I CANNOT help hoping that your own reading of the Fathers will on the whole bear me out in the above account of their teaching concerning the Blessed Virgin. Anglicans seem to me simply to overlook the strength of the argument adducible from the works of those ancient doctors in our favour; and they open the attack upon our mediæval and modern writers, careless of leaving a host of primitive opponents in their rear. I do not include you among such Anglicans, as you know what the Fathers assert; but, if so, have you not, my dear Friend, been unjust to yourself in your recent Volume, and made far too much of the differences which exist between Anglicans and us on this particular point? It is the office of an Irenicon to smoothe difficulties; I shall be pleased if I succeed in removing some of yours. Let the public judge between us here. Had you happened in your Volume to introduce your notice of our teaching about the Blessed Virgin, with a notice of the teaching of the Fathers concerning her, which you follow, ordinary men would have considered that there was not much to choose between you and us. Though you appealed ever so much, in your defence, to the authority of the "undivided Church," they would have said that you, who had such high notions of the Blessed Mary, were one of the last men who had a right to accuse us of quasi-idolatry. When they found you with the Fathers calling her Mother of God, Second Eve, and Mother of all Living, the Mother of Life, the Morning Star, the Mystical New Heaven, the Sceptre of Orthodoxy, the All-undefiled Mother of Holiness, and the like, they would have deemed it a poor compensation for such language, that you protested against her being called a Co-redemptress or a Priestess. And, if they were violent Protestants, they would not have read you with the relish and gratitude with which, as it is, they have perhaps accepted your testimony against us. Not that they would have been altogether fair in their view of you;—on the contrary I think there is a real difference between what you protest against, and what with the Fathers you hold; but unread men of the world form a broad practical judgment of the things which come before them, and they would have felt in this case that they had the same right to be shocked at you, as you have to be shocked at us;—and further, which is the point to which I am coming, they would have said, that, granting some of our modern writers go beyond the Fathers in this matter, still the line cannot be logically drawn between the teaching of the Fathers concerning the Blessed Virgin and our own. This view of the matter seems to me true and important; I do not think the line can be satisfactorily drawn, and to this point I shall now direct my attention.
It is impossible, I say, in a doctrine like this, to draw the line cleanly between truth and error, right and wrong. This is ever the case in concrete matters, which have life. Life in this world is motion, and involves a continual process of change. Living things grow into their perfection, into their decline, into their death. No rule of art will suffice to stop the operation of this natural law, whether in the material world or in the human mind. We can indeed encounter disorders, when they occur, by external antagonism and remedies; but we cannot eradicate the process itself, out of which they arise. Life has the same right to decay, as it has to wax strong. This is specially the case with great ideas. You may stifle them; or you may refuse them elbow-room; or again, you may torment them with your continual meddling; or you may let them have free course and range, and be content, instead of anticipating their excesses, to expose and restrain those excesses after they have occurred. But you have only this alternative; and for myself, I prefer much wherever it is possible, to be first generous and then just; to grant full liberty of thought, and to call it to account when abused.