every difficulty may be rightly understood so as to be the better solved with the help of Him whose blessing is sure to illuminate hearts that are honestly and humbly longing for Truth and moral perfection. Such hearts are certainly no rarity in your country.

Accept, most reverend sir, the assurances of the sincere and perfect esteem with which I have the honour to call myself your most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(Smolensk, 18 August 1845)

Alexei Khomiakov

Third Letter to William Palmer
28 November 1846

Moral obstacle to the West accepting Orthodoxy * The Eastern Church defended from the charge of lack of missionary zeal * The Eastern Church defended from charge of inconsistency with regard to Filioque * The Rebaptism of Westerners * Replies to additional remarks of Palmer upon Filioque and the Inquisition * Difficult for Westerners, whether Latin or Protestant, to join Orthodox Church * The Church cannot be a harmony of discords * Latin power and great future of the Orthodox Church

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my heartiest thanks for your friendly letter, and my excuses for having been rather slow in answering it. I cannot but call your letter a friendly one, though it contains some very severe attacks on us; but a truly friendly disposition lies in my opinion at the bottom of them, and is manifested by the honest frankness of their expression. I think your attacks generally wrong, but they are sincere, and show a serious desire to find out truth, and to come to a satisfactory conclusion in the debated question. Every doubt, every difficulty, and every accusation, let it be ever so hard for the accused party, should be candidly and clearly stated; this is the only way for establishing the difference between right and wrong. Truth must never be evaded; it should not even be veiled in truly serious questions.

Permit me to resume briefly your accusations. First: If we pretend (as indeed we do) to be the only Orthodox or Catholic Church, we should be more zealous for the conversion of erring communities, as the Spirit of apostleship, which is the true spirit of Love, can never be extinct in the true Church; and yet we are manifestly deficient in that respect. Secondly: Our pretensions are evidently contradicted by the admission (proposed by some our most important divines) of a communion with the Latin Community on very easy conditions. Thirdly: Slight errors (proved by a change of rites) have been admitted by our own Church, and therefore we cannot logically uphold the principle that the true Church can never have fallen into a dogmatic error (be it ever so slight), or have undergone any change, be it ever so unimportant.

I have fairly admitted our deficiency in Christian zeal, though at the same time I exculpated our Church from that accusation with respect to the Western communities. You explain that same faintness by a latent conviction of our Church, which, you suppose, feels herself to be no more than a part of the whole Church notwithstanding her pretensions to the contrary. This explanation seems to me quite arbitrary, and has no right to admission till it be proved that no other explains the case quite sufficiently. But the question stands differently. The distinction I made between our relations to the heathen and our relations to Europe you consider rather as an evasion than as a direct answer, yet I think it is easily maintained by a very high authority. I had said, What new tidings can we bring to the Christian West? What new source of information to countries more enlightened than we are? What new and unknown doctrine to men to whom the true Doctrine is known though disregarded? These expressions imply no fear of a contention which indeed would show weakness and doubt, no distrust of the strength of our arguments and authorities, perhaps even no great want of zeal and love. They simply imply a deep conviction that the reluctance of the West to admit the simple truth of the Church arises neither from ignorance nor from rational objections, but from a moral obstacle which no human efforts can conquer, if it is not conquered by the better feelings of the better part of human nature in those who can know the truth but do not wish to confess it. Such a disposition can exist, though the question is whether it exists in the case of which I am speaking. Did not the Father of Light and Source of Love say in the parable by the lips of Abraham: Have they not Moses and the Prophets? If they do not listen to them, they will not listen to Lazarus, even if he was to rise from the dead. Do not, I pray, consider this quotation as being made with an intention of offence. I would not make injurious accusations; and having once confessed a want of zeal in our country and people, I would confess it again; but my conviction is that indeed in the present case the words of Christ may be fairly applied, and that you are separated from us by a moral obstacle, the origin of which I have tried in my former letter to trace to its historical beginning.

But does not this faintness of zeal — which I admit (with regard to the heathen nations) — imply a defect in the Eastern Church herself, and prove her to be no more than a part, perhaps even not so much as a part of the whole true Church? This I cannot admit. It may be considered as a defect of the nations to whom the destiny of the Church is temporarily confided (be they Russians or Greeks), but can nowise be considered as a stain to the Church herself. The ways of God are inscrutable. A few hundreds of disciples in the space of about two centuries brought to the flock of Christ more millions of individuals than there were hundreds in the beginning. If that burning zeal had continued to warm the hearts of the Christians, in how short a space of time must not all the human race have heard and believed the saving Word? Sixteen centuries have elapsed since that epoch; and we are obliged to confess with an unwilling humility that the greater and by far greater majority of mankind is still in the slavery of darkness and ignorance. Where then is the zeal of the Apostle? Where is the Church? That would prove too much if it proved anything at all. Many centuries, particularly in the middle ages, and at the beginning of modern history, have hardly seen some few examples of solitary conversions and not one national, and not one remarkable effort at proselytism. This seems to inculpate the whole Church. The spirit of missions is now most gloriously awakened in England, and I hope that that merit will not be forgotten by the Almighty in the days of trial and danger which England has perhaps to meet; but this noble tendency is a new one, or at least has become apparent only very lately. Is it a sign that the Church of England is now nearer to truth than it was before? Is it a proof of greater energies or purity? No one can admit this. Or let us take the Nestorian community, which you hold out as a parallel to us. I do not consider the parallel as a caricature, though you have added that word, probably with an intention to avoid offence. The Nestorians are generally ignorant, but ignorance (in the point of Arts and Sciences) was our own lot not more than a century ago. The Nestorians are, generally speaking, poor; but that is no great blemish for any man and particularly for a Christian. They are few, but the truth of a doctrine is not to be measured by the number of votaries. The Nestorians have been richer and more learned and more numerous than they are at present. They have had the spirit of proselytism. Their missionaries have extended their activity over all the east as far as the inner India and the centre of China, and that proselytism was not ineffectual. Millions and millions had embraced Nestorianism (Marco Polo’s testimony is not the only one to prove their success). Was Nestorianism nearer to truth in the time of its triumph than in our time? Mohammedanism and Buddhism would give us the same conclusion. Truth and error have had equally their time of ardent zeal or comparative coldness, and the characters of nations may certainly produce the same effects as the characters of epochs. Therefore, I see no reason for accusing the Orthodox Church in herself of a defect or weakness which may, and in my opinion evidently does, belong to the nations that compose her communities.

Having thus distinguished the notes of the Church herself from the national qualities or defects of the Eastern community which alone represents it temporarily, permit me to add that the comparison which you institute between the zeal of the Latins and the seeming indifference of the Eastern World is not quite fair. I do not deny the fact itself, nor do I express any doubt concerning the apparent superiority of the Latins in that respect; but I cannot admit their spirit of proselytism to be anything like a Christian feeling. I think it should be left quite out of the question, as being the necessary result of a particular national or ecclesiastical organisation, nearly akin to the proselytising spirit of Mohammedanism in the days of its pride. I will not condemn the zeal of the Latins; it is in some respects too praiseworthy to be ill or even lightly spoken of; I can neither praise nor envy it. It is in many respects too un-Christian to be admired, as having produced more persecutors than martyrs. It is, in short, a mixed feeling not dishonourable for nations which belong to the Latin Community, but quite unworthy of the Church, and not to be mentioned in questions of ecclesiastical truth. I am, I trust, very far from having the disposition to boast, and yet I cannot but call your attention to a strange and generally unnoticed fact, viz., that notwithstanding the apparent ardour of the Latin Community, and seeming coldness of Orthodoxy as to proselytism, yet that since the time of the Papal Schism (which certainly begins not with the quarrels of Photius and Nicholas, but with the interpolation of the Symbol when the West declared itself de facto sole judge of Christian doctrine) it has been the destiny of Orthodoxy to be happier in its conquests than its rival community. No one will doubt the fact if he considers the numerical superiority of Russian Orthodox Christians over the inhabitants of Scandinavia and about a third part of Germany, which were called to the knowledge of Christ after the time of Charlemagne. To this comparison, you must add that even of that lesser number more, and by far more, than a half was not converted, but driven into the Latin Communion by cudgel, sword, and fire. I repeat that I am rather ashamed of our having done so little, than proud of our success; but in the unaccountable ways of Providence it is perhaps a particular dispensation of the Eternal Goodness to show that the Treasury of Truth must and shall thrive though confided to seemingly careless hands. No Anscar or Wilfried, no Willbrod or Columban came to instruct Russia. We met truth more than half-way, impelled by the grace of God. Since then, we have had our martyrs, we have had and still have our missionaries, whose labour has not been quite fruitless. In fact, Russia spread the Christian Faith across ten time zones and over 180º of longitude, across the Ural Mountains, through Siberia, through Alaska and into present-day California. I admit they are few in numbers; but is not the voice of truth which calls upon you, the voice of the whole Church? You have as yet seen no Russian or Greek missionary. But did Cornelius reject the Angel’s voice and declare that he would not believe till the Apostle came? He believed, and the Apostle came only as a material instrument of Christian confirmation; and shall the message of God, the emanation of the whole Church, the voice of truth, be the less powerful or the less acceptable because no single individual has been found worthy of bringing it to you? The Church may have and has undoubtedly many different forms of preaching.

The second point of accusation concerning the easy conditions on which communion was proposed to the Latin Community may equally be answered without difficulty. First, I readily admit that Mark of Ephesus went too far in his concessions; but in a fair trial of that great man and eminent divine we should, I think, rather admire his undaunted firmness than condemn his moments of human weakness. His was a terrible task. He felt, and could not but feel, that in rejecting the alliance of the mighty West he was literally condemning his country to death. This was more than martyrdom for a noble spirit, and yet he stood the trial. Are we not to be indulgent in our judgment over an unwilling error inspired by the wish of saving his country, and are we not to bless the memory of his glorious opposition? Other divines of a later period [may have] consented to a communion with Latins requiring nothing but a restitution of the Symbol to its ancient form and other less material changes in doctrine. These you consider as too easy conditions. [You ask,] Would Athanasius have admitted Arius to communion, and allowed him the liberty of teaching Arianism everywhere excepting the Symbol? Very certainly he would not; but there is an immense difference between the heresy of Arius and the false doctrine of the Latins. The first rejects the true doctrine; the second admits it, and is only guilty of adding an opinion of its own (certainly a false one) to the holy truth. That opinion in itself has not been condemned by the Church, not being directly contrary to the holy Scriptures, and therefore, does not constitute a heresy. Khomiakov was obviously unaware that the Synod of Blachernae condemned the Filioque as a heresy. The heresy consists in calumniating the Church and in giving out as her tradition a human and arbitrary opinion. Throw the interpolation out of the Symbol, and tradition is vindicated; opinion is separated from Faith; the keystone is torn out of the vault of Latinism, and the whole fabric falls to ruins with all its proud pretensions to infallibility, When this letter was written, papal infallibility was a widespread opinion, but had not been proclaimed by the Latins to be dogma. In fact, many Latin bishops were very vocal in rejecting it as a teaching. as if the Latins were the sole judge of Christian truth; the rebel spirit is hewed down and broken. In short, all is obtained that need be obtained. A deeper insight into the question would show (and that observation did not probably escape our divines) that the [human] opinion which is [merely] added to [the true] dictionary doctrine and implied in the Filioque has indeed no other support but the decision of ignorant Synods, and the declarations of the Roman See. Being once rejected out of the Symbol, and consequently out of Faith and Tradition, it could not stand by itself, and would be sure to fall and be forgotten like many other partial and local errors, such as, for instance, the error of considering Melchizedek as an apparition (though no incarnation) of Christ. The high majesty of the Church, most reverend sir, has nothing to do with individual opinions, though false, when they do not run directly against her own doctrine. They may, and do, constitute a heresy only when they dare to give themselves out as her doctrine, her tradition, and her faith. This seems to me a sufficient justification of the conditions proposed to the Latins and a proof that they did not imply the slightest doubt of the Eastern Orthodoxy and of her doctrine being the only true one.

Your third accusation is not positively stated; it is rather insinuated by a comparison with the sale of Indulgences than directly expressed; but I cannot leave it without an answer. Your own expressions that the re-baptising of Christians was prevalent for many years and even sanctioned by local canons would be sufficient for our justification; for local errors are not errors of the Church, but errors into which individuals can fall by ignorance of the ecclesiastical rule. The blame falls on the individuals (whether they be Bishops or laymen signifies nothing). But the Church herself stands blameless and pure, reforming the local error, but never in need of a reform. I could add that, in my opinion, even in this case the Church has never changed her doctrine, and that there has only been a change of rites without any alteration in their meaning. All Sacraments are fulfilled only in the bosom of the true Church, and it matters not whether they be completed in one form or another. Reconciliation renovates the Sacraments or completes them, giving a full and Orthodox meaning to the rite that was before either insufficient or heterodox, and the repetition of the preceding Sacraments is virtually contained in the rite or fact of reconciliation. Therefore, the visible repetition of Baptism or Confirmation/Chrismation, though unnecessary, cannot be considered as erroneous, and establishes only a ritual difference without any difference of opinion. You will understand my meaning more clearly still by comparison with another fact in ecclesiastical history. The Church considers Marriage as a Sacrament, and yet admits married heathens into her community without re-marrying them. The conversion itself gives the sacramental quality to the preceding union without any repetition of the rite. This you must admit, unless you admit an impossibility, viz., that the Sacrament of Marriage was by itself complete in the lawful union of a heathen pair. The Church does not re-marry heathens or Jews. Now, would it be an error to re-marry them? Certainly not, though the rite would seem altered. This is my view of the question. The re-baptising of Christians did not contain any error, but the admission of the error (if error it be) having been a local one is quite sufficient for the justification of the Eastern Church. The case is quite different with the sale of Indulgences. It was an error of the whole Latin Community, being not only sanctioned by her infallible head, but emanating directly from him. But I will be content to leave that argument aside, decisive though it be for a true Latin, and will admit that the sale of Indulgences was attacked by some divines who were never condemned as heretics. It matters little whether it be so or not. The error remains the same. The sale of Indulgences cannot be condemned from a Latin point of view. As soon as Salvation is considered capable of being obtained by external means, it is evident the community believing thus has a right to choose the means, considering the different circumstances of the community. Charity to the poor may be reasonably changed into charity to the whole body of the visible community or to her head, the See of Rome. The form is rather comical; but the doctrinal error does not lie in the casual form; it lies in the doctrine itself of the Latin Community, a doctrine which is fatal to Christian freedom, and changes the adopted sons of God into hirelings and slaves.

I have thought it necessary to answer the accusation hinted at by the comparison you institute between two errors of the Latin Community and the Orthodox Church, yet I do not much insist on accusing Rome in that particular case. The only thing I wanted to show that we have a right to uphold the doctrine that no error, even the slightest, can ever be detected in the whole Eastern Church (I neither speak of individuals nor of local communities); and permit me to add that without this doctrine the idea itself of a Church becomes an illogical fiction, by the evident reason that, the possibility of an error being once admitted, human reason stands alone as a lawful judge over the holy work of God, and unbounded rationalism undermines the foundations of faith.

I must add some observations concerning the remarks that conclude your letter.

1. I have no doubts about the passage of St Augustine (principaliter, autem, etc.) being an interpolation. The proofs given by Zernikov seem conclusive; but I am inclined to consider it as an ancient interpolation and no wilful falsification, and therefore, thought it not quite useless to show that it contained nothing in favour of the Latin doctrine.

2. I am quite aware that the doctrine attacked by Theodoret was not the Latin one, which was quite unknown at that early period; but the expressions of Theodoret are directly opposed to the addition in the Symbol, and this is quite sufficient to show that such an addition would have been utterly impossible at the time of the Ephesian Synod, and is contrary to the doctrine then admitted as Orthodox.

3. The Inquisition of the Gothic period in Spain is not known under that name, and is not united by any visible historical link with the later one; that is the reason why no historian has ever sought for the origin of that dark institution in those remote centuries; but the bloody and iniquitous laws which were so fiercely urged against Arians and Jews in the time of the predecessors of Roderick have all the character of religious Inquisition in its most abominable form, and originated, as did the later Inquisition, from the will of the clergy. That is the reason why I have given them a well-known name, though that name was not yet used in the Gothic epoch. It is to be remarked that neither the Mohammedan conquest, nor a struggle of seven centuries, nor all the changes of manners, habits, and civilisation which must have taken place during such a long space of time, could alter the national character of the Spanish clergy. No sooner was Spain free and triumphant than it renewed its old institutions, a terrible and [hitherto] unnoticed example of the vitality of errors and passions and of their hereditary transmission to the remotest generations.

4. There is no doubt that, at the end of the eighth, and at the beginning of the ninth century, the Filioque was not yet generally admitted by the Western Communities. Zernikov is right in that respect, and a decisive argument may be derived from Alcuin’s testimony; but the Spanish origin of the addition is an undoubted fact, and I see as yet no conclusive reason to suppose that the Acts of the Spanish Synods have been falsified. The addition itself may be easily explained by the struggle between Arians and Catholics at the time of the Goths, and by a desire of attributing all possible qualifications of the Father to the Son, whose divinity was denied by the Arians. This indeed is, I think, the only reasonable explanation of the arbitrary change in the Western Symbol. After the Arian struggle, and at the time of the Arabs, I can see no reason nor occasion to suggest such a change, and therefore have not the least doubt that the error originated from one of the Gothic Synods, though I am not quite sure whether it was from one of the earliest. At all events, it must have begun no later than the end of the seventh century.

Having thus answered your remarks, I will take the liberty, most reverend sir, to add some observations on the whole tenor of your friendly letter. It is a friendly one, not to me alone, but to all of us children of the Orthodox Church. We could not have asked for larger concessions, nor for a greater agreement in points of doctrine. That yours is not a solitary instance may be inferred not only from your quotations in your most valuable book about the Russian Catechism, but still more from the letters and professions of the Reverend Bishop of [the Scottish Church at] Paris. Believe me, this assurance is a source of great and heartfelt joy for all who feel an interest in truth and unity; and yet, sad to say, what have we gained? Nothing. We have been tried in our doctrine and found blameless; but now we are again tried in our morals (for zeal and love, which are the impelling motives of the Apostle, are nothing but a part of Christian morality), and we are found defective, as indeed we are, and our doctrine is to be condemned for our vices. The conclusion is not fair. You would not admit it if a Mohammedan was to bring it as an objection against Christianity itself, and yet you urge it against Orthodoxy.

Permit me to search into the latent causes of this fact, and excuse me if you find something harsh or seemingly offensive in my words. A very weak conviction in points of doctrine can bring over a Latin to Protestantism, or a Protestant to the Latins. A Frenchman, a German, an Englishman, will go over to Presbyterianism, to Lutheranism, to the Independents, to the Cameronians, and indeed to almost every form of belief or misbelief; he will not go over to Orthodoxy. As long as he does not step out of the circles of doctrines which have taken their origin in the Western world, he feels himself at home; notwithstanding his apparent change, he does not feel that dread of apostasy which renders sometimes the passage from error to faith as difficult as from truth to error. He will be condemned by his former brethren, who will call his action a rash one, perhaps a bad one; but it will not be an utter madness, depriving him, as it were, of his rights of citizenship in the civilised world of the West. And that is natural. All the Western doctrine is born out of the Latins; it feels (though unconsciously) its solidarity with the past; it feels its dependence from one science, from one creed, from one line of life; and that creed, that science, that life was the Latin one. This is what I hinted at, and what you understand very rightly, viz., that all Protestants are Crypto-Papists; and, indeed, it would be a very easy task to show that in their Theology (as well as philosophy) all the definitions of all the objects of creed or understanding are merely taken out of the old Latin System, though often made negative in the application. In short, if it was to be expressed in the concise language of algebra, all the West knows but one datum, a; whether it be preceded by the positive sign +, as with the Latins, or with the negative −, as with the Protestants, the a remains the same. Now, a passage to Orthodoxy seems indeed like an apostasy from the past, from its science, creed, and life. It is rushing into a new and unknown world, a bold step to take, or even to advise.

This, most reverend sir, is the moral obstacle I have been speaking about; this, the pride and disdain which I attribute to all the Western communities. As you see, it is no individual feeling voluntarily bred or consciously held in the heart; it is no vice of the mind, but an involuntary submission to the tendencies and direction of the past. When the Unity of the Church was lawlessly and unlovingly rent by the Western clergy, the more so inasmuch as at the same time the East was continuing its former friendly intercourse, and submitting to the opinion of the Western Synods the Canons of the Second Synod of Nicaea, each half of Christianity began a life apart, becoming from day to day more estranged from the other. There was an evident self-complacent triumph on the side of the Latins; there was sorrow on the side of the East, which had seen the dear ties of Christian brotherhood torn asunder, — which had been spurned and rejected, and felt itself innocent. All these feelings have been transmitted by hereditary succession to our time, and, more or less, either willingly or unwillingly, we are still under their power. Our time has awakened better feelings; in England, perhaps, more than anywhere else, you are seeking for the past brotherhood, for the past sympathy and communion. It would be a shame for us not to answer your proffered friendship, it would be a crime not to cultivate in our hearts an intense desire to renovate the Unity of the Church; but let us consider the question coolly, even when our sympathies are most awakened.

The Church cannot be a harmony of discords; it cannot be a numerical sum of Orthodox, Latins, and Protestants. It is nothing if it is not perfect inward harmony of creed and outward harmony of expression (not withstanding local differences in the rite). The question is, not whether Latins and Protestants have erred so fatally as to deprive individuals of salvation, which seems to be often the subject of debate; — surely a narrow and unworthy one, inasmuch as it throws a suspicion on the mercy of the Almighty. The question is whether they have the truth, and whether they have retained the ecclesiastical tradition unimpaired. If they have not, where is the possibility of unity?

Now permit me to add some observations not only on your letters, but on your book (which I have received with the greatest gratitude and perused with unmixed pleasure), and on all the mode of action of those Anglicans who seem, and are indeed, nearest to us. You would show that all our doctrine is yours, and indeed, at first sight, you seem quite right. Many bishops and divines of your communion are and have been quite orthodox. But what of it? Their opinion is only an individual opinion, it is not the Faith of the Community. Ussher is almost a complete Calvinist; but yet he, no less than those bishops who give expression to Orthodox convictions, belongs to the Anglican Church. We may, and do, sympathise with the individuals; we cannot and dare not sympathise with a community which interpolates the Symbol and doubts her right to that interpolation, or which gives communion to those who declare the Bread and Wine of the High Sacrifice to be mere bread and wine, as well as to those who declare it to be the Body and Blood of Christ. This for an example — and I could find hundreds more — but I go further. Suppose an impossibility — suppose all the Anglicans be quite orthodox; suppose their Creed and Faith quite concordant with ours; the mode and process by which that creed is or has been attained is a Protestant one; a simple logical act of the understanding, by which the tradition and writings of the Fathers have been distilled to something very near Truth. If we admit this, all is lost, and Rationalism is the supreme judge of every question. Protestantism, most reverend sir, is the admission of an unknown [quantity] to be sought by reason; and that unknown [quantity] changes the whole equation to an unknown quantity, even though every other datum be as clear and as positive as possible. Do not, I pray, nourish the hope of finding Christian truth without stepping out of the former Protestant circle. It is an illogical hope; it is a remnant of that pride which thought itself able and wished to judge and decide by itself without the Spiritual Communion of heavenly grace and Christian love. Were you to find all the truth, you would have found nothing; for we alone can give you that without which all would be vain — the assurance of truth.

Do not doubt the energies of Orthodoxy. Young as I am, I have seen the day when it was publicly either scoffed at or at least treated with manifest contempt by [too many in] our [high] society; when [I] myself, who was bred in a religious family and have never been ashamed of adhering strictly to the rites of the Church, was either supposed a sycophant or considered a disguised Latin; for nobody supposed the possibility of civilisation and Orthodoxy being united. I have seen the strength of the Eastern Church rise, notwithstanding temporary aggression, which seemed to be fatal, or temporary protection, which seemed to be debasing. And now it rises and grows stronger and stronger. Latinism, though seemingly active, has received the deadly blow from its own lawful child, Protestantism; and, indeed, I would defy anybody to show me the man with true theological and philosophical learning who is still at heart a pure Latin. Protestantism has heard its knell rung by its most distinguished teachers, by Neander, though unwillingly, in his letters to Mr. Dewar, and consciously by Schelling in his preface to the posthumous works of Steffens. The ark of Orthodoxy alone rides safe and unhurt through storms and billows. The world shall flock to it. Let us say with the beloved Apostle: Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Accept my thanks for your book. I consider it as a very valuable acquisition not only for your countrymen, but for all truly and seriously religious readers. The books contained in the parcel sent to me from Kronstadt, I have forwarded to their respective addresses except the one for C. Potemkin, whose address I have not yet learnt. Pray excuse the length of my letter and the frankness of some expressions which are perhaps too harsh, and believe me, most reverend sir, your most obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(28 November 1846)

Source: Thomas Ross Valentine website, http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/khomiakov_palmer01.html


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