THOUSANDS who were comfortably placed in life, and conscientious, too, had a great deal to suffer until things were made plain. Edmund Campion began to fret, and argue, and ponder, and pray for light in secret university , for several years going about “that most ingeniose Place” (as a later lover called Oxford) with heavy thoughts. Oxford itself, despite the Ecclesiastical Commission fixed there to worry it, was more Catholic in spirit than any other city in England. Nevertheless Campion’s temptation to conform was very great. We must remember that many of his first impressions and memories were Anglican. He was brought up during his early school life on the new Liturgy, which came into operation before his tenth year. He knew now, in manhood, that to change about, and forsake the State religion for the only Church which is as exacting as her Master, would be to see the ruin of his happy career. His strong point, in the beginning, was not what is called brute courage. His was the nervous, Hamlet-like temper, natural to students and recluses, which, by a fatal error, puts endless thinking into what needs only to be done.
During these years Campion read a great deal of theology, as in his position he was bound to do, according to University rules. Where everything else except his inmost heart inclined him to heresy, the Fathers drove him back upon the fulness of revealed truth. The day which he spent with St. Augustine, or St. Jerome, or St. John Chrysostom, was a day on which (to catch up the phrase of his friend and biographerv2 ecig, Fr.
Robert Parsons, himself a Balliol man) he was ready “to pull out this thorn of conscience.” But on the morrow returned the old spirit of obstinacy and delay. Meanwhile the Anglican influence was gaining for Campion’s dearest friend of many, Richard Cheyney, the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, was drawing him on towards his own ideals, which were “Catholic-minded,” if not Catholic. The learned, gentle and lovable Cheyney withstood with zest the risen Puritan party, and in his hold on sound doctrine stood apart from all his colleagues on the Episcopal Bench. He had been brought up as a Catholic, and ordained according to the full Catholic ritual, in 1534. The reminder is sometimes needed that Protestants did not shoot up full-grown, that all original Protestantism was made up of human material once Catholic. From first to last, however, Cheyney could not be forced to coerce the Church which he had abandoned. In this he stood not, as has been stated, quite alone among the Elizabethan Bishops, for Downham of Chester and Ghest of Rochester shared his honourable abstinence, though in less degreeNeo Derm Beauty Box
The moment Cheyney was out of the way, the Catholics on his diocesan ground, hitherto safe, were mercilessly harried. He had been made a Bishop against his will, displacing the true occupant of the See, when his friend Edmund Campion was two-and-twenty. In most matters Cheyney followed Luther; Cranmer’s more heretical doctrines, which prevailed on all sides in England, he thoroughly hated. He longed always for a reconciliation which was never to be, and never can be. He longed to see the Catholics (against the well-thought-out and oft-repeated prohibition of their leaders, between 1562 and 1606) do a little evil to procure a great good: namely, smooth matters over, escape their terribly severe penalties, and in the end become able to leaven the lump of English error, by the mere preliminary of attendance at the service of Common Prayer according to law, in their own old parish churches. The Book of Common Prayer, as he would remind them, was expressly designed to suit persons of various and even contradictory religious views: Catholic; not-so-very Catholic; ex-Catholic; non-Catholic; anti-Catholic! Campion often rode over the hills to Gloucester to sit by the episcopal hearth-fire, book on knee, and hear such theories as this, and sympathize with the lonely old man who “saw visions,” and had little else in his vexed life to content him. His strong double desire was to save by his own effort for the Church of England separated from Rome, that great body of ancient belief and practice sure otherwise to be lost in the flood of invited Calvinism; and to secure Edmund Campion himself as his intellectual coadjutor and successor, as one of high gifts likely to “drink in his thoughts and become his heir.” The two were together, not only in matters of dogma, but in all minor points. Cheyney shared with Campion dislike of politics, telling the Council that in such matters he was “a man of small experience and little observation.” He kept his old priestly ideals, and would never marry. Campion, too, chose to be a celibate. If he gave his heart to either Church, he saw even then that it must be an undivided heart. To him, with his underlying tenderness towards the ancient faith, and his dream of peacemaking through compromise, which is so English, and just in these matters so mistaken, the mission thus opened out appealed. Half reluctantly, yet not realizing the disloyalty of his act (as he himself tells us), he allowed himself to receive from Cheyney’s hands Deacon’s orders in the Church of England.