Saturday, June 4, 2011

Non-Juring Leaven in the Church of England and Oxford High Anglicanism

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.


  1. Very good article. And thanks for the references at the end. I'll have to check into them.

  2. Who is the author of this? It's very helpful and well-written. Thank you.