Saturday, June 4, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
The three chief historic Church of England formularies are the Articles of Religion of 1571 from the reign of Elizabeth I and The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of 1661 from the reign of Charles II. The first is a product of the Elizabethan Settlement; the second and third are products of the Restoration Settlement. They form together the classical Anglican standard of doctrine and faith.
When I consider the implications of these facts, it is evident to me that we cannot completely exclude the High Churchmanship of the Laudians from historic Anglicanism. We cannot make the Laudians into the Papists into which their Puritan detractors sought to make them, and then dismiss them altogether. The Laudians were certainly given to ritualism and they revived a number of customs and practices that the English Reformers had suppressed. However, they had no sympathy for the Church of Rome or for papacy and the papal system.
The Laudians thought that the customs and practices that they were reviving were those of the Primitive Church. They concluded from the writings of the early Church Fathers that these customs and practices were ancient and allowable. Where the Laudians may be faulted is that their fascination with antiquity resulted in an uncritical approach to the Patristic writers. They were not as cautious as the Edwardian and Elizabethan Reformers in their reading of the Patristic authors.
The Laudians in part represent a reaction to the growing radicalism of the Puritan movement in the Church of England. The Puritan movement would in turn grow more radical in reaction to the High Churchmanship of the Laudians. The Puritans associated the Laudians’ High Churchmanship with Papistry even though the Laudians were not themselves Papists or Papistical.
The Laudians would create a serious obstacle to the aspirations of the Puritans who wanted to establish a presbyterian form of church discipline and governance, modeled upon that of the Church of Geneva. They wanted to further revise The Book of Common Prayer or do away with the Prayer Book altogether.
Some would write off the Laudians and claim the Puritans as the true sons of the Church of England; others would write off the Puritans and claim the Laudians as the English Church’s true sons. However, both schools of thought have a place in historic Anglicanism. It must also be noted that, while certain writers treat the reign of Charles the First as if it was divided into these two camps, their views are an oversimplification of that period in English Church history. There were all kinds of Puritans during that period and we cannot and should not lump them altogether. The same thing can be said in regards to the Laudians. Puritan and Laudian provide convenient labels but we should resist the temptation to pigeonhole every seventeenth century churchman in Charles I’s reign into one of these categories.
It is tempting to attribute Puritanism to the influence of the Church of Geneva or Laudianism to the influence of the Church of Rome and to present one or the other as foreign and un-English. Both Puritanism and Laudianism, however, are very English and cannot be dismissed as an alien intrusion into the English Church.
It is also tempting to attribute Puritanism and Laudianism to a division that existed in the Church of England from the earliest days of the Reformation. This too would be an inaccurate representation of developments in the English Church in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The divisions that we see in the reign of Elizabeth I and James I are between two wings of the reforming party. One wing was for the most part satisfied with the reforms that would be achieved. The other wing wanted to further reform the English Church. Here again we should take care not to draw a too sharper dichotomy between the two groups. There were blurring and overlapping of boundaries between these groups.
During the reign of Elizabeth I we also have a queen who wished to prevent religious strife, establish political stability, and secure her throne. While Elizabeth at times catered in her Council and in Parliament to those who wished to further reform the English Church, she also opposed them through her bishops. She saw in them a potential threat to her throne. She did not forget John Knox’s The Monstrous Regime of Women and John Calvin’s endorsement of Knox’s views. We have in addition a Recusant population that decided that its best chances of survival lay in not drawing attention to itself.
The Laudians do not emerge as a definable group in the Church of England until the reign of Charles I and the subsequent translation of William Laud to the See of Canterbury. During this period they gained the patronage of the king and rose to prominence and power in the English Church.
Precursors of the Laudians are Bishops Lancelot Andrews and John Overall. They would influence the thinking of key members of the group of Caroline divines that historians have labeled the Laudians after their most prominent figure—Archbishop Laud.
It is tempting too to claim that Puritanism or Laudianism represent the true character of Anglicanism. In the latter case those advocating this position are apt to treat the Edwardian and Elizabethan Reformers and the Puritans as if they did not exist—skip over them and go to the reign of Charles I and the period of the Caroline divines. Or they may claim the existence of a High Church tradition in the Church of England from the Elizabethan Settlement on. To do so, however, they are forced to stretch or lop the facts to fit the Procrustean bed of their theory. One faction in the Oxford Tractarian movement claimed that the Church of England underwent no changes in the reign of Edward IV and would have remained High Church and Anglo-Catholic except for the outbreak of the English Civil War and the establishment of the Commonwealth. This theory did not gain the support of the other factions in that movement. It simply was untenable.
As I noted earlier, there was a blurring and overlapping of boundaries between the two wings of the reforming party in the reign of Elizabeth I. While the Vestarian controversy was one of the earliest divisions between the two groups, the group that would eventually labeled the Puritans included clergy who wore the surplice for church services and those who wore street clothes. The early Puritans pressed for further revision of the Prayer Book. The movement to dispense with a Prayer Book and to place the entire service into the hands of the minister would come later. Even in the reign of Charles I the boundary was not quite as sharp as some might like to claim. There were, for example, both episcopal Puritans and presbyterian Puritans in England. There were congregationalist Puritans in North America.
The Puritans and the Laudians receive a lot of attention in histories of the reign of Charles I, the English Civil War, the Commonwealth, the Restoration, and the reign of Charles II. One would think that everyone in this period belonged to one or the other of these camps. The group that is ignored are those folks who were satisfied with the reforms of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. They had no objections to the surplice, the Prayer Book, or to episcopacy. They conformed to the doctrine of the Articles and the Prayer Book. We overlook them because they were not agitating for a Genevan form of church discipline and governance like the successors of the more radical wing of the reforming party. They were not attempting to make changes in the Church of England, which were perceived as a retreat from the church reforms in implemented in the reigns of the two previous monarchs, and using heavy-handed measures to affect these changes and to suppress opposition to them.
This overlooked group is the group that stands in continuity with John Jewel, Matthew Parker, Richard Hooker, and John Whitgift. They may be described as the successors to the moderate wing of the reforming party.
The Laudians do represent a retrograde movement in the Church of England. While it is inaccurate to describe them as seeking to return the English Church to the bosom of mother Rome and to restore the authority of the Pope in England, they did try to bring back a number of usages that the Elizabethan Reformers had rejected and disowned on Scriptural grounds. They argued that these usages beautified the worship of the church and were the usages of the Church in antiquity. There was support for them in the Patristic writings. They further claimed that they were not inconsonant with Scripture. This and their theology, which with some notable exceptions was Arminian, are two of a number of things that sets them apart from the Elizabethan Reformers.
The latter, while they may have retained the surplice and the cope and used a Prayer Book, removed the images, reliquaries, and roodscreens and dismantled the stone altars that had been restored during the reign of Elizabeth’s older sister Mary. They did away with the elaborate ritual and numerous ceremonies that characterized the celebration of the Latin Mass. The only candles seen in Elizabethan churches were those lit for illumination. Stone altars were replaced with honest wooden tables, which were placed at the entrance to the chancel or in the nave. The table was set lengthwise and the minister stood at the north end or side so that the congregation could hear and see what he was saying and doing. The only decorations permitted in churches were passages of Scripture painted in a non-whimsical fashion on wooden boards. The interior walls of churches were whitewashed.
To folk accustomed to the plainness of the late sixteenth century—early seventeenth century English parish church, the chapels and churches of the Laudians were a shock—elaborately carved furnishings, gilded images of angels, colored stained-glass windows, the holy table placed against the east wall of the chancel and surrounded by railings, and candles flickering on the table. So were the clergy bowing and bending before the table, which they called an altar. While some may have been attracted to this “sensuous worship” as nineteenth century Bishop of Liverpool J. C. Ryle would have described it, others recoiled from it in horror. In their eyes it was Papistry.
It is further tempting to read back into English Church history the conflicts of the nineteenth century between the Evangelicals and the Ritualists-Romanists with the Puritans representing the Evangelicals and the Laudians the Ritualist-Romanists. While similarities may exist between the conflicts between the Evangelicals and the Ritualists-Romanists and the conflicts between the Puritans and the Laudians, significant dissimilarities also exist.
In my opinion it is best to treat each period of English Church history as distinct and unique, and to resist the temptation to place everybody and everything in neat, tidy categories. We may take of note the similarities and dissimilarities between the periods but we should be very cautious about what conclusions we draw from them.
Historic Anglicanism may be described as an amalgam of beliefs and practices from the sixteenth and seventeenth century. It is not a synthesis. It is not a via media. A hodgepodge, or hotchpotch, might accurately describe it. A hodgepodge is a dish of many ingredients. Like a West Indian pepper pot some new ingredient may be added from time to time. This description may be disconcerting to those who prefer a neat, tidy system. However, historic Anglicanism is not neat or tidy.
I am not advocating or supporting an evolutionary theory of Anglicanism in which whatever the Anglican Church believes and does in a particular historical period is Anglicanism. Even a hodgepodge has a recipe. There are regional variations. The recipe may be altered over time as new ingredients become available and old ingredients loose their popularity. However, a hodgepodge is recognizable from a Hungarian goulash or a Creole gumbo.
Historic Anglicanism bears a similarity to the English constitution. The English constitution is a puzzle to Americans who are accustomed to a written constitution. The English constitution is comprised of old customs, rights, and usages, as well as Acts of Parliament, Orders in Council, and judicial rulings. There is no single document forming the basis of the law. Instead of a lengthy general confession historic Anglicanism has a number of formularies. One of these formularies is a confession of faith—the Articles of Religion of 1571. It affirms three other confessions of faith—the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds.
Two of the formularies are books containing forms of service—The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of 1661. These two books were compiled by the Restoration bishops most of whom were Laudians. The Church of England in placing these books among its formularies has recognized that the Laudians do have a place in historic Anglicanism.
One of the reasons that these books were placed among the Church of England formularies is that the Restoration bishops made only modest changes in the English Prayer Book and the English Ordinal. The two books are substantially the Prayer Book and the Ordinal that preceded them. The Restoration bishops exercised surprising restraint.
A number of the changes, however, are significant. For example, the Baptismal Service includes a blessing of the water in the font, which was added to the service because the ancient liturgies and the 1549 Prayer Book contain such a blessing. The 1552 Prayer Book and its 1559 and 1604 revisions omitted a blessing of the water as superfluous since God had sanctified all water for the purposes of baptism. Alterations to the Litany and the Ordinal emphasize that the office of bishop is different from that of the office of presbyter. Some would argue that these changes also stress that bishops and presbyters are not of the same order. The changes were clearly directed at the presbyterians in the Church of England.
Since the Church of England has recognized the Laudians as having a place in historic Anglicanism, what is that place? Here we find considerable difference of opinion. At one end of the spectrum we find a number of the Evangelical Episcopalians in the nineteenth century. This group takes the position that the Laudians whom they associate with the nineteenth century Ritualists-Romanists has no place in Anglicanism. The same group would form the Reformed Episcopal Church.
In reading their writings I have noticed a number of things. The nineteenth century Evangelical Episcopalians are prone to accepting the claims of the Ritualist-Romanists that they were the successors to the Laudians. Ritualist-Romanists’ interpretation of the writings of the Caroline divines exerted a strong influence upon their own interpretation of the Laudians. As I have noted elsewhere, the Ritualist-Romanists’ interpretation of the 1789 Book of Common Prayer influenced their interpretation of the American Prayer Book.
The nineteenth century Evangelical Episcopalians are apt to read into the Laudians’ writings opinions that a more careful reading of the Caroline divines does not support. Their thinking in regard to the Laudians is not only colored by their contemporaries—the Ritualist-Romanists—but also by the Caroline divines’ contemporaries and detractors—the presbyterian Puritans.
Nineteenth century Evangelicals in the Churches of England and Ireland and the Church of England in Canada, on the other hand, tend to regard the Laudians more favorably than their cousins in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. This may be attributable to their better acquaintance with the works of the Caroline divines. They do not necessarily agree with the theology of the Laudians but they do not view them as the seventeenth century equivalent of the Ritualist-Romanists.
At the other end of the spectrum are the nineteenth century Ritualist-Romanists themselves. They claim that the Laudians were the forerunners of their own movement, a claim that both nineteenth century and twentieth century scholars have shown to be far from the truth. The Oxford Tractarians are notorious for their selective use of the Caroline divines’ works to support their positions on a number of key issues. When the Laudians’ writings are subject to closer examination, it is only too clear that they do not support the Oxford Tractarians’ positions.
Modern-day Anglo-Papists represent a third view of the Caroline High Churchmen. They regard them as not true “Catholics.” To the modern-day Anglo-Papists acceptance of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the authority of the Pope are the marks of a true “Catholic”. The Laudians rejected both.
The following articles, “Laudian Theology,” and “Non-Juror Leaven in the Church of England and Oxford High Anglicanism,” are taken from An Protestant Dictionary, edited by Charles H. H. Wright and Charles Neil, and published under the auspices of the Protestant Reformation Society by Hoddard and Stoughton in 1904.
For those who may wish to read further on this subject, Frederick Meyrick’s An Appeal from the Twentieth Century to the Sixteenth and Seventeeth Century, or The Faith and Practice of the two first Centuries of the Reformed Anglican Church, is on the Internet at: http://www.archive.org/details/anappealfromthet00meyruoft
Canon Meyrick’s Old Anglicanism and Modern Ritualism is on the Internet at: http://www.archive.org/details/oldanglicanis00meyruoft
His Scriptural and Catholic truth and worship, or, The faith and worship of the primitive, the mediaeval and the reformed Anglican churches is also on the Internet at: http://www.archive.org/details/scripturalandcat00meyruoft
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 10:33 PM
LAUDIAN THEOLOGY. The theology of the historical High Church school in the Church of England.
Laud is generally regarded as the head and chief of English High Churchmen. Having been Archbishop of Canterbury, he is naturally selected from among the Caroline divines as their representative, and it was the Caroline divines of the seventeenth century who carried High Churchmanship as far as is admissible in the Church of England. The object of the present article is to show that Laudian theology, be it right or wrong, does not justify the modern Ritualist school.
The first characteristic of the Ritualist school is a depreciation of the Reformation. Laud, on the contrary, describes it as a “reformation of an old corrupted Church,” “their part remaining in corruption and our part under reformation; the same Naaman, and he a Syrian still, but leprous with them, and cleansed with us” (Epist. Dedic. to Conference with Fisher). Would a Ritualist regard the Roman Church as leprous and the Anglican Church as cleansed from leprosy by the Reformation?
Ritualists are also in the custom of condemning, or sneering at the way in which the Reformation was conducted. Neither in this are they the disciples of Laud. Laud says, “The Church of England cast off the Pope’s usurpation, and as much as in her lay, restored the king to his right. That appears by a book subscribed by the bishops in Henry VIII.’s time, and by the records in the Archbishop’s office, orderly kept, and to be seen. In the Reformation which came after, our princes had their part, and the clergy theirs, and to these two principally the power and direction for reformation belonged. That our princes had their part is manifest by their calling together of the bishops and other of the clergy to consider of that which might seem wanting of reformation. And the clergy did their part, for being thus called together by regal power, they met in the National Synod of 1562, and the Articles, there agreed on, were afterwards confirmed by Act of State and the royal assent. In this Synod the positive truths which are delivered are more than the polemics, so that a mere calumny it is, that we profess only a negative religion. True it is, and we must thank Rome for it, our Confession must needs contain some negatives, for we cannot but deny that images are to be adored, nor can we admit maimed sacraments,nor grant prayers in an unknown tongue; and in a corrupt time or place, it is as necessary for a religion to deny falsehood as to assert and vindicate truth. Indeed this latter can hardly be well and sufficiently done but by the former, an affirmative verity being ever included in the negative to a falsehood” (Conference, § 24).
Ritualists charge Reformers, whether of the sixteenth century in England or of the nineteenth century on the Continent, with schism. Laud repels the charge, and throws it back on Rome. “The cause of the schism is yours; for you thrust us from you, because we called for truth and redress of abuses. For a schism must be theirs whose the cause of it is” (Conference, § 21).
While depreciating the Reformation and its methods, and charging it with schism, Ritualists make light of the corrupt doctrines of the Church of Rome. But this is what Laud says about them: “There is peril, great peril, of damnable both schism and heresy and other sins, by living and dying in the Roman faith, tainted with so many superstitions, as at this day it is, and their tyranny to boot.” He allows “the possibility of salvation” to Romanists, not as Romanists, but as Christians, “though they hazard themselves extremely by keeping so close to that which is superstition, and in the case of images, comes too near idolatry” (ibid. § 35). “In some instances they have erred in the foundation or very near it” (ibid. § 38). “That there are errors in doctrine, and some of them such as must manifestly endanger salvation, in the Church of Rome, is evident to those that will not shut their eyes (ibid. § 24). “I pray whose device was transubstantiation, and whose, communion under one kind, and whose, deposition and unthroning, nay killing, of princes, and the like, if they were not yours? . . . Is there no superstition in adoration of images? None in invocation of saints? None in the adoration of the sacrament? Is there no error in breaking Christ’s own institution of the sacrament by giving it but in one kind? None about Purgatory? About common prayer in an unknown tongue, none? These and many more are in the Roman religion; and it is no hard work to prove every one of them to be error or superstition or both” (ibid. § 39). “A man may believe the whole and entire Catholic Faith, even as St. Athanasius requires, and yet justly refuse for dross a great part of that which is now the Roman Faith” (ibid. § 38). Laud proceeds to condemn invocation of saints, adoration of images, Purgatory and other definite Romish doctrines, and scoffs at the idea of Trent having been an Oecumenical Council.
The dogma which makes Ritualism to be what it is, is the objective presence of Christ in the elements, for from it follow the doctrines of the mass and all the practices and ceremonies appropriate to the mass. The objective presence in the elements is merely an unscientific form of transubstantiation (or possibly consubstantiation). Condemning transubstantiation and the mass, the Caroline divines condemned the objective presence in the elements, and that condemnation was firm and unhesitating. “It cannot be proved by Scripture, and taken properly, cannot stand with the grounds of the Christian religion,” says Laud of transubstantiation (Conference, § 33). “It is safest to leave the Church of Rome, in this particular, to her superstitions, that I may say no more,” he writes about the mass (ibid. § 35). Andrewes says that “Zion would shudder at, and utterly repudiate the idea of worshipping the Deity hiding there under the species and formed in a flour-mill” (Sermon before Frederick Count Palatine). Cosin says that it was to exclude this notion that “the words fiat nobis corpus et sanguis Domini were altered into what they now are” (Notes on the Prayer Book). Taylor says, “He is not there according to His human nature” (Letter). Bull declares the tenet “bids defiance to all the reason and sense of mankind” (Corruptions of the Church of Rome). Beveridge says that from the truth that worthy receivers of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper partake of the body and blood of Christ, “the devil took occasion to draw men into the opinion that the bread which is used in that sacrament is the very body that was crucified upon the cross, and the wine, after consecration, the very blood that gushed out of His pierced side” (Discourse upon the XXXIX. Articles, p. 470). The tenet was first introduced into the Church of England by Robert Isaac Wilberforce shortly before he joined the Church of Rome about fifty years ago. No previous authority can be found for it, though Dr. Pusey s teaching, a little earlier, had pointed in that direction.
In short, no justification of Ritualism, its special doctrines, practices, and ceremonies, can be derived from the old historical High Church party, represented by Laud and the divines of the seventeenth century. It is a product of the last half of the nineteenth century, an exotic without ancestry in the Church of England.
Rev. Frederick Meyrick,M. A., late Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Oxford, Rector of Blickling, Norwich, and Non-Resident Canon of Lincoln. Author of The Doctrine of the Church of England in the Holy Communion re-stated; Scriptural and Catholic Faith and Worship; Old Anglicanism; Sunday Observance, &c.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 9:19 PM
NON-JURING LEAVEN IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND OXFORD HIGH ANGLICANISM. The relation be tween the Non-Jurors of two centuries ago and the Oxford High-Churchmanship of to-day is a subject of much interest, and also of no little importance. Modern Oxford High-Anglicans sometimes seem to imagine that they fully account for the Tractarian Movement in all its developments, and at the same time entirely justify it, by asserting its direct lineal derivation from the Non-Jurors of 1688. Finding the Popery of James II., with all that it involved, too evil and pernicious to be endured, and therefore welcoming William III. as their deliverer from intolerable tyranny and destructive error, the Non-Jurors nevertheless refused to accept William as king, or as anything more than a sort of Regent for the time being, clothed with the royal executive power and jurisdiction. They took up this attitude on the ground that having subscribed the oaths of allegiance to James, they could not, for conscience sake, violate those oaths by accepting William as their sovereign de jure. The incongruous and untenable position which Non-Jurors thus chose to occupy is luminously shown by Lord Macaulay, where, in his History of England, he has dealt with this period. But if any should seek for a more impartial judgment than that of a Scotch Whig like Macaulay, he may refer to Dean Plumptre’s sympathetic biography of that most charming and Christian of Non-Jurors,Bishop Ken, which furnishes a mild but convincing view of the irreducible difficulties and contradictions in which that excellent and gifted prelate found himself entangled by the verbal quibbles and puzzles involved in this Non-Juring attitude. From the whole history it can hardly be doubted that he would have retreated from his false position on to the ground of sane logic and of common sense, if he had not found it beyond his power to extricate himself from his antecedents. He, therefore, silently accepted the disability he had imposed upon himself and declined controversy on this subject.
For the devout High-Churchman, to whom the memory of Charles I., and the principles of hereditary loyalty and of absolute submission to the anointed sovereign as the divinely appointed head of Church and State, were scarcely less sacred than the Christian creed, to accept a Dutch Presbyterian as the head of the English Episcopal Church could not but be a very bitter hardship all the more so because of the memories of fanatical excesses and oppressions from which not a few loyal Churchmen had suffered during the Commonwealth, when Episcopacy was disallowed and a sort of latitudinarian Congregationalism, or else some form of continental Presbyterianism, was allowed precedence and privilege in the kingdom. Nevertheless, such Churchmen had found the tyranny of James II. a more intolerable yoke than even the rule of Cromwell, and the memories and records of the blind and cruel Popery of Philip and Mary had left behind for English Churchmen, a keener and stronger abhorrence ofPopery than their hatred of William s Dutch Presbyterianism. They now, moreover, saw that their only hope of deliverance form James’s tyranny and the domination of Romish cruelty and superstition, was to be found in the wise and able Prince who had married James s daughter, and who ruled over Holland. Such was the dilemma of the Non-Jurors. Their attitude of passive disloyalty may be understood, and in a sense sympathised with, but can hardly be regarded as wise, or tenable as a practical policy. Its unreasonableness savoured of superstition. The party numbered some exemplary saints and many estimable adherents, but practical wisdom can hardly be attributed to them. A fatal weakness infected the whole party, scholarly as not a few among them were, and wise within certain limits. That the Primate and six of his suffragan bishops, and no fewer than 400 of the clergy, were counted among them, are facts which show how strong was sectarian prejudice in the evil times of the Stuart dynasty. Their religious opinions may be summarily described as a combination of Laudian principles in Church and State with an intense abhorrence of Popery. They had good reason to abhor the Popery which had plotted against Queen Elizabeth, and excommunicated both the Queen and Realm of England. The Non-Jurors, moreover, besides the Laudian grounds of antipathy against Popery, had the recent experience of the Popish blindness and the contemptible character of James II. to deepen and make still more intense their Protestantism.
If we compare the religious creed and sympathies or antipathies of the Non-Jurors with those of the early Oxford Leaders of our present day Anglo-Catholicism, we may say that, in a general sense, the Tractarian Churchmen of Oxford have held opinions which seem to link Oxford intimate associates the first principles of their special High- Church inspiration, were already smitten with admiration for the Romish Church as such, and were longing for union with it. Dr. Pusey, also, long before his death, outwent the advances made by Newman and his confidential associates towards Rome while they remained within the Church of England, though he himself never left, nor meant to leave, but only to leaven the Church of England. Lord Halifax to-day is never weary of asserting, and commending to English Churchmen for acceptance, some of the characteristic principles of Popery, and of uttering aloud his longing desire for re-union with the Church of Rome.
So much as this is matter of plain history, but it is another question whether, within the precincts of the Oxford University itself, there has been preserved since the days of William III. and of his successor Queen Anne, a tradition and a line of doctrinal opinion and influence, which, though at one time it became feeble and faltering, never absolutely died out, and which has revived, so to speak, from its ashes during the last half century; and whether, accordingly, the present development of Romish ideas and Romanising activity, taken as a whole, may be said to be a natural English revival, derived from the Non-Jurors of two centuries ago.
That in the University of Oxford there has till recently, if not till now, been maintained more or less, a sympathetic veneration for the ideals of Charles I. and Archbishop Laud, is scarcely to be questioned. Oxford was the chosen seat and centre of Charles' religious and political inspiration and influence. It was absolutely identified with his cause and his principles, absolutely identified not only with Charles, but with the Church of England of that age, which claimed him as its royal head, and with its masterful and all-powerful High-Church archbishop. Oxford stood for the hereditary monarchy and the national Church with its Episcopacy. It was an Anglo-Catholic stronghold. Cambridge was never so identified with ecclesiastical ideas. Oxford, in short, stood for hereditary monarchy in the Stuart line, and for Laudian High-Churchmanship. The University was the school for inspiring and training adherents of “high” principles in Church and State; its representatives had in this sense made its memory famous and its influence commanding. Its earnest adherents among bishops and clergy were counted by hundreds; its spell touched with something like awe the great majority of English people. The result upon the country as a whole was to inspire the nation generally with a horror of Popery, and at the same time a dislike of all forms of Dissent. The combination of these two deep-seated prejudices rendered, for a century or more after the Restoration, all thoughts of a generous and enlightened parliamentary policy of religious liberty for the nation vain all proposals looking in that direction futile. Hence, the leaden materialism of the eighteenth century, during which no political measures of national enlightenment or modern largeness of thought and sympathy were possible, and the one great motive force for moral education and Christian progress was as is now generally acknowledged the Evangelical Revival with which the names of Wesley and Whitfield are associated. The old fashions and habits of religious opinion and observance remained in the soil of the national life; they were the legally recognised religious and educationalforms and forces of the country. Of these the University of Oxford was the chief source and centre. Cambridge was less famous and less influential; in particular, it was not a national school of religious conviction.
Oxford stood, as has been said, for Church and King, and in this relation had famous memories. It contributed the ground-tone for the religious convictions and activities of the nation. Canon Overton, who has probably studied more deeply and thoroughly than any one else the history of the Non-Jurors, has shown us how powerful was the influence of the Non-Juring school of religious feeling both in England, and also still more perhaps in Scotland, during the greater part of the eighteenth century; and that by certain sections of the non-Jurors a separate clerical organisation, though of necessity loose and hard to keep alive, was maintained till the later years of the century. There was even a distinct line of Non-Juring bishops preserved for many years by voluntary zeal and sectarian feeling. The influence of this old Anglo-Catholic school of religious opinion has indeed as I shall try to show, never quite died out, and did undoubtedly help to gain for the Oxford High-Anglican movement, initiated sixty years ago, a favourable entrance into the University, during that introductory period of its history, especially, when it seemed to wear the aspect, not of advance to Rome, but of return to the ideals of such good men as Bishop Ken and Mr. Nelson, the saints whose memory and life fascinated the regard of several of the early Methodists at Oxford.
The history of the Wesley family, in this aspect of the question, is interesting and instructive. Samuel Wesley of Epworth and his accomplished wife, were both descended from an unbroken succession of staunch Puritans, Puritans who held Protestant Evangelical views as to Ordination and the Sacraments, and some of whom had suffered severely from High-Church persecution. But both Samuel Wesley and his wife, in their youthful days, in disgust with the spirit of Low Dissent, renounced the views of their Nonconformist parents and conformed to the Church of England, Samuel Wesley having left a Academy to enter an Oxford College. The father, indeed, was not a Non-Juror or a Laudian High-Churchman ; but his parishioners found him to be not only an enemy of Dissent but a strict disciplinarian, and set his parsonage on fire. He was a plain and strict High-Churchman. His wife, herself an accomplished woman an admirable writer on theology holding the doctrinal views, in the main, of her noble and cultivated Nonconformist ancestors nevertheless leaned so far to the Non-Juring side as to seriously disapprove of her husband taking the oaths of allegiance to William. Their sons all went to Oxford; Samuel, the eldest son, was through life a high Tory, and not without reason was suspected of Jacobite proclivities. He was not, however, a Non-Juror, but a moderate High-Churchman. John Wesley, when he entered the University, held views similar to those of his elder brother, and was of a bright and gay temper, and not “righteous overmuch.” But he read Law s Serious Call, and became his disciple. For many years, Law, the Non-Juror, was to him as a prophet, and under his influence John Wesley, while at Oxford, became an extreme High-Churchman, holding views nearly resembling those held by Keble a century later, except that he did not believe in the “conversion of the elements in the Holy Supper,” to use his own phrase, or sympathise with any degree of Mariolatry. It was not till years afterwards that Wesley came to abandon his High-Church views, or to understand and admire the eminent goodness of not a few of the persecuted Puritan Confessors in Stuart times. Charles Wesley admired and followed in his doctrine his brother John, but, with a poet’s temperament, retained to his death his admiration for Charles I., and never, like his brother, became a broad Evangelical in his tolerance for orthodox Dissent and his sympathy with the best Puritanism of the Stuart period. When, in his History of England, John Wesley gave a discriminating estimate of Charles I., such as no Non-Juror or Jacobite could have accepted, Charles remonstrated with his brother on his too little favourable judgment of the “Martyr,” and John made answer that he could not in conscience revise his estimate of the king, or “speak less evil of him.” Notwithstanding what he afterwards spoke of as the “vehement prejudice” of his education, Wesley totally abandoned, in middle life, after reading Lord Chancellor King’s book on the Primitive Church, and Archbishop Tillotson’s writings on the same subject, all his old Oxford High-Church principles, as his whole subsequent course, his Journals, and in particular his Ordinations for America and Scotland abundantly prove. He did this, how ever, without becoming in any sense or degree a Dissenting Nonconformist.
It can be no wonder that such Churchmen as Bishop Ken and the saintly Nelson and there were not a few other eminent saints among the Non-Jurors, if not so illustrious as these left behind them among serious Oxford Churchmen a godly savour and sacred memories, the influence of which lingered in the University for many years. There are historical traces and biographical memories, as is shown in the writings of Abbey and Overton on the Church of England since the Revolution, and especially in Dr. Overton’s Non-Jurors, which prove that till within the last ten or twenty years of the eighteenth century, the savour of Non-Juring piety was still distinctly traceable in Oxford, and perhaps yet more distinctly in the Episcopal Church of Scotland, which, of course, was for many years intensely Jacobite as well as High-Church, and which had counted an illustrious saint in Archbishop Leighton.
Nor was the ancient tradition of the saintliness of Laud and the orthodoxy of such High-Anglicanism as belonged to the Stuart period of the Church s history, ever quite effaced at Oxford. As on all else that was unworldly or savoured of high religious ideals, the influence of the eighteenth century rested as a blight on Oxford High-Church devotion. For more than fifty years the line of strict High-Anglican tradition had little more place than Methodism in the University. And yet there is reason to believe that it was still traceable here and there. It was, indeed, a purely English and Protestant influence. It had no sympathy with Rome, and was not ashamed of Protestantism. It was content to be no less avowedly Protestant in its antagonism of error than High-Church in its doctrinal teaching. But while it had no leaning towards Popery, the devout High-Churchmanship of Oxford a century ago construed the Prayer Book strictly, and believed in Lenten observance, in daily services, and in weekly communion.
The question here naturally arises, whether the memory and traditions of Oxford afford reason to believe that a leaven of eighteenth century Oxford High-Churchmanship still remained at Oxford during the early years of the nineteenth century; such as, without any indulgent feeling towards Popery, or any loss of sympathy with the Protestant English Reformation, nevertheless provided a favourable soil for the Tractarian Movement in its earlier stages, before its leaders had begun to hanker consciously, though with subtle reserve, after Romish teachings and re-union with the Papacy. My own knowledge of the opinions and clerical influence of Thomas Keble of Bisley, nearly sixty years ago, joined to my study in later years of his brother John’s life in the earlier stages of his course, had led me to suspect that a hereditary High-Church indoctrination, derived from the Stuart or Non-Juring period, might perhaps have prepared John Keble to be the poet of the “Christian Year” at a period when later Tractarian developments were never thought of. What I could learn of that antique survival, Dr. Routh seemed to confirm this idea, although Dr. Routh was a friend and correspondent of a learned and godly Dissenter, Dr. Pye Smith. A letter which I have lately received from my friend Dr. Overton, more than confirms my surmises on this subject. Keble’s High-Church views, I learn from Dr. Overton, were ancestral, and can be traced back through a succession of clerical ancestors to John Keble, of Fairford, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, who was a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and an admirer of William Law, not indeed as a Non-Juror, but as respected his type of piety. Dr. Overton is “quite sure that the theological (not political) views of the Non-Jurors never died out of Oxford.” Dr. Van Mildert, Bishop of Durham, he says, “was absolutely at one with the theology of the Non-Jurors, as was a little later William Adamson, Fellow of Merton and Vicar of St. Peter s-in-the-East, and author of the Shadow of the Cross. Dr. Overton’s maternal grandfather, who took his degree at Oxford in 1772, held the same theological views. All these, it appears, were more or less Laudian in their theology, without the least sympathy with Rome or doubt as to the Protestantism of the Church of England.
It must not be forgotten that, however contradictory to modern evangelical ideas and phraseology the High-Church theology of the earlier Stuart period may appear to us to-day, the choice for the Oxford of the eighteenth century lay between that theology of which Andrewes and Ken perhaps afford the most favourable types, and of which the Articles of the Church of England are the statutory standard and the Calvinism of the Westminister Confession, with its doctrine of the Decrees and its high Presbyterianism. It must also be remembered that if the Anglican views as to the Priesthood and its prerogatives may seem to have been unevangelically high, and even to savour of Popery, the Presbyterian platform of pastoral prerogative was in the Stuart period hardly less extreme, when practically regarded, in its views of ministerial authority and of Church discipline, than that of the English High-Churchman of the seventeenth century. The Church which numbered among its worthies such men as Andrewes and Ken might claim a high place among the Protestant Churches of Europe, and can hardly be denied the title of an Evangelical Church.
From the whole of the evidence it seems to result that the High-Church Anglican School of Oxford was Protestant, and, in the spirit of its central teaching, Evangelical, until the direct Popish leaven was introduced by Newman and accepted by Pusey, who, before very long, under the influence of Newman, started on the road towards Rome, and who presently far outwent Newman s advance Romewards, up to the period of his passing across the barrier and seeking a place within the Roman precincts. The Stuart High-Churchmen—the Non-Jurors and their descendants—were Protestants, whereas Pusey adopted Romish doctrine and discipline in all essential particulars—its doctrine as taught by Bossuet, its penitential discipline, the Confessional as administered by priests—some, of whom might have been ordained, as it were, but the day before—and as enforced by spiritual intolerance and moral compulsion on women and children, and carried out in a monastic spirit by means of sisterhoods; all this having been brought about by a persistent subtlety combined with spiritual terrorism, under the inspiration and direction of Pusey as chief guide and master-spirit. The controversy between Dr. Hook and Dr. Pusey, as revealed not only in Dr. Stevens’ Life of Hook but in the volumes of Dr. Pusey’s biography, for which Canon Liddon was chiefly responsible, shows very clearly the wide and deep separation between the Oxford High-Anglicanism of Pusey and that of Dr. Hook, or of the Non-Jurors. As for Pusey himself, his biography proves that under the influence of something like panic, and largely through his contact with Newman, he went over from a sort of Germanised Broad Churchmanship into the Tractarian Fellowship of which he became afterwards the revered oracle. Pusey, throughout his earlier years at the University, had not been taught doctrine by any theologians under Non-Juring influences. The credit for the full Popish development of our Oxford High-Anglicanism must be divided
between Newman and Pusey as chief leaders.
Bishop Ken’s will contains what may be regarded as a strict definition of the platform of Christian faith and doctrine common to the best type of Non-Jurors, and handed down to the days of Routh and Keble. “As for my religion, I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; more particularly I die in the Communion of the Church of England as it stands distinctly free from papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.” In this definition of Anglo-Catholic doctrine there lurks no germ of Tractarian veneration for Rome and its distinctive errors and corruptions.
Authorities.—The Nonjurors, by J. H. Overton, D.D., Canon of Lincoln. Abbey and Overton’s English Church in the Eighteenth Century. Lord Macaulay’s History of England, vol. v. Tyerman’s Oxford Methodists (Harper Bros., New York). Dean Plumptre’s Life of Bishop Ken (2 vols). The Mother of the Wesleys, by the Rev. John Kirk (Wesleyan Conference Office). Oxford High Anglicanism, by the Rev. Dr. Rigg (C. H. Kelly ; 2nd ed. enlarged, with Appendix, 1899).
Rev. J. H. Rigg, D.D., late Principal of the Wesleyan Training College, Westminster; twice President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference. Author of Oxford High Anglicanism and its chief Leaders, 2nd edit, enlarged with Appendix; A Comparative View of Church Organisations, Primitive and Protestant, 3rd edit, enlarged; Modern Anglican Theology, 3rd edit, with Memoirs of Charles Kingsley and Personal Reminiscences; The Living Wesley, 3rd edit., & c.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 9:02 PM