Cardinal Manning’s explanation of how many 19th century Anglicans were Catholic

February 2, 2022 • 4 min

From Letter to Dr. Pusey by Henry Edward Manning, page 10
By Henry Edward Manning

Still the English people as a body are baptized, and therefore elevated to the order of supernatural grace.

Every infant, and also every adult baptized, having the necessary dispositions, is thereby placed in a state of justification; and, if they die without committing any mortal sin, would certainly be saved.

They are also, in the sight of the Church, Catholics. S. Augustine says, ‘Ecclesia etiam inter eos qui foris sunt per baptismum generat suos.’ A mortal sin of any kind, including prava voluntatis electio, the perverse election of the will, by which in riper years such persons chose for themselves, notwithstanding sufficient light, heresy instead of the true faith, and schism instead of the unity of the Church, would indeed deprive them of their state of grace. But before such act of self-privation all such people are regarded by the Catholic Church as in the way of eternal life.

With perfect confidence of faith, we extend the shelter of this truth over the millions of infants and young children who every year pass to their Heavenly Father. We extend it also in hope to many more who grow up in their baptismal grace.

Catholic missionaries in this country have often assured me of a fact, attested also by my own experience, that they have received into the Church persons grown to adult life, in whom their baptismal grace was still preserved.

Now how can we then be supposed to regard such persons as no better than heathens? To ascribe the good lives of such persons to the power of nature would be Pelagianism. To deny their goodness, would be Jansenism. And, with such a consciousness, how could any one regard his past spiritual life in the Church of England as a mockery?

I have no deeper conviction than that the grace of the Holy Spirit was with me from my earliest consciousness. Though at the time, perhaps, I knew it not as I know it now, yet I can clearly perceive the order and chain of grace by which God mercifully led me onward from childhood to the age of twenty years.

From that time the interior workings of His light and grace, which continued through all my life, till the hour in which that light and grace had its perfect work, to which all its operations had been converging, in submission to the fulness of truth of the Spirit of the Church of God, is a reality as profoundly certain, intimate, and sensible to me now as that I live.

Never have I by the lightest word breathed a doubt of this fact in the Divine order of grace. Never have I allowed any one who has come to me for guidance or instruction to harbour a doubt of the past workings of grace in them. It would be not only a sin of ingratitude, but a sin against truth.

The working of the Holy Spirit in individual souls is, as I have said, as old as the fall of man, and as wide as the human race. It is not we who ever breathe or harbour a doubt of this. It is rather they who accuse us of it. Because, to believe such an error possible in others, shows how little consciousness there must be of the true doctrine of grace in themselves.

And such, I am forced to add, is my belief, because I know by experience how inadequately I understood the doctrine of grace until I learned it of the Catholic Church. And I trace the same inadequate conception of the workings of grace in almost every Anglican writer I know, not excepting even those who are nearest to the truth.

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