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Title: The English Church in the Eighteenth Century
Author: Abbey, Charles J., Overton, John H.
Language: English
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Rector of Checkendon: Formerly Fellow of University College, Oxford


Canon of Lincoln and Rector of Epworth

Revised and Abridged
New Edition

Longmans, Green, and Co.
London, New York, and Bombay





Although this edition has been shortened to about half the length of the
original one, it is essentially the same work. The reduction has been
effected, partly by the omission of some whole chapters, partly by
excisions. The chapters omitted are those upon the Jacobites, the
Essayists, Church Cries, and Sacred Poetry--subjects which have only a
more or less incidental bearing on the Church history of the period. The
passages excised are, for the most part, quotations, discursive
reflections, explanatory notes, occasional repetitions, and, speaking
generally, whatever could be removed without injury to the general
purpose of the narrative. There has been no attempt at abridgment in any
other form.

The authors are indebted to their reviewers for many kind remarks and
much careful criticism. They have endeavoured to correct all errors
which have been thus pointed out to them.

As the nature of this work has sometimes been a little misapprehended,
it should be added that its authors at no time intended it to be a
regular history. When they first mapped out their respective shares in
the joint undertaking, their design had been to write a number of short
essays relating to many different features in the religion and Church
history of England in the Eighteenth Century. This general purpose was
adhered to; and it was only after much deliberation that the word
'Chapters' was substituted for 'Essays.' There was, however, one
important modification. Fewer subjects were, in the issue, specifically
discussed, but these more in detail; while some questions--such, for
instance, as that of the Church in the Colonies--were scarcely touched
upon. Hence a certain disproportion of treatment, which a general
introductory chapter could but partially remedy.




Some years have elapsed since the authors of this work first entertained
the idea of writing upon certain aspects of religious life and thought
in the Eighteenth Century. If the ground is no longer so unoccupied as
it was then, it appears to them that there is still abundant room for
the book which they now lay before the public. Their main subject is
expressly the English Church, and they write as English Churchmen,
taking, however, no narrower basis than that of the National Church

They desire to be responsible each for his own opinions only, and
therefore the initials of the writer are attached to each chapter he has




(_C.J. Abbey._)

Revived interest in the religious life of the eighteenth century, 1
Lowered tone prevalent during a great part of the period, 2
Loss of strength in the Puritan and Nonjuring ejections, 3
Absorbing speculations connected with the Deistical controversy, 4
Development of the ground principles of the Reformation, 5
Fruits of the Deistical controversy, 6
Its relation to the Methodist and Evangelical revivals, 7
Impetus to Protestant feeling in the Revolution of 1689, 8
Projects of Church comprehension, 8
Methodism and the Church, 9
The French Revolution, 10
Passive Obedience and Divine Right, 10
Jacobitism, 11
Loss of the Nonjuring type of High Churchmen, 12
Toleration, 13
Church and State, 15
Respect for the Church, 16
Early part of the century richest in incident, 17
Religious societies, 17
The Sacheverell trial, 18
Convocation, 19
The later Nonjurors, 19
The Essayists, 20
Hoadly and the Bangorian controversy, 21
The Methodist and Evangelical movements, 21
Evidence writers, 22
Results of the Evidential theology, 23
Revival of practical activity at the end of the century, 24
The Episcopate, 24
General condition of religion and morality, 25
Clergy and people, 25



(_C.J. Abbey._)

Contrast with the coarser forms of High Churchmanship in that
  age, 26
Robert Nelson: general sketch of his life and doings, 27
His Nonjuring friends, 31
  Ken, 31
  Bancroft and Frampton, 32
  Kettlewell,  33
  Dodwell, 34
  Hickes, 36
  Lee, 38
  Brokesby, Jeremy Collier, &c., 39
  Exclusiveness among many Nonjurors, 39
His friends in the National Church, 40
  Bull, 40
  Beveridge, 42
  Sharp, 44
  Smalridge, 46
  Grabe, 47
  Bray, 48
  Oglethorpe, Mapletoft, &c., 49
R. Nelson a High Churchman of wide sympathies, 50
Deterioration of the later type of eighteenth century
  Anglicanism, 51
Harm done to the English Church from the Nonjuring secession, 51
Coincidence at that time of political and theological parties, 52
Passive obedience as 'a doctrine of the Cross', 53
Decline of the doctrine, 55
Loyalty, 56
The State prayers, 57
Temporary difficulties and permanent principles, 58
Nonjuring Church principles scarcely separable from those of most High
  Churchmen of that age in the National Church, 60
Nonjuror usages, 61
Nonjuror Protestantism, 63
Isolated position of the Nonjurors, 64
Communications with the Eastern Church, 65
General type of the Nonjuring theology and type of piety, 68
Important function of this party in a Church, 73
Religious promise of the early years of the century, 74
Disappointment in the main of these hopes, 75



(_J.H. Overton._)

Points at issue in the Deistical controversy, 75-6
Deists not properly a sect, 76
Some negative tenets of the Deists, 77
Excitement caused by the subject of Deism, 78
Toland's 'Christianity not mysterious', 79
Shaftesbury's 'Characteristics', 80-2
His protest against the Utilitarian view of Christianity, 81
Collins's 'Discourse of Freethinking', 82-3
Bentley's 'Remarks' on Collins', 83-4
Collins's 'Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian
  Religion', 84-5
Woolston's 'Six Discourses on the Miracles', 85
Sherlock's 'Tryal of the Witnesses', 86
Annet's 'Resurrection of Jesus Considered', 86
Tindal's 'Christianity as old as the Creation', 86-7
Conybeare's 'Defence of Revealed Religion', 87
Tindal the chief exponent of Deism, 88
Morgan's 'Moral Philosopher', 89
Chubbs's works, 90-1
'Christianity not founded on argument', 92-3
Bolingbroke's 'Philosophical Works', 93-6
Butler's 'Analogy', 96-7
Warburton's 'Divine Legation of Moses', 97-8
Berkeley's 'Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher', 98-9
Leland's 'View of the Deistical Writers', 100-1
Pope's 'Essay on Man', 101-2
John Locke's relation to Deism, 102-5
Effects of the Deistical controversy, 106-8
Collapse of Deism, 108
Want of sympathy with the Deists, 110
Their unpopularity, 111




(_C.J. Abbey._)

Use of the term 'Latitudinarian', 112
In the eighteenth century, 113
Archbishop Tillotson:--
  His close relationship with the eighteenth century, 115
  His immense repute as a writer and divine, 115
  Vehemence of the attack upon his opinions, 117
  His representative character, 118
  His appeal to reason in all religious questions, 119
  On spiritual influence, 119
  On Christian evidences, 119
  On involuntary error, 120
  On private judgment, its rights and limitations, 121
  Liberty of thought and 'Freethinking' in Tillotson's and the
    succeeding age, 125
  Tillotson on 'mysteries', 127
  On the doctrine of the Trinity, 129
  On Christ's redemption, 130
  Theory of accommodation, 131
  The future state, 133
  Inadequate insistance on distinctive Christian doctrine, 140
  Religion and ethics, 141
  Goodness and happiness, 142
  Prudential religion, 143
  General type of Tillotson's latitudinarianism, 145




(_C.J. Abbey._)

Comprehension in the English Church, 147
Attitude towards Rome in eighteenth century, 148
  Strength of Protestant feeling, 148
  Exceptional interest in the Gallican Church, 149
Archbishop Wake and the Sorbonne divines, 149
  Alienation unmixed with interest in the middle of the eighteenth
    century, 152
  The exiled French clergy, 154
The reformed churches abroad:--
  Relationship with them a practical question of great interest since
    James II.'s time, 155
  Alternation of feeling on the subject since the Reformation, 156
  The Protestant cause at the opening of the eighteenth century, 158
  The English Liturgy and Prussian Lutherans, 160
  Subsidence of interest in foreign Protestantism, 163
Nonconformists at home:--
  Strong feeling in favour of a national unity in Church
    matters, 164
  Feeling at one time in favour of comprehension, both among Churchmen
    and Nonconformists, 166
  General view of the Comprehension Bills, 169
  The opportunity transitory, 174
  Church comprehension in the early part of the eighteenth century
    confessedly hopeless, 175
  Partial revival of the idea in the middle of the century, 177
Comprehension of Methodists, 180
Occasional conformity:--
  A simple question complicated by the Test Act, 183
  The Occasional Conformity Bill, 184
  Occasional conformity, apart from the test, a 'healing
    custom', 185
  But by some strongly condemned, 186
  Important position it might have held in the system of the National
    Church, 187
Revision of Church formularies; subscription:--
  Distaste for any ecclesiastical changes, 188
  The 'Free and Candid Disquisitions', 189
  Subscription to the Articles, 190
  Arian subscription,  193
  Proposed revision of Church formularies, 195
Isolation of the English Church at the end of the last century, 195
The period unfitted to entertain and carry out ideas of Church
  development, 196



(_J.H. Overton._)

Importance of the question at issue, 197
Four different views on the subject, 198
Bull's 'Defensio Fidei Nicænæ', 199
Sherlock, Wallis, and South on the Trinity, 200
Charles Leslie on Socinianism, 201-2
William Whiston on the Trinity, 202-4
Samuel Clarke the reviver of modern Arianism, 204
Opponents of Clarke, 205
Waterland on the Trinity, 205-13
Excellences of Waterland's writings, 213
Convocation and Dr. Clarke, 214
Arianism among Dissenters, 215
Arianism lapses into Socinianism.--Faustus Socinus, 215
Modern Socinianism, 216
Isaac Watts on the Trinity, 217-9
Blackburne's 'Confessional', 219
Jones of Nayland on the Trinity, 219-20
Priestley on the Trinity, 220
Horsley's replies to Priestley, 220-4
Unitarians and Trinitarians (nomenclature), 225
Deism and Unitarianism, 226



(_C.J. Abbey._)

Meaning of 'Enthusiasm' as generally dreaded in the eighteenth
  century, 226
A vague term, but important in the history of the period, 227
As entering into most theological questions then under
  discussion, 229
Cambridge Platonists: Cudworth, Henry More, 230
Influence of Locke's philosophy, 234
Warburton's 'Doctrine of Grace', 237
Sympathy with the reasonable rather than the spiritual side of
  religion, 237
Absence of Mysticism in the last century, on any conspicuous
  scale, 238
Mysticism found its chief vent in Quakerism     240
Quakerism in eighteenth century     241
Its strength, its decline, its claim to attention, 244
French Mysticism in England. The 'French Prophets', 246
Fénelon, Bourignon, and Guyon, 249
German Mysticism in England. Behmen, 251
William Law, 253
His active part in theological controversy, 254
Effects of Mysticism on his theology, 255
  His breadth of sympathy and appreciation of all spiritual
    excellence, 257
  Position of, in the Deist controversy, 259
  Views on the Atonement, 259
  On the Christian evidences, 260
  Controversy with Mandeville on the foundations of moral
    virtue, 261
  His speculation on the future state, 261
  On Enthusiasm, 263
  His imitator in verse, John Byrom, 264
The Moravians, 265
  Wesley's early intimacy with W. Law and with the Moravians, 266
  Lavington and others on the enthusiasm of Methodists, 269
  Points of resemblance and difference between Methodism and the Mystic
    revivals, 271
Bearing of Berkeley's philosophy on the Mystic theology, 274
William Blake, 275
Dean Graves on enthusiasm, 276
Samuel Coleridge, 277



(_J.H. Overton._)

Fair prospect at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 279
Contrast between promise and performance, 279
Shortcomings of the Church exaggerated on many sides, 280
_General causes of the low tone of the Church:_--
  (1) Her outward prosperity, 280
  (2) Influence and policy of Sir R. Walpole, 281
  (3) The controversies of her own and previous generations, 282
  (4) Political complications, 282
  (5) Want of synodal action, 282-4
Pluralities and non-residence, 284-6
Neglect of parochial duties, 286-7
Clerical poverty, 287-9
Clerical dependents, 289
Abuse of Church patronage, 290-2
Evidence in the autobiography of Bishop T. Newton, 292-3
      "          "        "      Bishop Watson, 293-6
      "          "        "      Bishop Hurd, 296-7
Clergy too much mixed up with politics, 297-8
Want of parochial machinery, 298-300
Sermons of period too sweepingly censured, 300
But marked by a morbid dread of extremes, 301
Political sermons, 302
Low state of morals, 303
Clergy superior to their contemporaries, 301
The nation passed through a crisis in the eighteenth century, 306
A period of transition in the Church, 307
Torpor extended to all forms of Christianity, 308
Decay of Church discipline, 309-310
England better than her neighbours, 311
Good influences in the later part of the century, 311-2



(_J.H. Overton._)


Strength and weakness of the Church in the middle of the eighteenth
  century, 313
Propriety of the term 'Evangelical Revival', 314
Contrast between Puritans and Evangelicals, 315
William Law, 316
John Wesley, 316-336
George Whitefield, 337-340
Charles Wesley, 340-3
Fletcher of Madeley, 343-6
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 347-354
Other Methodist worthies, 355


Feebleness and unprofitableness of the controversy, 356
The disputes between Wesley and Whitefield, 357-8
Minutes of the Conference of 1770, 358-360
The 'Circular printed Letter', 360
Conference of 1771, 361
Controversy breaks out afresh in 1772, 362
Fletcher's checks to Antinomianism, 363-5
Toplady's writings, 365


James Hervey, 366-370
Grimshaw of Haworth, 370-1
Berridge of Everton, 371-2
William Romaine, 372-4
Henry Venn, 374-7
Evangelicalism and Methodism contemporaneous, 377-8
John Newton, 378-381
William Cowper, 381-3
Thomas Scott, 384-8
Richard Cecil, 388
Joseph Milner, 388-392
Isaac Milner, 392-3
Robinson of Leicester, 393-4
Bishop Porteus, 394
'The Clapham Sect', 394
John and Henry Thornton, 395
William Wilberforce, 395-8
Lords Dartmouth and Teignmouth, 398
Dr. Johnson, 398-9
Hannah More, 399-402
Strength and weakness of the Evangelical leaders, 402-3



(_C.J. Abbey._)

The 'Georgian Age', 403
General sameness in the externals of worship, 404
Church architecture, 405
Vandalisms, 407
Whitewash, 408
Repairs of churches, 409
Church naves; relics of mediæval usage, 411
Pews and galleries, 411
Other adjuncts of eighteenth century churches, 414
Chancels and their ornaments, 416
Paintings in churches, 419
Stained glass, 423
Church bells, 425
Churchyards, 427
Church building, 428
Daily services, 429
Wednesday and Friday services; Saints' days; Lent; Passion Week;
  Christmas Day, &c., 432
Wakes; Perambulations, 436
State services,  437
Church attendance, 439
Irreverence in church, 441
Variety of ceremonial, 444
The vestment rubric; copes, 445
The surplice; hood; scarf, &c., 446
Clerical costume, 447
Postures of worship; Responses, &c., 449
Liturgical uniformity, 451
Division of services, 452
The Eucharist; Sacramental usages, 453
Parish clerks, 456
Organs; church music, 458
Cathedrals,  459
The 'bidding' and the 'pulpit' prayer, 461
Preaching, 463
Lecturers, 466
Funeral sermons, 468
Baptism, 468
Catechising, 469
Confirmation, 470
Marriage, 471
Funerals, 471
Church discipline; excommunication; penance, 472
Sunday observance, 474
Conclusion, 475

APPENDIX: List of Authorities, 477

INDEX, 489






The claim which the intellectual and religious life of England in the
eighteenth century has upon our interest has been much more generally
acknowledged of late years than was the case heretofore. There had been,
for the most part, a disposition to pass it over somewhat slightly, as
though the whole period were a prosaic and uninteresting one. Every
generation is apt to depreciate the age which has so long preceded it as
to have no direct bearing on present modes of life, but is yet not
sufficiently distant as to have emerged into the full dignity of
history. Besides, it cannot be denied that the records of the eighteenth
century are, with two or three striking exceptions, not of a kind to
stir the imagination. It was not a pictorial age; neither was it one of
ardent feeling or energetic movement. Its special merits were not very
obvious, and its prevailing faults had nothing dazzling in them, nothing
that could be in any way called splendid; on the contrary, in its weaker
points there was a distinctly ignoble element. The mainsprings of the
religious, as well as of the political, life of the country were
relaxed. In both one and the other the high feeling of faith was
enervated; and this deficiency was sensibly felt in a lowering of
general tone, both in the domain of intellect and in that of practice.
The spirit of feudalism and of the old chivalry had all but departed,
but had left a vacuum which was not yet supplied. As for loyalty, the
half-hearted feeling of necessity or expedience, which for more than
half the century was the main support of the German dynasty, was
something different not in degree only, but in kind, from that which had
upheld the throne in time past. Jacobitism, on the other hand, was not
strong enough to be more than a faction; and the Republican party, who
had once been equal to the Royalists in fervour of enthusiasm, and
superior to them in intensity of purpose, were now wholly extinct. The
country increased rapidly in strength and in material prosperity; its
growth was uninterrupted; its resources continued to develop; its
political constitution gained in power and consolidation. But there was
a deficiency of disinterested principle. There was an open field for the
operation of such sordid motives and debasing tactics as those which
disgraced Walpole's lengthened administration.

In the following chapters there will be only too frequent occasion to
refer to a somewhat corresponding state of things in the religious life
of the country. For two full centuries the land had laboured under the
throes of the Reformation. Even when William III. died, it could
scarcely be said that England had decisively settled the form which her
National Church should take. The 'Church in danger' cries of Queen
Anne's reign, and the bitter war of pamphlets, were outward indications
that suspense was not yet completely over, and that both friends and
enemies felt they had still occasion to calculate the chances alike of
Presbyterianism and of the Papacy. But when George I. ascended the
throne in peace, it was at last generally realised that the 'Settlement'
of which so much had been spoken was now effectually attained. Church
and State were so far secured from change, that their defenders might
rest from anxiety. It was not a wholesome rest that followed.
Long-standing disputes and the old familiar controversies were almost
lulled to silence, but in their place a sluggish calm rapidly spread
over the Church, not only over the established National Church, but over
it and also over every community of Nonconformists. It is remarkable how
closely the beginning of the season of spiritual lassitude corresponds
with the accession of the first George. The country had never altogether
recovered from the reaction of lax indifference into which it had fallen
after the Restoration. Nevertheless, a good deal had occurred since that
time to keep the minds of Churchmen, as well as of politicians, awake
and active: and a good deal had been done to stem the tide of immorality
which had then broken over the kingdom. The Church of England was
certainly not asleep either in the time of the Seven Bishops, when James
II. was King, or under its Whig rulers at the end of the century. And in
Queen Anne's time, amid all the virulence of hostile Church parties,
there was a healthy stream of life which made itself very visible in the
numerous religious associations which sprang up everywhere in the great
towns. It might seem as if there were a certain heaviness in the English
mind, which requires some outward stimulus to keep alive its zeal. For
so soon as the press of danger ceased, and party strifes abated, with
the accession of the House of Brunswick, Christianity began forthwith to
slumber. The trumpet of Wesley and Whitefield was needed before that
unseemly slumber could again be broken.

It will not, however, be forgotten that twice in successive generations
the Church of England had been deprived, through misfortune or through
folly, of some of her best men. She had suffered on either hand. By the
ejection of 1602, through a too stringent enforcement of the new Act of
Uniformity, she had lost the services of some of the most devoted of her
Puritan sons, men whose views were in many cases no way distinguishable
from those which had been held without rebuke by some of the most
honoured bishops of Elizabeth's time. By the ejection of 1689, through
what was surely a needless strain upon their allegiance, many
high-minded men of a different order of thought were driven, if not from
her communion, at all events from her ministrations. It was a juncture
when the Church could ill afford to be weakened by the defection of some
of the most earnest and disinterested upholders of the Primitive and
Catholic, as contrasted with the more directly Protestant elements of
her Constitution. This twofold drain upon her strength could scarcely
have failed to impair the robust vitality which was soon to be so
greatly needed to combat the early beginnings of the dead resistance of
spiritual lethargy.

But this listlessness in most branches of practical religion must partly
be attributed to a cause which gives the history of religious thought in
the eighteenth century its principal importance. In proportion as the
Church Constitution approached its final settlement, and as the
controversies, which from the beginning of the Reformation had been
unceasingly under dispute, gradually wore themselves out, new questions
came forward, far more profound and fundamental, and far more important
in their speculative and practical bearings, than those which had
attracted so much notice and stirred so much excitement during the two
preceding centuries. The existence of God was scarcely called into
question by the boldest doubters; or such doubts, if they found place at
all, were expressed only under the most covert implications. But, short
of this, all the mysteries of religion were scrutinized; all the deep
and hidden things of faith were brought in question, and submitted to
the test of reason. Is there such a thing as a revelation from God to
men of Himself and of His will? If so, what is its nature, its purposes,
its limits? What are the attributes of God? What is the meaning of life?
What is man's hereafter? Does a divine spirit work in man? and if it
does, what are its operations, and how are they distinguishable? What is
spirit? and what is matter? What does faith rest upon? What is to be
said of inspiration, and authority, and the essential attributes of a
church? These, and other questions of the most essential religious
importance, as the nature and signification of the doctrines of the
Trinity, of the Incarnation of Christ, of Redemption, of Atonement,
discussions as to the relations between faith and morals, and on the
old, inevitable enigmas of necessity and liberty, all more or less
entered into that mixed whirl of earnest inquiry and flippant scepticism
which is summed up under the general name of the Deistic Controversy.
For it is not hard to see how intimately the secondary controversies of
the time were connected with that main and central one, which not only
engrossed so much attention on the part of theologians and students, but
became a subject of too general conversation in every coffee-house and
place of public resort.

In mental, as well as in physical science, it seems to be a law that
force cannot be expended in one direction without some corresponding
relaxation of it in another. And thus the disproportionate energies
which were diverted to the intellectual side of religion were exercised
at some cost to its practical part. Bishops were writing in their
libraries, when otherwise they might have been travelling round their
dioceses. Men were pondering over abstract questions of faith and
morality, who else might have been engaged in planning or carrying out
plans for the more active propagation of the faith, or a more general
improvement in popular morals. The defenders of Christianity were
searching out evidences, and battling with deistical objections, while
they slackened in their fight against the more palpable assaults of the
world and the flesh. Pulpits sounded with theological arguments where
admonitions were urgently needed. Above all, reason was called to decide
upon questions before which man's reason stands impotent; and
imagination and emotion, those great auxiliaries to all deep religious
feeling, were bid to stand rebuked in her presence, as hinderers of the
rational faculty, and upstart pretenders to rights which were not
theirs. 'Enthusiasm' was frowned down, and no small part of the light
and fire of religion fell with it.

Yet an age in which great questions were handled by great men could not
be either an unfruitful or an uninteresting one. It might be unfruitful,
in the sense of reaping no great harvest of results; and it might be
uninteresting, in respect of not having much to show upon the surface,
and exhibiting no great variety of active life. But much good fruit for
the future was being developed and matured; and no one, who cares to see
how the present grows out of the past, will readily allow that the
religious thought and the religious action of the eighteenth century are
deficient in interest to our times. Our debt is greater than many are
inclined to acknowledge. People see clearly that the Church of that age
was, in many respects, in an undoubtedly unsatisfactory condition,
sleepy and full of abuses, and are sometimes apt to think that the
Evangelical revival (the expression being used in its widest sense) was
the one redeeming feature of it. And as in theological and
ecclesiastical thought, in philosophy, in art, in poetry, the general
tendency has been reactionary, the students and writers of the
eighteenth century have in many respects scarcely received their due
share of appreciation. Moreover, negative results make little display.
There is not much to show for the earnest toil that has very likely been
spent in arriving at them; and a great deal of the intellectual labour
of the last century was of this kind. Reason had been more completely
emancipated at the Reformation than it was at first at all aware of. Men
who were engaged in battling against certain definite abuses, and
certain specified errors, scarcely discovered at first, nor indeed for
long afterwards, that they were in reality contending also for
principles which would affect for the future the whole groundwork of
religious conviction. They were not yet in a position to see that
henceforward authority could take only a secondary place, and that they
were installing in its room either reason or a more subtle spiritual
faculty superior even to reason in the perception of spiritual things.
It was not until near the end of the seventeenth century that the mind
began to awaken to a full perception of the freedom it had won--a
freedom far more complete in principle than was as yet allowed in
practice. In the eighteenth century this fundamental postulate of the
Reformation became for the first time a prominent, and, to many minds,
an absorbing subject of inquiry. For the first time it was no longer
disguised from sight by the incidental interest of its side issues. The
assertors of the supremacy of reason were at first arrogantly, or even
insolently, self-confident, as those who were secure of carrying all
before them. Gradually, the wiser of them began to feel that their
ambition must be largely moderated, and that they must be content with
far more negative results than they had at first imagined. The question
came to be, what is reason unable to do? What are its limits? and how is
it to be supplemented? An immensity of learning, and of arguments good
and bad, was lavished on either side in the controversy between the
deists and the orthodox. In the end, it may perhaps be said that two
axioms were established, which may sound in our own day like
commonplaces, but which were certainly very insufficiently realised when
the controversy began. It was seen on the one hand that reason was free,
and that on the other it was encompassed by limitations against which it
strives in vain. The Deists lost the day. Their objections to revelation
fell through; and Christianity rose again, strengthened rather than
weakened by their attack. Yet they had not laboured in vain, if success
may be measured, not by the gaining of an immediate purpose, but by
solid good effected, however contrary in kind to the object proposed. So
far as a man works with a single-hearted desire to win truth, he should
rejoice if his very errors are made, in the hands of an overruling
Providence, instrumental in establishing truth. Christianity in England
had arrived in the eighteenth century at one of those periods of
revision when it has become absolutely necessary to examine the
foundations of its teaching, at any risk of temporary disturbance to the
faith of individuals. The advantage ultimately gained was twofold. It
was not only that the vital doctrines of Christian faith had been
scrutinised both by friends and enemies, and were felt to have stood the
proof. But also defenders of received doctrine learnt, almost
insensibly, very much from its opponents. They became aware--or if not
they, at all events their successors became aware--that orthodoxy must,
in some respects, modify the stringency of its conclusions; that there
was need, in other instances, of disentangling Christian verities from
the scholastic refinements which had gradually grown up around them; and
that there were many questions which might safely be left open to debate
without in any way impairing the real defences of Christianity. A
sixteenth or seventeenth-century theologian regarded most religious
questions from a standing point widely different in general character
from that of his equal in piety and learning in the eighteenth century.
The circumstances and tone of thought which gave rise to the Deistic and
its attendant controversies mark with tolerable definiteness the chief
period of transition.

The Evangelical revival, both that which is chiefly connected with the
name of the Wesleys and of Whitefield, and that which was carried on
more exclusively within the Church of England, closely corresponded in
many of its details to what had often occurred before in the history of
the Christian Church. But it had also a special connection with the
controversies which preceded it. When minds had become tranquillised
through the subsidence of discussions which had threatened to overthrow
their faith, they were the more prepared to listen with attention and
respect to the stirring calls of the Evangelical preacher. The very
sense of weariness, now that long controversy had at last come to its
termination, tended to give a more entirely practical form to the new
religious movement. And although many of its leaders were men who had
not come to their prime till the Deistical controversy was almost over,
and who would probably have viewed the strife, if it had still been
raging, with scarcely any other feeling than one of alarmed concern,
this was at all events not the case with John Wesley. There are
tolerably clear signs that it had materially modified the character of
his opinions. The train of thought which produced the younger Dodwell's
'Christianity not Founded upon Argument'--a book of which people
scarcely knew, when it appeared, whether it was a serious blow to the
Deist cause, or a formidable assistance to it--considerably influenced
Wesley's mind, as it also did that of William Law and his followers. He
entirely repudiated the mysticism which at one time had begun to attract
him; but, like the German pietists, who were in some sense the religious
complement of Rationalism, he never ceased to be comparatively
indifferent to orthodoxy, so long as the man had the witness of the
Spirit proving itself in works of faith. In whatever age of the Church
Wesley had lived, he would have been no doubt an active agent in the
holy work of evangelisation. But opposed as he was to prevailing
influences, he was yet a man of his time. We can hardly fancy the John
Wesley whom we know living in any other century than his own. Spending
the most plastic, perhaps also the most reflective period of his life in
a chief centre of theological activity, he was not unimpressed by the
storm of argument which was at that time going on around him. It was
uncongenial to his temper, but it did not fail to leave upon him its
lasting mark.

The Deistical and other theological controversies of the earlier half of
the century, and the Wesleyan and Evangelical revival in its latter
half, are quite sufficient in themselves to make the Church history of
the period exceedingly important. They are beyond doubt its principal
and leading events. But there was much more besides in the religious
life of the country that is well worthy of note. The Revolution which
had so lately preceded the opening of the century, and the far more
pregnant and eventful Revolution which convulsed Europe at its close,
had both of them many bearings, though of course in very different ways,
upon the development of religious and ecclesiastical thought in this
country. One of the first and principal effects of the change of dynasty
in 1688 had been to give an immense impetus to Protestant feeling. This
was something altogether different in kind from the Puritanism which had
entered so largely into all the earlier history of that century. It was
hardly a theological movement; neither was it one that bore primarily
and directly upon personal religion. It was, so to say, a strategical
movement of self defence. The aggression of James II. upon the
Constitution had not excited half the anger and alarm which had been
caused by his attempts to reintroduce Popery. And now that the exiled
King had found a refuge in the court of the monarch who was not only
regarded as the hereditary enemy of England, but was recognised
throughout Europe as the great champion of the Roman Catholic cause,
religion, pride, interest, and fear combined to make all parties in
England stand by their common Protestantism. Not only was England prime
leader in the struggle against Papal dominion; but Churchmen of all
views, the great bulk of the Nonconformists, and all the reformed
Churches abroad, agreed in thinking of the English Church as the chief
bulwark of the Protestant interest.

Projects of comprehension had ended in failure before the eighteenth
century opened. But they were still fresh in memory, and men who had
taken great interest in them were still living, and holding places of
honour. For years to come there were many who greatly regretted that the
scheme of 1689 had not been carried out, and whose minds constantly
recurred to the possibility of another opportunity coming about in their
time. Such ideas, though they scarcely took any practical form, cannot
be left out of account in the Church history of the period. In the midst
of all that strife of parties which characterised Queen Anne's reign, a
longing desire for Church unity was by no means absent. Only these
aspirations had taken by this time a somewhat altered form. The history
of the English Constitution has ever been marked by alternations, in
which Conservatism and attachment to established authority have
sometimes been altogether predominant, at other times a resolute, even
passionate contention for the security and increase of liberty. In Queen
Anne's reign a reaction of the former kind set in, not indeed by any
means universal, but sufficient to contrast very strongly with the
period which had preceded it. One of the symptoms of it was a very
decided current of popular feeling in favour of the Church. People began
to think it possible, or even probable, that with the existing
generation of Dissenters English Nonconformity would so nearly end, as
to be no longer a power that would have to be taken into any practical
account. Concession, therefore, to the scruples of 'weak brethren'
seemed to be no longer needful; and if alterations were not really
called for, evidently they would be only useless and unsettling. In
this reign, therefore, aspirations after unity chiefly took the form of
friendly overtures between Church dignitaries in England and the
Lutheran and other reformed communities abroad, as also with such
leaders of the Gallican party as were inclined, if possible, to throw
off the Papal supremacy and to effect at the same time certain religious
and ecclesiastical reforms. Throughout the middle of the century there
was not so much any craving for unity as what bore some outward
resemblance to it, an indolent love of mere tranquillity. The
correspondence, however, that passed between Doddridge and some of the
bishops, and the interest excited by the 'Free and Candid
Disquisitions,' showed that ideas of Church comprehension were not yet
forgotten. About this date, another cause, in addition to the _quieta
non movere_ principle, interfered to the hindrance of any such
proposals. Persons who entertained Arian and other heterodox opinions
upon the doctrine of the Trinity were an active and increasing party;
and there was fear lest any attempt to enlarge the borders of the Church
should only, or chiefly, result in their procuring some modifications of
the Liturgy in their favour. Later in the century, the general question
revived in immediate interest under a new form. It was no longer asked,
how shall we win to our national communion those who have hitherto
declined to recognise its authority? The great ecclesiastical question
of the day--if only it could have been taken in hand with sufficient
earnestness--was rather this: how shall we keep among us in true Church
fellowship this great body of religiously minded men and women who, by
the mouth of their principal leader, profess real attachment to the
Church of England, and yet want a liberty and freedom from rule which we
know not how to give? No doubt it was a difficulty--more difficult than
may at first appear--to incorporate the activities of Methodism into the
general system of the National Church. Only it is very certain that
obstacles which might have been overcome were not generally grappled
with in the spirit, or with the seriousness of purpose, which the crisis
deserved. Meanwhile, at the close of the period, when this question had
scarcely been finally decided, the Revolution broke out in France. In
the terror of that convulsion, when Christianity itself was for the
first time deposed in France, and none knew how widely the outbreak
would extend, or what would be the bound of such insurrection against
laws human and divine, the unity of a common Christianity could not fail
to be felt more strongly than any lesser causes of disunion. There was a
kindness and sympathy of feeling manifested towards the banished French
clergy, which was something almost new in the history of Protestantism.
The same cause contributed to promote the good understanding which at
this time subsisted between a considerable section of Churchmen and
Dissenters. Possibly some practical efforts might have been set on foot
towards healing religious divisions, if the open war waged against
Christianity had long been in suspense. As it was, other feelings came
in, which tended rather to widen than to diminish the breach between men
of strong and earnest opinions on different sides. In some men of warm
religious feeling the Revolution excited a fervent spirit of Radicalism.
However much they deplored the excesses and horrors which had taken
place in France, they did not cease to contemplate with passionate hope
the tumultuous upheaval of all old institutions, trusting that out of
the ruins of the past a new and better future would derive its birth.
The great majority of Englishmen, on the other hand, startled and
terrified with what they saw, became fixed in a resolute determination
that they would endure no sort of tampering with the English
Constitution in Church or State. Whatever changes might be made for
better or for worse, they would in any case have no change now.
Conservatism became in their eyes a sort of religious principle from
which they could not deviate without peril of treason to their faith.
This was an exceedingly common feeling; among none more so than with
that general bulk of steady sober-minded people of the middle classes
without whose consent changes, in which they would feel strongly
interested, could never be carried out. The extreme end of the last
century was not a time when Church legislation, for however excellent an
object, was likely to be carried out, or even thought of.

To return to the beginning of the period under review. 'Divine right,'
'Passive obedience,' 'Non-resistance,' are phrases which long ago have
lost life, and which sound over the gulf of time like faint and shadowy
echoes of controversies which belong to an already distant past. Even in
the middle of the century it must have been difficult to realise the
vehemence with which the semi-religious, semi-political, doctrines
contained in those terms had been disputed and maintained in the
generation preceding. Yet round those doctrines, in defence or in
opposition, some of the best and most honourable principles of human
nature used to be gathered--a high-minded love of liberty on the one
hand, a no less lofty spirit of self-sacrifice and loyalty on the other.

The open or half-concealed Jacobitism which, for many years after the
Revolution, prevailed in perhaps the majority of eighteenth-century
parsonages could scarcely fail of influencing the English Church at
large, both in its general action, and in its relation to the State.
This influence was in many respects a very mischievous one. In country
parishes, and still more so in the universities, it fostered an unquiet
political spirit which was prejudicial both to steady pastoral work and
to the advancement of sound learning. It also greatly disturbed the
internal unity of the Church, and that in a manner peculiarly
prejudicial to its well-being. Strong doctrinal and ecclesiastical
differences within a Church may do much more good in stirring a
wholesome spirit of emulation, and in keeping thought alive and
preventing a Church from narrowing into a sect, than they do harm by
creating a spirit of division. But the semi-political element which
infused its bitterness into Church parties during the first half of the
eighteenth century, had no such merit. It did nothing to promote either
practical activity or theological inquiry. Under its influence High and
Broad Church were too often not so much rival schools of religious
thought, and representatives of different tones of religious feeling, as
rival factions. King William's bishops--a set of men who, on the whole,
did very high honour to his selection--were regarded by a number of the
clergy with suspicion and aversion, as his pledged supporters both in
political and ecclesiastical matters, no less ready to upset the
established order of the Church than they had been to change the ancient
succession of the throne. These, in their turn, scarcely cared to
conceal, if not their scorn, at all events their supreme mistrust, for
men who seemed in their eyes like bigoted disturbers of a Constitution
in which the country had every reason to rejoice.

More than this, Jacobitism brought the National Church into peril of
downright schism. There was already a nucleus for it. If the Nonjuring
separation had been nothing more than the secession of a number of High
Churchmen--some of them conspicuous for their piety and learning, and
almost all worthy of respect as disinterested men who had strong
convictions and stood by them--the loss of such men would, even so, have
been a serious matter. But the evil did not end there. Although the
Nonjurors, especially after the return of Nelson and others into the lay
communion of the Established Church, were often spoken of with contempt
as an insignificant body, an important Jacobite success might at any
time have vastly swelled their number. A great many clergymen and
leading country families had simply acquiesced in the rule of William as
king _de facto_, and would have transferred their allegiance without a
scruple if there had seemed a strong likelihood that James or the
Pretender would win the crown back again. In this case the Nonjuring
communion, which always proudly insisted that it alone was the true old
Church of England, might have received an immense accession of
adherents. It would not by any means have based its distinctive
character upon mere Jacobite principles. It would have claimed to be
peculiarly representative of the Catholic claims of the English Church,
while Whigs and Low Churchmen would have been more than ever convertible
terms. As it was, High Churchism among country squires took a different
turn. But if the Stuart cause had become once more a promising one, and
had associated itself, in its relations towards the Church, with the
opinions and ritual to which the Nonjurors were no less attached than
Laud and his followers were in Charles I.'s day, it is easy to guess
that such distinctive usages might soon be welcomed with enthusiasm by
Jacobites, if for no other reason, yet as hallowed symbols of a party.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Church parties had been
already strained and most unhappily embittered by political dissensions;
under the circumstances supposed, division might readily have been
aggravated into hopeless schism. But Jacobitism declined; and a less,
but still a serious evil to the Church ensued. Jacobitism and the Papacy
had become in most people's minds closely connected ideas. Hence the
opinions upon Church matters prevalent among Nonjurors and their
ecclesiastical sympathisers in the Established Church became also
unpopular, and tainted with an unmerited suspicion of leaning towards
Rome. This was no gain to the Church of the Georgian era. Quite
independently of any bias which a person may feel towards this or that
shade of opinion upon debated questions, it may be asserted with perfect
confidence that the Church of that period would decidedly have gained by
an increase of life and earnestness in any one section of its members. A
colourless indifferentism was the pest of the age. Some movement in the
too still waters was sorely needed. A few Ritualists, as they would now
be called, in the metropolitan churches, zealous and active men, would
have stimulated within the Church a certain interest and excitement
which, whether it were friendly or hostile, would have been almost
certainly beneficial. But, in the middle of the century, High Churchmen
of this type would scarcely be found, except in Nonjuror 'conventicles,'
and among the oppressed Episcopalians of Scotland.

The public relations of civil society towards religion attracted in the
eighteenth century--especially in the earlier part of it--very universal
attention. Of the various questions that come under this head, there was
none of such practical and immediate importance as that which was
concerned with the toleration of religious differences. The Toleration
Act had been carried amid general approval. There had been little
enthusiasm about it, but also very little opposition. Though it fell far
short of what would now be understood by tolerance, it was fully up to
the level of the times. It fairly expressed what was thoroughly the
case; that the spirit of intolerance had very much decreased, and that a
feeling in favour of religious liberty was decidedly gaining ground.
Meanwhile, in King William's reign, and still more so in that of his
successor, there was a very strongly marked contention and perplexity of
feeling as to what was really meant by toleration, and where its limits
were to be fixed. Everybody professed to be in favour of it, so long as
it was interpreted according to his own rule. The principle was granted,
but there were few who had any clear idea as to the grounds upon which
they granted it, and still fewer who did not think it was a principle to
be carefully fenced round with limitations. The Act of Toleration had
been itself based in great measure upon mere temporary considerations,
there being a very strong wish to consolidate the Protestant interest
against Papal aggression. Its benefits were strictly confined to the
orthodox Protestant dissenters; and even they were left under many
oppressive disabilities. A great principle had been conceded, and a
great injustice materially abated. Henceforth English Dissenters, whose
teachers had duly attested their allegiance, and duly subscribed to the
thirty-six doctrinal articles of the Church of England, might attend
their certified place of worship without molestation from vexatious
penal laws. It was bare toleration, accorded to certain favoured bodies;
and there for a long time it ended. Two wide-reaching limitations of the
principle of tolerance intervened to close the gate against other
Nonconformists than these. Open heresy could not be permitted, nor any
worship that was adjudged to be distinctly prejudicial to the interests
of the State. No word could yet be spoken, without risk of heavy
penalty, against the received doctrine of the Trinity. Nonjurors and
Scotch Episcopalians could only meet by stealth in private houses. As
for Romanists, so far from their condition being in any way mitigated,
their yoke was made the harder, and they might complain, with Rehoboam's
subjects, that they were no longer chastised with whips, but with
scorpions. William's reign was marked by a long list of new penal laws
directed against them. There were many who quoted with great approval
the advice (published in 1690, and republished in 1716) of 'a good
patriot, guided by a prophetic spirit.' His 'short and easy method' was,
to 'expel the whole sect from the British dominions,' and, laying aside
'the feminine weakness' of an unchristian toleration, 'once for all, to
clear the land of these monsters, and force them to transplant
themselves.' Much in the same way there were many good people who would
have very much liked to adopt violent physical measures against
'freethinkers' and 'atheists.' Steele in the 'Tatler,' Budgell in the
'Spectator,' and Bishop Berkeley in the 'Guardian,' all express a
curious mixture of satisfaction and regret that such opinions could not
be summarily punished, if not by the severest penalties of the law, at
the very least by the cudgel and the horsepond. Whiston seems to have
thought it possible that heterodox opinions upon the mystery of the
Trinity might even yet, under certain contingencies, bring a man into
peril of his life. In a noticeable passage of his memoirs, written
perhaps in a moment of depression, he speaks of learning the prayer of
Polycarp, 'if it should be my lot to die a martyr.' The early part of
the eighteenth century abounds in indications that amid a great deal of
superficial talk about the excellence of toleration the older spirit of
persecution was quite alive, ready, if circumstances favoured it, to
burst forth again, not perhaps with firebrand and sword, but with the no
less familiar weapons of confiscations and imprisonment. Toleration was
not only very imperfectly understood, even by those who most lauded it,
but it was often loudly vaunted by men whose lives and opinions were
very far from recommending it. In an age notorious for laxity and
profaneness, it was only too obvious that great professions of tolerance
were in very many cases only the fair-sounding disguise of flippant
scepticism or shallow indifference. The number of such instances made
some excuse for those who so misunderstood the Christian liberalism of
such men as Locke and Lord Somers, as to charge it with irreligion or
even atheism.

Nevertheless the growth of toleration was one of the most conspicuous
marks of the eighteenth century. If one were to judge only from the
slowness of legislation in this respect, and the grudging reluctance
with which it conceded to Nonconformists the first scanty instalments of
complete civil freedom, or from the words and conduct of a considerable
number of the clergy, or from certain fierce outbursts of mob riot
against Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Jews, it might be argued that
if toleration did indeed advance, it was but at tortoise speed. In
reality, the advance was very great. Mosheim, writing before the middle
of the century, spoke of the 'unbounded liberty' of religious thought
which existed in England. Perhaps the expression was somewhat
exaggerated. But in what previous age could it have been used at all
without evident absurdity? Dark as was the general view which Doddridge,
in his sermon on the Lisbon Earthquake, took of the sins and corruption
of the age, freedom from religious oppression he considered to be the
one most redeeming feature of it. The stern intolerant spirit, which for
ages past had prompted multitudes, even of the kindest and most humane
of men, to regard religious error as more mischievous than crime, was
not to be altogether rooted out in the course of a generation or two.
But all the most influential and characteristic thought of the
eighteenth century set full against it. In this one respect, the virtues
and vices of the day made, it might almost be said, common cause. It
might be hard to say whether its carelessness and indifference had most
to do with the general growth of toleration, or its practical common
sense, its professed veneration for sound reason, its love of sincerity.
It is more remarkable that there was so much toleration in the last
century, than that there was also so much intolerance.

A crowd of writers, of every variety of opinion, had something to write
or say on the subject of Church establishments. But until the time of
Priestley few ever disputed the advantages derivable from a National
Church. Many would have warmly agreed with Hoadly that 'an establishment
which did not allow of toleration would be a blight and a lethargy.' So
long as this was conceded, scarcely any one wished that the ancient
union of Church and State should be dissolved. With rare exceptions,
even Nonconformists did not wish it. However much fault they might find
with the existing constitution of the Church, however much they might
inveigh against what they considered to be its errors, however much they
might point to the abuses which deformed it, and to the uncharitable
spirit of some of its clergy, they by no means desired its downfall.
Probably, it is not too much to say that to some extent they were even
proud of it, as the chief bulwark in Europe of the reformed faith. The
Presbyterians at the beginning of the century, a declining, but still a
strong body, were almost Churchmen in their support of the national
communion. Doddridge, towards the middle of the century, was a hearty
advocate of religious establishments. Even Watts, a more decided
Dissenter than he, in a poem written in the earlier part of Queen Anne's
reign, spoke as if he would be thoroughly content to see a National
Church working side by side with voluntary bodies, each labouring in the
way most fitted to its spirit in the common cause of religion. Mrs.
Barbauld, towards the end of the century, expressed the same thought;
and a great number of the more intelligent and moderate Dissenters would
have agreed in it. On the general question, we are told that about the
time of the Revolution of 1688 there was scarcely one Dissenter in a
hundred who did not think the State was bound to use its authority in
the interests of the religion of the people. Half the last century had
passed before any considerable number of them had begun to think
differently. John Wesley is sometimes quoted as unfavourable to the
connection of Church and State. Doubtless he did not greatly value it,
and perhaps he may have used some expressions which, taken by
themselves, might seem in some degree to warrant the inference just
mentioned. But the love and loyalty which, all his life through, he bore
towards the English Church was certainly connected not only with a high
estimation of its doctrines and modes of worship, but with respect for
it as the acknowledged Church of the realm. The Evangelical party in the
Church were, without exception, thorough Church and State men. John
Newton's 'Apologia' was, in particular, a very vigorous defence of
Church establishments. During the earlier stages of the French
Revolution--a period when unaccustomed thoughts of radical changes in
society became very attractive to some ardent minds in every class--the
party among the Dissenters who would have welcomed disestablishment
received the accession of a few cultivated Churchmen. But Samuel
Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth found reason afterwards wholly to
change their views in this, as in many other respects. Furthermore, the
increased radicalism of the few was more than counterbalanced by the
intensified conservatism of the many. The glowing sentences in which
Edmund Burke dwelt upon religion as the basis of civil society, and
proclaimed the purpose of Englishmen, that, instead of quarrelling 'with
establishments as some do, who have made a philosophy and a religion of
their hostility to such institutions, they would cleave closely to
them,' found an echo in the minds of the vast majority of his
countrymen. This had been the general feeling throughout the century.
With all its faults--and in many respects its condition was by no means
satisfactory--the Church of England had never ceased to be popular.
Sometimes it met with contumely, often with neglect; occasionally its
alleged faults and shortcomings were sharply criticised, and people
never ceased to relish a jest at the expense of its ministers. But they
were not the least inclined to subvert an institution which had not only
rooted itself into the national habits, but was felt to be the mainstay
throughout the country of religion and morals. Although too often
deficient in the power of evoking and sustaining the more fervent
emotions of piety, it was representative to the great bulk of society of
most of their aspirations towards a higher life, most of their
realisations of spiritual things. It was sleepy, but it was not corrupt;
it was genuine in its kind, so that the good it did was received without
distrust. Nor could anyone deny that throughout the country it did an
immense deal of quiet but not unrecognised good. There were few places
where the general level would not have been lower without it. It had
fought a good battle against Rome, and against the Deists; and the hold
which, since the middle of the century, had been gained in it by the
Evangelical revival proved it not incapable of kindling with a zeal
which some had begun to think was foreign to its nature. The Church,
therefore, as a great national institution, was perfectly safe.
Circumstances had no doubt forced a good deal of attention to its
relation with the State. But these discussions had few direct practical
bearings. Hence the theoretical and abstract character which they wear
in the writings of Warburton and others.

In casting a general glance over the history of the English Church in
the eighteenth century, it will be at once seen that there is a greater
variety of incident in its earlier years than in any subsequent portion
of the period. There were controversies with Rome, with Dissenters, with
Nonjurors, with Arians, and above all, with Deists. There was
correspondence and negotiation with the French and Swiss Reformed
Churches, with German Lutherans, with French Gallicans. Schemes of
comprehension, though no longer likely to be carried out, were discussed
with strong feeling on either side. There was much to be said about
occasional conformity, about toleration, about the relation between
Church and State. There was the exciting subject of 'danger to the
Church' from Rome, or from Presbyterianism, or from treason within. For
there was vehement party feeling and hot discussion in ecclesiastical
matters. Some looked upon the Low or Broad Church bishops as the most
distinguished ornaments of the English Church; others thought that if
they had their way, they would break down all the barriers of the
Church, and speedily bring it to ruin. With some, High Churchmen were
the only orthodox representatives of the English Church; in the eyes of
others they were firebrands, Jacobites, if not Jesuits, in disguise, a
greater danger to the ecclesiastical establishment than any peril from
without. No doubt party feeling ran mischievously high. There was much
bigotry, and much virulence. Such times, however, were more favourable
to religious activity than the dull and heavy stormless days that
followed. In the earlier part of the eighteenth century there were very
many men worthy to be spoken of with the utmost honour, both in the High
and Low Church parties. A great deal of active Christian work was set on
foot about this time. Thus the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
was founded, and gathered round the table of its committee-room men of
very different opinions, but all filled with the same earnest desire to
promote God's glory, and to make an earnest effort to stem the
irreligion of the times. From its infancy, this society did a vast deal
to promote the object for which it had been established. The sister
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts attested the
rise of missionary activity. Societies for the suppression of vice, and
for the reformation of public manners, sprang up in most of the large
towns, and displayed a great, some thought an excessive, zeal in
bringing to the bar of justice offenders against morality. Numerous
associations were formed--on much the same model as that adopted in
later years by the founders of the Methodist movement--of men who banded
to further their mutual edification, and a more devotional life, through
a constant religious observance of the ordinances and services of the
Church. In many cases they made arrangements to provide public daily
prayers where before there had been none, or to keep them up when
otherwise they would have fallen through. Parochial libraries were
organised in many parts of the kingdom, sometimes to provide religious
and sound moral literature for general public use, more often to give
the poorer clergy increased facilities for theological study. A most
beneficent work was set on foot in the foundation of Charity Schools.
During the five years which elapsed between the forming of the Christian
Knowledge Society in 1699, and the first assemblage of the Metropolitan
Charity School children in 1704, fifty-four schools had started in and
about London alone; and their good work went on increasing. The new
Churches--fifty in intention, twelve in fact--built in London and
Westminster by public grant were another proof of the desire to
administer to spiritual needs. Nor should mention be omitted of the
provision made by Queen Anne's Bounty for the augmentation of poor
livings, many of which had become miserably depauperised. By this
liberal act the Queen gave up to Church uses the first fruits and
tenths, which before the Reformation had been levied on the English
clergy by the Pope, but from Henry VIII.'s time had swelled the income
of the Crown.

The Sacheverell 'phrensy,' and the circumstances which led to the
prorogation of Convocation, are less satisfactory incidents in the
Church history of Queen Anne's reign. In either case we find ourselves
in the very midst of that semi-ecclesiastical, semi-political strife,
which is so especially jarring upon the mind, when brought into
connection with the true interests of religion. In either case there is
an uncomfortable feeling of being in a mob. There is little greater
edification in the crowd of excited clergymen who collected in the
Jerusalem Chamber, than in the medley throng which huzzaed round
Westminster Hall and behind the wheels of Sacheverell's chariot. The
Lower House of Convocation evidently contained a great many men who had
been returned as proctors for the clergy, not so much for the higher
qualifications of learning, piety, and prudence, as for the active part
they took in Church politics. There were some excellent men in it, and
plenty of a kind of zeal; but the general temper of the House was
prejudiced, intemperate, and inquisitorial. The Whig bishops, on the
other hand, in the Upper House were impatient of opposition, and often
inconsiderate and ungracious to the lower clergy. Such, for example,
were just the conditions which brought out the worse and disguised the
more excellent traits of Burnet's character. It is not much to be
wondered at, that many people who were very well affected to the Church
thought it no great evil, but perhaps rather a good thing, that
Convocation should be permanently suspended. Reason and common sense
demand that a great Church should have some sort of deliberative
assembly. If it were no longer what it ought to be, and the reason for
this were not merely temporary, a remedy should have been found in
reform, not in compelled silence. But even in the midst of the factions
which disturbed its peace and hindered its usefulness, Convocation had
by no means wholly neglected to deliberate on practical matters of
direct religious concern. And unless its condition had been indeed
degenerate, there can be little doubt that it would have materially
assisted to keep up that healthy current of thought which the stagnation
of Church spirit in the Georgian age so sorely needed. The history,
therefore, of Convocation in Queen Anne's reign, turbulent as it was,
had considerable interest of its own. So also the Sacheverell riots (for
they deserve no more honourable name) have much historical value as an
index of feeling. Ignorance and party faction, and a variety of such
other unworthy components, entered largely into them. Yet after every
abatement has been made, they showed a strength of popular attachment to
the Church which is very noteworthy. The undisputed hold it had gained
upon the masses ought to have been a great power for good, and it has
been shown that there was about this time a good deal of genuine
activity stirring in the English Church. Unhappily, those signs of
activity in it decreased, instead of being enlarged and deepened. In
whatever other respects during the years that followed it fulfilled some
portion of its mission, it certainly lost, through its own want of
energy, a great part of the influence it had enjoyed at this earlier

The first twenty years of the period include also a principal part of
the history of the Nonjurors. Later in the century, they had entirely
drifted away from any direct association with the Established Church.
Their numbers had dwindled; and as there seemed to be no longer any
tangible reason for their continued schism, sympathy with them had also
faded away. There are some interesting incidents in their later history,
but these are more nearly related to the annals of the Episcopal Church
of Scotland than to our own. Step by step in the earlier years of the
century the ties which linked them with the English Church were broken.
First came the death of the venerable bishops, Ken and Frampton; then
the return to the established communion of Nelson, and Dodwell, and
other moderate Nonjurors; then the wilful perpetuation of the schism by
the consecration of bishops; then the division into two parties of those
who adopted the Communion Book of Edward VI., with its distinctive
usages, and those who were opposed to any change. All this took place
before 1718. By that time the schism was complete.

One more characteristic feature of the early part of the century must be
mentioned. The essayists belong not only to the social history of the
period, but also to that of the Church. Few preachers were so effective
from their pulpits as were Addison and his fellow-contributors in the
pages of the 'Spectator' and other kindred serials. It was not only in
those Saturday papers which were specially devoted to graver musings
that they served the cause of religion and morality. They were true sons
of the Church; and if they did not go far below the surface, nor profess
to do more as a rule than satirise follies and censure venial forms of
vice, their tone was ever that of Christian moralists. They did no
scanty service as mediators, so to say, between religion and the world.
This phase of literature lived on later into the century, but it became
duller and less popular. It never again was what it had been in
Addison's time, and never regained more than a small fraction of the
social power which it had then commanded.

After Queen Anne's reign, the main interest of English Church history
rests for a time on the religious thought of the age rather than on its
practice. The controversy with the Deists (which lasted for several
years longer with unabated force), and that in which Waterland and
Clarke were the principal figures, are discussed separately in this
work. But our readers are spared the once famous Bangorian controversy.
Its tedious complications are almost a by-word to those who are at all
acquainted with the Church history of the period. Some of the subjects
with which it dealt have ceased to be disputed questions, or no longer
attract much interest. Above all, its course was clouded and confused by
verbal misunderstandings, arising in part, perhaps, from the occasional
prolixity of Hoadly's style, but chiefly from the distorting influence
of strong prejudices.

It is unquestionable that Hoadly's influence upon his generation was
great. Some, looking upon the defects of the period that followed, have
thought of that influence as distinctly injurious. They have considered
that it strongly conduced to a negligent belief and indifference to the
specific doctrines of Christian faith, making men careless of truth, so
long as they thought themselves to be sincere; also that it loosened the
hold of the Church on the people by impairing respect for authority, and
by tending to reduce all varieties of Christian faith to one equal
level. It is a charge which has some foundation. The religious
characteristics of the age, whatever they were, were independent in the
main of anything the Whig bishop did or wrote. Still, he was one of
those representative men who give form and substance to a great deal of
floating thought. He caught the ear of the public, and engrossed an
attention which was certainly very remarkable. In this character as a
leader of religious thought he was deficient in some very essential
points. He was too much of a controversialist, and his tone was too
political. There was more light than heat in what he wrote. So long as
it was principally a question of right reason, of sincerity, or of
justice, he deserved much praise, and did much good. In all the
qualities which give fire, energy, enthusiasm, he was wanting. The form
in which his religion was cast might suit some natures, but was too cold
and dispassionate for general use. It fell in only too well with the
prevailing tendencies of the times. It might promote, under favouring
circumstances, a kind of piety which could be genuine, reflective, and
deeply impressed by many of the divine attributes, but which, in most
cases, would need to be largely reinforced by other properties not so
easily to be found in Hoadly's writings--tenderness, imagination,
sympathy, practical activity, spiritual intensity.

The rise and advance of Methodism, and its relationship with the English
Church, is a subject of very great interest, and one that has occupied
the attention of many writers. In these papers it has been chiefly
discussed as one of the two principal branches of the general
Evangelical movement.

Treatises on the evidences of Christianity constitute a principal part
of the theological literature of the eighteenth century. No systematic
record of the religious history of that period could omit a careful
survey of what was said and thought on a topic which absorbed so great
an amount of interest. But if the subject is not entered into at length,
a writer upon it can do little more than repeat what has already been
concisely and comprehensively told in Mr. Pattison's well-known essay.
The authors, therefore, of this work have felt that they might be
dispensed from devoting to it a separate chapter. Many incidental
remarks, however, which have a direct bearing upon the search into
evidences will be found scattered here and there in the course of this
work. The controversy with the Deists necessitated a perpetual reference
to the grounds upon which belief is based both in the Christian
revelation, and in those fundamental truths of natural religion upon
which arguers on either side were agreed. A great deal also, which in
the eighteenth century was proscribed under the name of 'enthusiasm' was
nothing else in reality than an appeal of the soul of man to the
evidence of God's spirit within him to facts which cannot be grasped by
any mere intellectual power. By the greater part of the writers of that
period all reference to an inward light of spiritual discernment was
regarded with utter distrust as an illusion and a snare. From the
beginning to the end of the century, theological thought was mainly
concentrated on the effort to make use of reason--God's plain and
universal gift to man--as the one divinely appointed instrument for the
discovery or investigation of all truth. The examination of evidences,
although closely connected with the Deistical controversy, was
nevertheless independent of it. Horror of fanaticism, distrust of
authority, an increasing neglect of the earlier history of Christianity,
the comparative cessation of minor disputes, and the greater
emancipation of reason through the recent Act of Toleration, all
combined to encourage it. Besides this, physical science was making
great strides. The revolution of ideas effected by Newton's great
discovery made a strangely wide gap between seventeenth and eighteenth
century modes of thinking and speaking on many points connected with the
material universe. It was felt more or less clearly by most thinking men
that the relations of theology to the things of outward sense needed
readjustment. Newton himself, like his contemporaries, Boyle, Flamsteed,
and Halley, was a thoroughly religious man, and his general faith as a
Christian was confirmed rather than weakened by his perception of the
vast laws which had become disclosed to him. On many others the first
effect was different. Either they were impressed with exorbitant ideas
of the majesty of that faculty of reasoning which could thus transcend
the bounds of all earthly space, or else the sense of a higher spiritual
life was overpowered by the revelation of uniform physical laws
operating through a seeming infinite expanse of material existence. The
one cause tended to create a notion that unassisted reason was
sufficient for all human needs; the other developed a frequent bias to
materialism. Both alike rendered it imperative to earnest minds that
felt competent to the task to inquire what reason had to say about the
nature of our spiritual life, and the principles and religious motives
which chiefly govern it. Difficulties arising out of man's position as a
part of universal nature had scarcely been felt before. Nor even in the
last century did they assume the proportions they have since attained.
But they deserve to be largely taken into account in any review of the
evidence writers of that period. Not to speak of Derham's
'Physico-Theology' and other works of that class, neither Berkeley,
Butler, nor Paley--three great names--can be properly understood without
reference to the greatly increased attention which was being given to
the physical sciences. Berkeley's suggestive philosophy was distinctly
based upon an earnest wish to release the essence of all theology from
an embarrassing dependence upon the outward world of sense. Butler's
'Analogy'--by far the greatest theological work of the century--aims
throughout at creating a strong sense of the unity and harmony which
subsists between the operations of God's providence in the material
world of nature, and in that inner spiritual world which finds its
chiefmost exposition in Revelation. Paley's 'Natural Theology,' though
not the most valuable, is by no means the least interesting of his
works, and was intended by him to stand in the same relation to natural,
as his 'Evidences' to revealed religion.

The evidence writers did a great work, not lightly to be disparaged. The
results of their labours were not of a kind to be very perceptible on
the surface, and are therefore particularly liable to be
under-estimated. There was neither show nor excitement in the gradual
process by which Christianity regained throughout the country the
confidence which for a time had been most evidently shaken. Proofs and
evidences had been often dinned into careless ears without much visible
effect, and often before weary listeners, to whom the great bulk of what
they heard was unintelligible and profitless. Very often in the hands of
well-intentioned, but uninstructed and narrow-minded men, fallacious or
thoroughly inconclusive arguments had been confidently used, to the
detriment rather than to the advantage of the cause they had at heart.
But at the very least, a certain acquiescence in the 'reasonableness of
Christianity,' and a respect for its teaching, had been secured which
could hardly be said to have been generally the case about the time when
Bishop Butler began to write. Meanwhile the revived ardour of religion
which had sprung up among Methodists and Evangelicals, and which at the
end of the century was stirring, in different forms but with the same
spirit, in the hearts of some of the most cultivated and intellectual of
our countrymen, was a greater practical witness to the living power of
Christianity than all other evidences.

In quite the early part of the period with which these chapters deal
there was, as we have seen, a considerable amount of active and hopeful
work in the Church of England. The same may be said of its closing
years. The Evangelical movement had done good even in quarters where it
had been looked upon with disfavour. A better care for the religious
education of the masses, an increased attention to Church missions, the
foundation of new religious societies, greater parochial activity,
improvement in the style of sermons, a disposition on the part of
Parliament to reform some glaring Church abuses--all showed that a stir
and movement had begun, which might be slow to make any great advance,
but which was at all events promising for the future. Agitation against
slavery had been in great part a result of quickened Christian feeling,
and, in a still greater degree, a promoting cause of it. And when the
French Revolution broke out, it quickly appeared how resolutely bent the
vast majority of the people were to hold all the more firmly to their
Christianity and their Church. Some of the influences which in the early
part of the century had done so much to counteract the religious promise
of the time, were no longer, or no longer in the same degree, actively
at work. There was cause, therefore, for confident hope that the good
work which had begun might go on increasing. How far this was the case,
and what agencies contributed to hinder or advance religious life in the
Church of England and elsewhere, belongs to the history of a time yet
nearer to our own.

Bishops, both as fathers of the Church and as holding high places, and
living therefore in the presence of the public, cannot, without grave
injury not to themselves only, but to the body over which they preside,
suffer their names to be in any way mixed up with the cabals of
self-interest and faction. At the beginning of the eighteenth century,
the Episcopal bench numbered among its occupants many men, both of High
and Low Church views, who were distinctly eminent for piety, activity,
and learning. And throughout the century there were always some bishops
who were thoroughly worthy of their high post. But towards the middle of
it, and on to its very close, there was an undoubted lowering in the
general tone of the Episcopal order. Average men, who had succeeded in
making themselves agreeable at Court, or who had shown that they could
be of political service to the administration of the time, too often
received a mitre for their reward. Amid the general relaxation of
principle which by the universal confession of all contemporary writers
had pervaded society, even worthy and good men seem to have condescended
at times to a discreditable fulsomeness of manner, and to an immoderate
thirst for preferments. There were many scandals in the Church which
greatly needed reform, but none which were so keenly watched, or which
did so much to lower its reputation, as unworthy acts of subserviency
on the part of certain bishops. The evil belonged to the individuals
and to the period, not by any means to the system of a National Church.
Yet those who disapproved of that system found no illustration more
practically effective to illustrate their argument.

Throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, almost all writers who
had occasion to speak of the general condition of society joined in one
wail of lament over the irreligion and immorality that they saw around
them. This complaint was far too universal to mean little more than a
general, and somewhat conventional tirade upon the widespread corruption
of human nature. The only doubt is whether it might not in some measure
have arisen out of a keener perception, on the part of the more
cultivated and thoughtful portion of society, of brutal habits which in
coarser ages had been passed over with far less comment. Perhaps also
greater liberty of thought and speech caused irreligion to take a more
avowed and visible form. Yet even if the severe judgment passed by
contemporary writers upon the spiritual and moral condition of their age
may be fairly qualified by some such considerations, it must certainly
be allowed that religion and morality were, generally speaking, at a
lower ebb than they have been at many other periods. For this the
National Church must take a full share, but not more than a full share,
of responsibility. The causes which elevate or depress the general tone
of society have a corresponding influence, in kind if not in degree,
upon the whole body of the clergy. Church history, throughout its whole
course, shows very clearly that although the average level of their
spiritual and moral life has always been, except, possibly, in certain
very exceptional times, higher in some degree than that of the people
over which they are set as pastors, yet that this level ordinarily rises
or sinks with the general condition of Christianity in the Church and
country at large. If, for instance, a corrupt state of politics have
lowered the standard of public virtue, and have widely introduced into
society the unblushing avowal of self-seeking motives, which in better
times would be everywhere reprobated, the edge of principle is likely to
become somewhat blunted even where it might be least expected. In the
last century unworthy acts were sometimes done by men who were
universally held in high honour and esteem, which would most certainly
not have been thought of by those same persons if they had lived in our
own day. The national clergy, taken as they are from the general mass of
educated society, are sure to share very largely both in the merits and
defects of the class from which they come. Except under some strong
impulse, they are not likely, as a body, to assume a very much higher
tone, or a very much greater degree of spiritual activity, than that
which they had been accustomed to in all their earlier years. It was so
with the clergy of the eighteenth century. Their general morality and
propriety was never impeached, and their lives were for the most part
formed on a higher standard than that of most of the people among whom
they dwelt. But they were (speaking again generally) not nearly active
enough; the spiritual inertness which clung over the face of the country
prevailed also among them. Although, therefore, the Church retained the
respect and to a certain extent the affection of the people, it fell
evidently short in the Divine work entrusted to it.


       *       *       *       *       *



High Churchmanship, as it was commonly understood in Queen Anne's reign,
did not possess many attractive features. Its nobler and more spiritual
elements were sadly obscured amid the angry strife of party warfare, and
all that was hard, or worldly, or intolerant in it was thrust into
exaggerated prominence. Indeed, the very terms 'High' and 'Low' Church
must have become odious in the ears of good men who heard them bandied
to and fro like the merest watchwords of political faction. It is a
relief to turn from the noise and virulence with which so-called Church
principles were contested in Parliament and Convocation, in lampoons and
pamphlets, in taverns and coffee-houses, from Harley and Bolingbroke,
from Swift, Atterbury, and Sacheverell, to a set of High Churchmen,
belonging rather to the former than to the existing generation, whose
names were not mixed up with these contentions, and whose pure and
primitive piety did honour to the Church which had nurtured such
faithful and worthy sons. If, at the opening of the eighteenth century,
the English Church derived its chief lustre from the eminent qualities
of some of the Broad Church bishops, it must not be forgotten that it
was also adorned with the virtues of men of a very different order of
thought, as represented by Ken and Nelson, Bull and Beveridge. Some of
them, it is true, had been unable to take the oaths to the recently
established Government, and were therefore, as by a kind of accident,
excluded, if not from the services, at all events from the ministry of
the National Church. But none as yet ventured to deny that, saving the
question of political allegiance, they were thoroughly loyal alike to
its doctrine and its order.

It is proposed in this chapter to make Robert Nelson the central figure,
and to group around him some of the most distinguished of his Juror and
Nonjuror friends. A special charm lingers around the memory of Bishop
Ken, but his name can scarcely be made prominent in any sketch which
deals only with the eighteenth century. He lived indeed through its
first decade, but his active life was over before it began. Nelson, on
the other hand, though he survived him by only four years, took an
active part throughout Queen Anne's reign in every scheme of Church
enterprise. He was a link, too, between those who accepted and those who
declined the oaths. Even as a member of the Nonjuring communion he was
intimately associated with many leading Churchmen of the Establishment;
and when, to his great gratification, he felt that he could again with
an easy conscience attend the services of his parish church, the
ever-widening gap that had begun to open was in his case no hindrance to
familiar intercourse with his old Nonjuring friends.

Greatly as Robert Nelson was respected and admired by his
contemporaries, no complete record of his life was published until the
present century. His friend Dr. Francis Lee, author of the 'Life of
Kettlewell,' had taken the work on hand, but was prevented by death from
carrying it out. There are now, however, three or four biographies of
him, especially the full and interesting memoir published in 1860 by Mr.
Secretan. It is needless, therefore, to go over ground which has already
been completely traversed; a few notes only of the chief dates and
incidents of his life may be sufficient to introduce the subject.

Robert Nelson was born in 1656. In his early boyhood he was at St.
Paul's School, but the greater part of his education was received under
the guidance of Mr. Bull, afterwards Bishop of St. Davids, by whose life
and teaching he was profoundly influenced. The biography of his
distinguished tutor occupied the labour of his last years, and was no
doubt a grateful offering to the memory of a man to whom he owed many of
his best impressions. About 1679 he went to London, where he became
intimate with Tillotson, then Dean of Canterbury. In later years this
intimacy was somewhat interrupted by great divergence of views on
theological and ecclesiastical subjects; but a strong feeling of mutual
respect remained, and, in his last illness, Tillotson was nursed by his
friend with the most affectionate love, and died in his arms. In 1680
Nelson went to France with Halley, his old schoolfellow and fellow
member of the Royal Society, and during their journey watched with his
friend the celebrated comet which bears Halley's name. While in Paris he
received the offer of a place in Charles II.'s Court, but took the
advice of Tillotson, who said he should be glad 'if England were so
happy as that the Court might be a fit place for him to live in.'[1] He
therefore declined the offer, and travelled on to Rome, where he made
the acquaintance of Lady Theophila Lucy and married her the next year.
It was no light trouble to him that on their return to London she avowed
herself a Romanist. Cardinal Howard at Rome, and Bossuet at Paris, had
gained her over to their faith, and with the ardour of a proselyte she
even entered, on the Roman side, into the great controversy of the day.
Robert Nelson himself was entirely unaffected by the current which just
at this time seemed to have set in in favour of Rome. He maintained,
indeed, a cordial friendship with Bossuet, but was not shaken by his
arguments, and in 1688 published, as his first work, a treatise against
transubstantiation. Though controversy was little to his taste, these
were times when men of earnest conviction could scarcely avoid engaging
in it.[2] Nelson valued the name of Protestant next only to that of
Catholic, and was therefore drawn almost necessarily into taking some
part in the last great dispute with Rome.[3] But polemics would be
deprived of their gall of bitterness if combatants joined in the strife
with as much charity and generosity of feeling as he did.[4]

From the first Nelson felt himself unable to transfer his allegiance to
the new Government. The only question in his mind was whether he could
consistently join in Church services in which public prayers were
offered in behalf of a prince whose claims he utterly repudiated. He
consulted Archbishop Tillotson on the point; and his old friend answered
with all candour that if his opinions were so decided that he was verily
persuaded such a prayer was sinful, there could be no doubt as to what
he should do. Upon this he at once joined the Nonjuring communion. He
remained in it for nearly twenty years, on terms of cordial intimacy
with most of its chief leaders. When, however, in 1709, Lloyd, the
deprived Bishop of Norwich, died, Nelson wrote to Ken, now the sole
survivor of the Nonjuring bishops, and asked whether he claimed his
allegiance to him as his rightful spiritual father. As regards the State
prayers, time had modified his views. He retained his Jacobite
principles, but considered that non-concurrence in certain petitions in
the service did not necessitate a prolonged breach of Church unity. Ken,
who had welcomed the accession of his friend Hooper to the see of Bath
and Wells, and who no longer subscribed himself under his old episcopal
title, gave a glad consent, for he also longed to see the schism healed.
Nelson accordingly, with Dodwell and other moderate Nonjurors, rejoined
the communion of the National Church.

It is much to Robert Nelson's honour that in an age of strong party
animosities he never suffered his political predilections to stand in
the way of union for any benevolent purpose. He had taken an active
interest in the religious associations of young men which sprang up in
London and other towns and villages about 1678, a time when the zeal of
many attached members of the Church of England was quickened by the
dangers which were besetting it. A few years later, when 'Societies for
the Reformation of Manners' were formed, to check the immorality and
profaneness which was gaining alarming ground, he gave his hearty
co-operation both to Churchmen and Dissenters in a movement which he
held essential to the welfare of the country. Although a Jacobite and
Nonjuror, he was enrolled, with not a few of the most distinguished
Churchmen of the day, among the earliest members of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge at its formation in 1699; and long before
his re-entering into the Established communion we find him not only a
constant attendant, but sometimes chairman at its weekly meetings. He
took a leading part in the organisation of the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, in 1701, and sat at its
board in friendly conference with Burnet and many another whose very
names were odious to his Nonjuring friends. And great as his
disappointment must have been at the frustration of Jacobite hopes in
the quiet accession of George I., the interest and honourable pride
which he felt in the London charity schools so far triumphed over his
political prejudices that he found pleasure in marshalling four thousand
of the children to witness the new sovereign's entry, and to greet him
with the psalm which bids the King rejoice in the strength of the Lord
and be exceeding glad in His salvation.

In such works as these--to which must be added his labours as a
commissioner in 1710 for the erection of new churches in London, his
efforts for the promotion of parochial and circulating clerical
libraries throughout the kingdom, for advancing Christian teaching in
grammar schools, for improving prisons, for giving help to French
Protestants in London and Eastern Christians in Armenia--Robert Nelson
found abundant scope for the beneficent energies of his public life. The
undertakings he carried out were but a few of the projects which engaged
his thoughts. If we cast our eyes over the proposed institutions which
he commended to the notice of the influential and the rich, it is
surprising to see in how many directions he anticipated the
philanthropical ideas of the age in which we live. Ophthalmic and
consumptive hospitals, and hospitals for the incurable; ragged schools;
penitentiaries; homes for destitute infants; associations of gentlewomen
for charitable and religious purposes; theological, training, and
missionary colleges; houses for temporary religious retirement and
retreat--such were some of the designs which, had he lived a few years
longer, he would certainly have attempted to carry into execution.[5]

He was no less active with his pen in efforts aimed at infusing an
earnest spirit of practical piety, and bringing home to men's thoughts
an appreciative feeling of the value of Church ordinances. He published
his 'Practice of True Devotion' in 1698, an excellent work, which
attracted little attention when it first came out, but reached at least
its twenty-second edition before the next century was completed. His
treatise on the 'Christian Sacrifice' appeared in 1706, his 'Life of
Bishop Bull' in 1713; but it is by his 'Festivals and Fasts' that his
name has been made familiar to every succeeding generation of Churchmen.
Its catechetical form, and the somewhat formal composure of its style,
did not strike past readers as defects. It certainly was in high favour
among English Churchmen generally. Dr. Johnson said of it in 1776 that
he understood it to have the greatest sale of any book ever printed in
England except the Bible.[6] In the first four years and a half after
its issue from the press more than 10,000 copies were printed.[7]

Robert Nelson died in the January of 1715, a man so universally esteemed
that it would be probably impossible to find his name connected in any
writer with a single word of disparagement. It would be folly to speak
of one thus distinguished by singular personal qualities as if he were,
to any great extent, representative of a class. If the Church of England
had been adorned during Queen Anne's reign by many such men, it could
never have been said of it that it failed to take advantage of the
signal opportunities then placed within its reach. Yet his views on all
Church questions, and many of the characteristic features of his
character, were shared by many of his friends both in the Established
Church and among the Nonjurors. He survived almost all of them, so that
with him the type seemed nearly to pass away for a length of time, as if
the spiritual atmosphere of the eighteenth century were uncongenial to
it. His younger acquaintances in the Nonjuring body, however sincere and
generous in temperament, were men of a different order. It was but
natural that, as the schism became more pronounced and Jacobite hopes
more desperate, the Church views of a dwindling minority should become
continually narrower, and lose more and more of those larger sympathies
which can scarcely be altogether absent in any section of a great
national Church.

First in order among Nelson's friends--not in intimacy, but in the
affectionate honour with which he always remembered him--must be
mentioned Bishop Ken. He was living in retirement at Longleat; but
Nelson must have frequently met him at the house of their common friend
Mr. Cherry of Shottisbrooke,[8] and they occasionally corresponded.
Nelson may have been the more practical, Ken the more meditative. The
one was still in the full vigour of his benevolent activity while the
other was waiting for rest, and soothing with sacred song the pains
which told of coming dissolution. In his own words, to 'contemplate,
hymn, love, joy, obey,' was the tranquil task which chiefly remained for
him on earth. But they were congenial in their whole tone of thought.
Their views on the disputed questions of the day very nearly coincided.
Nelson, as might be expected of a layman who throughout his life had
seen much of good men of all opinions, was the more tolerant; but both
were kindly and charitable towards those from whom they most differed,
and both were attached with such deep loyalty of love to the Church in
whose bosom they had been nurtured that they desired nothing more than
to see what they believed to be its genuine principles fully carried
out, and could neither sympathise with nor understand religious feelings
which looked elsewhere for satisfaction. Both were unaffectedly devout,
without the least tinge of moroseness or gloom. Nelson specially
delighted in Ken's morning, evening, and midnight hymns. He entreated
his readers to charge their memory with them. 'The daily repeating of
them will make you perfect in them, and the good fruit of them will
abide with you all your days.'[9] He subjoined them to his 'Practice of
True Devotion;' and Samuel Wesley tells us that he personally knew how
much he delighted in them. It was with these that--

    He oft, when night with holy hymns was worn,
    Prevented prime and wak'd the rising morn.[10]

He has made use of many of Ken's prayers, together with some from
Taylor, Kettlewell, and Hickes, in his 'Companion for the Festivals and
Fasts.' There is an intensity and effusion of spirit in them, in which
his own more studied compositions are somewhat wanting.

Among the other Nonjuring bishops Nelson was acquainted with, but not
very intimately, were Bancroft and Frampton. The former he loved and
admired; and spoke very highly of his learning and wisdom, his prudent
zeal for the honour of God, his piety and self-denying integrity.[11]
The little weaknesses and gentle intolerances of the good old man were
not such as he would censure, nor would he be altogether out of sympathy
with them. Bishop Frampton was in a manner an hereditary friend. He had
gone out to Aleppo as a young man, half a century before, in capacity of
chaplain of the Levant Company, at the urgent recommendation of John
Nelson, father of Robert,[12] who had the highest opinion of his merits.
From his cottage at Standish in Gloucestershire, where he had retired
after his deprivation, he occasionally wrote to Robert Nelson, and must
have often heard of him from John Kettlewell, the intimate and very
valued friend of both. He was a man who could not fail to be
esteemed[13] and loved by all who had the privilege of his acquaintance.
He had been a preacher of great fame, whom people crowded to hear. Pepys
said of him that 'he preached most like an apostle that he ever heard
man;'[14] and Evelyn, noting in his diary that he had been to hear him,
calls him 'a pious and holy man, excellent in the pulpit for moving the
affections.' His letters, of which several remain, written to Ken,
Lloyd, and Sancroft, about the end of the seventeenth and the beginning
of the eighteenth centuries, give the idea of a man of unaffected
humility and simple piety, of a happy, kindly disposition, and full of
spirit and innocent mirth. Though he could not take the oaths, he
regularly communicated at the parish church.[15] Controversy he
abhorred; it seemed to him, he said to Kettlewell, as if the one thing
needful were scarcely heard, amidst the din and clashings of _pros_ and
_cons_, and he wished the men of war, the disputants, would follow his
friend's example, and beat their swords and spears into ploughshares and
pruning hooks.[16]

John Kettlewell died in 1695, to Nelson's great loss, for he was indeed
a bosom friend. Nelson had unreservedly entrusted him with his schemes
for doing good, his literary projects, his spiritual perplexities, and
'the nicest and most difficult emergencies of his life; such an opinion
had he of his wisdom, as well as of his integrity.'[17] More than once,
observes Dr. Lee, he said how much gratitude he owed to Kettlewell for
his good influence, sometimes in animating him to stand out boldly in
the cause of religion, sometimes in concerting with him schemes of
benevolence, sometimes in suggesting what he could best write in the
service of the Church. They planned out together the 'Companion for the
Festivals and Fasts;' they encouraged one another in that gentler mode
of conducting controversy which must have seemed like mere weakness to
many of the inflamed partisans of the period. Nelson proposed to
preserve the memory of his friend in a biography. He carefully collected
materials for the purpose, and though he had not leisure to carry out
his design, was of great assistance to Francis Lee in the life which was
eventually written.[18]

Bishop Ken used to speak of Kettlewell in terms of the highest reverence
and esteem. In a letter to Nelson, acknowledging the receipt of some of
Kettlewell's sermons, which his correspondent had lately edited, he
calls their author 'as saintlike a man as ever I knew;'[19] and when, in
1696, he was summoned before the Privy Council to give account for a
pastoral letter drawn up by the nonjuring bishops on behalf of the
deprived clergy, he spoke of it as having been first proposed by 'Mr.
Kettlewell, that holy man who is now with God.'[20] There can be no
doubt he well merited the admiration of his friends. Perhaps the most
beautiful element in his character was his perfect guilelessness and
transparent truth. Almost his last words, addressed to his nephew, were
'not to tell a lie, no, not to save a world, not to save your King nor
yourself.'[21] He had lived fully up to the spirit of this rule.
Anything like show and pretence, political shifts and evasions,
dissimulations for the sake of safety or under an idea of doing
good--'acting,' as he expressed it, 'deceitfully for God, and breaking
religion to preserve religion,' were things he would never in the
smallest degree condescend to. In no case would he allow that a jocose
or conventional departure from accuracy was justifiable, and even if a
nonjuring friend, under the displeasure, as might often be, of
Government, assumed a disguise, he was uneasy and annoyed, and declined
to call him by his fictitious name.[22] Happily, perhaps, for his peace
of mind, his steady purpose 'to follow truth wherever he might find
it,'[23] without respect of persons or fear of consequences, though it
led to a sacrifice, contentedly, and even joyfully borne, of worldly
means, led him no tittle astray from the ancient paths of orthodoxy.
Like most High Churchmen of his day, he held most exaggerated views as
to the duty of passive obedience, a doctrine which he held to be vitally
connected with the whole spirit of Christian religion. He sorely
lamented 'the great and grievous breach' caused by the nonjuring
separation,[24] and earnestly trusted that a time of healing and reunion
might speedily arrive; and though he adhered staunchly to the communion
of the deprived bishops, whom he held to be the only rightful fathers of
the Church, and believed that there alone he could find 'orthodox and
holy ministrations,'[25] he never for an instant supposed that he
separated himself thereby from the Church of England, in which, he said
in his dying declaration, 'as he had lived and ministered, so he still
continued firm in its faith, worship, and communion.'[26] Such was
Kettlewell, a thorough type of the very best of the Nonjurors, a man so
kindly and large-hearted in many ways, and so open to conviction, that
the term bigoted would be harshly applied to him, but whose ideas ran
strongly and deeply in a narrow channel. He lived a life unspotted from
the world; nor was there any purer and more fervent spirit in the list
of those whose active services were lost to the Church of England by the
new oath of allegiance.

Henry Dodwell was another of Robert Nelson's most esteemed friends.
After the loss of his Camdenian Professorship of History, he lived among
his nonjuring acquaintances at Shottisbrooke, immersed in abstruse
studies. His profound learning--for he was acknowledged to be one of the
most learned men in Europe[27]--especially his thorough familiarity with
all precedents drawn from patristic antiquity, made him a great
authority in the perplexities which from time to time divided the
Nonjurors. It was mainly to him that Nelson owed his return to the
established Communion. Dodwell had been very ardent against the oaths;
when he conceived the possibility of Ken's accepting them, he had
written him a long letter of anxious remonstrance; he had written
another letter of indignant concern to Sherlock, on news of his
intended compliance.[28] But his special standing point was based upon
the argument that it was schism of the worst order to side with bishops
who had been intruded by mere lay authority into sees which had other
rightful occupiers. When, therefore, this hindrance no longer existed,
he was of opinion that political differences, however great, should be
no bar to Church Communion, and that the State prayers were no
insurmountable difficulty. Nelson gladly agreed, and the bells of
Shottisbrooke rang merrily when he and Dodwell, and the other Nonjurors
resident in that place, returned to the parish church.[29]

Dodwell is a well-known example of the extravagances of opinion, into
which a student may be led, who, in perfect seclusion from the world,
follows up his views unguided by practical considerations. Greatly as
his friends respected his judgment on all points of precedent and
authority, they readily allowed he had more of the innocency of the dove
than the wisdom of the serpent.[30] His faculties were in fact
over-burdened with the weight of his learning, and his published works,
which followed one another in quick succession, contained
eccentricities, strange to the verge of madness. A layman himself, he
held views as to the dignities and power of the priesthood, of which the
'Tatler'[31] might well say that Rome herself had never forged such
chains for the consciences of the laity as he would have imposed.
Starting upon an assumption, common to him with many whose general
theological opinions he was most averse to, that the Divine counsels
were wholly beyond the sphere of human faculties, and unimpeded
therefore by any consideration of reason in his inferences from
Scripture and primitive antiquity, he advanced a variety of startling
theories, which created some dismay among his friends, and gave endless
opportunity to his opponents. Much that he has written sounds far more
like a grave caricature of high sacerdotalism, after the manner of De
Foe's satires on intolerance, than the sober conviction of an earnest
man.[32] It is needless to dwell on crotchets for which, as Dr. Hunt
properly observes, nobody was responsible but himself.[33] Ken, who had
great respect for him--'the excellent' Mr. Dodwell, as he calls
him--remarked of his strange ideas on the immortality of the soul, that
he built high on feeble foundations, and would not have many proselytes
to his hypotheses.[34] The same might be said of much else that he
wrote on theological subjects. As for nonjuring principles, he was so
wedded to them that he could see nothing but deadly schism outside the
fold over which 'our late invalidly deprived fathers' presided. It only,
as orthodox and unschismatic, 'was entitled to have its communions and
excommunications ratified in heaven.'[35] No wonder he longed to see
union restored, that so he might die in peace.[36]

With the ever understood proviso that they could not fall in with many
of his views, Nelson and most of his friends loved Mr. Dodwell and were
proud of him. They admired his great learning, his fervent and ascetic
piety, his deep attachment to the doctrine and usages of the English
Church, and many attractive features in personal character. 'He was a
faithful and sincere friend,' says Hearne, 'very charitable to the poor
(notwithstanding the narrowness of his fortune), free and open in his
discourse and conversation (which he always managed without the least
personal reflection), courteous and affable to all people, facetious
upon all proper occasions, and ever ready to give his counsel and
advice, and extremely communicative of his great knowledge.'[37]
Although a man of retiring habits and much personal humility, he was
bold as a lion when occasion demanded, and never hesitated to sacrifice
interest of any kind to his sincere, but often strangely contracted
ideas of truth and duty. It was his lot to suffer loss of goods under
either king, James II. and William. Under the former he not only lost
the rent of his Irish estates,[38] but had his name[39] on the murderous
act of attainder to which James, to his great disgrace, attached his
signature in 1689. Under the latter he was deprived of his preferment in
Oxford, and under a harsher rule might have incurred yet graver
penalties. 'He has set his heart,' said William of him, 'on being a
martyr, and I have set mine on disappointing him.'[40] He died at
Shottisbrooke in 1711.

After Kettlewell's death, no one was so intimate with Robert Nelson as
Dr. George Hickes. They lived near together[41] in Ormond Street, and
for the last eleven years of Nelson's life met almost daily. In forming
any estimate of Hickes's character, the warm-hearted esteem with which
Nelson regarded him[42] should not be lost sight of. Whatever were his
faults, he must have possessed many high qualities to have thus
completely won the heart of so good a man. The feeling was fully
reciprocated; and those who knew with what intensity of blind zeal
Hickes attached himself to the interests of his party, must have been
surprised that this intimacy was not interrupted even by his sore
disappointment at Nelson's defection from the nonjuring communion. In
Hickes there was nothing of the calm and tempered judgment which ruled
in Nelson's mind. From the day that he vacated his deanery, and fixed up
his indignant protest in Worcester Cathedral,[43] he threw his heart and
soul into the nonjuring cause. Unity might be a blessing, and schism a
disaster; but it is doubtful whether he would have made the smallest
concession in order to attain the one, or avoid the other. Even Bishop
Ken said of him that he showed zeal to make the schism incurable.[44] A
good man, and a scholar of rare erudition, he possessed nevertheless the
true temper of a bigot. In middle life he had been brought into close
acquaintance with the fanatic extravagances of Scotch Covenanters, his
aversion to which might seem to have taught him, not the excellence of a
more temperate spirit, but the desirability of rushing toward similar
extremes in an opposite direction. He delighted in controversy in
proportion to its heat, and too often his pen was dipped in gall, when
he directed the acuteness and learning which none denied to him against
any who swerved, this way or that, from the narrow path of dogma and
discipline which had been marked with his own approval. Tillotson was
'an atheist,'[45] freethinkers were 'the first-born sons of Satan,' the
Established Church was 'fallen into mortal schism,'[46] Ken, for
thinking of reunion, was 'a half-hearted wheedler,'[47] Roman Catholics
were 'as gross idolaters as Egyptian worshippers of leeks,'[48]
Nonconformists were 'fanatics,' Quakers were 'blasphemers.'[49] From the
peaceful researches, on which he built a lasting name, in Anglo-Saxon
and Scandinavian antiquities, he returned each time with renewed zest to
polemical disputes, and found relaxation in the strife of words. It was
no promising omen for the future of the nonjuring party, that the Court
of St. Germains should have appointed him and Wagstaffe first bishops of
that Communion. The consecration was kept for several years a close
secret, and Robert Nelson himself may probably have been ignorant[50] of
the high dignity to which 'my neighbour the Dean' had attained.

One other of Nelson's nonjuring friends must be mentioned. Francis Lee,
a physician, had been a Fellow of St. John's, Oxford, but was deprived
for declining the oaths. At the end of the seventeenth century, after
travelling abroad, he joined[51] one of those societies of mystics which
at that time abounded throughout Europe. A long correspondence with
Dodwell ensued, and convinced at last that he had been in error, he not
only left the brotherhood and its presiding 'prophetess' (it appears to
have been a society of a somewhat fanatical order), but published in
1709, under the title of 'A History of Montanism, by a Lay Gentleman,' a
work directed against fanaticism in general. He writes it in the tone of
one who has lately recovered from a sort of mental fever which may break
out in anyone, and sometimes becomes epidemic, inflaming and throwing
into disorder certain obscure impulses which are common to all human
nature.[52] He became intimate with Nelson, and subscribes one of his
letters to him, 'To the best of friends, from the most affectionate of
friends.'[53] He helped him in his devotional publications; took in
hand, at his instigation, and from materials which Nelson and Hickes had
collected, the life of Kettlewell; and took an active part in furthering
the benevolent schemes in which his friend was so deeply interested. It
was he who suggested[54] to him the founding of charity schools after
the model of the far-famed orphanage and other educational institutions
lately established by Francke and Spener at Halle, the centre of German
pietism. In other ways we see favourable traces of his earlier mystical
associations. He had been cured of fanaticism; but the higher element,
the exalted vein of spiritual feeling, remained, and perceptibly
communicated itself to Nelson, whose last work--a preface to Lee's
edition of Thomas a Kempis--is far more in harmony with the general tone
of mystical thought than any of his former writings. During the last few
months of Nelson's life, they were much together. One of the very last
incidents in his life was a drive with Lee in the park, when they
watched the sun 'burst from behind a cloud, and accepted it for an
emblem of the eternal brightness that should shortly break upon

Nelson was more or less intimate with several other Nonjurors; such as
were Francis Cherry, of Shottisbrooke, a generous and popular country
gentleman, whose house was always a hospitable refuge for Nonjurors and
Jacobites;[56] Brokesby, Mr. Cherry's chaplain, author of the 'Life of
Dodwell,' and of a history of the Primitive Church, to whom Nelson owed
much valuable help in his 'Festivals and Fasts;' Jeremy Collier, whom
Macaulay ranks first among the Nonjurors in ability; Nathanael
Spinckes,[57] afterwards raised to the shadowy honours and duties of the
nonjuring episcopate, Nelson's trustee for the money bequeathed by him
to assist the deprived clergy; and lastly, Charles Leslie, an ardent and
accomplished controversialist, whom Dr. Johnson excepted from his dictum
that no Nonjuror could reason.[58] It may be added here, that when
Pepys, author of the well-known 'Diary,' cast about in 1703, the last
year of his life, for a spiritual adviser among the nonjuring clergy,
Robert Nelson was the one among his acquaintances to whom he naturally
turned for information.

The decision of many a conscientious man hung wavering for a long time
on the balance as he debated whether or not he could accept the new oath
of allegiance. Friends, whose opinions on public matters and on Church
questions were almost identical, might on this point very easily arrive
at different determinations. But the resolve once made, those who took
different courses often became widely separated. Many acquaintances,
many friendships were broken off by the divergence. Some of the more
rigid Nonjurors, headed by Bancroft himself, went so far as to refuse
all Church communion with those among their late brethren who had
incurred the sin of compliance; and it was plainly impossible to be on
any terms of intimacy with one who could be welcomed back into the
company of the faithful only as 'a true penitent for the sin of
schism.'[59] There were some, on the other hand, who were fully aware of
the difficulties that beset the question, and had not a word or thought
of condemnation for those who did not share in the scruples they
themselves felt. They could not take the oath, but neither did they make
it any cause of severance, or discontinue their attendance at the public
prayers. But for the most part even those Nonjurors who held no extreme
views fell gradually into a set of their own, with its own ideas, hopes,
prejudices, and sympathies. They could scarcely help making a great
principle of right or wrong of that for which most of them had
sacrificed so much. It was intolerable, after loss of home and property
in the cause, as they believed, of truth and duty, to be called factious
separatists, authors of needless schism. Hence, in very self-defence,
they were driven to attach all possible weight to the reasons which had
placed them, loyal Churchmen as they were, in a Nonconformist position,
to rally round their own standard, and to strive to the utmost of their
power to show that it was they, and not their opponents, not the Jurors
but the Nonjurors, who were the truest and most faithful sons of the
Anglican Church. Under such circumstances, the gap grew ever wider which
had sprung up between themselves and those who had not scrupled at the
oath. Even between such friends as Ken and Bull, Nelson and Tillotson, a
temporary estrangement was occasioned. But Robert Nelson was not of a
nature to allow minor differences, however much exaggerated in
importance, to stand long in the way of friendship or works of Christian
usefulness. He lived chiefly in a nonjuring circle; but even during the
years when he wholly absented himself from parochial worship, he was on
friendly and even intimate terms with many leading members of the
establishment, and their active co-operator in every scheme for
extending its beneficial influences.

First in honour among his conforming friends stood Bishop Bull, his old
tutor and warm friend, to whom he always acknowledged a deep debt of
gratitude. Three years after his death Nelson published his life and
works, shortening, it is said, his own days by the too assiduous labour
which he bestowed upon the task. But it was a work of love which he was
exceedingly anxious to accomplish. In the preface, after recording his
high admiration of his late friend's merits, he solemnly ends with the
words, 'beseeching God to enable me to finish what I begin in His name,
and dedicate it to His honour and glory.'[60]

Both in his lifetime and afterwards, Bull has always been held in
deserved repute as one of the most illustrious names in the roll of
English bishops. Nelson called him 'a consummate divine,' and by no
means stood alone in his opinion. Those who attach a high value to
original and comprehensive thought will scarcely consider him entitled
to such an epithet. He was a man of great piety, sound judgment, and
extensive learning, but not of the grasp and power which signally
influences a generation, and leaves a mark in the history of religious
progress. He loved the Church of England with that earnestness of
affection which in the seventeenth century specially characterised
those who remembered its prostration, and had shared its depressed
fortunes. Dr. Skinner, ejected Bishop of Oxford, had admitted him into
orders at the early age of twenty-one. The Canon, he said, could not be
strictly observed in such times of difficulty and distress. They were
not days when the Church could afford to wait for the services of so
zealous and able an advocate. He proved an effective champion, against
all its real and presumed adversaries--Puritans and Nonconformists,
Roman Catholics, Latitudinarians and Socinians. An acute
controversialist, skilled in the critical knowledge of Scripture,
thoroughly versed in the annals of primitive antiquity, he was an
opponent not lightly to be challenged. A devoted adherent of the English
Church, scrupulously observant of all its rites and usages, and
convinced as of 'a certain and evident truth that the Church of England
is in her doctrine, discipline, and worship, most agreeable to the
primitive and apostolical institution,'[61] his only idea of improvement
and reform in Church matters was to remove distinct abuses, and to
restore ancient discipline. Yet he was not so completely the High
Churchman as to be unable to appreciate and enter to some extent into
the minds of those who within his own Church had adopted opposite views.
He used to speak, for example, with the greatest respect of Dr. Conant,
a distinguished Churchman of Puritan views, who had been his rector at
Exeter College, and whose instructions and advice had made, he said,
very deep impression on him.[62] So, on the other hand, although a
strenuous opponent of Rome, he did not fail to discriminate and do
justice to what was Catholic and true in her system. And it tells
favourably for his candour, that while he defended Trinitarian doctrine
with unequalled force and learning, he should have had to defend himself
against a charge of Arian tendencies,[63] simply because he did not
withhold authorities which showed that the primitive fathers did not
always express very defined views upon the subject. His most notable and
unique distinction consisted in the thanks he received, through Bossuet,
from the whole Gallican Church, for his defence of the Nicene faith; his
most practical service to religion was the energetic protest of his
'Harmonia Apostolica' in favour of a healthy and fruitful faith in
opposition to the Antinomian doctrines of arbitrary grace which, at the
time when he published his 'Apostolic Harmony,' had become most widely
prevalent in England.

Bull had been ordained at twenty-one; he was consecrated, in 1705,
Bishop of St. Davids, at the almost equally exceptional age of seventy.
He succeeded a bad man who had been expelled from his see for glaring
simony; and it was felt, not without justice, that the cause of religion
and the honour of the Episcopate would gain more by the elevation of a
man of the high repute in which Bull was universally held, than it would
lose by the growing infirmities of his old age. He accepted the dignity
with hesitation, in hopes that his son, the Archdeacon of Llandaff, who
however died before him, would be able greatly to assist him in the
discharge of his duties. But as he was determined that if he could not
be as active as he would wish, he would at all events reside strictly in
his diocese, he saw little or no more of his friend Nelson, of whom he
had said that 'he scarce knew any one in the world for whom he had
greater respect and love.'[64] During the first four years of the
century there had been a frequent correspondence between them on the
subject of his controversy with Bossuet, with whom Nelson had long been
in the habit of interchanging friendly courtesies. The Bishop of Meaux
had written, in 1700, to Nelson, expressing admiration of Bull's work on
the Trinity, and wonder as to what he meant by the term 'Catholic,' and
why it was that, having such respect for primitive antiquity, he
remained nevertheless separated from the unity of Rome. Bull wrote in
answer his 'Corruptions of the Church of Rome,' and sent the manuscript
of it to Nelson in 1704. It did not, however, reach Bossuet, who died
that year. Bishop Bull followed him in 1709.

Nelson was well acquainted, though scarcely intimate, with Bishop
Beveridge, Bull's contemporary at St. Asaph. The two prelates were men
of much the same stamp. Both were divines of great theological learning;
but while Bull's great talents were chiefly conspicuous in his
controversial and argumentative works, Beveridge was chiefly eminent as
a student and devotional writer. His 'Private Thoughts on Religion and
Christian Life,' and his papers on 'Public Prayer' and 'Frequent
Communions,' have always maintained a high reputation. Like Bull, he was
profoundly read in the history of the primitive Church, but possessed an
accomplishment which his brother bishop had not, in his understanding of
several oriental languages. Like him, he had been an active and
experienced parish clergyman, and, like him, he was attached almost to
excess to a strict and rigid observance of the appointed order of the
English Church. It was to him that Dean Tillotson addressed the often
quoted words, 'Doctor, Doctor, Charity is above rubrics.'[65] Yet it
must not be inferred therefore, that he was stiffly set against all
change. In a sermon preached before Convocation at their very important
meeting of 1689, he had remarked of ecclesiastical laws other than those
which are fundamental and eternal, 'that they ought not indeed to be
altered without grave reasons; but that such reasons were not at that
moment wanting. To unite a scattered flock in one fold under one
shepherd, to remove stumbling-blocks from the path of the weak, to
reconcile hearts long estranged, to restore spiritual discipline to its
primitive vigour, to place the best and purest of Christian societies on
a base broad enough to stand against all the attacks of earth and
hell--these were objects which might well justify some modification, not
of Catholic institutions, but of national and provincial usages.'[66]

Beveridge was one of the bishops for whom the moderate Nonjurors had
much regard. In most respects he was of their school of thought; and
although, like Wilson of Sodor and Man, and Hooper of Bath and Wells, he
had no scruple, for his own part, to take the oath of allegiance to
William and Mary, he fully understood the reasonings of those who had.
He greatly doubted the legality and right of appointing new bishops to
sees not canonically vacant, so that when he was nominated in the place
of Ken, he after some deliberation declined the office. He and Nelson
saw a good deal of each other. They were both constant attendants at the
weekly meetings of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, an
association which Beveridge zealously promoted,[67] and to which he left
the greater part of his property. The minutes of the society refer to
private consultations between him and Nelson for arranging about a
popular edition in Welsh of the Prayer-book, and to the bishop
distributing largely in his diocese a translation of Nelson's tract on
Confirmation. They also frequently met at the committees of the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel. In his 'Life of Bull' Nelson speaks
in terms of much admiration for Beveridge, whom he calls 'a pattern of
true primitive piety.' He praises his plain and affecting sermons; and
says that 'he had a way of gaining people's hearts and touching their
consciences which bore some resemblance to the apostolical age,' and
that he could mention many 'who owed the change of their lives, under
God, to his instructions.'[68] Like Bull and Ken, the latter of whom
was born in the same year with him, his life belongs chiefly to the
history of the preceding century, for he died in 1707; his short
episcopal career however lay, as was the case with Bull, only in the
first decade of the eighteenth.

Sharp, Archbishop of York, must by no means be omitted from the list of
Robert Nelson's friends, the more so as he was mainly instrumental in
overcoming the scruples which for many years had deterred Nelson from
the communion of the national Church. 'It was impossible,' writes the
Archbishop's son, 'that such religious men, who were so intimate with
each other, and spent many hours together in private conversation,
should not frequently discuss the reasons that divided them in Church
communion.'[69] Sharp's diary shows that early in 1710 they had many
interviews on the subject. His arguments prevailed; and he records with
satisfaction that on Easter Day that year his friend, for the first time
since the Revolution, received the Communion at his hands. The
Archbishop was well fitted to act this part of a conciliator. In the
first place, Nelson held him in high esteem as a man of learning, piety,
and discernment, 'who fills one of the archiepiscopal thrones with that
universal applause which is due to his distinguishing merit.'[70] This
general satisfaction which had attended his promotion qualified him the
more for a peacemaker in the Church. At a time when party spirit was
more than usually vehement, it was his rare lot to possess in a high
degree the respect and confidence of men of all opinions. From his
earliest youth he had learnt to appreciate high Christian worth under
varied forms. His father had been a fervent Puritan, his mother a
strenuous Royalist; and he speaks with equal gratitude of the deep
impressions left upon his mind by the grave piety of the one, and of the
admiration instilled into him by the other of the proscribed Liturgy of
the English Church. He went up to Cambridge a Calvinist; he learnt a
larger, a happier, and no less spiritual theology under the teaching of
More and Cudworth. His studies then took a wide range. He delighted in
imaginative literature, especially in Greek poetry, became very fairly
versed in Hebrew and the interpretation of the Old Testament, took much
pleasure in botany and chemistry, and was at once fascinated with the
Newtonian philosophy. He was also an accomplished antiquary. At a later
period, as rector of St. Giles in the Fields, and Friday lecturer at St.
Lawrence Jewry, he gained much fame as one of the most persuasive and
affecting preachers of his age. Tillotson and Clagett were his most
intimate friends; and among his acquaintances were Stillingfleet,
Patrick, Beveridge, Cradock, Whichcot, Calamy, Scot, Sherlock, Wake, and
Cave, including all that eminent circle of London clergy who were at
that time the distinguishing ornament of the English Church, and who
constantly met at one another's houses to confer on the religious and
ecclesiastical questions of the day. There was perhaps no one eminent
divine, at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth
century, who had so much in sympathy with men of either section of the
English Church. He was claimed by the Tories and High Churchmen; and no
doubt, on the majority of subjects his views agreed with theirs,
particularly in the latter part of his life. But his opinions were very
frequently modified by a more liberal training and by more generous and
considerate ideas than were common among them. He voted with them
against occasional Conformity, protested against any enfeebling of the
Test Acts, and took, it must be acknowledged, a far from tolerant line
generally in the debates of 1704-9 relating to the liberties of
Dissenters. On the other hand, he indignantly resented the unworthy
attempt of the more extreme Tories to force the occasional Conformity
Act through the House of Lords by 'tacking' it to a money bill. He
expressed the utmost displeasure against anything like bitterness and
invective; he had been warmly in favour of a moderate comprehension of
Dissenters, had voted that Tillotson should be prolocutor when the
scheme was submitted to Convocation, and had himself taken part of the
responsibility of revision. As in 1675 he had somewhat unadvisedly
accepted, in the discussion with Nonconformists, the co-operation of
Dodwell, so, in 1707, he bestowed much praise on Hickes' answer to
Tindal (sent to him by Nelson) on behalf of the rights of the Christian
priesthood. But Dodwell's Book of Schism maintained much more exclusive
sentiments than Sharp's sermon on Conscience, of which it was
professedly a defence; nor could the Archbishop by any means coincide in
the more immoderate opinions of the hot-tempered nonjuring Dean. And so
far from agreeing with Hickes and Dodwell, who would acknowledge none
other than Episcopal Churches, he said that if he were abroad he should
communicate with the foreign Reformed Churches wherever he happened to
be.[71] On many points of doctrine he was a High Churchman; he entirely
agreed, for example, with Nelson and the Nonjurors in general, in
regretting the omission in King Edward's second Prayer-book of the
prayer of oblation.[72] He bestowed much pains in maintaining the
dignity and efficiency of his cathedral;[73] but, with a curious
intermixture of Puritan feeling, told one of his Nonconformist
correspondents that he did not much approve of musical services, and
would be glad if the law would permit an alteration.[74] In regard of
the questions specially at issue with the Nonjurors, he heartily
assented for his own part to the principles of the Revolution,
maintaining 'for a certain truth that as the law makes the king, so the
same law extends or limits or transfers our obedience and
allegiance.'[75] This being the case, it may at first appear
unintelligible that an ardent nonjuring champion of passive obedience
and non-resistance should assert that 'by none are these truly Catholic
doctrines more openly avowed than by the present excellent metropolitan
of York.'[76] But Dodwell was correct. Archbishop Sharp, with perfect
consistency, combined with Whig politics the favourite High Church tenet
of the Jacobean era. He strenuously maintained the duty of passive
obedience, not however to the sovereign monarch, but to the sovereign
law.[77] At the same time he felt much sympathy with the Nonjurors, and
was sometimes accused of Jacobitism because he would not drop his
acquaintance with them, nor disguise his pity for the sacrifices in
which their principles involved them. When a choice was given him of two
or three of the sees vacated by the deprivation of the nonjuring
bishops, he declined the offer. He would not allow that there had been
any real unlawfulness or irregularity in their dispossession, but as a
matter of personal feeling he disliked the idea of accepting promotion
under such circumstances. Although therefore, in many ways, he differed
much in opinion from the Nonjurors, he possessed in a great degree their
attachment and respect. Robert Nelson was neither the only one of them
with whom he was on terms of cordial friendship, nor was he by any means
the only one whom he persuaded to return to the Established Communion.

Bishop Smalridge of Bristol should be referred to, however briefly, in
connection with the truly worthy man who is the main subject of this
paper. He was constantly associated with Nelson in his various works of
charity, especially in forwarding missionary undertakings, in assisting
Dr. Bray's projects of parochial lending libraries, and as a royal
commissioner with him for the increase of church accommodation. Nelson
bequeathed to him his Madonna by Correggio 'as a small testimony of that
great value and respect I bear to his lordship;'[78] and to his
accomplished pen is owing the very beautiful Latin epitaph placed to his
friend's memory in St. George the Martyr's, Queen Square.[79] Under the
name of 'Favonius,' he is spoken of in the 'Tatler' in the warmest
language of admiring respect, as a very humane and good man, of
well-tempered zeal and touching eloquence, and 'abounding with that sort
of virtue and knowledge which makes religion beautiful.'[80] Bishop
Newton has also spoken very highly of him, and adds that he was a man of
much gravity and dignity and of great complacency and sweetness of
manner. In reference to this last feature of his character, it was said
of him, when he succeeded Atterbury as Dean of Carlisle, that he carried
the bucket to extinguish the fires which the other had kindled. His
political sympathies, however, accorded with those of Atterbury, and
brought him into close relation with the Nonjurors. Although he had
submitted to the new Constitution, he was a thorough Jacobite in
feeling. His Thirtieth of January sermons were sometimes marked with an
extravagance of expression[81] foreign to his usual manner; and he and
Atterbury, with whom he had recently edited Lord Clarendon's History,
were the only bishops who refused to sign the declaration of abhorrence
of the Rebellion of 1715.[82]

Smalridge and Nelson had a mutual friend,[83] whom they both highly
valued, in Dr. Ernest Grabe, a Prussian of remarkable character and
great erudition, who had settled in England under the especial favour of
King William. Dissatisfied as to the validity of Lutheran orders, he had
at first turned his thoughts to Rome, not unaware that he should find in
that Church many departures from the simplicity of the early faith, but
feeling that it possessed at all events that primitive constitution
which he had learnt to consider essential. He was just about to take
this step, when he met with Spener, the eminent leader of the German
Pietists, to whom he communicated his difficulties, and who pointed out
to him the Church of England as a communion likely to meet his wants. He
came to this country[84] at the end of the seventeenth century, received
a royal pension, took priest's orders, and continued with indefatigable
labour his patristic studies. It became the great project of his life to
maintain a close communication between the English and Lutheran
Churches,[85] to bring about in Prussia a restoration of episcopacy, and
to introduce there a liturgy composed upon the English model. It cannot
be said that the general course of theological thought in England was at
this time very congenial to his aspirations; but his great learning and
the earnest sincerity of his ideas were widely appreciated, and within a
somewhat confined circle of High Churchmen and Nonjurors he was
cordially welcomed, and his services highly valued. He pushed his
conformity to what he considered the usages of the Primitive Church to
the verge of eccentricity. Yet 'indeed,' says Kennet, without any
sympathy in his practices, but with a kindly smile, 'his piety and our
charity may cover all this.'[86]

Dr. Thomas Bray may stand as a fit representative of another class of
Nelson's friends and associates. So far from agreeing with Nelson in his
Nonjuring sentiments, the prospect of the constitutional change had
kindled in him enthusiastic expectations. 'Good Dr. Bray,' remarks
Whiston, 'had said how happy and religious the nation would become when
the House of Hanover came, and was very indignant when Mr. Mason said
that matters would not be mended.'[87] He accepted a living which had
been vacated by a Nonjuring clergyman, but spent alike his clerical and
private means in the benevolent and Christian hearted schemes to which
the greater part of his life was dedicated.[88] It is not the purpose of
this chapter to discuss the missionary and other philanthropical
activities which at the close of the seventeenth and the opening of the
eighteenth centuries resulted in the formation of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel in Foreign Parts, and other kindred associations. It may be
sufficient here to repeat the warm-hearted encomium of his fellow
labourer in this noble work:--'I am sure he has been one of the greatest
instruments for propagating Christian knowledge this age has produced.
The libraries abroad, our society (the S.P.C.K.), and the Corporation
(the S.P.G.), are owing to his unwearied solicitations.'[89] In
organising the American Church, in plans for civilising and
christianising the Indians, in establishing libraries for the use of
missionaries and the poorer clergy in the colonies, on shipboard, in
seaport towns, and in the secluded parishes of England and Wales, in
translations of the Liturgy and other devotional books, in the
reformation of prisons, in measures taken for the better suppression of
crime and profligacy,--Bray and Nelson, with General Oglethorpe and
other active coadjutors, helped one another with all their heart. They
met in the board-room of the two great societies, in one another's
houses, and sometimes they may have talked over their projects with
Bishop Ken at the seat of their generous supporter, Lord Weymouth.[90]

The names of many other men, more or less eminent in their day for piety
or learning, might be added to the list of those who possessed and
valued Robert Nelson's friendship; among them may be mentioned--Dr. John
Mapletoft, with whom he maintained a close correspondence for no less
than forty years: a man who had travelled much and learnt many
languages, a celebrated physician, and afterwards, when he took orders,
an accomplished London preacher; Francis Gastrell, Bishop of Chester,
Mapletoft's son-in-law;[91] Sir Richard Blackmore, another physician of
note, and, like Mapletoft, most zealous in all plans for doing good, but
whose unlucky taste for writing dull verses brought down upon him the
unmerciful castigation of the wits; John Johnson of Cranbrook, with
whose writings on the Eucharistic Sacrifice Nelson most warmly
sympathised; Edmund Halley, the mathematician, his school playmate and
life-long friend; Ralph Thoresby, an antiquarian of high repute, a
moderate Dissenter in earlier life, a thoughtful and earnest Churchman
in later years, but who throughout life maintained warm and intimate
relations with many leading members of either communion; Dr. Charlett,
Master of University College, Oxford; Dr. Cave, the well-known writer of
early Church History, to whose literary help he was frequently indebted;
John Evelyn; Samuel, father of John and Charles Wesley, whose verses,
written on the fly-leaf of his copy of the 'Festivals and Fasts,'
commemorative of his attachment to Nelson and of his reverence for his
virtues, used to be prefixed to some editions of his friend's works; nor
should the list be closed without the addition of the name of the
eminent Gallican bishop Bossuet, with whom he had become acquainted in
France, and had kept up the interesting correspondence already noticed
in connection with Bishop Bull.

The group composed of Nelson and his friends, of whom he had many, and
never lost one, would be pleasant to contemplate, if for no other
reason, yet as the picture of a set of earnest men, united in common
attachment to one central figure, varying much on some points of
opinion, but each endeavouring to live worthily of the Christian faith.
From one point of view the features of dissimilarity among his friends
are more interesting than those of resemblance. A Churchman, with whom
Jurors and Nonjurors met on terms of equal cordiality, who was intimate
alike with Tillotson and Hickes--whose love for Ken was nowise
incompatible with much esteem for Kidder, the 'uncanonical usurper' of
his see--and who consulted for the advancement of Christian knowledge as
readily with Burnet, Patrick, and Fowler, as with Bull, Beveridge, and
Sharp--represents a sort of character which every national Church ought
to produce in abundance, but which stands out in grateful relief from
the contentions which embittered the first years of the century and the
spiritual dulness which set in soon afterwards.

Yet, though Robert Nelson had too warm a heart to sacrifice the
friendship of a good man to any difference of opinion, and too hearty a
zeal in good works to let his personal predilections stand in the way of
them, he belonged very distinctively to the High Church party. Some of
his best and most prominent characteristics did not connect him with one
more than with another section of the Church. The philanthropical
activity, which did so much to preserve him from narrowness and
intolerance, was, as Tillotson has observed, one of the most redeeming
features of the period in which he lived;[92] the genial serenity of his
religion is like the spirit that breathed in Addison. But all his deeper
sympathies were with the High Churchmen and Nonjurors--men who had been
brought up in that spirit of profound attachment to Anglo-Catholic
theology and feeling which was prominent among Church of England divines
in the age that preceded the Commonwealth.

The Church party of which, at the beginning of the eighteenth century,
Nelson and his friends were worthy representatives, was rapidly losing
strength. Soon after his death it had almost ceased to exist as a
visible and united power. The general tone of feeling in Church matters
became so unfavourable to its continued vigour, that it gradually
dwindled away. Not that there was no longer a High Church, and even a
strong High Church party. There has been no period in the history of the
Reformed English Church in which the three leading varieties of opinion,
so familiar to us at the present day, may not be distinctly traced. The
eighteenth century is certainly no exception; from its first to its last
year so-called High Churchmen were abundant everywhere, especially among
the clergy. But they would scarcely have been recognised as such by
Nelson, or by those with whom he chiefly sympathised. The type became
altered, and not for the better. A change had already set in before the
seventeenth century closed; and when in quick succession Bull and
Beveridge, Ken and Nelson, passed away, there were no new men who could
exactly supply their places. The High Churchmen who belonged more
distinctly to Queen Anne's reign, and those of the succeeding Georgian
era, lacked some of the higher qualities of the preceding generations.
They numbered many worthy, excellent men, but there was no longer the
same depth of feeling, the same fervour, the same spirit of willing
self-denial, the same constant reference to a supposed higher standard
of primitive usage. Their High Churchmanship took rather the form of an
ecclesiastical toryism, persuaded more than ever of the unique
excellence of the English Church, its divinely constituted government,
and its high, if not exclusive title to purity and orthodoxy of
doctrine. The whole party shared, in fact, to a very great extent in the
spiritual dulness which fell like a blight upon the religious life of
the country at large. A secondary, but still an important difference,
consisted in the change effected by the Revolution in the relation
between the Church and the Crown. The harsh revulsion of sentiment,
however beneficial in its ultimate consequences, could not fail to
detract for the time from that peculiar tone of semi-religious loyalty
which in previous generations had been at once the weakness and the
glory of the English Church.

The nonjuring separation was a serious and long-lasting loss to the
Church of England; a loss corresponding in kind, if not in degree, to
what it might have endured, if by a different turn of political and
ecclesiastical circumstances, the most zealous members of the section
headed by Tillotson and Burnet had been ejected from its fold. It is the
distinguishing merit of the English Church that, to a greater extent
probably than any other religious body, it is at once Catholic and
Protestant, and that without any formal assumption of reconciling the
respective claims of authority and private judgment, it admits a wide
field for the latter, without ceasing to attach veneration and deference
to primitive antiquity and to long established order. It is most true
that 'the Church herself is greater, wider, older than any of the
parties within her;'[93] but it is no less certain, that when a leading
party becomes enfeebled in character and influence, as it was by the
defection to the Nonjurors of so many learned and self-sacrificing High
Churchmen, the diminution of vital energy in the whole body is likely to
be far more than proportionate to the number of the seceders, or even to
their individual weight.

Judged by modern feeling, there might seem no very apparent reason why
the Nonjurors should have belonged nearly, if not quite exclusively, to
the same general school of theological thought. In our own days, the
nature of a man's Churchmanship is no key whatever to his opinions upon
matters which trench on politics. High sacramental theories, or profound
reverence for Church tradition and ancient usage, or decided views as to
the exclusive rights of an episcopally ordained ministry, are almost as
likely to be combined with liberal, or even with democratic politics, as
with the most staunch conservative opinions. No one imagines that any
possible change of constitutional government would greatly affect the
general bias, whatever it might be, of ecclesiastical thought. But the
Nonjurors were all High Churchmen, and that in a much better sense of
that word than when, in Queen Anne's time, Tory and High Church were in
popular language convertible terms. And though they were not by any
means the sole representatives of the older High Church spirit--for some
who were deeply imbued with it took the oath of allegiance with perfect
conscientiousness, and without the least demur--yet in them it was
chiefly embodied. Professor Blunt remarks with much truth, that to a
great extent they carried away with them that regard for primitive
times, which with them was destined by degrees almost to expire.[94] If
the Nonjurors were nearly allied with the Jacobites on the one side,
they were also the main supporters of religious opinions which were in
no way related with one dynasty of sovereigns rather than with another,
but which have always formed a very important element of English Church
history, and could not pass for the time into comparative oblivion
without a corresponding loss.

The doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, in defence of
which so much was once written, and so many sacrifices endured, are no
longer heard of. It is difficult now to realise with what passionate
fervour of conviction these obsolete theories were once maintained by
many Englishmen as a vital portion, not only of their political, but of
their religious creed. Lord Chancellor Somers, whose able treatise upon
the Rights of Kings brought to bear against the Nonjurors a vast array
of arguments from Reason, Scripture, History, and Law, remarked in it
that there were some divines of the Church of England who instilled
notions of absolute power, passive obedience, and non-resistance, as
essential points of religion, doctrines necessary to salvation.[95] Put
in this extreme form, the belief might have been repudiated; but
undoubtedly passages may be quoted in great abundance from nonjuring and
other writers which, literally understood, bear no other construction.
At all events, sentiments scarcely less uncompromising were continually
held, not by mere sycophants and courtiers, but by many whose opinions
were adorned by noble Christian lives, willing self-sacrifice, and
undaunted resolution. Good Bishop Lake of Chichester said on his
death-bed that 'he looked upon the great doctrine of passive obedience
as the distinguishing character of the Church of England,'[96] and that
it was a doctrine for which he hoped he could lay down his life. Bishop
Thomas of Worcester, who died the same year, expressed the same belief
and the same hope. Robert Nelson spoke of it as the good and wholesome
doctrine of the Church of England, 'wherein she has gloried as her
special characteristic.... Papists and Presbyterians have both been
tardy on these points, and I wish the practice of some in the Church of
England had been more blameless,'[97] but he was sure that it had been
the doctrine of the primitive Christians, and that it was very plainly
avowed both by the Church and State of England. Sancroft vehemently
reproved 'the apostacy of the National Church'[98] in departing from
this point of faith. Even Tillotson and Burnet[99] were at one time no
less decided about it. The former urged it upon Lord Russell as 'the
declared doctrine of all Protestant Churches,' and that the contrary was
'a very great and dangerous mistake,' and that if not a sin of
ignorance, 'it will appear of a much more heinous nature, as in truth it
is, and calls for a very particular and deep repentance.'[100] Just
about the time when the new oath of allegiance was imposed, the doctrine
of non-resistance received the very aid it most needed, in the invention
of a new term admirably adapted to inspire a warmer feeling of religious
enthusiasm in those who were preparing to suffer in its cause. The
expression appears to have originated with Kettlewell, who had strongly
felt the force of an objection which had been raised to Bishop Lake's
declaration. It had been said that to call this or that doctrine the
distinguishing characteristic of a particular Church was so far forth to
separate it from the Church Catholic. Kettlewell saw at once that this
argument wounded High Churchmen in the very point where they were most
sensitive, and for the future preferred to speak of non-resistance as
characteristically 'a Doctrine of the Cross.'[101] The epithet was
quickly adopted, and no doubt was frequently a source of consolation to
Nonjurors. At other times it might have conveyed a painful sense of
disproportion in its application to what, from another point of view,
was a mere political revolution. But with them passive obedience and
divine right had been raised to the level of a great religious principle
for which they were well content to be confessors. It must have added
much to the moral strength of the nonjuring separation. Argument or
ridicule would not make much impression upon men who had always this to
fall back upon, that 'non-resistance is after all too much a doctrine of
the Cross, not to meet with great opposition from the prejudices and
passions of men. Flesh and blood and corrupt reason will set up the
great law of self-preservation against it, and find a thousand
absurdities and contradictions in it.'[102] How thoroughly Kettlewell's
term was adopted, and how deeply the feeling which it represented was
cherished by the saintliest of the High Churchmen of that age, is
nowhere more remarkably instanced than in some very famous words of
Bishop Ken. In that often quoted passage of his will where he professed
the faith in which he died, the closing words refer to the Church of
England 'as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan
innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.' The
special interpretation to be placed upon the final clause somewhat jars
upon the ear, although not without interest in illustrating the strong
religious principle which forbade the transfer of his political
allegiance. Dr. Lee, who had excellent opportunities of knowing, says,
'there cannot remain any manner of doubt'[103] that Ken used the
expression with particular reference to the sense in which his friend
Kettlewell had used it.

When once the Hanoverian succession was established, the doctrine of a
divine right of kings, with the theories consequent upon, it, passed
gradually away; and many writers, forgetting that it was once a
generally received dogma in Parliament as in Convocation, in the laws
as much as in the homilies, have sought to attach to the Church of
England the odium of servility and obsequiousness for its old adherence
to it. But as the tenet died not without honour, dignified in many
instances by high Christian feeling, and noble sacrifice of worldly
interest, so also it had gained much of its early strength in one of the
most important principles of the Reformation. When England rejected the
Papacy, the Church, as in the old English days before the Conquest,
gathered round its sovereign as the emblem and as the centre of its
national independence. Only the tie was a personal one; much in the same
way as the Pope had been far more than an embodied symbol of Church
authority. The sovereign represented the people, but no one then spoke
of 'sovereignty residing in the whole body of the people,'[104] or
dreamt of asserting that the supremacy of the King was a fiction,
meaning only the supremacy of the three estates.[105] So it long
continued, especially in the Church. Ecclesiastical is ever wont to lag
somewhat in the rear of political improvement. In the State, the
personal supremacy of the sovereign, though a very strong reality in the
hands of the Tudors, had been tutored into a moderately close conformity
with the wishes of the popular representatives. In the Church, the same
process was going on, but it was a far more gradual one; and the spirit
of loyal deference which long remained unaltered in the one, gained
increasing strength in the other. Upon the reaction which succeeded
after the Commonwealth, the Church, as it had been ever faithful to the
royal fortunes in their time of reverse, shared to the full in the
effusion with which the nation in general greeted the return of
monarchy, and was more than ever dazzled by the 'divinity which hedges
round a King.' But under James II., the Church had cause to feel the
perils of arbitrary power as keenly, or even more keenly than the nation
in its civil capacity. By a remarkable leading of events, the foremost
of the High Church bishops found themselves, amid the acclamations of
the multitude, in the very van of a resistance which was indeed in a
sense passive, but which plainly paved the way to active resistance on
the part of others, and which, as they must themselves have felt,
strained to the utmost that doctrine of passive obedience which was
still dear to them as ever. Some even of the most earnest champions of
the divine right of kings were at last compelled to imagine
circumstances under which the tenet would cease to be tenable. What if
James should propose to hand over Ireland to France as the price of help
against his own people? Ken, it is said, acknowledged that under such a
contingency he should feel wholly released from his allegiance.

The revolution of 1688 dissipated the halo which had shed a fictitious
light round the throne. Queen Anne may have flattered herself that it
was already reviving. George I. in his first speech to parliament laid
claim to the ancient prestige of it. The old theories lingered long in
manor-houses and parsonages, and among all whose hearts were with the
banished Stuarts. But they could not permanently survive under such
altered auspices; and a sentiment which had once been of real service
both to Church and State, but which had become injurious to both, was
disrooted from the constitution and disentangled from the religion of
the country. The ultimate gain was great; yet it must be acknowledged
that at the time a great price was paid for it. In the State, there was
a notable loss of the old loyalty, a blunting in public matters of some
of the finer feelings, an increase among State officers of selfish and
interested motives, a spirit of murmuring and disaffection, a lowering
of tone, an impaired national unity. In the Church, as the revulsion was
greater, and in some respects the benefit greater, so also the temporary
loss was both greater and more permanent. The beginning of the
eighteenth century saw almost the last of the old-fashioned Anglicans,
who dated from the time of Henry VIII.--men whose ardent love of what
they considered primitive and Catholic usage had no tinge of Popery, and
whose devoted attachment to the throne was wholly free from all unmanly
servility. The High Church party was deprived of some of the best of its
leaders, and was altogether divided, disorganised, and above all,
lowered in tone; and the whole Church suffered in the deterioration of
one of its principal sections.

In relation both to Nonjurors and to persons who, as a duty or a
necessity, had accepted the new constitution, but were more or less
Jacobite in their sympathies, a question arose of far more than
temporary interest. It is one which frequently recurs, and is of much
practical importance, namely, how far unity of worship implies, or ought
to imply, a close unity of belief; and secondly, how far a clergyman is
justified in continuing his ministrations if, agreeing in all
essentials, he strongly dissents to some particular petitions or
expressions in the services of which he is constituted the mouthpiece.
The point immediately at issue was whether those who dissented from the
State prayers could join with propriety in the public services. This was
very variously decided. There were some who denied that this was
possible to persons who had any strict regard to consistency and
truth.[106] How, said they, could they assist by their presence at
public prayers which were utterly contradictory to their private ones?
Many Nonjurors therefore, and many who had taken the oath on the
understanding that it only bound them to submission, absented themselves
entirely from public worship, or attended none other than nonjuring
services. There was a considerable party, headed unfortunately by
Bancroft himself, whose regret at the separation thus caused was greatly
tempered by a kind of exultation at being, as they maintained, the
'orthodox and Catholic remnant' from which the main body of the English
Church had apostatised.[107] Far different were the feelings of those
whose opinions on the subject were less strangely exaggerated. If they
joined the nonjuring communion, and forsook the familiar parish church,
they did so sadly and reluctantly, and looked forward in hope to some
change of circumstances which might remove their scruples and end the
schism. It was thoroughly distasteful to men like Ken, Nelson, and
Dodwell, to break away from a communion to which they were deeply
attached, and which they were quite persuaded was the purest and best in
Christendom. When the new Government was fairly established, when the
heat of feeling was somewhat cooled by time, when the High Church
sympathies of Anne had begun to reconcile them to the new succession,
and when the last of the ejected bishops had withdrawn all claim on
their obedience, many moderate Nonjurors were once more seen in church.
They agreed that the offence of the State prayers should be no longer an
insuperable bar.[108] They could at all events sufficiently signify
their objection to the obnoxious words by declining to say Amen, or by
rising from their knees, or by various other more or less demonstrative
signs of disapprobation. Some indeed of the Nonjurors, among whom Bishop
Frampton was prominent, and a great number of Jacobites, had never from
the first lent any countenance to the schism, and attended the Church
services as heretofore. The oath of allegiance being required before a
clergyman could take office, it is of course impossible to tell whether
any nonjuring clergyman would have consented to read, as well as to
listen to, the State prayers. But there was undoubtedly a large body of
Jacobite clergymen who in various ways reconciled this to their
conscience. Their argument, founded on the sort of provisional loyalty
due to a _de facto_ sovereignty, was a tolerably valid one in its kind;
a far more important one, in the extent and gravity of its bearings, was
that which met the difficulty in the face. It was that which rests on
the answer to the question whether a clergyman is guilty of insincerity,
either in reality or in semblance, in continuing to read a service to
part of which he strongly objects, though he is completely in accord
with the general tone and spirit of the whole. The answer must evidently
be a qualified one. Nothing could be worse for the interests of
religion, than that its ministers should be suspected of saying what
they do not mean; on the other hand, unless a Church concedes to its
clergy a sufficiently ample latitude in their mode of interpreting its
formularies, it will greatly suffer by losing the services of men of
independent thought or strongly marked religious convictions. Among
clergymen who submitted to the reigning powers, though their hopes and
sympathies were centred at St. Germains, the alternative of either
reading the State prayers or relinquishing office in the English Church
must have been singularly embarrassing. To offer up a prayer in which
the heart wholly belies the lip is infinitely more repugnant to
religious and moral feeling than to put a legitimate, though it may not
be the most usual, interpretation on words which contain a disputed
point of doctrine or discipline. Yet, from another point of view, it was
quite certain that as little weight as possible ought to be attached to
a quasi-political difference of opinion which in itself was no sort of
interruption to that confidence and sympathy in religious matters which
should subsist between pastor and people. It was a great strait for a
conscientious man to be placed in, and a difficulty which might fairly
be left to the individual conscience to solve.

As for those Nonjurors and Jacobites who joined as laymen in the public
services, undeterred by prayers which they objected to, it is just that
question of dissent within, instead of without the Church, which has
gained increased attention in our own days. When Robert Nelson was in
doubt upon the subject, and asked Tillotson for his advice, the
Archbishop made reply, 'As to the case you put, I wonder men should be
divided in opinion about it. I think it plain, that no man can join in
prayers in which there is any petition which he is verily persuaded is
sinful. I cannot endure a trick anywhere, much less in religion.[109]
This honest and outspoken answer was however extremely superficial, and,
coming from a man of so much eminence, must have had an unfortunate
effect in extending the nonjuring schism. Although his opinion was
perfectly sound under the precise terms in which it is stated, the
whole force of it rests on the word 'sinful.' If any word is used which
falls the least short of this, Tillotson's remark becomes altogether
questionable. Of course no one can be justified in countenancing what
'he is verily persuaded is sinful.' From this point of view, there were
some Nonjurors to whom separation from the National Church was a moral
necessity. Those among them, for instance, who drew up, or cordially
approved, the 'Form for admitting penitents,' in which the
sorrow-stricken wanderer in ways of conformity returns humblest thanks
for his return from wrong to right, from error to truth, from schism to
unity, from rebellion to loyalty--in a word, 'from the broad into the
narrow way which leadeth to eternal life,'[110]--how could they be
justified in anything short of separation? They could no more continue
to attend their parish church, than one who had been a Roman Catholic
could attend the mass if he had become persuaded it was rank idolatry,
or a former Protestant his old place of worship when convinced that it
was a den of mortal heresy. But between Nonjurors of the stern
uncompromising type, and those semi-Jacobites who gave the allegiance of
reason to one master, and that of sentiment to another, there were all
grades of opinion; and to all except the most extreme among them the
propriety of attending the public prayers was completely an open
question. Tillotson ought to have known his old friend Nelson better,
than to conceive it possible that a man of such deep religious feeling,
and such sensitive honour, could be doubtful what to do, unless it might
fairly be considered doubtful. His foolish commonplace appears indeed to
have been sufficient to turn the scale. Nelson, almost immediately after
receiving this opinion, decided on abandoning the national communion,
though he took a different and a wiser view at a later period.

The circumstances of the time threw into exaggerated prominence the
particular views entertained by Nelson's Juror and Nonjuror friends on
the disputed questions connected with transferred allegiance. But, great
as were the sacrifices which many of them incurred on account of these
opinions,--great as was the tenacity with which they clung to them, and
the vehemence with which they asserted them against all
impugners--great, above all, as was the religious and spiritual
importance with which their zeal for the cause invested these
semi-political doctrines, yet it is not on such grounds that their
interest as a Church party chiefly rests. No weight of circumstances
could confer a more than secondary value on tenets which have no
permanent bearing on the Christian life, and engage attention only
under external and temporary conditions. The early Nonjurors, and their
doctrinal sympathisers within the National Church, were a body of men
from whom many in modern times have taken pleasure in deriving their
ecclesiastical pedigree, not as upholders of nearly obsolete opinions
about divine right and passive obedience, but as the main link between
the High Churchmen of a previous age and their successors at a much
later period. To the revivers in this century of the Anglo-Catholic
theology, it seemed as though the direct succession of sound English
divines ended with Bull and Beveridge, was partially continued, as by a
side line, in some of the Nonjurors, and then dwindled and almost died
out, until after the lapse of a hundred years its vitality was again

On points of doctrine and discipline the early Nonjurors differed in
nothing from the High Churchmen whose communion they had deserted. Some
of them called themselves, it is true, 'the old Church of England,' 'the
Catholic and faithful remnant' which alone adhered to 'the orthodox and
rightful bishops,' and bitter charges, mounting up to that of apostacy,
were directed against the 'compliant' majority. But, wide as was the
gulf, and heinous as was the sin by which, according to such Nonjurors,
the Established Church had separated itself from primitive faith, the
asserted defection consisted solely in this, that it had committed the
sin of rebellion in forsaking its divinely appointed King, and the sin
of schism in rejecting the authority of its canonical bishops. No one
contended that there were further points of difference between the two
communions. Dr. Bowes asked Blackburn, one of their bishops, whether 'he
was so happy as to belong to his diocese?' 'Dear friend,' was the
answer, 'we leave the sees open that the gentlemen who now unjustly
possess them, upon the restoration, may, if they please, return to their
duty and be continued. We content ourselves with full episcopal power as
suffragans.' The introduction, however, in 1716, of the distinctive
'usages' in the communion service contributed greatly to the farther
estrangement of a large section of the Nonjurors; and those who adopted
the new Prayer-book drawn up in 1734 by Bishop Deacon, were alienated
still more. The only communion with which they claimed near relationship
was one which in their opinion had long ceased to exist. 'I am not of
your communion,' said Bishop Welton on his death-bed, in 1726, to the
English Chaplain at Lisbon, whose services he declined. 'I belong to the
Church of England as it was reformed by Archbishop Cranmer.'[111] Thus
too, when Bishop Deacon's son, a youth of little more than twenty,
suffered execution for his share in the Jacobite rising of 1745, his
last words upon the scaffold were that he died 'a member not of the
Church of Rome, nor yet of that of England, but of a pure Episcopal
Church, which has reformed all the errors, corruptions, and defects that
have been introduced into the modern Churches of Christendom.'[112] Yet
the divergence of these Nonjurors from the National Church was, after
all, far more apparent than real. It was only a very small minority,
beginning with Deacon and Campbell, who outstepped in any of their ideas
the tone of feeling which had long been familiar to many of the High
Church party. Ever since the reign of Edward VI. the Church of England
had included among its clerical and lay members some who had not ceased
to regret the changes which had been made in the second Liturgy issued
in his reign, and who hoped for a restoration of the rubrics and
passages which had been then expunged. Some of the practices and
expressions which, after the first ten or twenty years of the eighteenth
century, were looked upon as all but confined to a party of Nonjurors,
had been held almost as fully before yet the schism was thought of.

This was certainly the case in regard of those 'usages' which related to
the sacrificial character of the Eucharist and to prayers for the dead.
Dr. Hickes complained in one of his letters that the doctrine of the
Eucharistic sacrifice had disappeared from the writings even of divines
who had treated on the subject.[113] How far this was correct became,
four years later, a disputed question. Bishop Trimnell declared it was a
doctrine that had never been taught in the English Church since the
Reformation.[114] John Johnson, on the other hand, vicar of Cranbrook,
who had originated the controversy by a book in which he ardently
supported the opinion in question, affirmed that no Christian bishop
before Trimnell ever denied it.[115] Evidently it was a point which had
not come very prominently forward for distinct assertion or
contradiction, and one in which there was great room for ambiguity. To
some it seemed a palpably new doctrine, closely trenching on a most
dangerous portion of the Romish system, and likely to lead to gross
superstition. To others it seemed a harmless and very edifying part of
belief, wholly void of any Romish tendencies, and plainly implied, if
not definitely expressed, in the English Liturgy. Most of the excellent
and pious High Churchmen who have been spoken of in this paper treasured
it as a valued article of their faith. Kettlewell used to dilate on the
great sacrificial feast of charity.[116] Bull used constantly to speak
of the Eucharist as no less a sacrifice commemorative of Christ's
oblation of Himself than the Jewish sacrifices had been typical of
it.[117] Dodwell, ever fruitful in learned instances, not only brought
forward arguments from Scripture and the Fathers, but adduced
illustrations from the bloodless sacrifices of Essenes and
Pythagoreans.[118] Robert Nelson, after the example of Jeremy Taylor in
his 'Holy Living and Dying,' introduced the subject in a more popular
and devotional form in his book upon the Christian Sacrifice.[119]
Archbishop Sharp regretted that a doctrine which he considered so
instructive had not been more definitely contained in the English
Liturgy, and preferred the Communion office of King Edward VI.'s Service
Book.[120] Beveridge argued that if the Jews were to be punctual and
constant in attending their sacrifices, how much more should Christians
honour by frequent observance the great commemorative offering which had
been instituted in their place, and contained within itself the benefits
of them all.[121]

Some observations of a somewhat similar kind may be made in regard of
prayers for the departed, another subject which the English Church has
wisely left to private opinion. The nonjuring 'usages,' on the other
hand, restored to the Liturgy the clauses which the better judgment of
their ancestors had omitted. Some went farther, and insisted that
'prayer for their deceased brethren was not only lawful and useful, but
their bounden duty.'[122] All of them, however, without exception,
contested with perfect sincerity that their doctrine on these points was
not that of Rome, and that they entirely repudiated, as baseless and
unscriptural, the superstructure which that Church has raised upon it.
The nonjuring separation drew away from the National Church many who as
a matter of private opinion had held the tenet without rebuke; and
although, in the middle of the eighteenth century, John Wesley stoutly
defended it,[123] and Dr. Johnson always argued for its propriety and
personally maintained the practice,[124] an idea gained ground that it
was wholly unauthorised by the English Church and contrary to its
spirit. But at the opening of the century it appears to have been a
tenet not unfrequently maintained, especially among High Churchmen,
whether Jurors or Nonjurors. Dr. I. Barrow, says Hearne, 'was mighty for
it.'[125] In the form of prayer for Jan. 30th, 1661, there was a
perfectly undisguised prayer of this kind, drawn up apparently by
Archbishop Juxon.[126] It had however only the authority of the Crown,
and was expunged in the authorised form of prayer for 1662. Archbishop
Wake said he did not condemn the practice,[127] and Bishop Smalridge,
already spoken of in the list of Robert Nelson's friends, is said to
have been in favour of it.[128] So was Robert Nelson himself. After
describing the death of his old and honoured friend Bishop Bull, he adds
in reference to him and to his wife who had died previously: 'The Lord
grant unto them that they may find mercy of the Lord in that day.'[129]
Bishop Ken may be quoted to the same effect. Writing to Dr. Nicholas in
October 1677, of the death of their friend Mr. Coles, 'cujus anima,' he
continues, 'requiescat in pace.'[130] Dr. Ernest Grabe and Dean Hickes,
two more of R. Nelson's intimate associates, were also accustomed to
pray for those in either state.[131]

The Nonjurors and High Churchmen in general, no less than the rest of
their countrymen, were stout Protestants, and gloried in the name. High
Churchmen had stood in the van of that great contest with Rome which had
so occupied the thoughts of theological writers and the whole English
people during the later years of the preceding century, and the
remembrance of which was still fresh. The acrimony of argument had been
somewhat abated by the very general respect entertained in England for
the great Gallican divines, Pascal, Fénelon, and Bossuet. Among the
Nonjurors it was further softened by political and social
considerations. English Roman Catholics were almost all Jacobites, and
were therefore in close sympathy with them on a matter of very absorbing
interest. But although these influences tended to remove prejudices, the
gap that separates Anglican and Roman divinity remained wide as ever.
When the Nonjurors, or a large section of them, cut themselves away from
the National Church, they did not in their isolation look towards Rome.
Even the most advanced among their leaders proved, by the energy with
which they continued the Protestant controversy, how groundless was the
charge sometimes brought against them, that they had adopted Popish

It cannot be wondered at, that members of the nonjuring communion felt
very keenly the isolated, and, so to say, the sectarian condition in
which they were placed. There were few words dearer to them than that
word 'Catholic,' which breathes of loving brotherhood in one great
Christian body. And yet outside their own scanty fold they were repelled
on every side. They had been ardently attached to the English Church,
and had thought that whatever its imperfections might be in practice,
its theory, at all events, approached to perfection. But now, to the
minds of many of them, the ideal had passed away, or had become a
shadow. Since, then, the Church in which they had been brought up had
failed them, where should they find intercommunion and sympathy? Not
among English Nonconformists. Although they might have been willing at
one time to concede much to Nonconformist scruples, yet even as
fellow-members in one national Church they would have represented
opposite poles of ecclesiastical sentiment; and without such a mutual
bond of union, the interval which separated Dissenters and Nonjurors was
wider than ever it had been. To come to any terms with Rome was quite
out of the question. Such an alliance would indeed be, as Kettlewell
expressed it, 'concordia discors.'[132] Could they then combine with
Lutherans or other foreign Protestants? This at one time seemed
possible. English High Churchmen, Juror and Nonjuror, were inclined to
be lenient to deficiencies abroad, in order and ritual, of which they
would have been wholly intolerant at home. Even Dodwell, a man of
singularly straitened and rigid views, thought the prospect not
unhopeful. One condition, however, they laid down as absolutely
indispensable--the restoration of a legitimate episcopate. But the chief
promoters of the scheme died nearly coincidently; political questions of
immediate concern interfered with its farther consideration, and thus
the project was dropped. The Scotch Episcopal Church remained as a
communion with which English Nonjurors could fraternise. Ken and
Beveridge and Kettlewell, and English High Churchmen in general, had
long regarded that Church with compassion, sympathy, and interest. Dr.
Hickes, the acknowledged leader of the thorough Nonjurors, had become,
as chaplain to the Earl of Lauderdale, well acquainted with its bishops;
a large proportion of its clergy were Jacobites and Nonjurors; and,
like themselves, they were a depressed and often persecuted remnant. The
intimacy, therefore, between the Scotch Episcopalians and many of the
English Nonjurors became, as is well known, very close.

There was, however, one other great body of Christians towards whom,
after a time, the nonjuring separatists turned with proposals of amity
and intercommunion. This was the Eastern Church. Various causes had
contributed to remove something of the obscurity which had once shrouded
this vast communion from the knowledge of Englishmen. As far back as the
earlier part of Charles I.'s reign, the attention of either party in the
English Church had been fixed for a time on the overtures made by
Cyrillus Lukaris,[133] patriarch, first of Alexandria, and then of
Constantinople, to whom we owe the precious gift of the 'Alexandrian
manuscript' of the Scriptures. Archbishop Abbot, a Calvinist, and one of
the first representatives of the so-called Latitudinarian party, had
been attracted by the inclinations evinced by this remarkable man
towards the theology of Holland and Geneva. His successor and complete
opposite, Archbishop Laud, had been no less fascinated by the idea of
closer intercourse with a Church of such ancient splendour and such
pretensions to primitive orthodoxy. At the close of the seventeenth
century this interest had been renewed by the visit of Peter the Great
to this island. With a mind greedy after all manner of information, he
had not omitted to inquire closely into ecclesiastical matters. People
heard of his conversations on these subjects with Tenison and
Burnet,[134] and wondered how far a monarch who was a kind of Pope in
his own empire would be leavened with Western and Protestant ideas. In
learned and literary circles too the Eastern Church had been discussed.
The Oxford and Cambridge Platonists, than whom England has never
produced more thoughtful and scholarlike divines, had profoundly studied
the Alexandrian fathers. Patristic reading, which no one could yet
neglect who advanced the smallest pretensions to theological
acquirements, might naturally lead men to think with longing of an ideal
of united faith 'professed' (to use Bishop Ken's familiar words) 'by the
whole Church before the disunion of East and West.'[135] Missionary
feeling, which at the beginning of the eighteenth century was showing so
many signs of nascent activity, had not failed to take notice of the
gross ignorance into which many parts of Greek Christendom had
fallen.[136] Henry Ludolph, a German by birth, and late secretary to
Prince George of Denmark, on his return to London in 1694 from some
lengthened travels in Russia, and after further wanderings a few years
later in Egypt, Asia Minor, and the Holy Land, persuaded some English
Churchmen to publish an impression of the New Testament in modern Greek,
which was dispersed in those countries through the Greeks with whom
Ludolph kept up a correspondence.[137] In 1701 University men at
Cambridge, when Bentley was Vice-Chancellor, were much interested by the
visit of Neophytos, Archbishop of Philippopolis, and Exarch of Thrace.
He was presented with a Doctor of Divinity's degree, and afterwards made
a speech in Hellenistic Greek.[138] About the same time the minutes of
the Christian Knowledge Society make report of a Catechism drawn up for
Greek Churchmen by Bishop Williams of Chichester, and translated from
the English by some Greeks then studying at Oxford.[139] This little
colony of Greek students had been established in 1689, through the
cordial relations then subsisting between Archbishop Sancroft and
Georgirenes, Metropolitan of Samos, who had recently been a refugee in
London. It was hoped that by their residence at Oxford they would be
able to promote in their own country a better understanding of 'the true
doctrine of the Church of England.' They were to be twenty in number,
were to dwell together at Gloucester Hall (afterwards Worcester
College), be habited all alike in the gravest sort of habit worn in
their own country, and stay at the University for five years.[140]
Robert Nelson, ever zealous and energetic in all the business of the
society, would naturally feel particularly interested in the condition
of Eastern Christians on account of the business connection with Smyrna
in which his family had been prosperously engaged. We are told of his
showing warm sympathy in the wish of the Archbishop of Gotchau in
Armenia to get works of piety printed in that language.[141] Similar
interest would be felt by another leader of the early Nonjurors,
Frampton, Bishop of Gloucester, who in his earlier years had served as
chaplain at Aleppo, and had formed a familiar acquaintance with some of
the most learned patriarchs and bishops of the Eastern Church.[142] The
man, however, who at the beginning of the eighteenth century must have
done most to turn attention towards the Eastern Church, was Dr. Grabe,
who has been already more than once spoken of as held in great esteem by
the Nonjuring and High Church party. He had found the Anglican Church
more congenial to him on the whole than any other, but it shared his
sympathies with the Lutheran and the Greek. He was a constant daily
attendant at the English, and more especially the nonjuring services,
but for many years he communicated exclusively at the Greek Church. He
also published a 'Defensio Græcæ Ecclesiæ.'[143] Thus, in many different
ways, the Oriental Church had come to be regarded, especially by the
more studious of the High Church clergy, in quite another light from
that of Rome.

In 1716 Arsenius, Metropolitan of Thebais, came to London on a
charitable mission in behalf of the suffering Christians of Egypt. It
will be readily understood with what alacrity a number of the Scotch and
English Nonjurors seized the opportunity of making 'a proposal for a
concordat betwixt the orthodox and Catholic remnant of the British
Churches and the Catholic and Apostolic Oriental Church.' The
correspondence, of which a full account is given in Lathbury's History
of the Nonjurors,[144] although in many respects an interesting one, was
wholly abortive. There appears indeed to have been a real wish on the
part of Peter the Great and of some of the patriarchs to forward the
project; but the ecclesiastical synod of Russia was evidently not quite
clear from whom the overtures proceeded. Their answers were directed 'To
the Most Reverend the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Great Britain,
our dearest brothers,' and, somewhat to the dismay of the Nonjurors,
copies of the letters were even sent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to
Archbishop Wake. Above all, the proposals were essentially one-sided.
The nonjuring bishops, while remaining perfectly faithful to their
principles, were willing to make large concessions in points which
involved no departure from what they considered to be essential truths.
The Patriarchs would have been glad of intercommunion on their own
terms, but in the true spirit of the Eastern Church, would concede
nothing. It was 'not lawful either to add any thing or take away any
thing' from 'what has been defined and determined by ancient Fathers and
the Holy Oecumenical Synods from the time of the apostles and their
holy successors, the Fathers of our Church, to this time. We say that
those who are disposed to agree with us must submit to them, with
sincerity and obedience, and without any scruple or dispute. And this is
a sufficient answer to what you have written.' Perhaps the result might
not have been very different, even if the overtures in question had been
backed by the authority of the whole Anglican Church--a communion which
at this period was universally acknowledged as the leader of Protestant
Christendom. And even if there were less immutability in Eastern
counsels, Bishop Campbell and his coadjutors could scarcely have been
sanguine in hoping for any other issue. Truth and right, as they
remarked in a letter to the Czar, do not depend on numbers; but if the
Oriental synod were thoroughly aware how exceedingly scanty was 'the
remnant' with which they were treating, and how thoroughly apart from
the main current of English national life, it was highly improbable that
they would purchase so minute an advance towards a wider unity by
authorising what would certainly seem to them innovations dangerously
opposed to all ancient precedent. It must be some far greater and deeper
movement that will first tempt the unchanging Eastern Church to approve
of any deviation from the trodden path of immemorial tradition.

There was great variety of individual character in the group of
Churchmen who have formed the subject of this chapter. They did not all
come into contact with one another, and some were widely separated by
the circumstances of their lives. The one fact of some being Jurors and
some Nonjurors was quite enough in itself to make a vast difference of
thoughts and sympathies among those who had taken different sides. But
they were closely united in what they held to be the divinely appointed
constitution of the Church. All looked back to primitive times as the
unalterable model of doctrine, order, and government; all were firmly
persuaded that the English Reformation was wholly based on a restoration
of the ancient pattern, and had fallen short of its object only so far
forth as that ideal had as yet been unattained; all looked with
suspicion and alarm at such tendencies of their age as seemed to them to
contradict and thwart the development of these principles. They were
good men in a very high sense of the word, earnestly religious, bent
upon a conscientious fulfilment of their duties, and centres, in their
several spheres, of active Christian labours. Ken, Nelson, and
Kettlewell, among Nonjurors--Bull, Beveridge, and Sharp, among those who
accepted the change of dynasty--are names deservedly held in special
honour by English Churchmen. Their piety was of a type more frequent
perhaps in the Church of England than in some other communions, very
serious and devout, but wholly free from all gloom and moroseness;
tinged in some instances, as in Dodwell, Ken, and Hooper, with
asceticism, but serene and bright, and guarded against extravagance and
fanaticism by culture, social converse, and sound reading. Such men
could not fail to adorn the faith they professed, and do honour to the
Church in which they had been nurtured. At the same time, some of the
tenets which they ardently maintained were calculated to foster a
stiffness and narrowness, and an exaggerated insistence upon certain
forms of Church government, which contained many elements of real
danger. Within the National Church there was a great deal to
counterbalance these injurious tendencies and check their growth. The
Latitudinarian party, whose faults and temptations lay in a very
opposite direction, was very strong. Ecclesiastical as well as political
parties were no doubt strongly defined, and for a time strongly
antagonistic. But wherever in a large body of men different views are
equally tolerated, opinions will inevitably shade one into another to a
great extent, and extreme or unpractical theories will be tempered and
toned down, or be regarded at most as merely the views of a minority.
Among the Nonjurors Henry Dodwell, for example, was a real power, as a
man of holy life and profound learning, whose views, although carried to
an extreme in which few could altogether concur, were still in general
principle, and when stated in more moderate terms, those of the great
majority of the whole body. As a member, on the other hand, of the
National Church, his goodness and erudition were widely respected, but
his theoretical extravagances were only the crotchets of a retired
student, who advanced in their most extreme form the opinions of a

But, Jurors or Nonjurors, the very best men of the old High Church party
certainly exhibited a strong bearing towards the faults of exclusiveness
and ecclesiasticism. It was a serious loss to the English Church to be
deprived of the services of such men as Ken and Kettlewell, but it would
have been a great misfortune to it to have been represented only by men
of their sentiments. Their Christianity was as true and earnest as ever
breathed in the soul; nevertheless, there was much in it that could not
fail to degenerate in spirits less pure and elevated than their own.
They were apt to fall into the common error of making orthodoxy a far
more strait and narrow path than was ever warranted by any terms of the
Church apostolic or of the Church of their own country. Its strict
limits, on all points which Scripture has left uncertain, had been, as
it appeared to them, providentially maintained throughout the first
three centuries. Then began a long period of still increasing error;
until the time of reformation came, and the Church of England fulfilled
its appointed task of retracing the old landmarks, and restoring
primitive truth to its ancient purity. Allowing for such trifling
modifications as the difference of time and change of circumstances
absolutely necessitated, the Anglican was in their estimation the
Ante-Nicene Church revived. If, in the doctrine, order, and government
of the English Church there was anything which would not have approved
itself to the early fathers and to the first Councils, it was so far
forth a falling short of its fundamental principles. They were persuaded
that at all events there was nowhere outside its borders such near
approach to this perfection. As for other religious bodies, the degree
of their separation from the spirit and constitution of the English
Church might be fairly taken as the approximate measure of their
departure from the practice of primitive antiquity. Romanism,
Latitudinarianism, Mysticism, Calvinism, Puritanism--whatever form
dissent might take from what they believed to be the true principles of
the English Church, it was, as such, a departure from Catholic and
orthodox tradition, it was but one or another phase of the odious sin of

The High Anglican custom of appealing to early ecclesiastical records as
an acknowledged standard of authority on all matters which Scripture has
left uncertain, necessarily led this section of the English Church to
repeat many of the failings as well as many of the virtues which had
characterised the Church of the third and fourth centuries. It copied,
for instance, far too faithfully, the disposition which primitive ages
had early manifested, to magnify unduly the spiritual power and
prerogatives of the priesthood. No doubt the outcry against
sacerdotalism was often perverted to disingenuous uses. Many a hard blow
was dealt against vital Christian doctrine under the guise of righteous
war against the exorbitant pretensions of the clergy. But Sacerdotalism
certainly attained a formidable height among some of the High Churchmen
of the period, both Jurors and Nonjurors. Dodwell, who declined orders
that he might defend all priestly rights from a better vantage ground,
did more harm to the cause he had espoused than any one of its
opponents, by fearlessly pressing the theory into consequences from
which a less thorough or a more cautious advocate would have recoiled
with dismay. Robert Nelson's sobriety of judgment and sound practical
sense made him a far more effective champion. He too, like Dodwell,
rejoiced that from his position as a layman he could without prejudice
resist what he termed a sacrilegious invasion of the rights of the
priests of the Lord.[145] The beginning of the eighteenth century was
felt to be a time of crisis in the contest which, for the last three or
four hundred years, has been incessantly waged between those whose
tendency is ever to reduce religion into its very simplest elements, and
those, on the other hand, in whose eyes the whole order of Church
government and discipline is a divinely constituted system of mysterious
powers and superhuman influences. It is a contest in which opinions may
vary in all degrees, from pure Deism to utter Ultramontanism. The High
Churchmen in question insisted that their position, and theirs only, was
precisely that of the Church in early post-Apostolic times, when
doctrine had become fully defined, but was as yet uncorrupted by later
superstitions. It was not very tenable ground, but it was held by them
with a pertinacity and sincerity of conviction which deepened the
fervour of their faith, even while it narrowed its sympathies and
cramped it with restrictions. A Church in which they found what they
demanded; which was primitive and reformed; which was free from the
errors of Rome and Geneva; which was not only Catholic and orthodox on
all doctrines of faith, but possessed an apostolical succession, with
the sacred privileges attached to it; which was governed by a lawful and
canonical episcopate; which was blessed with a sound and ancient
liturgy; which was faithful (many Nonjurors would add) to its divinely
appointed king; such a Church was indeed one for which they could live
and die. So far it was well. Their love for their own Church, and their
perfect confidence in it, added both beauty and character to their
piety. The misfortune was, that it left them unable to understand the
merits of any form of faith which rejected, or treated as a thing
indifferent, what they regarded as all but essential.

Fervid as their Christianity was, it was altogether unprogressive in its
form. It was inelastic, incompetent to adapt itself to changing
circumstances. Some of their leaders were inclined at one time to favour
a scheme of comprehension. It is, however, impossible to believe they
would have agreed to any concession which was not evidently superficial.
They longed indeed for unity; and there is no reason to believe that
they would have hesitated to sacrifice, though it would not be without a
pang, many points of ritual and ceremony if it would further so good an
end. But in their scheme of theology the essentials of an orthodox
Church were numerous, and they would have been inflexible against any
compromise of these. To abandon any part of the inheritance of primitive
times would be gross heresy, a fatal dereliction of Christian duty. No
one can read the letters of Bishop Ken without noticing how the calm and
gentle spirit of that good prelate kindles into indignation at the
thought of any departure from the ancient 'Depositum' of the Church. He
did not fail to appreciate and love true Christian piety when brought
into near contact with it, even in those whose principles, in what he
considered essential matters, differed greatly from his own. He was on
cordial, and even intimate terms of friendship, for example, with Mr.
Singer, a Nonconformist gentleman of high standing, who lived in the
neighbourhood of Longleat. But this only serves to illustrate that there
is an unity of faith far deeper than very deeply marked outward
distinctions, a bond of Christian communion which, when once its
strength is felt, is stronger than the strongest theories. Where the
stiffness of his 'Catholic and orthodox' opinions was not counteracted
or mitigated by feelings of warm personal respect, Ken could only view
with unmixed aversion the working of principles which paid little regard
to Church authority and attached small importance to any part of a
Church system that did not clearly rest on plain words of Scripture. No
one, reading without farther information the frequent laments made in
Ken's letters and poems, that his flock had been left without a
shepherd, that it was no longer folded in Catholic and hallowed grounds,
and that it was fed with empoisoned instead of wholesome food, would
think how good a man his successor in the see of Bath and Wells really
was. Bishop Kidder was 'an exemplary and learned man of the simplest and
most charitable character.'[146] Robert Nelson had strongly recommended
him to Archbishop Tillotson. But he held a Low Church view of the
Sacraments; he was inclined to admit, on what some considered too
lenient terms, Dissenters of high character into the ministry of the
English Church; his reverence for primitive tradition was slight; he had
no respect for doctrines of passive obedience and divine right. In Ken's
eyes he was therefore a 'Latitudinarian Traditour.' The deprived bishop
had no wish to resume his see. It was more than once offered to him in
Queen Anne's reign, when the oath of allegiance would no longer have
been an insuperable obstacle. But throughout the life of his first
successor his anxiety about his former diocese was very great, and his
satisfaction was extreme when Kidder was succeeded by Hooper, a bishop
of kindred principles to his own. And Ken was in these respects a fair
representative of many who thought with him. To them the Christian
faith, not in its fundamentals only, but in all the principal
accessories of its constitution and government, was stereotyped in
forms which could not be departed from without heresy or schism. There
was scarcely any margin left for self-adaptation to changed requirements
and varied modes of thought, no ready scope for elasticity and
development. As Christianity had been left in the age of the first three
councils, so it was to remain until the end of time. The first reformers
had reformed it from its corruptions once and for all. The guardians of
its purity had only to walk loyally in their steps, carry out their
principles, and not be misled by any so-called reformer of a later day,
whose meddling hands would only have marred the finished beauty of an
accomplished work of restoration.

Such opinions, when rich in vitality and warmth of conviction, have a
very important function to fulfil. Admirably adapted to supply the
spiritual wants of a certain class of minds, they represent one very
important side of Christian truth. Good men such as those who have been
the subject of this chapter are, in the Church, much what disinterested
and patriotic Conservatives are in the State. It is their special
function to resist needless changes and a too compliant subservience to
new or popular ideas, to maintain unbroken the continuity of Christian
thought, to guard from disparagement and neglect whatever was most
valuable in the religious characteristics of an earlier age. Theirs is a
school of thought which has neither a greater nor a less claim to
genuine spirituality than that which is usually contrasted with it. Only
its spirituality is wont to take, in many respects, a different tone.
Instead of shrinking from forms which by their abuse may tend to
formalism, and simplifying to the utmost all the accessories of worship,
in jealous fear lest at any time the senses should be impressed at the
expense of the spirit, it prefers rather to recognise as far as possible
a lofty sacramental character in the institutions of religion, to see a
meaning, and an inward as well as an outward beauty, in ceremonies and
ritual, and to uphold a scrupulous and reverential observance of all
sacred services, as conducing in a very high degree to spiritual
edification. Churchmen of this type may often be blind to other sides of
truth; they may rush into extremes; they may fall into grave errors of
exclusiveness and prejudice. But if they certainly cannot become
absolutely predominant in a Church without serious danger, they cannot
become a weak minority without much detriment to its best interests. And
since it is hopeless to find on any wide scale minds so happily tempered
as to combine within themselves the best characteristics of different
religious parties, a Church may well be congratulated which can count
among its loyal and attached members many men on either side conspicuous
for their high qualities.

The beginning of Queen Anne's reign was in this respect a period of
great promise. Not only was the Church of England popular and its
opponents weak, but both High and Low Churchmen had leaders of
distinguished eminence. Tillotson and Stillingfleet had passed away, but
the Low Church bishops, such as Patrick and Fleetwood, Burnet, Tenison,
and Compton, held a very honourable place in general esteem. The High
Churchmen no longer had Lake and Kettlewell, but Bull and Beveridge,
Sharp, and Ken, and Nelson were still living, and held in high honour.
This latter party had been rent asunder by the nonjuring schism. The
breach, however, was not yet irreparable; and if it could be healed, and
the cordial feeling could be restored which, under the influence of
common Protestant sympathies, had begun to draw the two sections of the
Church together, the National Church might seem likely to root itself
more deeply in the attachment of the people than at any previous time
since the Reformation. These fair promises were frustrated, and the
opportunity lost. Before many years had passed there was a perceptible
loss of tone and power in the Low Church party, when King William's
bishops had gradually died off. Among High Churchmen, weakened by the
secession, the growth of degeneracy was still more evident. The contrast
is immense between the lofty-minded and single-hearted men who worked
with Ken and Nelson and the factious partisans who won the applause of
'High Church' mobs in the time of Sacheverell. Perhaps the Church
activity which, at all events in many notable instances, distinguished
the first few years of the eighteenth century, is thrown into stronger
relief by the comparative inertness which set in soon afterwards. For a
few years there was certainly every appearance of a growing religious
movement. Church brotherhoods were formed both in London and in many
country towns and villages, missions were started, religious education
was promoted, plans for the reformation of manners were ardently engaged
in, churches were built, the weekly and daily services were in many
places frequented by increasing congregations, and communicants rapidly
increased. It might seem as if the Wesleyan movement was about to be
forestalled, in general character though not in detail, under the full
sanction and direction of some of the principal heads of the English
Church: or as if the movement were begun, and only wanted such another
leader as Wesley was. There was not enough fire in Robert Nelson's
character for such a part. Yet, had he lived a little longer, the
example of his deep devotion and untiring zeal might have kindled the
flame in some younger men of congenial but more impetuous temperament,
whose zeal would have stirred the masses, and left a deep mark upon the
history of the age.

As it was, things took a different course. The chief promoters of these
noble efforts died, and much of their work died with them. Or it may be
that the times were not yet ripe for such a revival. It may even have
been better in the end for English Christianity, that no special period
of religious excitement should interfere with the serious intellectual
conflict, in which all who could give any attention to theology were
becoming deeply interested. Great problems involved in the principles of
the Reformation, but obscured up to that time by other and more
superficial controversies, were being everywhere discussed. An interval
of religious tranquillity amounting almost to stagnation may have been
not altogether unfavourable to a crisis when the fundamental axioms of
Christianity were being reviewed and tested. And, after all, dulness is
not death. The responsibilities of each individual soul are happily not
dependent upon unusual helps and extraordinary opportunities. Yet great
efforts of what may be called missionary zeal are most precious, and
fall like rain upon the thirsty earth. It is impossible not to feel
disappointment that the practical energies which at the beginning of the
eighteenth century seemed ready to expand into full life should have
proved comparatively barren of permanent results. But though the effort
was not seconded as it should have been, none the less honour is due to
the exemplary men who made it. It was an effort by no means confined to
any one section of the Church. There were few more earnest in it than
many of the London clergy who had worked heart and soul with Tillotson.
But wherever any great religious undertaking, any scheme of Christian
benevolence, was under consideration, wherever any plan was in hand for
carrying out more thoroughly and successfully the work of the Church,
there at all events was Robert Nelson, and the pious, earnest-hearted
Churchmen who enjoyed his friendship.



[Footnote 1: Birch's _Life of Tillotson_, lxi.]

[Footnote 2: Ken and a few others are conspicuous as exceptions.]

[Footnote 3: W.H. Teale, _Life of Nelson_, 221.]

[Footnote 4: Dr. S. Clarke called him a model controversialist. Teale,

[Footnote 5: See his _Address to Persons of Quality_, and
_Representation of the several Ways of doing Good_. Secretan, 149.
Teale, 338.]

[Footnote 6: _Life_, by Boswell, ii. 457.]

[Footnote 7: G.G. Perry, _History of the Church of England_, iii. 110.]

[Footnote 8: Secretan, 50, 71.]

[Footnote 9: _Practice of True Devotion_, 28.]

[Footnote 10: S. Wesley's poem on R. Nelson, prefixed to some editions
of the _Practice, &c._. He adds in a note that this was a personal
reminiscence of his friend.]

[Footnote 11: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 303.]

[Footnote 12: Secretan, 2.]

[Footnote 13: 'A man,' says his biographer, 'of singular earnestness,
honesty, and practical ability, who was never wanting in times of
danger, and never hesitated to discharge his duty at the cost of worldly
advantage.'--_Life of Frampton_, by T.S. Evans. Preface, x.]

[Footnote 14: Quoted in _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 753.]

[Footnote 15: And even, by the permission of the Bishop of London,
assisted in the service.--_Evans_, 208.]

[Footnote 16: Frampton to Kettlewell. _Life of Kettlewell_, App. No.

[Footnote 17: _Life of Kettlewell_, p. 169.]

[Footnote 18: Id. 162, Secretan, 61.]

[Footnote 19: _Life of Kettlewell_, App. No. 25.]

[Footnote 20: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 676.]

[Footnote 21: _Life of Kettlewell_, 176.]

[Footnote 22: Id. pp. 95, 182.]

[Footnote 23: Id. 14.]

[Footnote 24: Id. 172.]

[Footnote 25: Id. 134.]

[Footnote 26: Id. 172.]

[Footnote 27: Hearne said of him, 'I take him to be the greatest scholar
in Europe, when he died; but what exceeds that, his piety and sanctity
were beyond compare.'--June 15, 1711, p. 228.]

[Footnote 28: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 540.]

[Footnote 29: _Reliq. Hearnianæ_, 1710, March 4, p. 188.]

[Footnote 30: Brokesby's _Life of Dodwell_, 534.]

[Footnote 31: No. 187.]

[Footnote 32: Brokesby's _Life of Dodwell_, chap. x. 73.]

[Footnote 33: Hunt, J., _Religious Thought in England_, ii. 85.]

[Footnote 34: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 705.]

[Footnote 35: Dodwell's _Append. to Case in View, now in Fact_, and his
_On Occasional Communion, Life_, pp. 474 and 419.]

[Footnote 36: _Life of Kettlewell_, 128.]

[Footnote 37: Quoted in Brokesby's _Life of Dodwell_, 546.]

[Footnote 38: Id. 541.]

[Footnote 39: Macaulay's _History of England_, chap. 12.]

[Footnote 40: Id.]

[Footnote 41: Secretan, 63.]

[Footnote 42: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 439.]

[Footnote 43: _Life of Kettlewell_, App. No. 3.]

[Footnote 44: _Life of Ken_, &c., 718.]

[Footnote 45: Hunt, ii. 375.]

[Footnote 46: Letter to Nelson. _Life of Bull_, 441.]

[Footnote 47: _Life of Ken_, &c., 719.]

[Footnote 48: Hunt, ii. 76.]

[Footnote 49: Hickes, 9, _Enthusiasm Exorcised_, 64.]

[Footnote 50: Lathbury's _History of the Nonjurors_, 216. Seward speaks
of him as 'this learned prelate.'--_Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons_,

[Footnote 51: Secretan, 70. He was much fascinated by the writings of
Madame Bourignon.--Hearne to Rawlinson, quoted in Wilson's _History of
Merchant Taylors_, 957.]

[Footnote 52: _History of Montanism_, &c., 344.]

[Footnote 53: Secretan, 273.]

[Footnote 54: Id. 70.]

[Footnote 55: Secretan, 171. Wilson quotes from the Rawlinson MSS. a
very beautiful prayer composed by Lee soon before his death, for 'all
Christians, however divided or distinguished ... throughout the whole
militant Church upon earth.'--_History of Merchant Taylors_, 956.]

[Footnote 56: Hearne dwells enthusiastically on his high qualities, his
religious conscientiousness, his learning, modesty, sweet temper, his
charity in prosperity, his resignation in adverse fortune.--_Reliquiæ_,
i. 287.]

[Footnote 57: Secretan, 50, 69, 284. He was a learned man, a student of
many languages.--_Nichols_, i. 124.]

[Footnote 58: Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, iv. 256.]

[Footnote 59: A regular form of admission 'into the true and Catholic
remnant of the Britannick Churches,' was drawn up for this
purpose.--_Life of Kettlewell_, App. xvii.]

[Footnote 60: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 4.]

[Footnote 61: Speech before the House of Lords, 1705.--Nelson's _Life of
Bull_, 355.]

[Footnote 62: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 11. Archdeacon Conant stood very
high in Tillotson's estimation, as a man 'whose learning, piety, and
thorough knowledge of the true principles of Christianity would have
adorned the highest station.'--Birch's _Life of Tillotson_, _Works_, i.

[Footnote 63: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 243-9. Dorner, ii. 83.]

[Footnote 64: Secretan, 255.]

[Footnote 65: Birch's _Life of Tillotson_, lxxxviii.]

[Footnote 66: 'Concio ad Synodum,' quoted by Macaulay, _History of
England_, chap. xiv.]

[Footnote 67: Secretan, 135.]

[Footnote 68: _Life of Bull_, 64.]

[Footnote 69: Sharp's _Life_, by his Son, ii. 32. Secretan, 78-9.]

[Footnote 70: _Life of Bull_, 238.]

[Footnote 71: _Life_, by his Son, ii. 28.]

[Footnote 72: Secretan, 178.]

[Footnote 73: 'None,' said Willis in his _Survey of Cathedrals_, 'were
so well served as that of York, under Sharp.'--_Life of Sharp_, i. 120.]

[Footnote 74: _Thoresby's Correspondence_, i. 274.]

[Footnote 75: _Life_, i. 264.]

[Footnote 76: Dodwell's 'Case in View,' quoted in Lathbury's _History of
the Nonjurors_, 197.]

[Footnote 77: _Life_, i. 264.]

[Footnote 78: Secretan, 285.]

[Footnote 79: Nichols' _Lit. An._ i. 190.]

[Footnote 80: Nos. 72 and 114.]

[Footnote 81: 'Animadversions on the two last January 30 sermons,' 1702.
The same might be said of his 'Sermon before the Court of Aldermen,'
January 30, 1704.]

[Footnote 82: Lord Mahon's _History of England_, chap. 12.]

[Footnote 83: Secretan, 223.]

[Footnote 84: The parallel with an interesting portion of I. Casaubon's
life is singularly close. See Pattison's _Isaac Casaubon_, chap. 5.]

[Footnote 85: In conjunction with Archbishop Sharp, Smalridge, and
Jablouski, &c. See Chapter on 'Comprehension, &c.']

[Footnote 86: Secretan, 221, note. Nelson gives a full account of Dr.
Grabe in his _Life of Bull_, 343-6.]

[Footnote 87: Memoirs, 154.]

[Footnote 88: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 619-20.]

[Footnote 89: Secretan, 142.]

[Footnote 90: Oglethorpe and Nelson sometimes met here. Secretan, 211.]

[Footnote 91: He was one of the many writers against the Deists. It was
to his credit, that although he had been strongly opposed to Atterbury
in controversy, he earnestly supported him in what he thought an
oppressive prosecution.--Williams' _Memoirs of Atterbury_, i. 417.]

[Footnote 92: S. xx _Works_, ii. 252.]

[Footnote 93: Bishop Magee, Charge at Northampton, October 1872.]

[Footnote 94: J.J. Blunt, _Early Fathers_, 19; also Archbishop Manning's
_Essays_, Series 2, 4.]

[Footnote 95: Lord Somers' 'Judgment of whole Kingdoms.... As to Rights
of Kings,' 1710, § 117.]

[Footnote 96: _Life of Kettlewell_, App. No. 13. Kettlewell uses the
same words, Id. p. 87.]

[Footnote 97: Letter to his Nephew, Nichols' _Lit. An._ iv. 219.]

[Footnote 98: Lathbury, 94.]

[Footnote 99: A letter from Burnet to Compton, quoted from the Rawl.
MSS. in _Life of Ken_, 527.]

[Footnote 100: Birch's _Tillotson_, lxxv.]

[Footnote 101: _Life of Kettlewell_, 87.]

[Footnote 102: Whaley N., Sermon before the University of Oxford,
January 30, 1710, 16.]

[Footnote 103: Lee's _Life of Kettlewell_, 167.]

[Footnote 104: Warburton's 'Alliance,' iv. 173.]

[Footnote 105: 'The supremacy of the Queen is, in the sense used by the
noble lord, no better than a fiction. There might have been such a
supremacy down to the times of James II., but now there is no supremacy
but that of the three estates of the realm and the supremacy of the
law.'--J. Bright's _Speeches_, ii. 475.]

[Footnote 106: Lathbury, 129. _Life of Kettlewell_, 139.]

[Footnote 107: Lathbury, 91.]

[Footnote 108: Dodwell's _Further Prospect of the Case in View_, 1707,
19, 111, quoted in Lathbury, 201, 203.]

[Footnote 109: Birch's _Life of Tillotson_, clxxxiii.]

[Footnote 110: _Life of Kettlewell_, App. 17.]

[Footnote 111: Hearne's _Reliquiæ_, ii. 257.]

[Footnote 112: Lathbury, 388.]

[Footnote 113: Secretan, 37, 65.]

[Footnote 114: Hunt, 3, 257, and Cassan's _Lives of the Bishops of
Winchester_, 379. Cassan, quoting from Noble, says Trimnell was a very
good man,'whom even the Tories valued, though he preached terrible Whig

[Footnote 115: Id.]

[Footnote 116: _Life of Kettlewell_, 56.]

[Footnote 117: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 178.]

[Footnote 118: Brokesby's _Life of Dodwell_, 363.]

[Footnote 119: Secretan, 178-9. Teale, 297.]

[Footnote 120: _Sharp's Life_, by his Son, i. 355, and Secretan, 178.]

[Footnote 121: Beveridge's _Necessity and Advantage of Frequent
Communion_, 1708.]

[Footnote 122: Lathbury, 302.]

[Footnote 123: In answer to Lavington, who charged him with prayers to
that effect in his _Devotions for every day in the Week_ (_Enthusiasm of
Methodists and Papists_, 157), Wesley answered, 'In this kind of general
prayer for the faithful departed, I conceive myself to be clearly
justified both by the earliest antiquity and by the Church of
England.'--'Answer to Lavington,' _Works_, ix. 55, also 'Letter to Dr.
Middleton,' _Works_, x. 9.]

[Footnote 124: _Boswell's Life_, i. 187, 101, ii. 166.]

[Footnote 125: Hearne's _Reliquiæ_, ii. 188.]

[Footnote 126: Lathbury, 302.]

[Footnote 127: Wake's _Three Tracts against Popery_, § 3. Quoted with
much censure by Blackburne, _Historical View_, &c., 115.]

[Footnote 128: Lathbury, 300.]

[Footnote 129: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 405.]

[Footnote 130: Bowles' _Life of Ken_, 38.]

[Footnote 131: Lathbury, 297, 302. The custom is spoken of as frequent
among the High Churchmen of 1710-20.--_Life of Kennet_, 125.]

[Footnote 132: _Life of Kettlewell_, 130.]

[Footnote 133: A.P. Stanley's _Eastern Church_, 410.]

[Footnote 134: A.P. Stanley's _Eastern Church_, 453, 462.]

[Footnote 135: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 808.]

[Footnote 136: Burnet, writing in 1694, remarking on 'the present
depressed and ignorant state of the Greek Churches,' speaks also with
warm sympathy of their poverty and persecution--'a peculiar character of
bearing the Cross.'--_Four Sermons, &c._, 198.]

[Footnote 137: _Biographical Dictionary_, 'Ludolph.]

[Footnote 138: Christopher Wordsworth, _University Life in the
Eighteenth Century_, 331.]

[Footnote 139: Secretan, 103.]

[Footnote 140: Wordsworth, _University Life_, &c. 324-5.]

[Footnote 141: Teale, 302.--This was in 1707. Archbishop Sharp gave his
help in furthering this work.--_Life_, i. 402.]

[Footnote 142: Evans' _Life of Frampton_, 44.]

[Footnote 143: Secretan, ii. 220-2. Hearne's _Reliquiæ_, ii. 230.]

[Footnote 144: Pp. 309-59.]

[Footnote 145: Secretan, 195.]

[Footnote 146: Bowles' _Life of Ken_, 247.]

       *       *       *       *       *



Of the many controversies which were rife during the first half of the
eighteenth century, none raised a question of greater importance than
that which lay at the root of the Deistical controversy. That question
was, in a word, this--How has God revealed Himself--how is He still
revealing Himself to man? Is the so-called written Word the only
means--is it the chief means--is it even a means at all, by which the
Creator makes His will known to His creatures? Admitting the existence
of a God--and with a few insignificant exceptions this admission would
have been made by all--What are the evidences of His existence and of
His dealings with us?

During the whole period of pre-reformation Christianity in England, and
during the century which succeeded the rupture between the Church of
England and that of Rome, all answers to this question, widely though
they might have differed in subordinate points, would at least have
agreed in this--that _some_ external authority, whether it were the
Scripture as interpreted by the Church, or the Scripture and Church
traditions combined, or the Scripture interpreted by the light which
itself affords or by the inner light which lighteth every man that
cometh into the world, was necessary to manifest God to man. The Deists
first ventured to hint that such authority was unnecessary; some even
went so far as to hint that it was impossible. This at least was the
tendency of their speculations; though it was not the avowed object of
them. There was hardly a writer among the Deists who did not affirm that
he had no wish to depreciate revealed truth. They all protested
vigorously against the assumption that Deism was in any way opposed to
Christianity rightly understood. 'Deism,' they said, 'is opposed to
Atheism on the one side and to superstition on the other; but to
Christianity--true, original Christianity--as it came forth from the
hands of its founder, the Deists are so far from being opposed, that
they are its truest defenders.' Whether their position was logically
tenable is quite another question, but that they assumed it in all
sincerity there is no reason to doubt.

It is, however, extremely difficult to assert or deny anything
respecting the Deists as a body, for as a matter of fact they had no
corporate existence. The writers who are generally grouped under the
name wrote apparently upon no preconcerted plan. They formed no sect,
properly so-called, and were bound by no creed. In this sense at least
they were genuine 'freethinkers,' in that they freely expressed their
thoughts without the slightest regard to what had been said or might be
said by their friends or foes. It was the fashion among their
contemporaries to speak of the Deists as if they were as distinct a sect
as the Quakers, the Socinians, the Presbyterians, or any other religious
denomination. But we look in vain for any common doctrine--any common
form of worship which belonged to the Deists as Deists. As a rule, they
showed no desire to separate themselves from communion with the National
Church, although they were quite out of harmony both with the articles
of its belief and the spirit of its prayers. A few negative tenets were
perhaps more or less common to all. That no traditional revelation can
have the same force of conviction as the direct revelation which God has
given to all mankind--in other words, that what is called revealed
religion must be inferior and subordinate to natural--that the
Scriptures must be criticised like any other book, and no part of them
be accepted as a revelation from God which does not harmonise with the
eternal and immutable reason of things; that, in point of fact, the Old
Testament is a tissue of fables and folly, and the New Testament has
much alloy mingled with the gold which it contains; that Jesus Christ is
not co-equal with the one God, and that his death can in no sense be
regarded as an atonement for sin, are tenets which may be found in most
of the Deistical writings; but beyond these negative points there is
little or nothing in common between the heterogeneous body of writers
who passed under the vague name of Deists. To complicate matters still
further, the name 'Deist' was loosely applied as a name of reproach to
men who, in the widest sense of the term, do not come within its
meaning. Thus Cudworth, Tillotson, Locke, and Samuel Clarke were
stigmatised as Deists by their enemies. On the other hand, men were
grouped under the category whose faith did not rise to the level of
Deism. Thus Hume is classified among the Deists. Yet if the term 'Deism'
is allowed to have any definite meaning at all, it implies the certainty
and obligation of natural religion. It is of its very essence that God
has revealed himself so plainly to mankind that there is no necessity,
as there is no sufficient evidence, for a better revelation. But Hume's
scepticism embraced natural as well as revealed religion. Hobbes, again,
occupies a prominent place among the Deists of the seventeenth century,
although the whole nature of his argument in 'The Leviathan' is alien to
the central thought of Deism. Add to all this, that the Deists proper
were constantly accused of holding views which they never held, and that
conclusions were drawn from their premisses which those premisses did
not warrant, and the difficulty of treating the subject as a whole will
be readily perceived. And yet treated it must be; the most superficial
sketch of English Church History during the eighteenth century would be
almost imperfect if it did not give a prominent place to this topic, for
it was the all-absorbing topic of a considerable portion of the period.

The Deistical writers attracted attention out of all proportion to their
literary merit. The pulpit rang with denunciations of their doctrines.
The press teemed with answers to their arguments. It may seem strange
that a mere handful of not very voluminous writers, not one of whom can
be said to have attained to the eminence of an English classic,[147]
should have created such a vast amount of excitement. But the excitement
was really caused by the subject itself, not by the method in which it
was handled. The Deists only gave expression--often a very coarse and
inadequate expression--to thoughts which the circumstances of the times
could scarcely fail to suggest.

The Scriptures had for many years been used to sanction the most
diametrically opposite views. They had been the watchword of each party
in turn whose extravagances had been the cause of all the disasters and
errors of several generations. Romanists had quoted them when they
condemned Protestants to the stake, Protestants when they condemned
Jesuits to the block. The Roundhead had founded his wild reign of
fanaticism on their authority. The Cavalier had texts ready at hand to
sanction the most unconstitutional measures. 'The right divine of kings
to govern wrong' had been grounded on Scriptural authority. All the
strange vagaries in which the seventeenth century had been so fruitful
claimed the voice of Scripture in their favour.

Such reckless use of Scripture tended to throw discredit upon it as a
revelation from God; while, on the other hand, the grand discoveries in
natural science which were a distinguishing feature of the seventeenth
century equally tended to exalt men's notions of that other revelation
of Himself which God has made in the Book of Nature. The calm attitude
of the men of science who had been steadily advancing in the knowledge
of the natural world, and by each fresh discovery had given fresh proofs
of the power, and wisdom, and goodness of God, stood forth in painful
contrast with the profitless wranglings and bitter animosities of
Divines. Men might well begin to ask themselves whether they could not
find rest from theological strife in natural religion? and the real
object of the Deists was to demonstrate that they could.

Thus the period of Deism was the period of a great religious crisis in
England. It is our present purpose briefly to trace the progress and
termination of this crisis.

It is hardly necessary to remark that Deism was not a product of the
eighteenth century. The spirit in which Deism appeared in its most
pronounced form had been growing for many generations previous to that
date. But we must pass over the earlier Deists, of whom the most
notable was Lord Herbert of Cherbury, and come at once to a writer who,
although his most notorious work was published before the seventeenth
century closed, lived and wrote during the eighteenth, and may fairly be
regarded as belonging to that era.

No work which can be properly called Deistical had raised anything like
the excitement which was caused by the anonymous publication in 1696 of
a short and incomplete treatise entitled 'Christianity not Mysterious,
or a Discourse showing that there is nothing in the Gospel contrary to
Reason nor above it, and that no Christian Doctrine can properly be
called a Mystery.' In the second edition, published the same year, the
author discovered himself to be a young Irishman of the name of John
Toland, who had been brought up a Roman Catholic. Leland passes over
this work with a slight notice; but it marked a distinct epoch in
Deistical literature. For the first time, the secular arm was brought to
bear upon a writer of this school. The book was presented by the Grand
Jury of Middlesex, and was burnt by the hands of the hangman in Dublin
by order of the Irish House of Commons. It was subsequently condemned as
heretical and impious by the Lower House of Convocation, which body felt
itself bitterly aggrieved when the Upper House refused to confirm the
sentence. These official censures were a reflex of the opinions
expressed out of doors. Pulpits rang with denunciations and confutations
of the new heretic, especially in his own country. A sermon against him
was 'as much expected as if it had been prescribed in the rubric;' an
Irish peer gave it as a reason why he had ceased to attend church that
once he heard something there about his Saviour Jesus Christ, but now
all the discourse was about one John Toland.[148]

Toland being a vain man rather enjoyed this notoriety than otherwise;
but if his own account of the object of his publication be correct (and
there is no reason to doubt his sincerity), he was singularly
unsuccessful in impressing his real meaning upon his contemporaries. He
affirmed that 'he wrote his book to defend Christianity, and prayed that
God would give him grace to vindicate religion,' and at a later period
he published his creed in terms that would satisfy the most orthodox

For an explanation of the extraordinary discrepancy between the avowed
object of the writer and the alleged tendency of his book we naturally
turn to the work itself. After stating the conflicting views of divines
about the Gospel mysteries, the author maintains that there is nothing
in the Gospel contrary to reason nor above it, and that no Christian
doctrine can be properly called a mystery. He then defines the functions
of reason, and proceeds to controvert the two following positions, (1)
that though reason and the Gospel are not in themselves contradictory,
yet according to our conception of them they may seem directly to clash;
and (2) that we are to adore what we cannot comprehend. He declares that
what Infinite Goodness has not been pleased to reveal to us, we are
either sufficiently capable of discovering ourselves or need not
understand at all. He affirms that 'mystery' in the New Testament is
never put for anything inconceivable in itself or not to be judged by
our ordinary faculties; and concludes by showing that mysteries in the
present sense of the term were imported into Christianity partly by
Judaisers, but mainly by the heathen introducing their old mysteries
into Christianity when they were converted.

The stir which this small work created, marks a new phase in the history
of Deism. Compared with Lord Herbert's elaborate treatises, it is an
utterly insignificant work; but the excitement caused by Lord Herbert's
books was as nothing when compared with that which Toland's fragment
raised. The explanation may perhaps be found in the fact that at the
later date men's minds were more at leisure to consider the questions
raised than they were at the earlier, and also that they perceived, or
fancied they perceived, more clearly the drift of such speculations. A
little tract, published towards the end of the seventeenth century,
entitled 'The Growth of Deism,' brings out these points; and as a matter
of fact we find that for the next half century the minds of all classes
were on the alert--some in sympathy with, many more in bitter antagonism
against Deistical speculations. In his later writings, Toland went much
further in the direction of infidelity, if not of absolute Atheism, than
he did in his first work.

The next writer who comes under our notice was a greater man in every
sense of the term than Toland. Lord Shaftesbury's 'Miscellaneous
Essays,' which were ultimately grouped in one work, under the title of
'Characteristics of Men and Manners, &c.,' only bear incidentally upon
the points at issue between the Deists and the orthodox. But scattered
here and there are passages which show how strongly the writer felt upon
the subject. Leland was called to account, and half apologises for
ranking Shaftesbury among the Deists at all.[149] And there certainly is
one point of view from which Shaftesbury's speculations may be regarded
not only as Christian, but as greatly in advance of the Christianity of
many of the orthodox writers of his day. As a protest against the
selfish, utilitarian view of Christianity which was utterly at variance
with the spirit displayed and inculcated by Him 'who pleased not
Himself,' Lord Shaftesbury's work deserves the high tribute paid to it
by its latest editor, 'as a monument to immutable morality and Christian
philosophy which has survived many changes of opinion and revolutions of
thought.'[150] But from another point of view we shall come to a very
different conclusion.

Shaftesbury was regarded by his contemporaries as a decided and
formidable adversary of Christianity. Pope told Warburton,[151] that 'to
his knowledge "The Characteristics" had done more harm to Revealed
Religion in England than all the works of Infidelity put together.'
Voltaire called him 'even a too vehement opponent of Christianity.'
Warburton, while admitting his many excellent qualities both as a man
and as a writer, speaks of 'the inveterate rancour which he indulged
against Christianity.'[152]

A careful examination of Shaftesbury's writings can hardly fail to lead
us to the same conclusion. He writes, indeed, as an easy, well-bred man
of the world, and was no doubt perfectly sincere in his constantly
repeated disavowal of any wish to disturb the existing state of things.
But his reason obviously is that 'the game would not be worth the
candle.' No one can fail to perceive a contemptuous irony in many
passages in which Shaftesbury affirms his orthodoxy, or when he touches
upon the persecution of the early Christians, or upon the mysteries of
Christianity, or upon the sacred duty of complying with the established
religion with unreasoning faith, or upon his presumed scepticism, or
upon the nature of the Christian miracles, or upon the character of our
Blessed Saviour, or upon the representation of God in the Old Testament,
or upon the supposed omission of the virtue of friendship in the
Christian system of ethics.

It is needless to quote the passages in which Shaftesbury, like the
other Deists, abuses the Jews; neither is it necessary to dwell upon his
strange argument that ridicule is the best test of truth. In this, as in
other parts of his writings, it is often difficult to see when he is
writing seriously, when ironically. Perhaps he has himself furnished us
with the means of solving the difficulty. 'If,' he writes, 'men are
forbidden to speak their minds seriously on certain subjects, they will
do it ironically. If they are forbidden to speak at all upon such
subjects, or if they find it really dangerous to do so, they will then
redouble their disguise, involve themselves in mysteriousness, and talk
so as hardly to be understood or at least not plainly interpreted by
those who are disposed to do them a mischief.'[153] The general
tendency, however, of his writings is pretty clear, and is in harmony
with the Deistical theory that God's revelation of Himself in Nature is
certain, clear, and sufficient for all practical purposes, while any
other revelation is uncertain, obscure, and unnecessary. But he holds
that it would be unmannerly and disadvantageous to the interests of the
community to act upon this doctrine in practical life. 'Better take
things as they are. Laugh in your sleeve, if you will, at the follies
which priestcraft has imposed upon mankind; but do not show your bad
taste and bad humour by striving to battle against the stream of popular
opinion. When you are at Rome, do as Rome does. The question "What is
truth?" is a highly inconvenient one. If you must ask it, ask it to

It must be confessed that such low views of religion and morality are
strangely at variance with the exalted notions of the disinterestedness
of virtue which form the staple of one of Shaftesbury's most important
treatises. To reconcile the discrepancy seems impossible. Only let us
take care that while we emphatically repudiate the immoral compromise
between truth and expediency which Shaftesbury recommends, we do not
lose sight of the real service which he has rendered to religion as well
as philosophy by showing the excellency of virtue in itself without
regard to the rewards and punishments which are attached to its pursuit
or neglect.

The year before 'The Characteristics' appeared as a single work (1713),
a small treatise was published anonymously which was at first assigned
to the author of 'Christianity not Mysterious,' and which almost
rivalled that notorious work in the attention which it excited, out of
all proportion to its intrinsic merits. It was entitled 'A Discourse of
Freethinking, occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect called
Freethinkers,' and was presently owned as the work of Anthony Collins,
an author who had previously entered into the lists of controversy in
connection with the disputes of Sacheverell, Dodwell, and Clarke. 'The
Discourse of Freethinking' was in itself a slight performance. Its
general scope was to show that every man has a right to think freely on
all religious as well as other subjects, and that the exercise of this
right is the sole remedy for the evil of superstition. The necessity of
freethinking is shown by the endless variety of opinions which priests
hold about all religious questions. Then the various objections to
Freethinking are considered, and the treatise ends with a list and
description of wise and virtuous Freethinkers--nineteen in number--from
Socrates to Tillotson.

In estimating the merits of this little book, and in accounting for the
excitement which it produced, we must not forget that what may now
appear to us truisms were 170 years ago new truths, even if they were
recognised as truths at all. At the beginning of the eighteenth century
it was not an unnecessary task to vindicate the right of every man to
think freely; and if Collins had performed the work which he had taken
in hand fully and fairly he might have done good service. But while
professedly advocating the duty of thinking freely, he showed so obvious
a bias in favour of thinking in a particular direction, and wrested
facts and quoted authorities in so one-sided a manner, that he laid
himself open to the just strictures of many who valued and practised
equally with himself the right of freethinking. Some of the most famous
men of the day at once entered into the lists against him, amongst whom
were Hoadly,[154] Swift, Whiston, Berkeley, and above all Bentley. The
latter, under the title of 'Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,' wrote in the
character of a German Lutheran to his English friend, Dr. Francis Hare,
'Remarks on a Discourse on Freethinking.' Regarded as a piece of
intellectual gladiatorship the Remarks are justly entitled to the fame
they have achieved. The great critic exposed unmercifully and
unanswerably Collins's slips in scholarship, ridiculed his style, made
merry over the rising and growing sect which professed its competency to
think _de quolibet ente_, protested indignantly against putting the
Talapoins of Siam on a level with the whole clergy of England, 'the
light and glory of Christianity,' and denied the right of the title of
Freethinkers to men who brought scandal on so good a word.

Bentley hit several blots, not only in Collins, but in others of the
'rising and growing sect.' The argument, _e.g._, drawn from the variety
of readings in the New Testament, is not only demolished but adroitly
used to place his adversary on the horns of a dilemma. Nothing again,
can be neater than his answer to various objections by showing that
those objections had been brought to light by Christians themselves. And
yet the general impression, when one has read Collins and Bentley
carefully, is that there is a real element of truth in the former to
which the latter has not done justice; that Bentley presses Collins's
arguments beyond their logical conclusion; that Collins is not what
Bentley would have him to be--a mere Materialist--an Atheist in
disguise; that Bentley's insinuation, that looseness of living is the
cause of his looseness of belief, is ungenerous, and requires proof
which Bentley has not given: that the bitter abuse which he heaps upon
his adversary as 'a wretched gleaner of weeds,' 'a pert teacher of his
betters,' 'an unsociable animal,' 'an obstinate and intractable wretch,'
and much more to the same effect, is unworthy of a Christian clergyman,
and calculated to damage rather than do service to the cause which he
has at heart.

Collins himself was not put to silence. Besides other writings of minor
importance, he published in 1724 the most weighty of all his works, a
'Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion.' The
object of this book is to show that Christianity is entirely founded on
the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, and then to prove that
these prophecies were fulfilled not in a literal, but only in a typical
or secondary sense. Novelty, he argues, is a weighty reproach against
any religious institution; the truth of Christianity must depend upon
the old dispensation; it is founded on Judaism. Jesus makes claim to
obedience only so far as He is the Messias of the Old Testament; the
fundamental article of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth is the
Jewish Messiah, and this can only be known out of the Old Testament. In
fact, the Old Testament is the _only_ canon of Christians; for the New
Testament is not a law book for the ruling of the Church. The Apostles
rest their proof of Christianity only on the Old Testament. If this
proof is valid, Christianity is strong and built upon its true grounds;
if weak, Christianity is false. For no miracles, no authority of the New
Testament can prove its truth; miracles can only be a proof so far as
they are comprehended in and exactly consonant with the prophecies
concerning the Messias. It is only in this sense that Jesus appeals to
His miracles. Christianity, in a word, is simply the allegorical sense
of the Old Testament, and therefore may be rightly called 'Mystical

As all this bore the appearance of explaining away Christianity
altogether, or at least of making it rest upon the most shadowy and
unsubstantial grounds, there is no wonder that it called forth a
vehement opposition: no less than thirty-five answerers appeared within
two years of its publication, among whom are found the great names of T.
Sherlock, Zachary Pearce, S. Clarke, and Dr. Chandler. The latter wrote
the most solid and profound, if not the most brilliant work which the
Deistical controversy had yet called forth.

But the strangest outcome of Collins's famous book was the work of
Woolston, an eccentric writer who is generally classed among the Deists,
but who was in fact _sui generis_. In the Collins Controversy, Woolston
appears as a moderator between an infidel and an apostate, the infidel
being Collins, and the apostate the Church of England, which had left
the good old paths of allegory to become slaves of the letter. In this,
as in previous works, he rides his hobby, which was a strange perversion
of patristic notions, to the death; and a few years later he returned to
the charge in one of the wildest, craziest books that ever was written
by human pen. It was entitled 'Six Discourses on the Miracles,' and in
it the literal interpretation of the New Testament miracles is ridiculed
with the coarsest blasphemy, while the mystical interpretations which he
substitutes in its place read like the disordered fancies of a sick
man's dream. He professes simply to follow the fathers, ignoring the
fact that the fathers, as a rule, had grafted their allegorical
interpretation upon the literal history, not substituted the one for the
other. Woolston was the only Deist--if Deist he is to be called,--who as
yet had suffered anything like persecution; indeed, with one exception,
and that a doubtful one, he was the only one who ever did. He was
brought before the King's Bench, condemned to pay 25_l._ for each of his
Six Discourses, and to suffer a year's imprisonment; after which he was
only to regain his liberty upon finding either two securities for
1,000_l._ or four for 500_l._; as no one would go bail for him, he
remained in prison until his death in 1731. The punishment was a cruel
one, considering the state of the poor man's mind, of the disordered
condition of which he was himself conscious. If he deserved to lose his
liberty at all, an asylum would have been a more fitting place of
confinement for him than a prison. But if we regard his writings as the
writings of a sane man, which, strange to say, his contemporaries appear
to have done, we can hardly be surprised at the fate he met with.
Supposing that _any_ blasphemous publication deserved punishment--a
supposition which in Woolston's days would have been granted as a matter
of course--it is impossible to conceive anything more outrageously
blasphemous than what is found in Woolston's wild book. The only strange
part of the matter was that it should have been treated seriously at
all. 30,000 copies of his discourses on the miracles were sold quickly
and at a very dear rate; whole bales of them were sent over to America.
Sixty adversaries wrote against him; and the Bishop of London thought it
necessary to send five pastoral letters to the people of his diocese on
the subject.

The works of Woolston were, however, in one way important, inasmuch as
they called the public attention to the miracles of our Lord, and
especially to the greatest miracle of all--His own Resurrection. The
most notable of the answers to Woolston was Thomas Sherlock's 'Tryal of
the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.' This again called forth an
anonymous pamphlet entitled 'The Resurrection of Jesus considered,' by a
'moral philosopher,' who afterwards proved to be one Peter Annet. In no
strict sense of the term can Annet be called a Deist, though he is often
ranked in that class. His name is, however, worth noticing, from his
connection with the important and somewhat curiously conducted
controversy respecting the Resurrection, to which Sherlock's 'Tryal of
the Witnesses' gave both the impulse and the form. Annet, like Woolston,
was prosecuted for blasphemy and profanity; and if the secular arm
should ever be appealed to in such matters, which is doubtful, he
deserved it by the coarse ribaldry of his attacks upon sacred things.

It has been thought better to present at one view the works which were
written on the miracles. This, however, is anticipating. The year after
the publication of Woolston's discourses, and some years before Annet
wrote, by far the most important work which ever appeared on the part of
the Deists was published. Hitherto Deism had mainly been treated on its
negative or destructive side. The mysteries of Christianity, the
limitations to thought which it imposes, its system of rewards and
punishments, its fulfilment of prophecy, its miracles, had been in turn
attacked. The question then naturally arises, 'What will you substitute
in its place?' or rather, to put the question as a Deist would have put
it, 'What will you substitute in the place of the popular conception of
Christianity?' for this alone, not Christianity itself, Deism professed
to attack. In other words, 'What is the positive or constructive side of

This question Tindal attempts to answer in his 'Christianity as old as
the Creation.' The answer is a plain one, and the arguments by which he
supports it are repeated with an almost wearisome iteration. 'The
religion of nature,' he writes, 'is absolutely perfect; Revelation can
neither add to nor take from its perfection.' 'The law of nature has the
highest internal excellence, the greatest plainness, simplicity,
unanimity, universality, antiquity, and eternity. It does not depend
upon the uncertain meaning of words and phrases in dead languages, much
less upon types, metaphors, allegories, parables, or on the skill or
honesty of weak or designing transcribers (not to mention translators)
for many ages together, but on the immutable relation of things always
visible to the whole world.' Tindal is fond of stating the question in
the form of a dilemma. 'The law of nature,' he writes, 'either is or is
not a perfect law; if the first, it is not capable of additions; if the
last, does it not argue want of wisdom in the Legislator in first
enacting such an imperfect law, and then in letting it continue thus
imperfect from age to age, and at last thinking to make it absolutely
perfect by adding some merely positive and arbitrary precepts?' And
again, 'Revelation either bids or forbids men to use their reason in
judging of all religious matters; if the former, then it only declares
that to be our duty which was so, independent of and antecedent to
revelation; if the latter, then it does not deal with men as rational
creatures. Everyone is of this opinion who says we are not to read
Scripture with freedom of assenting or dissenting, just as we judge it
agrees or disagrees with the light of nature and reason of things.'
Coming more definitely to the way in which we are to treat the written
word, he writes: 'Admit all for Scripture that tends to the honour of
God, and nothing which does not.' Finally, he sums up by declaring in
yet plainer words the absolute identity of Christianity with natural
religion. 'God never intended mankind should be without a religion, or
could ordain an imperfect religion; there must have been from the
beginning a religion most perfect, which mankind at all times were
capable of knowing; Christianity is this perfect, original religion.'

In this book Deism reaches its climax. The sensation which it created
was greater than even Toland or Collins had raised. No less than one
hundred and fifteen answers appeared, one of the most remarkable of
which was Conybeare's 'Defence of Revealed Religion against
"Christianity as old as the Creation."' Avoiding the scurrility and
personality which characterised and marred most of the works written on
both sides of the question, Conybeare discusses in calm and dignified,
but at the same time luminous and impressive language, the important
question which Tindal had raised. Doing full justice to the element of
truth which Tindal's work contained, he unravels the complications in
which it is involved, shows that the author had confused two distinct
meanings of the phrase 'natural reason' or 'natural religion,' viz. (1)
that which is _founded_ on the nature and reason of things, and (2) that
which is _discoverable_ by man's natural power of mind, and
distinguishes between that which is perfect in its kind and that which
is absolutely perfect. This powerful work is but little known in the
present day. But it was highly appreciated by Conybeare's
contemporaries, and the German historian of English Deism hardly knows
how to find language strong enough to express his admiration of its

But Tindal had the honour of calling forth a still stronger adversary
than Conybeare. Butler's 'Analogy' deals with the arguments of
'Christianity as old as the Creation' more than with those of any other
book; but as this was not avowedly its object, and as it covered a far
wider ground than Tindal did, embracing in fact the whole range of the
Deistical controversy, it will be better to postpone the consideration
of this masterpiece until the sequel.

By friend and foe alike Tindal seems to have been regarded as the chief
exponent of Deism. Skelton in his 'Deism revealed' (published in 1748)
says that 'Tindal is the great apostle of Deism who has gathered
together the whole strength of the party, and his book is become the
bible of all Deistical readers.' Warburton places him at the head of his
party, classifying the Deists, 'from the mighty author of "Christianity
as old as the Creation," to the drunken, blaspheming cobbler who wrote
against Jesus and the Resurrection.'[156] The subsequent writers on the
Deistical side took their cue from Tindal, thus showing the estimation
in which his book was held by his own party.

Tindal was in many respects fitted for the position which he occupied.
He was an old man when he wrote his great work, and had observed and
taken an interest in the whole course of the Deistical controversy for
more than forty years. He had himself passed through many phases of
religion, having been a pupil of Hickes the Nonjuror, at Lincoln
College, Oxford, then a Roman Catholic, then a Low Churchman, and
finally, to use his own designation of himself, 'a Christian Deist.' He
had, no doubt, carefully studied the various writings of the Deists and
their opponents, and had detected the weak points of all. His book is
written in a comparatively temperate spirit, and the subject is treated
with great thoroughness and ability. Still it has many drawbacks, even
from a literary point of view. It is written in the wearisome form of
dialogue, and the writer falls into that error to which all
controversial writers in dialogue are peculiarly liable. When a man has
to slay giants of his own creation, he is sorely tempted to make his
giants no stronger than dwarfs. To this temptation Tindal yielded. His
defender of orthodoxy is so very weak, that a victory over him is no
great achievement. Again, there is a want of order and lucidity in his
book, and not sufficient precision in his definitions. But the worst
fault of all is the unfairness of his quotations, both from the Bible
and other books.

Perhaps one reason why, in spite of these defects, the book exercised so
vast an influence is, that the minds of many who sympathised with the
destructive process employed by preceding Deists may have begun to yearn
for something more constructive. They might ask themselves, 'What then
_is_ our religion to be? And Tindal answers the question after a
fashion. 'It is to be the religion of nature, and an expurgated
Christianity in so far as it agrees with the religion of nature.' The
answer is a somewhat vague one, but better than none, and as such may
have been welcomed. This, however, is mere conjecture.

Deism, as we have seen, had now reached its zenith; henceforth its
history is the history of a rapid decline. Tindal did not live to
complete his work; but after his death it was taken up by far feebler

Dr. Morgan in a work entitled 'The Moral Philosopher, or a Dialogue
between Philalethes a Christian Deist, and Theophanes a Christian Jew,'
follows closely in Tindal's footsteps. Like him, he insists upon the
absolute perfection of the law or religion of nature, of which
Christianity is only a republication. Like him, he professes himself a
Christian Deist and vigorously protests against being supposed to be an
enemy to Christianity. But his work is inferior to Tindal's in every
respect. It is an ill-written book. It is mainly directed against the
Jewish economy. But Morgan takes a far wider range than this, embracing
the whole of the Old Testament, which he appears to read backward,
finding objects of admiration in what are there set before us as objects
of reprobation and _vice versa_.

But though Morgan deals mainly with the Old Testament, he throws
considerable doubt in his third volume upon the New. The account given
of the life of Christ, still more, that of His Resurrection, and above
all, the miracles wrought by His apostles, are all thrown into

On the whole, this book marks a distinct epoch in the history of English
Deism. There is little indeed said by Morgan which had not been
insinuated by one or other of his predecessors, but the point to be
marked is that it _was_ now said, not merely insinuated. The whole tone
of the book indicates 'the beginning of the end' not far distant, that
end being what Lechler calls 'the dissolution of Deism into Scepticism.'

But there is yet one more author to be noticed whose works were still
written in the earlier vein of Deism. So far Deism had not found a
representative writer among the lower classes. The aristocracy and the
middle class had both found exponents of their views; but Deism had
penetrated into lower strata of society than these, and at length a very
fitting representative of this part of the community appeared in the
person of Thomas Chubb. Himself a working man, and to a great extent
self-educated, Chubb had had peculiar opportunities of observing the
mind of the class to which he belonged. His earlier writings were not
intended for publication, but were written for the benefit of a sort of
debating club of working men of which he was a member. He was with
difficulty persuaded to publish them, mainly through the influence of
the famous William Whiston, and henceforth became a somewhat voluminous
writer, leaving behind him at his death a number of tracts and essays,
which were published together under the title of 'Chubb's Posthumous
Works.' In his main arguments Chubb, like Morgan, follows closely in the
wake of Tindal. But his view of Deism was distinctly from the standpoint
of the working man. As Morgan had directed his attention mainly to the
Old Testament, Chubb directed his mainly to the New. Like others of his
school, he protests against being thought an enemy to Christianity. His
two works 'The True Gospel of Jesus Christ asserted,' and 'The True
Gospel of Jesus Christ vindicated,' give the best exposition of Chubb's
views. 'Our Lord Jesus Christ' he writes, 'undertook to be a reformer,
and in consequence thereof a Saviour. The true Gospel is this: (1)
Christ requires a conformity of mind and life to that eternal and
unalterable rule of action which is founded in the reason of things, and
makes that the only ground of divine acceptance, and the only and sure
way to life eternal. (2) If by violation of the law they have displeased
God, he requires repentance and reformation as the only and sure ground
of forgiveness. (3) There will be a judgment according to works. This
Gospel wrought a change which by a figure of speech is called "a new
birth"' (§ 13). Like Tindal, he contrasts the certainty of natural with
the uncertainty of any traditional religion. He owns 'the Christian
revelation was expedient because of the general corruption; but it was
no more than a publication of the original law of nature, and tortured
and made to speak different things.'[158] He repeats Tindal's objection
to the want of universality of revealed religion on the same grounds.
His chief attacks were, as has been said, made upon the New Testament.
He demurs to the acceptance of the Gospels as infallibly true.

Chubb expresses just those difficulties and objections which would
naturally have most weight with the more intelligent portion of the
working classes. Speculative questions are put comparatively in the
background. His view of the gospel is just that plain practical view
which an artisan could grasp without troubling himself about
transcendental questions, on the nice adjustment of which divines
disputed. 'Put all such abstruse matters aside,' Chubb says in effect to
his fellow-workmen, 'they have nothing to do with the main point at
issue, they are no parts of the true Gospel.' His rocks of offence, too,
are just those against which the working man would stumble. The
shortcomings of the clergy had long been part of the stock-in-trade of
almost all the Deistical writers. Their supposed wealth and idleness
gave, as was natural, special offence to the representative of the
working classes. He attacks individual clergymen, inveighs against the
'unnatural coalition of Church and State,'[159] and speaks of men living
in palaces like kings, clothing themselves in fine linen and costly
apparel, and faring sumptuously.

The lower and lower-middle classes have always been peculiarly sensitive
to the dangers of priestcraft and a relapse into Popery. Accordingly
Chubb constantly appealed to this anti-Popish feeling.[160]

Chubb, being an illiterate man, made here and there slips of
scholarship, but he wrote in a clear, vigorous, sensible style, and his
works had considerable influence over those to whom they were primarily

The cause of Deism in its earlier sense was now almost extinct. Those
who were afterwards called Deists really belong to a different school of
thought. A remarkable book, which was partly the outcome, partly,
perhaps, the cause of this altered state of feeling, was published by
Dodwell the younger, in 1742. It was entitled 'Christianity not founded
on argument,' and there was at first a doubt whether the author wrote as
a friend or an enemy of Christianity. He was nominally opposed to both,
for both the Deists and their adversaries agreed that reason and
revelation were in perfect harmony. The Deist accused the Orthodox of
sacrificing reason at the shrine of revelation, the Orthodox accused the
Deist of sacrificing revelation at the shrine of reason; but both sides
vehemently repudiated the charge. The Orthodox was quite as anxious to
prove that his Christianity was not unreasonable, as the Deist was to
prove that his rationalism was not anti-Christian.

Now the author of 'Christianity not founded on argument' came forward to
prove that both parties were attempting an impossibility. In opposition
to everything that had been written on both sides of the controversy for
the last half century, Dodwell protested against all endeavours to
reconcile the irreconcilable.

His work is in the form of a letter to a young Oxford friend, who was
assumed to be yearning for a rational faith, 'as it was his duty to
prove all things.' 'Rational faith!' says Dodwell in effect, 'the thing
is impossible; it is a contradiction in terms. If you must prove all
things, you will hold nothing. Faith is commanded men as a duty. This
necessarily cuts it off from all connection with reason. There is no
clause providing that we should believe if we have time and ability to
examine, but the command is peremptory. It is a duty for every moment of
life, for every age. Children are to be led early to believe, but this,
from the nature of the case, cannot be on rational grounds. Proof
necessarily presupposes a suspension of conviction. The rational
Christian must have begun as a Sceptic; he must long have doubted
whether the Gospel was true or false. Can this be the faith that
"overcometh the world"? Can this be the faith that makes a martyr? No!
the true believer must open Heaven and see the Son of Man standing
plainly before his eyes, not see through the thick dark glass of history
and tradition. The Redeemer Himself gave no proofs; He taught as one
having authority, as a Master who has a right to dictate, who brought
the teaching which He imparted straight from Heaven. In this view of the
ground of faith, unbelief is a rebellious opposition against the working
of grace. The union of knowledge and faith is no longer nonsense. All
difficulties are chased away by the simple consideration "that with men
it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Philosophy and
religion are utterly at variance. The groundwork of philosophy is all
doubt and suspicion; the groundwork of religion is all submission and
faith. The enlightened scholar of the Cross, if he regards the one
thing needful, rightly despises all lower studies. When he turns to
these he leaves his own proper sphere. Julian was all in the wrong when
he closed the philosophical schools to the Christians. He should have
given them all possible privileges that they might undermine the
principles of Christ. "Not many wise men after the flesh are called."
All attempts to establish a rational faith, from the time of Origen to
that of Tillotson, Dr. Clarke, and the Boyle lectures, are utterly
useless. Tertullian was right when he said _Credo quia absurdum et quia
impossibile est_, for there is an irreconcilable repugnancy in their
natures between reason and belief; therefore, "My son, give thyself to
the Lord with thy whole heart and lean not to thy own understanding."'

Such is the substance of this remarkable work. He hit, and hit very
forcibly, a blot which belonged to almost all writers in common who took
part in this controversy. The great deficiency of the age--a want of
spiritual earnestness, an exclusive regard to the intellectual, to the
ignoring of the emotional element of our nature--nowhere appears more
glaringly than in the Deistical and anti-Deistical literature. What
Dodwell urges in bitter irony, John Wesley urged in sober seriousness,
when he intimated that Deists and evidence writers alike were strangers
to those truths which are 'spiritually discerned.'

There is yet one more writer who is popularly regarded not only as a
Deist, but as the chief of the Deists--Lord Bolingbroke, to whom Leland
gives more space than to all the other Deists put together. So far as
the eminence of the man is concerned, the prominence given to him is not
disproportionate to his merits, but it is only in a very qualified sense
that Lord Bolingbroke can be called a Deist. He lived and was before the
public during the whole course of the Deistical controversy, so far as
it belongs to the eighteenth century; but he was known, not as a
theologian, but first as a brilliant, fashionable man of pleasure, then
as a politician. So far as he took any part in religious matters at all,
it was as a violent partisan of the established faith and as a
persecutor of Dissenters. It was mainly through his instrumentality that
the iniquitous Schism Act of 1713 was passed. In the House of Commons he
called it 'a bill of the last importance, since it concerned the
security of the Church of England, the best and firmest support of the
monarchy.' In his famous letter to Sir W. Wyndham, he justified his
action in regard to this measure, and the kindred bill against
occasional conformity, on purely political grounds. He publicly
expressed his abhorrence of the so-called Freethinkers, whom he
stigmatised as 'Pests of Society.' But in a letter to Mr. Pope, he gave
some intimation of his real sentiments, and at the same time justified
his reticence about them. 'Let us,' he writes, 'seek truth, but quietly,
as well as freely. Let us not imagine, like some who are called
Freethinkers, that every man who can think and judge for himself, as he
has a right to do, has therefore a right of speaking any more than
acting according to freedom of thought.' Then, after expressing
sentiments which are written in the very spirit of Deism, he adds, 'I
neither expect nor desire to see any public revision made of the present
system of Christianity. I should fear such an attempt, &c.' It was
accordingly not until after his death that his theological views were
fully expressed and published. These are principally contained in his
'Philosophical Works,' which he bequeathed to David Mallet with
instructions for their publication; and Mallet accordingly gave them to
the world in 1754. Honest Dr. Johnson's opinion of this method of
proceeding is well known. 'Sir, he was a scoundrel and a coward; a
scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality, a
coward because he had no resolution to fire it off himself, but left
half-a-crown to a beggarly Scotchman to draw the trigger after his
death.' This is strong language, but it is not wholly undeserved. There
is something inexpressibly mean in a man countenancing the persecution
of his fellow creatures for heterodoxy, while he himself secretly held
opinions more heterodox than any of those whom he helped to persecute.
No doubt Bolingbroke regarded religion simply from a political point of
view; it was a useful, nay, a necessary engine of Government. He,
therefore, who wilfully unsettled men's minds on the subject was a bad
citizen, and consequently deserving of punishment. But then, this line
of argument would equally tell against the publication of unsettling
opinions after his death, as against publishing them during his
life-time. _Après moi le déluge_, is not an elevated maxim; yet the only
other principle upon which his mode of proceeding admits of explanation
is, that he wrote his last works in the spirit of a soured and
disappointed man, who had been in turn the betrayer and betrayed of
every party with which he had been connected.

What his motives, however, were, can only be a matter of conjecture; let
us proceed to examine the opinions themselves. They are contained
mainly[161] in a series of essays or letters addressed by him to his
friend Pope, who did not live to read them; and they give us in a
somewhat rambling, discursive fashion, his views on almost all subjects
connected with religion. Many passages have the genuine Deistical ring
about them. Like his precursors, he declares that he means particularly
to defend the Christian religion; that genuine Christianity contained in
the Gospels is the Word of God. Like them, he can scarcely find language
strong enough to express his abhorrence of the Jews and the Old
Testament generally. Like them, he abuses divines of all ages and their
theological systems in the most unmeasured terms. It is almost needless
to add that, in common with his predecessors, he contemptuously rejects
all such doctrines as the Divinity of the Word, Expiation for Sin in any
sense, the Holy Trinity, and the Efficacy of the Sacraments.

In many points, however, Lord Bolingbroke goes far beyond his
predecessors. His 'First Philosophy' marks a distinct advance or
decadence, according to the point of view from which we regard it, in
the history of Freethinking. Everything in the Bible is ruthlessly swept
aside, except what is contained in the Gospels. S. Paul, who had been an
object of admiration to the earlier Deists, is the object of
Bolingbroke's special abhorrence. And not only is the credibility of the
Gospel writers impugned, Christ's own teaching and character are also
carped at. Christ's conduct was 'reserved and cautious; His language
mystical and parabolical. He gives no complete system of morality. His
Sermon on the Mount gives some precepts which are impracticable,
inconsistent with natural instinct and quite destructive of society. His
miracles may be explained away.'

It may be said, indeed, that most of these tenets are contained in the
germ in the writings of earlier Deists. But there are yet others of
which this cannot be said.

Bolingbroke did not confine his attacks to revealed religion. Philosophy
fares as badly as religion in his estimate. 'It is the frantic mother of
a frantic offspring.' Plato is almost as detestable in his eyes as S.
Paul. He has the most contemptuous opinion of his fellow-creatures, and
declares that they are incapable of understanding the attributes of the
Deity. He throws doubt upon the very existence of a world to come. He
holds that 'we have not sufficient grounds to establish the doctrine of
a particular providence, and to reconcile it to that of a general
providence;' that 'prayer, or the abuse of prayer, carries with it
ridicule;' that 'we have much better determined ideas of the divine
wisdom than of the divine goodness,' and that 'to attempt to imitate God
is in highest degree absurd.'

There is no need to discuss here the system of optimism which Lord
Bolingbroke held in common with Lord Shaftesbury and Pope; for that
system is consistent both with a belief and with a disbelief of
Christianity, and we are at present concerned with Lord Bolingbroke's
views only in so far as they are connected with religion. From the
extracts given above, it will be seen how far in this system Deism had
drifted away from its old moorings.

After Bolingbroke no Deistical writing, properly so called, was
published in England. The great controversy had died a natural death;
but there are a few apologetic works which have survived the dispute
that called them forth, and may be fairly regarded as [Greek: ktêmata
es aei] of English theology. To attempt even to enumerate the works of
all the anti-Deistical writers would fill many pages. Those who are
curious in such matters must be referred to the popular work of Leland,
where they will find an account of the principal writers on both sides.
All that can be attempted here is to notice one or two of those which
are of permanent interest.

First among such is the immortal work of Bishop Butler. Wherever the
English language is spoken, Butler's 'Analogy' holds a distinguished
place among English classics. Published in the year 1736, when the
excitement raised by 'Christianity as old as the Creation' was at its
height, it was, as has been well remarked, 'the result of twenty years'
study, the very twenty years during which the Deistical notions formed
the atmosphere which educated people breathed.'[162] For those twenty
years and longer still, the absolute certainty of God's revelation of
Himself in nature, and the absolute perfection of the religion founded
on that revelation, in contradistinction to the uncertainty and
imperfection of all traditional religions, had been the incessant cry of
the new school of thought, a cry which had lately found its strongest
and ablest expression in Tindal's famous work. It was to those who
raised this cry, and to those who were likely to be influenced by it,
that Butler's famous argument was primarily addressed. 'You assert,' he
says in effect, 'that the law of nature is absolutely perfect and
absolutely certain; I will show you that precisely the same kind of
difficulties are found in nature as you find in revelation.' Butler
uttered no abuse, descended to no personalities such as spoiled too many
of the anti-Deistical writings; but his book shows that his mind was
positively steeped in Deistical literature. Hardly an argument which the
Deists had used is unnoticed; hardly an objection which they could raise
is not anticipated. But the very circumstance which constitutes one of
the chief excellences of the 'Analogy,' its freedom from polemical
bitterness, has been the principal cause of its being misunderstood. To
do any kind of justice to the book, it must be read in the light of
Deism. Had this obvious caution been always observed, such objections as
those of Pitt, that 'it was a dangerous book, raising more doubts than
it solves,' would never have been heard; for at the time when it was
written, the doubts were everywhere current. Similar objections have
been raised against the 'Analogy' in modern days, but the popular
verdict will not be easily reversed.

Next in importance to Butler's 'Analogy' is a far more voluminous and
pretentious work, that of Bishop Warburton on 'The Divine Legation of
Moses.' It is said to have been called forth by Morgan's 'Moral
Philosopher.' If so, it is somewhat curious that Warburton himself in
noticing this work deprecates any answer being given to it.[163]

But, at any rate, we have Warburton's own authority for saying that his
book had special reference to the Deists or Freethinkers (for the terms
were then used synonymously).

He begins the dedication of the first edition of the first three books
to the Freethinkers with the words, 'Gentlemen, as the following
discourse was written for your use, you have the best right to this

The argument of the 'Divine Legation' is stated thus by Warburton
himself in syllogistic form:--

'I. Whatsoever Religion and Society have no future state for their
support, must be supported by an extraordinary Providence.

'The Jewish Religion and Society had no future state for their support.

'Therefore, the Jewish Religion and Society was supported by an
extraordinary Providence.

'II. It was universally believed by the ancients on their common
principles of legislation and wisdom, that whatsoever Religion and
Society have no future state for their support, must be supported by an
extraordinary Providence.

'Moses, skilled in all that legislation and wisdom, instituted the
Jewish Religion and Society without a future state for its support.

'Therefore,--Moses, who taught, believed likewise that _this_ Religion
and Society was supported by an extraordinary Providence.'

The work is a colossal monument of the author's learning and industry:
the range of subjects which it embraces is enormous; and those who
cannot agree with his conclusions either on the main argument, or on the
many collateral points raised, must still admire the vast research and
varied knowledge which the writer displays. It is, however, a book more
talked about than read at the present day. Indeed, human life is too
short to enable the general reader to do more than skim cursorily over a
work of such proportions. Warburton's theory was novel and startling;
and perhaps few even of the Deistical writers themselves evoked more
criticism and opposition from the orthodox than this doughty champion of
orthodoxy. But Warburton was in his element when engaged in controversy.
He was quite ready to meet combatants from whatever side they might
come; and, wielding his bludgeon with a vigorous hand, he dealt his
blows now on the orthodox, now on the heterodox, with unsparing and
impartial force. Judged, however, from a literary point of view, 'The
Divine Legation' is too elaborate and too discursive a work to be
effective for the purpose for which it was written;[164] and most
readers will be inclined to agree with Bentley's verdict, that the
writer was 'a man of monstrous appetite but bad digestion.'

Of a very different character is the next work to be noticed, as one of
enduring interest on the Deistical controversy. Bishop Berkeley's
'Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher,' is one of the few exceptions to
the general dreariness and unreadableness of controversial writings in
the dialogistic form. The elegance and easiness of his style, and the
freshness and beauty of his descriptions of natural scenery by which the
tedium of the controversy is relieved, render this not only a readable,
but a fascinating book, even to the modern reader who has no present
interest in the controversial question. It is, however, by no means free
from the graver errors incident to this form of writing. Like Tindal, he
makes his adversaries state their case far too weakly. But, worse than
this, he puts into their mouths arguments which they would never have
used, and sentiments which they never held and which could not be fairly
deduced from their writings. Not that Bishop Berkeley ever wrote with
conscious unfairness. The truly Christian, if somewhat eccentric
character of the man forbids such a supposition for one moment. His
error, no doubt, arose from the vagueness with which the terms Deist,
Freethinker, Naturalist, Atheist, were used indiscriminately to
stigmatise men of very different views. There was, for example, little
or nothing in common between such men as Lord Shaftesbury and
Mandeville. The atrocious sentiment of the 'Fable of the Bees,' that
private vices are public benefits, was not the sentiment of any true
Deist. Yet Shaftesbury and Mandeville are the two writers who are most
constantly alluded to as representatives of one and the same system, in
this dialogue. Indeed the confusion here spoken of is apparent in
Berkeley's own advertisement. 'The author's design being to consider the
Freethinker in the various lights of Atheist, libertine, enthusiast,
scorner, critic, metaphysician, fatalist, and sceptic, it must not
therefore be imagined that every one of these characters agrees with
every individual Freethinker; no more being implied than that each part
agrees with some or other of the sect.' The fallacy here arises from the
assumption of a sect with a coherent system, which, as has been stated
above, never had any existence.

The principle upon which Berkeley tells us that he constructed his
dialogue is a dangerous one. 'It must not,' he writes, 'be thought that
authors are misrepresented if every notion of Alciphron or Lysicles is
not found precisely in them. A gentleman in private conference may be
supposed to speak plainer than others write, to improve on their hints,
and draw conclusions from their principles.' Yes; but this method of
development, when carried out by a vehement partisan, is apt to find
hints where there are no hints, and draw conclusions which are quite
unwarranted by the premisses.

It is somewhat discouraging to an aspirant after literary immortality,
to reflect that in spite of the enormous amount of learned writing
which the Deistical controversy elicited, many educated people who have
not made the subject a special study, probably derive their knowledge of
the Deists mainly from two unpretentious volumes--Leland's 'View of the
Deistical Writers.'

Leland avowedly wrote as an advocate, and therefore it would be
unreasonable to expect from him the measured judgment of a philosophical
historian. But _as_ an advocate he wrote with great fairness,--indeed,
considering the excitement which the Deists raised among their
contemporaries, with wonderful fairness. It is not without reason that
he boasts in his preface, 'Great care has been taken to make a fair
representation of them, according to the best judgment I could form of
their designs.' But, besides the fact that the representations of a man
who holds a brief for one side must necessarily be taken _cum grano_,
Leland lived too near the time to be able to view his subject in the
'dry light' of history. 'The best book,' said Burke in 1773, 'that has
ever been written against these people is that in which the author has
collected in a body the whole of the Infidel code, and has brought their
writings into one body to cut them all off together.' If the subject was
to be dealt with in this trenchant fashion, no one could have done it
more honestly than Leland has done. But the great questions which the
Deists raised cannot be dealt with thus summarily. Perhaps no book
professedly written 'against these people' could possibly do justice to
the whole case. Hence those who virtually adopt Leland as their chief
authority will at best have but a one-sided view of the matter. Leland
was a Dissenter; and it may be remarked in passing, that while the
National Church bore the chief part in the struggle, as it was right she
should, yet many Dissenters honourably distinguished themselves in the
cause of our common Christianity. The honoured names of Chandler,[165]
Lardner, Doddridge, Foster, Hallet, and Leland himself, to which many
others might be added, may be mentioned in proof of this assertion.

The attitude towards Deism of the authors hitherto named is
unmistakable. But there are yet two great names which cannot well be
passed over, and which both the friends and foes of Deism have claimed
for their side. These are the names of Alexander Pope and John Locke.
The former was, as is well known, by profession a Roman Catholic;[166]
but in his most elaborate, if not his most successful poem, he has been
supposed to express the sentiments of one, if not two, of the most
sceptical of the Deistical writers. How far did the author of the 'Essay
on Man' agree with the religious sentiments of his 'guide, philosopher
and friend,' Viscount Bolingbroke? Pope's biographer answers this
question very decisively. 'Pope,' says Ruffhead, 'permitted Bolingbroke
to be considered by the public as his philosopher and guide. They agreed
on the principle that "whatever is, is right," as opposed to impious
complaints against Providence; but Pope meant, because we only see a
part of the moral system, not the whole, therefore these irregularities
serving great purposes, such as the fuller manifestation of God's
goodness and justice, are right. Lord Bolingbroke's Essays are
vindications of providence against the confederacy between Divines and
Atheists who use a common principle, viz. that of the irregularities of
God's moral government here, for different ends: the one to establish a
future state, the others to discredit the being of a God.'
'Bolingbroke,' he adds, 'always tried to conceal his principles from
Pope, and Pope would not credit anything against him.' Warburton's
testimony is to the same effect. 'So little,' he writes, 'did Pope know
of the principles of the "First Philosophy," that when a common
acquaintance told him in his last illness that Lord Bolingbroke denied
God's moral attributes as commonly understood, he asked Lord Bolingbroke
whether he was mistaken, and was told he was.'

On the other hand, there are the letters from Bolingbroke to Pope quoted
above; there is the undoubted fact that Pope, Shaftesbury,[167] and
Bolingbroke so far agreed with one another that they were all ardent
disciples of the optimistic school; and, it must be added, there is the
utter absence of anything distinctively Christian in that poem in which
one would naturally have expected to find it. For, to say the least of
it, the 'Essay on Man' might have been written by an unbeliever, as also
might the Universal Prayer. The fact seems to have been that Pope was
distracted by the counter influences of two very powerful but two very
opposite minds. Between Warburton and Bolingbroke, the poet might well
become somewhat confused in his views. How far he would have agreed with
the more pronounced anti-Christian sentiments of Bolingbroke which were
addressed to him, but which never met his eye, can of course be only a
matter of conjecture. It is evident that Bolingbroke himself dreaded the
influence of Warburton, for he alludes constantly and almost nervously
to 'the foul-mouthed critic whom I know you have at your elbow,' and
anticipates objections which he suspected 'the dogmatical pedant' would

However, except in so far as it is always interesting to know the
attitude of any great man towards contemporary subjects of stirring
interest, it is not a very important question as to what were the poet's
sentiments in reference to Christianity and Deism. Pope's real greatness
lay in quite another direction; and even those who most admire the
marvellous execution of his grand philosophical poem will regret that
his brilliant talents were comparatively wasted on so uncongenial a

Far otherwise is it with the other great name which both Deists and
orthodox claim as their own. What was the relationship of John Locke,
who influenced the whole tone of thought of the eighteenth century more
than any other single man, to the great controversy which is the subject
of these pages? On the one hand, it is unquestionable that Locke had the
closest personal connection with two of the principal Deistical writers,
and that most of the rest show unmistakable signs of having studied his
works and followed more or less his line of thought. Nothing can exceed
the warmth of esteem and love which Locke expresses for his young friend
Collins, and the touching confidence which he reposes in him.[168] Nor
was it only Collins' moral worth which won Locke's admiration; he looked
upon him as belonging to the same school of intellectual thought as
himself, and was of opinion that Collins would appreciate his 'Essay on
the Human Understanding' better than anybody. Shaftesbury was grandson
of Locke's patron and friend. Locke was tutor to his father, for whom
he had been commissioned to choose a wife; and the author of 'The
Characteristics' was brought up according to Locke's principles.[169]
Both Toland's and Tindal's views about reason show them to have been
followers of Locke's system; while traces of Locke's influence are
constantly found in Lord Bolingbroke's philosophical works. Add to all
this that the progress and zenith of Deism followed in direct
chronological order after the publication of Locke's two great works,
and that in consequence of these works he was distinctly identified by
several obscure and at least one very distinguished writer with 'the
gentlemen of the new way of thinking.'

But there is another side of the picture to which we must now turn.
Though Locke died before the works of his two personal friends, Collins
and Shaftesbury, saw the light, Deism had already caused a great
sensation before his death, and Locke has not left us in the dark as to
his sentiments on the subject, so far as it had been developed in his
day. Toland used several arguments from Locke's essay in support of his
position that there was nothing in Christianity contrary to reason or
above it. Bishop Stillingfleet, in his 'Defence of the Mysteries of the
Trinity,' maintained that these arguments of Toland's were legitimate
deductions from Locke's premisses. This Locke explicitly denied, and
moreover disavowed any agreement with the main position of Toland in a
noble passage, in which he regretted that he could not find, and feared
he never should find, that perfect plainness and want of mystery in
Christianity which the author maintained.[170] He also declared his
implicit belief in the doctrines of revelation in the most express

It was not, however, his essay, but his treatise on the 'Reasonableness
of Christianity,' published in 1695 (the year before the publication of
Toland's famous work), which brought Locke into the most direct
collision with some of the orthodox of his day. The vehement opposition
which this little work aroused seems to have caused the author unfeigned
surprise.--'When it came out,' he writes, 'the buzz and flutter and
noise which it made, and the reports which were raised that it subverted
all morality and was designed against the Christian religion ... amazed
me; knowing the sincerity of those thoughts which persuaded me to
publish it, not without some hope of doing some service to decaying
piety and mistaken and slandered Christianity.[172] In another passage
he tells us expressly that it was written against Deism. 'I was
flattered to think my book might be of some use to the world; especially
to those who thought either that there was no need of revelation at all,
or that the revelation of Our Saviour required belief of such articles
for salvation which the settled notions and their way of reasoning in
some, and want of understanding in others, made impossible to them. Upon
these two topics the objections seemed to turn, which were with most
assurance made by Deists not against Christianity, but against
Christianity misunderstood. It seemed to me, there needed no more to
show the weakness of their exceptions, but to lay plainly before them
the doctrines of our Saviour as delivered in the Scriptures.'[173] The
truth of this is amply borne out by the contents of the book itself.

It is not, however, so much in direct statements of doctrine as in the
whole tenour and frame of his spirit, that Locke differs 'in toto' from
the Deists: for Locke's was essentially a pious, reverent soul. But it
may be urged that all this does not really touch the point at issue. The
question is, not what were Locke's personal opinions on religious
matters, but what were the logical deductions from his philosophical
system. It is in his philosophy, not in his theology, that Locke's
reputation consists. Was then the Deistical line of argument derived
from his philosophical system? and if so, was it fairly derived? The
first question must be answered decidedly in the affirmative, the second
not so decidedly in the negative.

That Locke would have recoiled with horror from the conclusions which
the Deists drew from his premisses, and still more from the tone in
which those conclusions were expressed, can scarcely be doubted.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that they _were_ so drawn. That Toland
built upon his foundation, Locke himself acknowledges.[174] Traces of
his influence are plainly discernible in Collins, Tindal--of whom
Shaftesbury calls Locke the forerunner,--Morgan, Chubb, Bolingbroke, and

On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the opponents of Deism
built upon Locke's foundation quite as distinctly as any of the Deists
did. After his death, it was soon discovered that he was a Christian.
The orthodox Conybeare was not only an obvious follower of Locke, but
has left on record a noble testimony to his greatness and his influence:
'In the last century there arose a very extraordinary genius for
philosophical speculations; I mean Mr. Locke, the glory of that age and
the instructor of the present.' Warburton was an equally enthusiastic
admirer of our philosopher, and expressed his admiration in words very
similar to the above.[175] Benson the Presbyterian told Lardner that he
had made a pilgrimage to Locke's grave, and could hardly help crying,
'Sancte Johannes, ora pro nobis;' and innumerable other instances of the
love and admiration which Christians of all kinds felt for the great
philosopher might be quoted.

The question then arises, Which of the two parties, the Deists or their
adversaries, were the legitimate followers of Locke? And the answer to
this question is, 'Both.' The school of philosophy of which Locke was
the great apostle, was the dominant school of the period. And even in
the special application of his principles to religion, it would be wrong
to say that either of the two parties wholly diverged from Locke's
position. For the fact is, there were two sides to Locke's mind--a
critical and rationalising side, and a reverent and devotional side. He
must above all things demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian
religion, thereby giving the key-note to the tone of theology of the
eighteenth century; but in proving this point, he is filled with a most
devout and God-fearing spirit. His dislike of all obscurity, and, in
consequence, his almost morbid shrinking from all systematizing and from
the use of all technical terms, form his point of contact with the
Deists. His strong personal faith, and his reverence for the Holy
Scripture as containing a true revelation from God, bring him into
harmony with the Christian advocates. No abuse on the part of the
clergy, no unfair treatment, could alienate him from Christianity. One
cannot help speculating how he would have borne himself had he lived to
see the later development of Deism. Perhaps his influence would have had
a beneficial effect upon both sides; but, in whatever period his lot had
been cast it is difficult to conceive Locke in any other light than that
of a sincere and devout Christian.[176]

It remains for us to consider what were the effects of the Deistical

The early period of the eighteenth century was a period of controversy
of all kinds, and of controversy carried on in a bitter and unchristian
spirit; and of all the controversies which arose, none was conducted
with greater bitterness than the Deistical.[177] The Deists must bear
the blame of setting the example. Their violent abuse of the Church,
their unfounded assertions that the clergy did not really believe what
they preached, that the Christian religion as taught by them was a mere
invention of priestcraft to serve its own ends, their overweening
pretensions contrasted with the scanty contributions which they actually
made either to theology or to philosophy or to philology,--all this was
sufficiently provoking.[178]

But the Christian advocates fell into a sad mistake when they fought
against them with their own weapons. Without attempting nicely to adjust
the degree of blame attributable to either party in this unseemly
dispute, we may easily see that this was one evil effect of the
Deistical controversy, that it generated on both sides a spirit of
rancour and scurrility.

Again, the Deists contributed in some degree, though not intentionally,
towards encouraging the low tone of morals which is admitted on all
sides to have been prevalent during the first half of the eighteenth
century. It was constantly insinuated that the Deists themselves were
men of immoral lives. This may have been true of individual Deists, but
it requires more proof than has been given, before so grave an
accusation can be admitted against them as a body.

But if the restrictions which Christianity imposes were not the real
objections to it in the minds of the Deistical writers, at any rate
their writings, or rather perhaps hazy notions of those writings picked
up at second-hand, were seized upon by others who were glad of any
excuse for throwing off the checks of religion.[179] The immorality of
the age may be more fairly said to have been connected with the
Deistical controversy than with the Deists themselves. It is not to be
supposed that the fine gentlemen of the coffee-houses troubled
themselves to read Collins or Bentley, Tindal or Conybeare. They only
heard vague rumours that the truths, and consequently the obligations of
Christianity were impugned, and that, by the admission of Christian
advocates themselves, unbelief was making great progress. The _roués_
were only Freethinkers in the sense that Squire Thornhill in the 'Vicar
of Wakefield' was.

Another ill effect was, that it took away the clergy from a very
important part of their practical work. There was something much more
attractive to a clergyman in immortalising his name by annihilating an
enemy of the Faith, than in the ordinary routine of parochial work.

Not, however, that the clergy as a rule made Deism a stepping-stone to
preferment. It would be difficult to point to a single clergyman who was
advanced to any high post in the Church in virtue of his services
against Deism, who would not have equally deserved and in all
probability obtained preferment, had his talents been exerted in another
direction. The talents of such men as Butler, Warburton, Waterland,
Gibson, Sherlock, Bentley, and Berkeley would have shed a lustre upon
any profession. But none the less is it true that the Deistical
controversy diverted attention from other and no less important matters;
and hence, indirectly, Deism was to a great extent the cause of that low
standard of spiritual life which might have been elevated, had the
clergy paid more attention to their flocks, and less to their literary

The effects, however, of the great controversy were not all evil. If
such sentiments as those to which the Deists gave utterance were
floating in men's minds, it was well that they should find expression. A
state of smouldering scepticism is always a dangerous state. Whatever
the doubts and difficulties might be, it was well that they should be
brought into the full light of day.

Moreover, if the Deists did no other good, they at least brought out the
full strength of the Christian cause, which otherwise might have lain
dormant. Although much of the anti-Deistical literature perished with
the occasion which called it forth, there is yet a residuum which will
be immortal.

Again, the free discussion of such questions as the Deists raised, led
to an ampler and nobler conception of Christianity than might otherwise
have been gained. For there was a certain element of truth in most of
the Deistical writings. If Toland failed to prove that there were no
mysteries in Christianity, yet perhaps he set men a-thinking that there
was a real danger of darkening counsel by words without knowledge,
through the indiscriminate use of scholastic jargon. If Collins
confounded freethinking with thinking in his own particular way, he yet
drew out from his opponents a more distinct admission of the right of
freethinking in the proper sense of the term than might otherwise have
been made. If Shaftesbury made too light of the rewards which the
righteous may look for, and the punishments which the wicked have to
fear, he at least helped, though unintentionally, to vindicate
Christianity from the charge of self-seeking, and to place morality upon
its proper basis. If Tindal attributed an unorthodox sense to the
assertion that 'Christianity was as old as the Creation,' he brought out
more distinctly an admission that there was an aspect in which it is
undoubtedly true.

One of the most striking features of this strange controversy was its
sudden collapse about the middle of the century. The whole interest in
the subject seems to have died away as suddenly as it arose fifty years
before. This change of feeling is strikingly illustrated by the flatness
of the reception given by the public to Bolingbroke's posthumous works
in 1754. For though few persons will be inclined to agree with Horace
Walpole's opinion that Bolingbroke's 'metaphysical divinity was the best
of his writings,' yet the eminence of the writer, the purity and
piquancy of his style, the real and extensive learning which he
displayed, would, one might have imagined, have awakened a far greater
interest in his writings than was actually shown. Very few replies were
written to this, the last, and in some respects, the most
important--certainly the most elaborate attack that ever was made upon
popular Christianity from the Deistical standpoint. The 'five pompous
quartos' of the great statesman attracted infinitely less attention than
the slight, fragmentary treatise of an obscure Irishman had done
fifty-eight years before. And after Bolingbroke not a single writer who
can properly be called a Deist appeared in England.

How are we to account for this strange revulsion of feeling, or rather
this marvellous change from excitement to apathy? One modern writer
imputes it to the inherent dulness of the Deists themselves;[180]
another to their utter defeat by the Christian apologists.[181] No doubt
there is force in both these reasons, but there were other causes at
work which contributed to the result.

One seems to have been the vagueness and unsatisfactoriness of the
constructive part of the Deists' work. They set themselves with vigour
to the work of destruction, but when this was completed--what next? The
religion which was to take the place of popular Christianity was at best
a singularly vague and intangible sort of thing. 'You are to follow
nature, and that will teach you what true Christianity is. If the facts
of the Bible don't agree, so much the worse for the facts.' There was an
inherent untenableness in this position.[182] Having gone thus far,
thoughtful men could not stand still. They must go on further or else
turn back. Some went forward in the direction of Hume, and found
themselves stranded in the dreary waste of pure scepticism, which was
something very different from genuine Deism. Others went backwards and
determined to stand upon the old ways, since no firm footing was given
them on the new. There was a want of any definite scheme or unanimity of
opinion on the part of the Deists. Collins boasted of the rise and
growth of a new sect. But, as Dr. Monk justly observes, 'the assumption
of a growing sect implies an uniformity of opinions which did not really
exist among the impugners of Christianity.'[183]

The independence of the Deists in relation to one another might render
it difficult to confute any particular tenet of the sect, for the simple
reason that there _was_ no sect: but this same independence prevented
them from making the impression upon the public mind which a compact
phalanx might have done. The Deists were a company of Free Lances rather
than a regular army, and effected no more than such irregular forces
usually do.

And here arises the question, What real hold had Deism upon the public
mind at all? There is abundance of contemporary evidence which would
lead us to believe that the majority of the nation were fast becoming
unchristianised. Bishop Butler was not the man to make a statement, and
especially a statement of such grave import, lightly, and his account of
the state of religion is melancholy indeed. 'It is come,' he writes, 'I
know not how, to be taken for granted, by many persons, that
Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry, but that it is now
at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly, they treat it as
if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all people of
discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal
subject of mirth and ridicule, for its having so long interrupted the
pleasures of the world.'[184] Archbishop Wake's testimony is equally
explicit,[185] so is Bishop Warburton's, so is Dean Swift's. Voltaire
declared that there was only just enough religion left in England to
distinguish Tories who had little from Whigs who had less.

In the face of such testimony it seems a bold thing to assert that there
was a vast amount of noise and bluster which caused a temporary panic,
but little else, and that after all Hurd's view of the matter was nearer
the truth. 'The truth of the case,' he writes, 'is no more than this. A
few fashionable men make a noise in the world; and this clamour being
echoed on all sides from the shallow circles of their admirers, misleads
the unwary into an opinion that the irreligious spirit is universal and
uncontrollable.' A strong proof of the absence of any real sympathy with
the Deists is afforded by the violent outcry which was raised against
them on all sides. This outcry was not confined to any one class or
party either in the political or religious world. We may not be
surprised to find Warburton mildly suggesting that 'he would hunt down
that pestilent herd of libertine scribblers with which the island is
overrun, as good King Edgar did his wolves,'[186] or Berkeley, that 'if
ever man deserved to be denied the common benefits of bread and water,
it was the author of a Discourse of Freethinking,'[187] and that 'he
should omit no endeavour to render the persons (of Freethinkers) as
despicable and their practice as odious in the eye of the world as they
deserve.'[188] But we find almost as truculent notions in writings where
we might least expect them. It was, for example, a favourite accusation
of the Tories against the Whigs that they favoured the Deists. 'We'
(Tories), writes Swift, 'accuse them [the Whigs] of the public
encouragement and patronage to Tindal, Toland, and other atheistical
writers.'[189] And yet we find the gentle Addison, Whig as he was,
suggesting in the most popular of periodicals, corporal punishment as a
suitable one for the Freethinker;[190] Steele, a Whig and the most
merciful of men, advocating in yet stronger terms a similar mode of
treatment;[191] Fielding, a Whig and not a particularly straitlaced man,
equally violent.[192]

This strong feeling against the Deists is all the more remarkable when
we remember that it existed at a time of great religious apathy, and at
a time when illiberality was far from being a besetting fault. The
dominant party in the Church was that which would now be called the
Broad Church party, and among the Dissenters at least equal
latitudinarianism was tolerated. This, however, which might seem at
first sight a reason why Deism should have been winked at, was probably
in reality one of the causes why it was so unpopular. The nation had
begun to be weary of controversy; in the religious as in the political
world, there was arising a disposition not to disturb the prevailing
quiet. The Deist was the _enfant terrible_ of the period, who would
persist in raising questions which men were not inclined to meddle with.
It was therefore necessary to snub him; and accordingly snubbed he was
most effectually.

The Deists themselves appear to have been fully aware of the
unpopularity of their speculations. They have been accused, and not
without reason, of insinuating doubts which they dared not express
openly. But then, why dared they not express them? The days of
persecution for the expression of opinion were virtually ended. There
were indeed laws still unrepealed against blasphemy and contempt of
religion, but except in extreme cases (such as those of Woolston and
Annet), they were no longer put into force. Warburton wrote no more than
the truth when he addressed the Freethinkers thus: 'This liberty may you
long possess and gratefully acknowledge. I say this because one cannot
but observe that amidst full possession of it, you continue with the
meanest affectation to fill your prefaces with repeated clamours against
difficulties and discouragements attending the exercise of freethinking.
There was a time, and that within our own memories, when such complaints
were seasonable and useful; but happy for you, gentlemen, you have
outlived it.'[193] They had outlived it, that is to say, so far as legal
restrictions were concerned. If they did meet with 'difficulties and
discouragements,' they were simply those which arose from the force of
public opinion being against them. But be the cause what it may, the
result is unquestionable. 'The English Deists wrote and taught their
creed in vain; they were despised while living, and consigned to
oblivion when dead; and they left the Church of England unhurt by the
struggle.'[194] It was in France and Germany, not in England that the
movement set on foot by the English Deists made a real and permanent



[Footnote 147: That is, not in virtue of anything he wrote which can be
properly called Deism. Shaftesbury in his ethical and Bolingbroke in his
political writings may perhaps be termed classical writers, but neither
of them quâ Deists.]

[Footnote 148: See Hunt's _Religious Thought in England_, vol. ii. p.

[Footnote 149: _View of the Deistical Writers_, Letter V. p. 32, &c.,
and Letter VI. p. 43, &c.]

[Footnote 150: The Rev. W.M. Hatch. See his dedication.]

[Footnote 151: See Warburton's Letters to Hurd, Letter XVIII. January
30, 1749-50.]

[Footnote 152: See Warburton's _Dedication of the Divine Legation of
Moses to the Freethinkers_. Jeffery, another contemporary, writes to the
same effect.]

[Footnote 153: _Sensus Communis_ (on the Freedom of Wit and Humour), §

[Footnote 154: Hoadly in one sense may be regarded as a 'Freethinker'
himself; but it was the very fact that he was so which made him resent
Collins's perversion of the term. The first of his 'Queries to the
Author of a Discourse of Freethinking' is 'Whether that can be justly
called Freethinking which is manifestly thinking with the utmost
slavery; and with the strongest prejudices against every branch, and the
very foundation of all religion?'--Hoadly's _Works_, vol. i.]

[Footnote 155: 'Conybeare, dessen Vertheidigung der geoffenbarten
Religion die gediegenste Gegenschrift ist, die gegen Tindal erschien. Es
ist eine logische Klarheit, eine Einfachheit der Darstellung, eine
überzeugende Kraft der Beweisführung, ein einleuchtender Zusammenhang
des Ganzen verbunden mit würdiger Haltung der Polemik, philosophischer
Bildung und freier Liberalität des Standpunkts in diesem Buch, vermöge
welcher es als meisterhaft anerkannt werden muss.'--Lechler's
_Geschichte des Englischen Deismus_, p. 362. Warburton calls Conybeare's
one of the best reasoned books in the world.]

[Footnote 156: See Watson's _Life of Warburton_, p. 293.]

[Footnote 157: _Ibid._ iii. 133, 190, 201, 261.]

[Footnote 158: _Enquiry into the Ground and Foundation of the Christian
Religion_, p. 59.]

[Footnote 159: See _Enquiry concerning Redemption_.]

[Footnote 160: See his _Discourse concerning Reason_, p. 23, and his
_Reflections upon the comparative excellence and usefulness of Moral and
Positive Duties_, p. 27, &c.]

[Footnote 161: His letters on the 'Study of History' contain the same

[Footnote 162: Pattison's 'Tendencies of Religious Thought in England,
1688-1750,' in _Essays and Reviews_.]

[Footnote 163: 'There is a book called _The Moral Philosopher_ lately
published. Is it looked into? I should hope not, merely for the sake of
the taste, the sense, and learning of the present age.... I hope nobody
will be so indiscreet as to take notice publicly of the book, though it
be only in the fag end of an objection.--It is that indiscreet conduct
in our defenders of religion that conveys so many worthless books from
hand to hand.'--Letter to Mr. Birch in 1737. In Nichols' _Literary
Illustrations of the Eighteenth Century_, ii. 70.]

[Footnote 164: See Charles Churchill's lines on Warburton in _The
Duellist_. After much foul abuse, he thus describes _The Divine

    To make himself a man of note,
    He in defence of Scripture wrote.
    So long he wrote, and long about it,
    That e'en believers 'gan to doubt it!
    A gentleman well-bred, if breeding
    Rests in the article of reading;
    A man of this world, for the next
    Was ne'er included in his text,' &c. &c.

Gibbon calls _The Divine Legation_ 'a monument, already crumbling in the
dust, of the vigour and weakness of the human mind.'--See _Life of
Gibbon_, ch. vii. 223, note. Bishop Lowth says of it ironically, '_The
Divine Legation_, it seems, contains in it all knowledge, divine and
human, ancient and modern; it treats as of its proper subject, de omni
scibili et de quolibet ente; it is a perfect encyclopædia; it includes
in itself all history, chronology, criticism, divinity, law, politics,'
&c. &c.--_A Letter to the Right Rev. Author of 'The Divine Legation,'_
p. 13 (1765).]

[Footnote 165: There were two anti-Deistical writers of the name of
Chandler, (1) the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and (2) Dr. Samuel
Chandler, an eminent Dissenter. Both wrote against Collins, but the
latter also against Morgan and the anonymous author of the _Resurrection
of Jesus considered_.

Sherlock's _Tryal of the Witnesses_ ought perhaps to have been noticed
as one of the works of permanent value written against the Deists.
Wharton says that 'Sherlock's _Discourses on Prophecy and Trial of the
Witnesses_ are, perhaps, the best defences of Christianity in our
language.' Sherlock's lawyer-like mind enabled him to manage the
controversy with rare skill, but the tone of theological thought has so
changed, that his once famous book is a little out of date at the
present day. Judged by its intrinsic merits, William Law's answer to
Tindal would also deserve to be ranked among the very best of the books
which were written against the Deists; but like almost all the works of
this most able and excellent man, it has fallen into undeserved
oblivion. Leslie's _Short and Easy Method with a Deist_ is also
admirable in its way.]

[Footnote 166: But it is no want of charity to say that his Roman
Catholicism sat very lightly upon him. He himself confesses it in a
letter to Atterbury.]

[Footnote 167: Pope was also clearly influenced by Shaftesbury's
arguments that virtue was to be practised and sin avoided, not for fear
of punishment or hope of reward, but for their own sakes. Witness the
verse in the Universal Prayer:--

    'What conscience dictates to be done,
      Or warns me not to do,
    This teach me _more than_ hell to shun,
      That _more than_ heaven pursue.']

[Footnote 168: See Hunt's _History of Religious Thought in England_,
vol. ii. p. 369, and Lechler's _Geschichte des Englischen Deismus_, p.

[Footnote 169: But Shaftesbury was bitterly opposed to one part of
Locke's philosophy. 'He was one of the first,' writes Mr. Morell
(_History of Modern Philosophy_, i. 203), 'to point out the dangerous
influence which Locke's total rejection of all innate practical
principles was likely to exert upon the interests of morality.' 'It was
Mr. Locke,' wrote Shaftesbury, 'that struck at all fundamentals, threw
all order and virtue out of the world, and made the very ideas of these
(which are the same as those of God) unnatural and without foundation in
our minds.' See also Bishop Fitzgerald in _Aids to Faith_.]

[Footnote 170: Locke's _Works_, vol. iv. p. 96.]

[Footnote 171: 'My lord, I read the revelation of Holy Scriptures with a
full assurance that all it delivers is true.'--Locke's _Works_, vol. iv.

[Footnote 172: Locke's _Works_, vol. vii. p. 166.]

[Footnote 173: Locke's _Works_, vol. vii. p. 188, Preface to the Reader
of 2nd Vindication.]

[Footnote 174: Locke's _Works_, vol. iv. 259, 260.]

[Footnote 175: 'Mr. Locke, the honour of this age and the instructor of
the future'.... 'That great philosopher'.... 'It was Mr. Locke's love of
it [Christianity] that seems principally to have exposed him to his
pupil's [Lord Shaftesbury's] bitterest insults.'--Dedication of _The
Divine Legation_ (first three books) to the Freethinkers.]

[Footnote 176: It is, however, not improbable that Locke contributed to
some extent to foster that dry, hard, unpoetical spirit which
characterised both the Deistical and anti-Deistical literature, and,
indeed, the whole tone of religion in the eighteenth century. 'His
philosophy,' it has been said, 'smells of the earth, earthy.' 'It is
curious,' writes Mr. Rogers (_Essays_, vol. iii. p. 104, 'John Locke,'
&c.) 'that there is hardly a passing remark in all Locke's great work on
any of the æsthetical or emotional characteristics of humanity; so that,
for anything that appears there, men might have nothing of the kind in
their composition. To all the forms of the Beautiful he seems to have
been almost insensible.' The same want in the followers of Locke's
system, both orthodox and unorthodox, is painfully conspicuous. And
again, as Dr. Whewell remarks (_History of Moral Philosophy_, Lecture v.
p. 74) 'the promulgation of Locke's philosophy was felt as a vast
accession of strength by the lower, and a great addition to the
difficulty of their task by the higher school of morality.' The lower or
utilitarian school of morality, which held that morals are to be judged
solely by their consequences, was largely followed in the eighteenth
century, and contributed not a little to the low moral and spiritual
tone of the period.]

[Footnote 177: The Calvinistic controversy was more bitter, but it
belonged to the second, not the first half of the century.]

[Footnote 178: 'They attacked a scientific problem without science, and
an historical problem without history.'--Mr. J.C. Morison's Review of
Leslie Stephen's 'History of English Thought' in _Macmillan's Magazine_
for February 1877.]

[Footnote 179: See Bishop Butler's charge to the clergy of Durham,
1751.--'A great source of infidelity plainly is, the endeavour to get
rid of religious restraints.']

[Footnote 180: Mr. Leslie Stephen, _Essays on Freethinking and Plain
Speaking_. On Shaftesbury's 'Characteristics.'--'The Deists were not
only pilloried for their heterodoxy, but branded with the fatal
inscription of "dulness."' This view is amplified in his larger work,
published since the above was written.]

[Footnote 181: _Aids to Faith_, p. 44.]

[Footnote 182: In a brilliant review of Mr. Leslie Stephen's work in
_Macmillan's Magazine_, February 1877, Mr. James Cotter Morison remarks
on the Deists' view that natural religion must be always alike plain and
perspicuous, 'against this convenient opinion the only objection was
that it contradicted the total experience of the human race.']

[Footnote 183: Monk's _Life of Bentley_, vol. i. See also Berkeley's
_Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher_, 107.]

[Footnote 184: Advertisement to the first edition of _The Analogy_, p.
xiv. See also Swift's description of the Duchess of Marlborough, in
_Last four Years of Queen Anne_, bk. i. The first and most prominent
subject of Bishop Butler's 'Durham Charge,' is 'the general decay of
religion,' 'which,' he says, 'is now observed by everyone, and has been
for some time the complaint of all serious persons' (written in 1751).
The Bishop then instructs his clergy at length how this sad fact is to
be dealt with; in fact this, directly or indirectly, is the topic of the
whole Charge.]

[Footnote 185: He wrote to Courayer in 1726,--'No care is wanting in our
clergy to defend the Christian Faith against all assaults, and I believe
no age or nation has produced more or better writings, &c.... This is
all we can do. Iniquity in practice, God knows, abounds,' &c.]

[Footnote 186: Watson's _Life of Warburton_, p. 293.]

[Footnote 187: _Guardian_, No. 3.]

[Footnote 188: _Guardian_, No. 88.]

[Footnote 189: _Examiner_, xxxix. See also Charles Leslie's _Theological
Works_, vol. ii. 533.]

[Footnote 190: _Tatler_, No. 108.]

[Footnote 191: _Tatler_, No. 137.]

[Footnote 192: See _Amelia_, bk. i. ch. iii. &c.]

[Footnote 193: Dedication of first three books of the _Divine Legation_.
See also Pattison's Essay in _Essays and Reviews_.]

[Footnote 194: Farrar's _Bampton Lectures_, 'History of Free Thought.']

       *       *       *       *       *




'Latitudinarian' is not so neutral a term as could be desired. It
conveys an implication of reproach and suspicion, by no means ungrounded
in some instances, but very inappropriate when used of men who must
count among the most distinguished ornaments of the English Church. But
no better title suggests itself. The eminent prelates who were raised to
the bench in King William III.'s time can no longer, without ambiguity,
be called 'Low Churchmen,' because the Evangelicals who succeeded to
the name belong to a wholly different school of thought from the Low
Churchmen of an earlier age; nor 'Whigs,' because that sobriquet has
long been confined to politics; nor 'Broad Churchmen,' because the term
would be apt to convey a set of ideas belonging to the nineteenth more
than to the eighteenth century. It only remains to divest the word as
far as possible of its polemical associations, and to use it as denoting
what some would call breadth, others Latitudinarianism of religious and
ecclesiastical opinion.

There were many faulty elements in the Latitudinarianism of the
eighteenth century. Those who dreaded and lamented its advances found it
no difficult task to show that sometimes it was connected with Deistical
or with Socinian or Arian views, sometimes with a visionary enthusiasm,
sometimes with a weak and nerveless religion of sentiment. They could
point also to the obvious fact that thorough scepticism, or even mere
irreligion, often found a decent veil under plausible professions of a
liberal Christianity. There were some, indeed, who, in the excitement of
hostility or alarm, seemed to lose all power of ordinary discrimination.
Much in the same way as every 'freethinker' was set down as a libertine
or an atheist, so also many men of undoubted piety and earnestness who
had done distinguished services in the Christian cause, and who had
greatly contributed to raise the repute of the English Church, were
constantly ranked as Latitudinarians in one promiscuous class with men
to whose principles they were utterly opposed. But, after making all
allowance for the unfortunate confusion thus attached to the term, the
fact remains that the alarm was not unfounded. Undoubtedly a lower form
of Latitudinarianism gained ground, very deficient in some important
respects. Just in the same way as, before the middle of the century, a
sort of spiritual inertness had enfeebled the vigour of High Churchmen
on the one hand and of Nonconformists on the other, so also it was with
the Latitude men. After the first ten or fifteen years of the century
the Broad Church party in the Church of England was in no very
satisfactory state. It had lost not only in spirit and energy, but also
in earnestness and piety. Hoadly, Herring, Watson, Blackburne, all
showed the characteristic defect of their age--a want of spiritual depth
and fervour. They needed a higher elevation of motive and of purpose to
be such leaders as could be desired of what was in reality a great
religious movement.

For, whatever may have been its deficiencies, there was no religious
movement of such lasting importance as that which from the latter part
of the seventeenth until near the end of the eighteenth century was
being carried on under the opprobrium of Latitudinarianism. The
Methodist and Evangelical revival had, doubtless, greater visible and
immediate consequences. Much in the same way, some of the widespread
monastic revivals of the Middle Ages were more visible witnesses to the
power of religion, and more immediately conducive to its interests, than
the silent current of theological thought which was gradually preparing
the way for the Reformation. But it was these latter influences which,
in the end, have taken the larger place in the general history of
Christianity. The Latitudinarianism which had already set in before the
Revolution of 1688, unsatisfactory as it was in many respects, probably
did more than any other agency in directing and gradually developing the
general course of religious thought. Its importance may be intimated in
this, that of all the questions in which it was chiefly interested there
is scarcely one which has not started into fresh life in our own days,
and which is not likely to gain increasing significance as time
advances. Church history in the seventeenth century had been most nearly
connected with that of the preceding age; it was still directly occupied
with the struggles and contentions which had been aroused by the
Reformation. That of the eighteenth century is more nearly related to
the period which succeeded it. In the sluggish calm that followed the
abatement of old controversies men's minds reverted anew to the wide
general principles on which the Reformation had been based, and, with
the loss of power which attends uncertainty, were making tentative
efforts to improve and strengthen the superstructure. 'Intensity,' as
has been remarked, 'had for a time done its work, and was now giving
place to breadth; when breadth should be natural, intensity might come
again.'[195] The Latitude men of the last age can only be fairly judged
in the light of this. Their immediate plans ended for the most part in
disappointing failure. It was perhaps well that they did, as some indeed
of the most active promoters of them were fain to acknowledge. Their
proposed measures of comprehension, of revision, of reform, were often
defective in principle, and in some respects as one-sided as the evils
they were intended to cure. But if their ideas were not properly
matured, or if the time was not properly matured for them, they at all
events contained the germs of much which may be realised in the future.
Meanwhile the comprehensive spirit which is absolutely essential in a
national Church was kept alive. The Church of England would have fallen,
or would have deserved to fall, if a narrow exclusiveness had gained
ground in it without check or protest.

It is proposed to invite, in this chapter, a more particular attention
to the writings of Archbishop Tillotson. He lived and died in the
seventeenth century, but is an essential part of the Church history of
the eighteenth. The most general sketch of its characteristics would be
imperfect without some reference to the influence which his life and
teaching exercised upon it. Hallam contrasts the great popularity of his
sermons for half a century with the utter neglect into which they have
now fallen, as a remarkable instance of the fickleness of religious
taste.[196] Something must certainly be attributed to change of taste.
If Tillotson were thoroughly in accord with our own age in thought and
feeling, the mere difference of his style from that which pleases the
modern ear would prevent his having many readers. He is reckoned diffuse
and languid, greatly deficient in vigour and vivacity. How different was
the tone of criticism in the last age! Dryden considered that he was
indebted for his good style to the study of Tillotson's sermons.[197]
Robert Nelson spoke of them as the best standard of the English
language.[198] Addison expressed the same opinion, and thought his
writing would form a proper groundwork for the dictionary which he once
thought of compiling.[199]

But it was not the beauty and eloquence of language with which Tillotson
was at one time credited that gave him the immense repute with which his
name was surrounded; neither is it a mere change of literary taste that
makes a modern reader disinclined to admire, or even fairly to
appreciate, his sermons. He struck the key-note which in his own day,
and for two generations or more afterwards, governed the predominant
tone of religious reasoning and sentiment. In the substance no less than
in the form of his writings men found exactly what suited them--their
own thoughts raised to a somewhat higher level, and expressed just in
the manner which they would most aspire to imitate. His sermons, when
delivered, had been exceedingly popular. We are told of the crowds of
auditors and the fixed attention with which they listened, also of the
number of clergymen who frequented his St. Laurence lectures, not only
for the pleasure of hearing, but to form their minds and improve their
style. He was, in fact, the great preacher of his time. Horace Walpole,
writing in 1742, compared the throngs who flocked to hear Whitefield to
the concourse which used to gather when Tillotson preached.[200] The
literature of the eighteenth century abounds in expressions of respect
for his character and admiration of his sermons. Samuel Wesley said that
he had brought the art of preaching 'near perfection, had there been as
much of life as there is of politeness and generally of cool, clear,
close reasoning and convincing arguments.'[201] Even John Wesley puts
him in the very foremost rank of great preachers.[202] Robert Nelson
specially recommended his sermons to his nephew 'for true notions of
religion.[203] 'I like,' remarked Sir Robert Howard, 'such sermons as
Dr. Tillotson's, where all are taught a plain and certain way of
salvation, and with all the charms of a calm and blessed temper and of
pure reason are excited to the uncontroverted, indubitable duties of
religion; where all are plainly shown that the means to obtain the
eternal place of happy rest are those, and no other, which also give
peace in the present life; and where everyone is encouraged and exhorted
to learn, but withal to use his own care and reason in working out his
own salvation.'[204] Bishop Fleetwood exclaims of him that 'his name
will live for ever, increasing in honour with all good and wise
men.'[205] Locke called him 'that ornament of our Church, that every way
eminent prelate.' In the 'Spectator' his sermons are among Sir Roger de
Coverley's favourites.[206] In the 'Guardian'[207] Addison tells how
'the excellent lady, the Lady Lizard, in the space of one summer
furnished a gallery with chairs and couches of her own and her
daughter's working, and at the same time heard Dr. Tillotson's sermons
twice over.' In the 'Tatler' he is spoken of as 'the most eminent and
useful author of his age.'[208] His sermons were translated into Dutch,
twice into French, and many of them into German. Even in the last few
years of the eighteenth century we find references to his 'splendid

But, as a rule, the writers of the eighteenth century seem unable to
form anything like a calm estimate of the eminent bishop. Many were
lavish in their encomiums; a minority were extravagant in censures and
expressions of dislike. His gentle and temperate disposition had not
saved him from bitter invectives in his lifetime, which did not cease
after his death. He was set down by his opponents as 'a freethinker.' In
the violent polemics of Queen Anne's reign this was a charge very easily
incurred, and, once incurred, carried with it very grave implications.
By what was apt to seem a very natural sequence Dean Hickes called the
good primate in downright terms an atheist.[210] Charles Leslie speaks
of him as 'that unhappy man,'[211] and said he was 'owned by the
atheistical wits of all England as their primate and apostle.'[212] Of
course opinions thus promulgated by the leaders of a party descended
with still further distortion to more ignorant partisans. Tom Tempest in
the 'Idler' believes that King William burned Whitehall that he might
steal the furniture, and that Tillotson died an atheist.[213] John
Wesley, as has been already observed, held the Archbishop in much
respect. He was too well read a man to listen to misrepresentations on
such a matter, too broad and liberal in his views to be scared at the
name of Latitudinarian, too deeply impressed with the supreme importance
of Christian morality to judge anyone harshly for preaching 'virtue' to
excess. But Whitefield and Seward were surpassed by none in the
unsparing nature of their attack on Tillotson, 'that traitor who sold
his Lord.'[214] It is fair to add that later in life Whitefield
regretted the use of such terms, and owned that 'his treatment of him
had been far too severe.'[215] With many of the Evangelicals Tillotson
was in great disfavour. It is not a little remarkable that a divine who
had been constantly extolled as a very pattern of Christian piety and
Christian wisdom should by them be systematically decried as little
better than a heathen moralist.

The foregoing instances may serve to illustrate the important place
which Tillotson held in the religious history of the eighteenth century.
They may suffice to show that while there was an extraordinary diversity
of opinion as to the character of the influence he had exercised--while
some loved and admired him and others could scarcely tolerate the
mention of him--all agreed that his life and writings had been a very
important element in directing the religious thought of his own and the
succeeding age. His opponents were very willing to acknowledge that he
was greatly respected by Nonconformists. Why not? said they, when he and
his party are half Presbyterians, and would 'bring the Church into the
Conventicle or the Conventicle into the Church.'[216] They allowed
still more readily that he was constantly praised by Rationalists and
Deists. Collins put a formidable weapon into their hands when he called
Tillotson 'the head of all freethinkers.'[217] But they also had to own
that in authority as well as in station he had been eminently a leader
in the English Church. A majority of the bishops, and many of the most
distinguished among them, had followed his lead. The great bulk of the
laity had honoured him in his lifetime, and continued to revere his
memory. Men like Locke, and Somers, and Addison were loud in his praise.
Even those who were accustomed to regard the Low Churchmen of their age
as 'amphibious trimmers' or 'Latitudinarian traditors' were by no means
unanimous in dispraise of Tillotson. Dodwell had spoken of him with
esteem; and Robert Nelson, who was keenly alive to 'the infection of
Latitudinarian teaching,' not only maintained a lifelong friendship with
him, and watched by him at his death, but also, as was before mentioned,
referred to his sermons for sound notions of religion.

A study of Tillotson's writings ought to throw light upon the general
tendency of religious thought which prevailed in England during the
half-century or more through which their popularity lasted; for there
can be no doubt that his influence was not of a kind which depends on
great personal qualities. He was a man who well deserved to be highly
esteemed by all with whom he came in contact. But in his gentle and
moderate disposition there was none of the force and fire which compels
thought into new channels, and sways the minds of men even, against
their will. With sound practical sense, with pure, unaffected piety, and
in unadorned but persuasive language, he simply gave utterance to
religious ideas in a form which to a wide extent satisfied the reason
and came home to the conscience of his age. Those, on the other hand,
who most distrusted the direction which such ideas were taking, held in
proportionate aversion the primate who had been so eminent a
representative of them.

Tillotson was universally regarded both by friends and foes as 'a
Latitude man.' His writings, therefore, may well serve to exemplify the
moderate Latitudinarianism of a thoughtful and religious English
Churchman at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Perhaps the first thing that will strike a reader of his works is the
constant appeal on all matters of religion to reason. That Christianity
is 'the best and the holiest, the wisest and the most reasonable
religion in the world;'[218] that 'all the precepts of it are
reasonable and wise, requiring such duties of us as are suitable to the
light of nature, and do approve themselves to the best reason of
mankind'[219]--such is the general purport of the arguments by which he
most trusts to persuade the heart and the understanding. And how, on the
other hand, could he better meet the infidelity of the age than by
setting himself 'to show the unreasonableness of atheism and of scoffing
at religion?' If the appeal to reason will not persuade, what will?

The primary and sovereign place assigned to reason in Tillotson's
conception of man as a being able to know and serve God involved some
consequences which must be mentioned separately, though they are closely
connected with one another.

It led him, if not to reject, at all events to regard with profound
distrust all assumptions of any gift of spiritual discernment
distinguishable from ordinary powers of understanding. Tillotson's view
was that the Spirit of God enlightens the human mind only through the
reason, so that the faith of Abraham, for example, 'was the result of
the wisest reasoning.'[220] He allows that the spiritual presence may
act upon the reason by raising and strengthening the faculty, by making
clear the object of inquiry, by suggesting arguments, by holding minds
intent upon the evidence, by removing the impediments which hinder
assent, and especially by making the persuasion of a truth effectual on
the life.[221] This, however, is the very utmost that Tillotson could
concede to those who dwell upon the presence within the soul of an
inward spiritual light.

Tillotson gave great offence to some of his contemporaries by some
expressions he has used in relation to the degree of assurance which is
possible to man in regard of religious truths. He based all assent upon
rational evidence. But he unhesitatingly admitted that mathematics only
admit of clear demonstration; in other matters proof consists in the
best arguments that the quality and nature of the thing will bear. We
may be well content, he said, with a well-grounded confidence on matters
of religious truth corresponding to that which is abundantly sufficient
for our purposes in the conduct of our most important worldly interests.
A charge was thereupon brought against him of authorising doubt and
opening a door to the most radical disbelief. The attack scarcely
deserved Tillotson's somewhat lengthy defence. He had but re-stated what
many before him had observed as to the exceptional character of
demonstrative evidence, and the folly of expecting it where it is
plainly inapplicable. A religious mind, itself thoroughly convinced,
may chafe against possibility of doubt, but may as well complain against
the conditions of human nature. Yet the controversy on this point
between Tillotson and his opponents is instructive in forming a judgment
upon the general character of religious thought in that age. Tillotson
appears, on the one hand, to have been somewhat over-cautious in
disclaiming the alleged consequences of his denial of absolute religious
certainty. He allows the theoretical possibility of doubt, but speaks as
if it were essentially unreasonable. He shows no sign of recognising the
sincere faith that often underlies it; that prayerful doubt may be in
itself a kind of prayer; that its possibility is involved in all
inquiry; that there is such a thing as an irreligious stifling of doubt,
resulting in a spiritual and moral degradation; that doubt may sometimes
be the clear work of the Spirit of God to break down pride and
self-sufficiency, to force us to realise what we believe, to quicken our
sense of truth, and to bid us chiefly rest our faith on personal and
spiritual grounds which no doubts can touch. In this Tillotson shared in
what must be considered a grave error of his age. Few things so
encouraged the growth of Deism and unbelief as the stiff refusal on the
part of the defenders of Christianity to admit of a frequently religious
element in doubt. There was a general disposition, in which even such
men as Bishop Berkeley shared, to relegate all doubters to the class of
Deists and 'Atheists.' Tillotson strove practically against this fatal
tendency, but his reasonings on the subject were confused. He earned,
more perhaps than any other divine of his age, the love and confidence
of many who were perplexed with religious questionings; but his
arguments had not the weight which they would have gained if he had
acknowledged more ungrudgingly that doubt must not always be regarded as
either a folly or a sin.

Tillotson had learnt much from the Puritan and Calvinistic teaching
which, instilled into him throughout his earlier years, had laid deep
the foundations of the serious and fervent vein of piety conspicuous in
all his life and writings. He had learnt much from the sublime Christian
philosophy of his eminent instructors at Cambridge, Cudworth and Henry
More, John Smith and Whichcote, under whom his heart and intellect had
attained a far wider reach than they could ever have gained in the
school of Calvin. But his influence in the eighteenth century would have
been more entirely beneficial, if he had treasured up from his Puritan
remembrances clearer perceptions of the searching power of divine grace;
or if he had not only learnt from the Platonists to extol 'that special
prerogative of Christianity that it dares appeal to reason,'[222] and
to be imbued with a sense of the divine immutability of moral
principles, but had also retained their convictions of unity with the
Divine nature, implied alike in that eternity of morality and in that
supremacy of the rational faculties,--together with a corresponding
belief that there may be intimate communion between the spirit of man
and his Maker, and that 'they who make reason the light of heaven and
the very oracle of God, must consider that the oracle of God is not to
be heard but in His holy temple,' that is to say, in the heart of a good
man purged by that indwelling Spirit.[223] Considering the immense
influence which Tillotson's Cambridge teachers had upon the development
of his mind, it is curious how widely he differs from them in inward
tone. It is quite impossible to conceive of their dwelling, as he and
his followers did, upon the pre-eminent importance of the external

Tillotson could not adopt as unreservedly as he did his pervading tenet
of the reasonableness of Christianity without yielding to reason all the
rights due to an unquestioned leader. Like Henry More, he would have
wished to take for a motto 'that generous resolution of Marcus
Cicero,--rationem, quo ea me cunque ducet, sequar.'[224] 'Doctrines,' he
said, 'are vehemently to be suspected which decline trial. To deny
liberty of inquiry and judgment in matters of religion, is the greatest
injury and disparagement to truth that can be, and a tacit
acknowledgment that she lies under some disadvantage, and that there is
less to be said for her than for error.'[225] 'Tis only things false and
adulterate which shun the light and fear the touchstone.' He has left a
beautiful prayer which his editor believed he was in the habit of using
before he composed a sermon. In it he asks to be made impartial in his
inquiry after truth, ready always to receive it in love, to practise it
in his life, and to continue steadfast in it to the end. He adds, 'I
perfectly resign myself, O Lord, to Thy counsel and direction, in
confidence that Thy goodness is such, that Thou wilt not suffer those
who sincerely desire to know the truth and rely upon Thy guidance,
finally to miscarry.'[226]

These last words are a key to Tillotson's opinion upon a question about
which, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, there was much
animated controversy--in what light sincere error should be regarded. If
free inquiry on religious subjects is allowable and right, is a man to
be held blameless if he arrives at false conclusions in respect of the
fundamental articles of faith? That the answer to be given might involve
grave issues continually appeared in discussion alike with Roman
Catholics and with Deists. The former had no stronger argument against
liberty of private judgment than to ask how those who freely granted it
could pass any moral censure upon the heresies which might constantly
result from it. The latter insisted that, whether they were right or
wrong, no Protestant had any title to hold them in the slightest degree
blameable before God or man for any opinions which were the result of
conscientious research. Much was written on the subject by theologians
of the generation which succeeded next after Tillotson, as for instance
by Hoadly, Sykes, Whitby, Law, Hare, and Balguy. But in truth, if the
premisses be granted--if free inquiry is allowable and the inquiry be
conducted with all honesty of heart and mind--no candid person, whatever
be his opinions, can give other than one answer. Kettlewell, High
Churchman and Nonjuror, readily acknowledged that 'where our ignorance
of any of Christ's laws is joined with an honest heart, and remains
after our sincere industry to know the truth, we may take comfort to
ourselves that it is involuntary and innocent.'[227] In this he agreed
with his Low Church contemporary, Chillingworth, who said that 'To ask
pardon of simple and involuntary errors is tacitly to imply that God is
angry with us for them, and that were to impute to Him this strange
tyranny of requiring brick where He gives no straw; of expecting to
gather where He strewed not; of being offended with us for not doing
what He knows we cannot do.'[228] Tillotson always speaks guardedly on
the subject. He was keenly alive to the evil practical consequences
which may result from intellectual error,--very confident that in all
important particulars orthodox doctrine was the true and safe path, very
anxious therefore not to say anything which might weaken the sense of
responsibility in those who deviated from it. But he never attempted to
evade the logical conclusion which follows from an acknowledged right of
private judgment. In his practice as well as in his theory, he wholly
admitted the blamelessness of error where there was ardent sincerity of
purpose. He wrote several times against the Unitarians, but gladly
allowed that many of them were thoroughly good men, honest and candid in
argument,[229] nor did he even scruple to admit to a cordial friendship
one of their most distinguished leaders, Thomas Firmin, a man of great
beneficence and philanthropy.

There was no reservation in Tillotson's mind as to the general right of
private judgment. 'Any man that hath the spirit of a man must abhor to
submit to this slavery not to be allowed to examine his religion, and to
inquire freely into the grounds and reasons of it; and would break with
any Church in the world upon this single point; and would tell them
plainly, "If your religion be too good to be examined, I doubt it is too
bad to be believed."'[230] He grounded the right on three
principles.[231] The first was, that essentials are so plain that every
man of ordinary capacities, after receiving competent instruction, is
able to judge of them. This, he added, was no new doctrine of the
Reformation, but had been expressly owned by such ancient fathers as St.
Chrysostom and St. Augustine. The second was, that it was a Scriptural
injunction. St. Luke, in the Acts, St. Paul and St. John in their
Epistles, had specially commended search, examination, inquiry, proof.
The third was, that even those who most disputed the right were forced
nevertheless to grant it in effect. Whenever they make a proselyte they
argue with him, they appeal to his reason, they bid him to use his
judgment. If it were urged that it could not be accordant to the Divine
purpose to give full scope to a liberty which distracted unity and gave
rise to so much controversy and confusion,--we must judge, he replied,
by what is, not by what we fancy ought to be. We could be relieved from
the responsibilities of judging for ourselves only by the existence of
an infallible authority to which we could appeal. This is not granted
either in temporal or in spiritual matters. Nor is it needed. A degree
of certainty sufficient for all our needs is attainable without it. Even
in Apostolic times, when it might be said to have existed, error and
schism were not thereby prevented. 'With charity and mutual forbearance,
the Church may be peaceful and happy without absolute unity of
opinion.'[232] Let it be enough that we have guides to instruct us in
what is plain, and to guide us in more doubtful matters. After all,
'there is as much to secure men from mistakes in matters of belief, as
God hath afforded to keep men from sin in matters of practice. He hath
made no effectual and infallible provision that men shall not sin; and
yet it would puzzle any man to give a good reason why God should take
more care to secure men against errors in belief than against sin and
wickedness in their lives.'[233]

Tillotson, however, did not omit to add four cautions as to the proper
limits within which the right of private judgment should be exercised.
(1) A private person must only judge for himself, not impose his
judgment on others. His only claim to that liberty is that it belongs to
all. (2) The liberty thus possessed does not dispense with the necessity
of guides and teachers in religion; nor (3) with due submission to
authority. 'What by public consent and authority is determined and
established ought not to be gainsaid by private persons but upon very
clear evidence of the falsehood or unlawfulness of it; nor is the peace
and unity of the Church to be violated upon every scruple and frivolous
pretence.' (4) There are a great many who, from ignorance or
insufficient capacity, are incompetent to judge of any controverted
question. 'Such persons ought not to engage in disputes of religion; but
to beg God's direction and to rely upon their teachers; and above all to
live up to the plain dictates of natural light, and the clear commands
of God's word, and this will be their best security.'[234]

There has probably been no period in which liberty of thought on
religious subjects has been debated in this country so anxiously, so
vehemently, so generally, as in the earlier part of the eighteenth
century. The Reformation had hinged upon it; but general principles were
then greatly obscured in the excitement of change, and amid the
multiplicity of secondary questions of more immediate practical
interest. For a hundred and fifty years after the first breach with
Rome, it may be said that private judgment was most frequently
considered in connection with a power of option between different Church
communions. A man had to choose whether he would adhere to the old, or
adopt the new form of faith--whether he would remain staunch to the
reformed Anglican Church, or cast in his lot with the Puritans, or with
one or other of the rising sects,--whether Episcopacy or Presbyterianism
most conformed to his ideas of Church government. When at last these
controversies had abated, the full importance of the principles involved
in this new liberty of thought began to be fully felt. Their real scope
and nature, apart from any transient applications, engaged great
attention, first among the studious and thoughtful, among philosophers
and theologians, but before long throughout the country generally. Locke
among philosophers, Tillotson and Chillingworth among divines, addressed
their reasonings not to the few, but to the many. Their arguments
however would not have been so widely and actively discussed, had it not
been for the Deists. Free-thought in reference to certain ecclesiastical
topics had been for several generations familiar to every Englishman;
but just at a time when reflecting persons of every class were beginning
to inquire what was implied in this liberty of thought and choice, the
term was unhappily appropriated by the opponents of revelation, and, as
if by common consent, conceded to them. Notwithstanding all that could
be urged by a number of eminent and influential preachers and writers,
freethinking became a term everywhere associated with Deism and
disbelief. It was a suicidal error, which rapidly gained ground, and
lingers still. The Deists gained great advantage from it. They started
as it were with an unchallenged verbal assumption that the most
fundamental principle of correct reasoning was on their side. All
inquiries as to truth, all sound research, all great reforms, demand
free thought; and they were the acknowledged Freethinkers. A name could
not have been chosen more admirably adapted to create, especially in
young and candid minds, a prejudice in their favour. For the same
reason, all who asserted the duty of fearless investigation in the
interests of Christianity could only do so under penalty of incurring
from many quarters loudly expressed suspicions of being Deists in
disguise. Tillotson was by strong conviction an advocate of freethought.
'He is a Freethinker,' said all who were afraid of liberty. 'Therefore
no doubt he is undermining Revelation, he is fighting the battle of the
Deists.' 'Yes,' echoed the Deists, glad to persuade themselves that they
had the sanction of his authority. 'He is a Freethinker; if not one of
us, at all events he is closely allied with us.' Yet, on the whole, his
fame and influence probably gained by it. Many who were inclined to
Deistical opinions were induced to read Tillotson, and to feel the force
of his arguments, who would never have opened a page of such a writer as
Leslie. Many, again, who dreaded the Deists, but were disturbed by their
arguments, were wisely anxious to see what was advanced against them by
the distinguished prelate who had been said to agree with them in some
of their leading principles. Meanwhile liberty of thought, independently
of 'Freethinking,' in the obnoxious sense of the word, attracted a
growing amount of attention. The wide interest felt in the ponderous
Bangorian controversy, as it dragged on its tedious course, is in itself
ample evidence of the desire to see some satisfactory adjustment of the
respective bounds of authority and reason. No doubt Tillotson did more
than any one else, Locke only excepted, to create this interest. It was
an immense contribution to the general progress of intelligent thought
on religious subjects, to do as much as was effected by these two
writers in removing abstract ideas from the domain of theological and
philosophical speculation, and transferring them, not perhaps without
some loss of preciseness and definition, to the popular language of
ordinary life. The eighteenth century erred much in trusting too
implicitly to the powers of 'common sense.' Yet this direct appeal to
the average understanding was in many ways productive of benefit. It
induced people to realise to themselves, more than they had done, what
it was they believed, and to form intelligible conceptions of
theological tenets, instead of vaguely accepting upon trust what they
had learnt from their religious teachers. Even while it depressed for
the time the ideal of spiritual attainment, the defect was temporary,
but the work real. 'By clearing away,' says Dorner, 'much dead matter,
it prepared the way for a reconstruction of theology from the very
depths of the heart's belief.'[235]

In calling upon all men to test their faith by their reason, Tillotson
had to explain the relations of human reason to those articles of belief
which lie beyond its grasp. There was the more reason to do this,
because of the difficulties which were felt, and the disputes which had
arisen about 'mysteries' in religion. Undoubtedly it is a word very
capable of misuse. 'Times,' says the author last quoted, 'unfruitful in
theological knowledge are ever wont to fall back upon mystery and upon
the much abused demand of "taking the reason prisoner to the obedience
of faith."' With some, religion has thus been made barren and
ineffectual by being regarded as a thing to be passively accepted
without being understood. Among others, it has been degraded into
superstition by the same cause. When an appetite for the mysterious has
been cherished, it becomes easy to attribute spiritual results to
material causes, to the confusion of the first principles alike of
morality and of knowledge. Some, through an ambition of understanding
the unintelligible, have wasted their energies in a labyrinth of
scholastic subtleties; others have surrendered themselves to a vague
unpractical mysticism.

But, whatever may have been the errors common in other ages, it was
certainly no characteristic of the eighteenth century to linger
unhealthily upon the contemplation of mysteries. The predominant fault
was one of a directly opposite nature. There was apt to be an impatience
of all mystery, a contemptuous neglect of all that was not self-evident
or easy to understand. 'The Gospel,' it was said, 'professes plainness
and uses no hard words.'[236] Whatever was obscure was only the
imperfection of the old dispensation, or the corruption of the new, and
might be excluded from the consideration of rational beings. Even in the
natural world there was most mystery in the things which least concern
us; Divine providence had ordered that what was most necessary should
be least obscure. Much too was added about the priestcraft and
superstition which had commonly attended the inculcation of mysterious
doctrines. In all such arguments there was a considerable admixture of
truth. But in its general effect it tended greatly to depress the tone
of theological thought, to take away from it sublimity and depth, and to
degrade religion into a thing of earth.[237] Even where it did not
controvert any of the special doctrines of revealed religion, it
inclined men to pass lightly over them, or at all events to regard them
only in their directly practical aspects, and so to withdraw from the
soul, as if they were but idle speculations, some of the most elevating
subjects of contemplation which the Christian faith affords. Such
reasoners were strangely blind to the thought that few could be so
inertly commonplace in mind and feeling, as to rest satisfied with being
fired to virtuous deeds by the purely practical side of transcendental
truths, without delighting in further reflection on the very nature of
those mysteries themselves. Nor did they at all realise, that
independently of any direct results in morality and well-being, it is no
small gain to a man to be led by the thought of Divine mysteries to feel
that he stands on the verge of a higher world, a higher nature, of which
he may have scarcely a dim perception, but to which creatures lower than
himself in the scale of being are wholly insensible. There was little
feeling that truths which baffle reason may be, and must be,
nevertheless accordant with true reason. It was left to William Law, a
writer who stood much apart from the general spirit of his age, to
remark: 'This is the true ground and nature of the mysteries of
Christian redemption. They are, in themselves, nothing else but what the
nature of things requires them to be ... but they are mysteries to man,
because brought into the scheme of redemption by the interposition of
God to work in a manner above and superior to all that is seen and done
in the things of this world.'[238]

Nothing very instructive or suggestive must be looked for from Tillotson
on the subject of Divine mysteries. He was too much of an
eighteenth-century man, if it may be so expressed, to be able to give
much appreciative thought to anything that lay beyond the direct
province of reason. Yet, on the other hand, he was too deeply religious,
and too watchful an observer, not to perceive that the unspiritual and
sceptical tendencies of his age were fostered by the disparagement of
all suprasensual ideas. The consequence is, that he deals with the
subject without ease, and with the air of an apologist. This remark
does not so much relate to the miracles. Upon them he constantly insists
as a very material part of distinctly rational evidence. But mysteries,
apart from any evidential character which they may possess, he clearly
regards almost entirely in the sense of difficulties, necessary to be
believed, but mere impediments to faith rather than any assistance to
it. 'Great reverence,' he says, 'is due to them where they are certain
and necessary in the nature and reason of the thing, but they are not
easily to be admitted without necessity and very good evidence.'[239] He
is not sure whether much that seems mysterious may not be in some degree
explained as compliances, for the sake of our edification, with human
modes of thought.[240] On the whole, he is inclined to reduce within as
narrow a compass as possible the number of tenets which transcend our
faculties of reason, to receive them, when acknowledged, with
reverential submission, but to pass quickly from them, as matters in
which we have little concern, and which do not greatly affect the
practical conduct of life. His extreme distaste for anything that
appeared to him like idle speculation or unprofitable controversy, often
blinded him in a very remarkable degree to the evident fact, that the
very same mysterious truths which have given occasion to many futile
speculations, many profitless disputes, are also, in every Christian
communion, rich in their supply of Christian motives and practical
bearings upon conduct.

Tillotson's opinions on points of doctrine were sometimes attacked with
a bitterness of rancour only to be equalled by the degree of
misrepresentation upon which the charges were founded. Leslie concludes
his indictment against him and Burnet by saying that 'though the sword
of justice be (at present) otherwise employed than to animadvert upon
these blasphemers, and though the chief and father of them all is
advanced to the throne of Canterbury, and thence infuses his deadly
poison through the nation,' yet at least all 'ought to separate from the
Church communion of these heretical bishops.'[241] Yet, if we examine
the arguments upon which this invective is supported, and compare with
their context the detached sentences which his hot-blooded antagonist
adduces, we shall find that Tillotson maintained no opinion which would
not be considered in a modern English Churchman to be at all events
perfectly legitimate. Had his opponents been content to point out
serious deficiencies in the general tendency of his teaching, they would
have held a thoroughly tenable position. When they attempted to attach
to his name the stigma of specific heresies, they failed. He thought
for himself, and sometimes very differently from them, but never
wandered far from the paths of orthodoxy. Accusations of Socinianism
were freely circulated both against him and Burnet, on grounds which
chiefly serve to show within what narrow grooves religious thought would
have been confined by the objectors. Burnet, whose theological
discourses received Tillotson's hearty commendation, has fully stated
what appears to have been the less clearly conceived opinion of the
archbishop. There was no tincture of Arianism in it; he showed on the
contrary, with much power, the utter untenability of that hypothesis.
The worship of Christ, he said, is so plainly set forth in the New
Testament, that not even the opposers of His divinity deny it; yet
nothing is so much condemned in Scripture as worshipping a
creature.[242] 'We may well and safely determine that Christ was truly
both God and Man.'[243] But he held that this true Divinity of Christ
consisted in 'the indwelling of the Eternal Word in Christ,' which
'became united to His human nature, as our souls dwell in our bodies and
are united to them.'[244] As Leslie said, he did in effect explain the
doctrine of the Trinity as three manifestations of the Divine nature.
'By the first, God may be supposed to have made and to govern all
things; by the second, to have been most perfectly united to the
humanity of Christ; and by the third, to have inspired the penmen of the
Scriptures and the workers of miracles, and still to renew and fortify
all good minds. But though we cannot explain how they are Three and have
a true diversity from one another, so that they are not barely different
names and modes; yet we firmly believe that there is but one God.'[245]
A jealous and disputatious orthodoxy might be correct in affirming that
this exposition of the Trinity was a form of Sabellianism, and one which
might perhaps be accepted by some of the Unitarians. It is stated here
rather to show on what scanty grounds the opponents of the
'Latitudinarian bishops' founded one of their chief accusations of
Socinian heresy.

But this was only part of the general charge. It was also said that
Tillotson was a 'rank Socinian' in regard of his views upon the doctrine
of the satisfaction made by Christ for the sins of men. The ground of
offence lay in his great dislike for anything which seemed to savour
less of Scripture than of scholastic refinements in theology. He thought
it great rashness to prescribe limits, as it were, to infinite wisdom,
and to affirm that man's salvation could not possibly have been wrought
in any other way than by the incarnation and satisfaction of the Son of
God.[246] A Christian reasoner may well concede that he can form no
conjecture in what variety of modes redeeming love might have been
manifested. He has no need to build theories upon what alone is
possible, when the far nobler argument is set before him, to trace the
wisdom and the fitness of the mode which God's providence actually has
chosen. Tillotson raised no question whatever as to the manner in which
redemption was effected, but stated it in exactly such terms as might
have been used by any preacher of the day. For example: 'From these and
many other texts it seems to be very plain and evident, that Christ died
for our sins, and suffered in our stead, and by the sacrifice of Himself
hath made an atonement for us and reconciled us to God, and hath paid a
price and ransom for us, and by the merits of his death hath purchased
for us forgiveness of sins.'[247]

Nevertheless the charge was brought against him, as it was in a less
degree against Burnet and other Low Churchmen of this time, of
'disputing openly against the satisfaction of Christ.' This deserves
some explanation. For though in the mere personal question there can be
little historical interest, it is instructive, as illustrating an
important phase of religious thought. The charge rested on three or four
different grounds. There was the broad general objection, as it seemed
to some, that Tillotson was always searching out ways of bringing reason
to bear even on Divine mysteries, where they held its application to be
impertinent and almost sacrilegious. His refusal, already mentioned, to
allow that the sacrifice of Christ's death was the only conceivable way
in which, consistently with the Divine attributes, sin could be
forgiven, was a further cause for displeasure. It did not at all fall in
with a habit which, both in pulpit and in argumentative divinity, had
become far too customary, of speaking of the Atonement with a kind of
legal, or even mathematical exactness, as of a debt which nothing but
full payment can cancel, or of a problem in proportion which admits only
of one solution. Then, although Tillotson defended the propriety of the
term 'satisfaction,' he had observed that the word was nowhere found in
Scripture, and would apparently have not regretted its disuse. It was a
graver proof of doctrinal laxity, if not of heresy, in the estimation of
many, that although for his own part he always spoke of Christ suffering
'in our stead,' he had thought it perfectly immaterial whether it were
expressed thus or 'for our benefit.' It was all 'a perverse contention
which signified just nothing.... For he that dies with an intention to
do that benefit to another as to save him from death, doth certainly, to
all intents and purposes, die in his place and stead.'[248] Certainly,
in these words Tillotson singularly underrated a very important
difference. Our whole conception of the meaning of Redemption, that most
fundamental doctrine of all Christian theology, is modified by an
acceptance of the one rather than of the other expression. In our own
days one interpretation is considered as legitimate in the English
Church as the other. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a
cramped and mistaken orthodoxy, which did much harm, was apt to
represent the translation 'for our sakes' as connected exclusively with
Deistical or Unitarian opinions. From that point of view, we can
understand how Leslie declared with bitterness, that although the
Archbishop wrote against the Socinians, 'it was really to do them
service, and reconcile men more to their principles by lessening the
differences which are conceived betwixt them and us.'[249]

Another cause which stirred great animosity against Tillotson as a
theological writer consisted in his partial acceptance of that principle
of 'accommodation' which was afterwards made so much use of by Semler
and many other German writers. Thus, the natural love of mystery which,
in man's unenlightened state, had been fruitful in fantastical and
unworthy superstitions, was gently guided to the contemplation of a
mystery of godliness--God manifested in the flesh--so great, so
wonderful, so infinite in mercy, as to 'obscure and swallow up all other
mysteries.'[250] The inclination of mankind to the worship of a visible
and sensible Deity was diverted into its true channel by the revelation
of one to whom, as the 'brightness of His Father's glory, and the
express image of His person,' divine worship might be paid 'without
danger of idolatry, and without injury to the divine nature.'[251] The
apotheosis of heroes, the tendency to raise to semi-divine honours great
benefactors of the race, was sublimely superseded[252] by the exaltation
to the right hand of the Majesty on high of one who is not half but
wholly infinite, and yet true man and the truest benefactor of our race;
One that 'was dead and is alive again, and lives for evermore.' The
religious instinct which craved for mediation and intercession was
gratified, and the worship of saints made for the future inexcusable, by
the gift of one Mediator between God and men, a perpetual advocate and
intercessor.[253] It was the same, Tillotson added, with sacrifice. On
this point he dilated more at length. The sacrificial character, he
said, of the atonement was not to be explained in any one manner. To
open a way of forgiveness which would at the same time inspire a deep
feeling of the guilt and consequences of sin, and create a horror of it,
which would kindle fervent love to the Saviour, and pity for all in
misery as He had pity on us; these are some of the effects which the
sacrifice of Christ is adapted to fulfil, and there may be other divine
counsels hidden in it of which we know little or nothing. But he thought
that further explanation might be found in a tender condescension to
certain religious ideas which almost everywhere prevailed among mankind.
Unreasonable as it was to suppose that the blood of slain animals could
take away sin, sacrifice had always been resorted to. Perhaps it implied
a confession of belief that sin cannot be pardoned without suffering.
Whatever the ground and foundation may have been, at all events, both
among Jews and heathens, it was an established principle that 'without
shedding of blood there is no remission.' God's providence may be deemed
to have adapted itself to this general apprehension, not in order to
countenance these practices, but for the future to abolish them,
deepening at the same time and spiritualising the meaning involved in
them. 'Very probably in compliance with this apprehension of mankind,
and in condescension to it, as well as for other weighty reasons best
known to the divine wisdom, God was pleased to find out such a sacrifice
as should really and effectually procure for them that great blessing of
the forgiveness of sins which they had so long hoped for from the
multitude of their own sacrifices.'[254]

It is curious to see in what sort of light these not very formidable
speculations were construed by some of Tillotson's contemporaries. 'He
makes,' says Leslie, 'the foundation of the Christian religion to be
some foolish and wicked fancies, which got into people's heads, he knows
not and says no matter how; and instead of reforming them, and
commanding us to renounce and abhor them, which one would have expected,
and which Christ did to all other wickedness, the doctor's scheme is,
that God, in compliance with them, and to indulge men in these same wild
and wicked fancies, did send Christ, took His life, and instituted the
whole economy of the Christian religion.'[255] The construction put upon
the Archbishop's words is curious but deplorable. It is not merely that
it exemplifies, though not in nearly so great a degree as other passages
which might be quoted, the polemical virulence which was then
exceedingly common, and which warped the reasoning powers of such men of
talent and repute as Leslie. The encouragement which attacks made in
this spirit gave to the Deism and infidelity against which they were
directed, was a far more permanent evil. Much may be conceded to the
alarm not unnaturally felt at a time when independent thought was
beginning to busy itself in the investigation of doctrines which had
been generally exempt from it, and when all kinds of new difficulties
were being started on all sides. But the many who felt difficulties, and
honestly sought to find a solution of them, were constantly driven into
open hostility by the unconciliatory treatment they met with. Their most
moderate departures from the strictest path of presumed orthodox
exposition were clamorously resented; their interpretations of Christian
doctrine, however religiously conceived, and however worthy of being at
least fairly weighed, were placed summarily under a ban; and those
Church dignitaries in whom they recognised some sort of sympathy were
branded as 'Sons of Belial.' There can be no doubt that at the end of
the seventeenth, and in the earlier part of the eighteenth centuries,
many men, who under kindlier conditions would have been earnest and
active Churchmen, were unconsciously forced, by the intolerance which
surrounded them, into the ranks of the Deists or the Unitarians.

In the general charge preferred against Tillotson of dangerous and
heretical opinion there was yet another item which attracted far more
general attention than the rest. 'This new doctrine,' says Leslie, 'of
making hell precarious doth totally overthrow the doctrine of the
satisfaction of Christ.'[256] Of this particular inference, which would
legitimately follow only upon a very restricted view of the meaning of
atonement, there is no need of speaking. But the opinion itself, as
stated in Tillotson's sermon on what was often described as 'the
dispensing power,' is so important that any estimate of his influence
upon religious thought would be very imperfect without some mention of
it. There are many theological questions of great religious consequence
which are discussed nevertheless only in limited circles, and are
familiar to others chiefly in their practical applications. The future
state is a subject in which everyone has such immediate personal
concern, that arguments which seem likely to throw fresh light upon it,
especially if put forward by an eminent and popular divine, are certain
to obtain very wide and general attention. Tillotson's sermon not only
gave rise to much warm controversy among learned writers, but was
eagerly debated in almost all classes of English society.

Perhaps there has never been a period in Christian history when the
prospects of the bulk of mankind in the world beyond the grave have been
enwrapped in such unmitigated gloom in popular religious conception, as
throughout the Protestant countries of Europe during a considerable part
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is no place to compare
Scripture texts, or to show in what various senses the words of Christ
and His Apostles have been interpreted. It may be enough to remark in
passing that perhaps no Christian writer of any note has ever doubted
the severe reality of retribution on unrepented sin. Without further
reference then to the Apostolic age, it is certain that among the early
fathers of the Church there was much difference of opinion as to the
nature, degree, and duration of future punishment. Hermas, in one of
those allegories which for three centuries enjoyed an immense
popularity, imagined an infinite variety of degrees of retribution.[257]
Irenæus and Justin Martyr, in closely corresponding words, speak of its
period of duration as simply dependent upon the will of God.[258] The
Christian Sibylline books cherished hopes in the influence of
intercession. Ambrose and Lactantius,[259] Jerome,[260] and in a far
more notable degree, Clement of Alexandria[261] and Origen write of
corrective fires of discipline in the next world, if not in this, to
purify all souls, unless there are any which, being altogether bad, sink
wholly in the mighty waters.[262] 'Augustine's writings show how widely
those questions were discussed. He rejects the Origenian doctrine, but
does not consider it heretical.... None of the first four general
councils laid down any doctrine whatever concerning the everlasting
misery of the wicked. Yet the question had been most vehemently
disputed.'[263] Throughout the Middle Ages, religious terrorism in its
barest and most material form was an universal, and sometimes no doubt a
very efficient instrument of moral control; but small consideration is
needed to perceive how these fears must have been at once tempered and
partly neutralised by the belief in purgatory--tempered by the hope that
pains preceding judgment might take the place of ultimate penalties, and
almost neutralised by the superstitious idea that such purgatorial
sufferings might be lightened and shortened by extraneous human agencies
independent of the purification and renewal of the sinful soul.
Throughout the earlier period of the Reformation, and especially in
England, the protest of Protestantism was mainly against specific abuses
in the Church, and against the Papal supremacy. Two or three generations
had to pass away before habits of thought engrained for ages in the
popular mind were gradually effaced. In spite of the rapid growth of
Puritanism, and of the strong hold gained by an extreme form of
Calvinism on some of the leading Churchmen of Queen Elizabeth's time,
the faith of the mass of the people was still a combination, in varied
proportions, of the old and the new. The public mind had utterly
revolted against the system of indulgences; but it would be very rash to
assume that men's ideas of the eternal state were not largely and widely
modified by an undefined tradition of purifying fires. Although this may
not have been the case with the clergy and others who were familiar with
controversy, there was certainly among them also a strong disinclination
to pronounce any decided or dogmatical opinion about that unknown
future. This is traceable in the various writings elicited by the
omission of the latter part of the third article in the Revision under
Archbishop Parker; and is more palpably evident in the entire excision
of the forty-second article, which for ten years had committed the
Church of England to an express opinion as to the irreparable state of
the condemned. But long before the seventeenth century had closed,
orthodox opinion seems to have set almost entirely in the direction of
the sternest and most hopeless interpretation possible. Bishop Rust of
Dromore, who died in 1670, ardently embraced Origen's view.[264] So also
did Sir Henry Vane, the eminent Parliamentary leader, who was beheaded
for high treason in 1662.[265] A few Nonconformist congregations adopted
similar opinions. The Cambridge Platonists--insisting prominently, as
most writers of a mystical turn have done, upon that belief in the
universal fatherhood of God, which had infused a gentler tone, scarcely
compatible with much that he wrote, even into Luther's spirit--inclined
to a milder theology. Henry More ventured to hope that 'the benign
principle will get the upper hand at last, and Hades, as Plutarch says,
[Greek: apoleipesthai], be left in the lurch.'[266] But these were
exceptions. For the most part, among religious writers of every school
of thought there was perfect acquiescence in a doctrine of intolerable
never-ending torments, and no attempt whatever to find some mode of
explanation by which to escape from the horrors of the conception.
Pearson and Bull, Lake and Kettlewell, Bentley, Fleetwood,
Worthington,[267] Sherlock, Steele and Addison, Bunyan and
Doddridge--theologians and scholars, Broad Churchmen and Nonjurors,
preachers and essayists, Churchmen and Nonconformists--expressed
themselves far more unreservedly than is at all usual in our age, even
among those who, in theory, interpret Scripture in the same sense. The
hideous imagery depicted by the graphic pencil of Orcagna on the walls
of the Campo Santo was reproduced no less vividly in the prose works of
Bunyan, and with equal vigour, if not with equal force of imagination,
by almost all who sought to kindle by impassioned pulpit appeals the
conscience of their hearers. Young's poem of 'The Last Day,' in which
panegyrics of Queen Anne are strangely blended with a powerful and
awe-inspiring picture of the most extreme and hopeless misery, was
highly approved, we are told, not only by general readers but by the
Tory Ministry and their friends.[268] No doubt the practical and
regulative faith which exercised a real influence upon life was of quite
a different nature. A tenet which cannot be in the slightest degree
realised, except perhaps in special moments of excitement or depression,
is rendered almost neutral and inefficacious by the conscience refusing
to dwell upon it. Belief in certain retribution compatible with human
ideas of justice and goodness cannot fail in practical force. A doctrine
which does not comply with this condition, if not questioned, is simply
evaded. 'And dost thou not,' cried Adams, 'believe what thou hearest in
Church?' 'Most part of it, Master,' returned the host. 'And dost not
thou then tremble at the thought of eternal punishment?' 'As for that,
Master,' said he, 'I never once thought about it; but what signifies
talking about matters so far off?'[269] But if by the majority the
doctrine in point was practically shelved, it was everywhere passively
accepted as the only orthodox faith, and all who ventured to question
it were at once set down as far advanced in ways of Deism or worse.

Nothing can be more confirmatory of what has been said than the writings
of Tillotson himself. His much-famed sermon 'On the Eternity of Hell
Torments' was preached in 1690 before Queen Mary, a circumstance which
gave occasion to some of the bitterest of his ecclesiastical and
political opponents to pretend that it was meant to assuage the horrors
of remorse felt by the Queen for having unnaturally deserted her
father.[270] His departure, however, from what was considered the
orthodox belief was cautious in the extreme. He acknowledged indeed that
the words translated by eternal and 'everlasting' do not always, in
Scripture language, mean unending. But on this he laid no stress. He did
not doubt, he said, that this at all events was their meaning wherever
they occurred in the passages in question. He mentioned, only to set
aside the objection raised by Locke and others, that death could not
mean eternal life in misery.[271] He thought the solemn assertion
applied typically to the Israelites, and confirmed (to show its
immutability) by an oath that they should not 'enter into his rest,'
entirely precluded Origen's idea of a final restitution.[272] He even
supposed, although somewhat dubiously, that 'whenever we break the laws
of God we fall into his hands and lie at his mercy, and he may, without
injustice, inflict what punishment on us he pleases,'[273] and that in
any case obstinately impenitent sinners must expect his threatenings to
be fully executed upon them. But in this lay the turning-point of his
argument. 'After all, he that threatens hath still the power of
execution in his hand. For there is this remarkable difference between
promises and threatenings--that he who promiseth passeth over a right to
another, and thereby stands obliged to him in justice and faithfulness
to make good his promise; and if he do not, the party to whom the
promise is made is not only disappointed, but injuriously dealt withal;
but in threatenings it is quite otherwise. He that threatens keeps the
right of punishing in his own hands, and is not obliged to execute what
he hath threatened any further than the reasons and ends of government
do require.'[274] Thus Nineveh was absolutely threatened; 'but God
understood his own right, and did what he pleased, notwithstanding the
threatening he had denounced.' Such was Tillotson's theory of the
'dispensing power,' an argument in great measure adopted from the
distinguished Arminian leader, Episcopius,[275] and which was
maintained by Burnet, and vigorously defended by Le Clerc.[276] It was
not, however, at all a satisfactory position to hold. Intellectually and
spiritually, its level is a low one; and even those who have thought
little upon the subject will feel, for the most part, as by a kind of
instinct, that this at all events is not the true explanation, though it
may contain some germs of truth. To do reasonable justice to it, we must
take into account the conflicting considerations by which Tillotson's
mind was swayed. No one could appeal more confidently and fervently than
he does to the perfect goodness of God, a goodness which wholly
satisfies the human reason, and supplies inexhaustible motives for love
and worship. We can reverence, he said, nothing but true goodness. A God
wanting in it would be only 'an omnipotent evil, an irresistible

But side by side with this principal current of thought was another.
Dismayed at the profligacy and carelessness he saw everywhere around
him, he was evidently convinced that not fear only, but some
overwhelming terror was absolutely necessary for even the tolerable
restraint of human sin and passion. 'Whosoever,' he said, 'considers how
ineffectual the threatening even of eternal torments is to the greatest
part of sinners, will soon be satisfied that a less penalty than that of
eternal sufferings would to the far greater part of mankind have been in
all probability of little or no force.'

The result, therefore, of this twofold train of thought was this--that
when Tillotson had once disburdened himself of a conviction which must
have been wholly essential to his religious belief, and upon which he
could not have held silence without a degrading feeling of insincerity,
he then felt at liberty to suppress all further mention of it, and to
lay before his hearers, without any qualification, in the usual language
of his time, that tremendous alternative which he believed God himself
had thought it necessary to proclaim. Probably Tillotson's own mind was
a good deal divided on the subject between two opinions. In many
respects his mind showed a very remarkable combination of old and new
ideas, and perceptibly fluctuated between a timid adherence to tradition
and a sympathy with other notions which had become unhappily and
needlessly mixed up with imputations of Deism. In any case, what he has
said upon this most important subject is a singular and exaggerated
illustration of that prudential teaching which was a marked feature both
in Tillotson's theology and in the prevailing religious thought of his

In spite of what Tillotson might perhaps have wished, the suggestions
hazarded in his thirty-fifth sermon made an infinitely greater
impression than the unqualified warnings contained in the hundreds which
he preached at other times. It seems to have had a great circulation,
and probably many and mixed results. So far as it encouraged that
abominable system, which was already falling like a blight upon
religious faith, of living according to motives of expedience and the
wiser chance, its effects must have been utterly bad. It may also have
exercised an unsettling influence upon some minds. Although Tillotson
was probably entirely mistaken in the conviction, by no means peculiar
to him, that the idea of endless punishment adds any great, or even any
appreciable, force to the thought of divine retribution awaiting
unrepented sin, yet there would be much cause for alarm if (as might
well be the case) the ignorant or misinformed leaped to the conclusion
that the Archbishop had maintained that future, as distinguished from
endless punishments, were doubtful. We are told that 'when this sermon
of hell was first published, it was handed about among the great
debauchees and small atheistical wits more than any new play that ever
came out. He was not a man of fashion who wanted one of them in his
pocket, or could draw it out at the coffee-house.'[278] In certain
drawing-rooms, too, where prudery was not the fault, there were many
fashionable ladies who would pass from the scandal and gossip of the day
to applaud Tillotson's sermon in a sense which would have made him
shudder.[279] Nothing follows from this, unless it be assumed that the
profligates and worldlings of the period would have spent a single hour,
not to say a life, differently, had he never preached the sermon which
they discredited with their praise. It is possible, however, that
through misapprehension, or through the disturbing effects upon some
minds, quite apart from rational grounds, of any seeming innovation upon
accustomed teaching, there may have been here and there real ground for
the alarm which some very good people felt at these views having been
broached. It must be acknowledged that Tillotson's theory of a
dispensing power is not only unsatisfactory on other grounds, but
possesses a dangerous quality of expansibility. However much he himself
might protest against such a view, there was no particular reason why
the easy and careless should not urge that God might perchance dispense
with all future punishment of sin, and not only with its threatened

Tillotson's theological faults were of a negative, far rather than of a
positive character. The constant charges of heresy which were brought
against him were ungrounded, and often serve to call attention to
passages where he has shown himself specially anxious to meet Deistical
objections. But there were deficiencies and omissions in his teaching
which might very properly be regarded with distrust and alarm. In the
generality of his sermons he dwells very insufficiently upon distinctive
Christian doctrine. His early parishioners of Keddington, in
Suffolk,[280] were more alive to this serious fault than the vast London
congregations before whom he afterwards preached. He has himself, in one
of his later sermons, alluded to the objection. 'I foresee,' he
observed, 'what will be said, because I have heard it so often said in
the like case, that there is not one word of Jesus Christ in all this.
No more is there in the text, and yet I hope that Jesus Christ is truly
preached, whenever His will, and the laws, and the duties enjoined by
the Christian religion are inculcated upon us.'[281] Tillotson never
adequately realised that the noblest treatise on Christian ethics will
be found wanting in the spiritual force possessed by sermons far
inferior to it in thought and eloquence, in which faith in the Saviour
and love of Him are directly appealed to for motives to all virtuous
effort. This very grave deficiency in the preaching of Tillotson and
others of his type was in great measure the effect of reaction. Brought
up in the midst of Calvinistic and Puritan associations, he had gained
abundant experience of the great evil arising from mistaken ideas on
free grace and justification by faith only. He had seen doctrines
'greedily entertained to the vast prejudice of Christianity, as if in
this new covenant of the Gospel, God took all upon Himself and required
nothing, or as good as nothing, of us; that it would be a disparagement
to the freedom of God's grace to think that He expects anything from us;
that the Gospel is all promises, and our part is only to believe and
embrace them, that is, to believe confidently that God will perform them
if we can but think so;'[282] 'that, in fact, religion [as he elsewhere
puts it] consists only in believing what Christ hath done for us, and
relying confidently upon it.'[283] He knew well--his father had been a
bright example of it--that such doctrines are constantly found in close
union with great integrity and holiness of life. But he knew also the
deplorable effects which have often attended even an apparent
dissociation of faith and morality; he had seen, and still saw, how deep
and permanent, both by its inherent evil and by the recoil that follows,
is the wound inflicted upon true religion by overstrained professions,
unreal phraseology, and the form without the substance of godliness. He
saw clearly, what many have failed to see, that righteousness is the
principal end of all religion; that faith, that revelation, that all
spiritual aids, that the incarnation of the Son of God and the
redemption He has brought, have no other purpose or meaning than to
raise men from sin and from a lower nature, to build them up in
goodness, and to renew them in the image of God. He unswervingly
maintained that immorality is the worst infidelity,[284] as being not
only inconsistent with real faith, but the contradiction of that highest
end which faith has in view. Tillotson was a true preacher of
righteousness. The fault of his preaching was that by too exclusive a
regard to the object of all religion, he dwelt insufficiently on the way
by which it is accomplished. If some had almost forgotten the end in
thinking of the means, he was apt to overlook the means in thinking of
the end. His eyes were so steadfastly fixed on the surpassing beauty of
Christian morality, that it might often seem as if he thought the very
contemplation of so much excellence were a sufficient incentive to it.
His constantly implied argument is, that if men, gifted with common
reason, can be persuaded to think what goodness is, its blessedness
alike in this world and the next, and on the other hand the present and
future consequences of sin, surely reason itself will teach them to be
wise. He is never the mere moralist. His Christian faith is ever present
to his mind, raising and purifying his standard of what is good, and
placing in an infinitely clearer light than could otherwise be possible
the sanctions of a life to come. Nor does he speak with an uncertain
tone when he touches on any of its most distinctive doctrines. Never
either in word or thought does he consciously disparage or undervalue
them. Notwithstanding all that Leslie and others could urge against him,
he was a sincere, and, in all essential points, an orthodox believer in
the tenets of revealed religion. But he dwelt upon them insufficiently.
He regarded them too much as mysteries of faith, established on good
evidence, to be firmly held and reverently honoured; above all, not to
be lightly argued about in tones of controversy. He never fully realised
what a treasury they supply of motives to Christian conduct, and of
material for sublime and ennobling thought; above all, that religion
never has a missionary and converting power when they are not
prominently brought forward.

Throughout the eighteenth century the prudential considerations against
which Shaftesbury and a few others protested weighed like an incubus
both upon religion and on morals. 'Oh Happiness! our being's end and
aim,'[285] was the seldom failing refrain, echoed in sermons and essays,
in theological treatises and ethical studies. And though the idea of
happiness varies in endless degrees from the highest to the meanest, yet
even the highest conception of it cannot be substituted for that of
goodness without great detriment to the religion or philosophy which has
thus unduly exalted it. When Tillotson, or Berkeley,[286] or Bishop
Butler, or William Law, as well as Chubb[287] and Tindal,[288] spoke of
happiness as the highest end, they meant something very different from
'the sleek and sordid epicurism, in which religion and a good conscience
have their place among the means by which life is to be made more
comfortable.'[289] William Law's definition of happiness as 'the
satisfaction of all means, capacities, and necessities, the order and
harmony of his being; in other words, the right state of a man,'[290]
has not much in common with the motives of expedience urged by Bentham
and Paley, utilitarian systems, truly spoken of as 'of the earth,
earthy.'[291] But, in any case, even the highest conception of the
expedient rests on a lower plane of principle than the humblest
aspiration after the right. The expedient and the right are not
opposites; they are different in kind.[292] They may be, and ought to
be, blended as springs of action. No scheme of morals, and no practical
divinity can be wholly satisfactory in which virtue and holiness are not
equally mated with prudence and heavenly wisdom, each serving but not
subservient to the other. 'Art thou,' says Coleridge, 'under the tyranny
of sin--a slave to vicious habits, at enmity with God, and a skulking
fugitive from thine own conscience? Oh, how idle the dispute whether the
listening to the dictates of prudence from prudential and
self-interested motives be virtue or merit, when the not listening is
guilt, misery, madness, and despair.'[293] The self-love which Butler
has analysed with so masterly a hand is wholly compatible with the pure
love of goodness. Plato did not think it needful to deny the claims of
utilitarianism, however much he gave the precedence to the ideal

But when the idea of goodness is subordinated to the pursuit of
happiness, the evil effects are soon manifest. It is not merely that
'Epicureanism popularised inevitably turns to vice.'[295] Whenever in
any form self-interest usurps that first place which the Gospel assigns
to 'the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,' the calculating element
draws action down to its own lower level. 'If you mean,' says Romola,
'to act nobly and seek the best things God has put within reach of men,
you must learn to fix your mind on that end and not on what will happen
to you because of it.'[296] It has been observed, too, with a truth none
the less striking for being almost a commonplace, that there is
something very self-destructive in the quest for happiness.[297]
Happiness and true pleasure ultimately reward the right, but if they are
made the chief object, they lose in quality and elude the grasp. 'So far
as you try to be good, in order to be personally happy, you miss
happiness--a great and beautiful law of our being.'[298]

Utilitarianism or eudæmonism has no sort of intrinsic connection with a
latitudinarian theology, especially when the word 'latitudinarian' is
used, as in this chapter, in a general and inoffensive sense. In this
century, and to some extent in the last, many of its warmest opponents
have been Broad Churchmen. But prudential religion, throughout the
period which set in with the Revolution of 1688, is closely associated
with the name of Tillotson. It is certainly very prominent in his
writings. His keen perception of the exceeding beauty of goodness might
have been supposed sufficient to guard him from dwelling too much upon
inferior motives. Tillotson, however, was very susceptible to the
predominant influences of his time. If he was a leader of thought, he
was also much led by the thought of others. There were three or four
considerations which had great weight with him, as they had with almost
every other theologian and moralist of his own and the following age.
One, which has been already sufficiently discussed, was that feeling of
the need of proving the reasonableness of every argument, which was the
first result of the wider field, the increased leisure, the greater
freedom of which the reasoning powers had become conscious. It is
evident that no system of morality and practical religion gives so much
scope to the exercise of this faculty as that which pre-eminently
insists upon the prudence of right action and upon the wisdom of
believing. Then again, the profligate habits and general laxity which
undoubtedly prevailed to a more than ordinary extent among all classes
of society, seem to have created even among reformers of the highest
order a sort of dismayed feeling, that it was useless to set up too high
a law, and that self-interest and fear were the two main arguments which
could be plied with the best hopes of success. Thirdly, a very mistaken
notion appears to have grown up that infidelity and 'free-thinking'
might be checked by prudent reflections on the safeness of orthodoxy and
the dangers of unbelief. Thought is not deterred by arguments of
safety;[299] and a sceptic is likely to push on into pronounced
disbelief, if he commonly hears religion recommended as a matter of

In all these respects Tillotson did but take the line which was
characteristic of his age--of the age, that is, which was beginning, not
of that which was passing away. Something, too, must be attributed to
personal temperament. He carried into the province of religion that same
benign but dispassionate calmness of feeling, that subdued sobriety of
judgment, wanting in impulse and in warmth, which, in public and in
private life, made him more respected as an opponent than beloved as a
friend. To weigh evidence, to balance probabilities, and to act with
tranquil confidence in what reason judged to be the wiser course, seemed
to him as natural and fit in spiritual as in temporal matters. This was
all sound in its degree, but there was a deficiency in it, and in the
general mode of religious thought represented by it, which cannot fail
to be strongly felt. There is something very chilling in such an appeal
as the following: 'Secondly, it is infinitely most prudent. In matters
of great concernment a prudent man will incline to the safest side of
the question. We have considered which side of these questions is most
reasonable: let us now think which is safest. For it is certainly most
prudent to incline to the safest side of the question. Supposing the
reasons for and against the principles of religion were equal, yet the
danger and hazard is so unequal, as would sway a prudent man to the
affirmative.'[300] It must not be inferred that nobler and more generous
reasonings in relation to life and goodness do not continually occur.
But the passage given illustrates a form of argument which is far too
common, both in Tillotson's writings and throughout the graver
literature of the eighteenth century. Without doubt it did much harm. So
long as moralists dwelt so fondly upon self-interest and expedience,
and divines descanted upon, the advantages of the safe side; so long as
the ideal of goodness was half supplanted by that of happiness; so long
as sin was contemplated mainly in its results of punishment, and
redemption was regarded rather as deliverance from the penalties of sin
than from the sin itself, Christianity and Christian ethics were
inevitably degraded.

Many of the subjects touched upon in this chapter have little or no
connection with Latitudinarianism, so far as it is synonymous with what
are now more commonly called Broad Church principles. But in the
eighteenth century 'reasonableness' in religious matters, although a
characteristic watchword of the period in general, was especially the
favourite term, the most congenial topic, upon which Latitudinarian
Churchmen loved to dwell. The consistency of the Christian faith with
man's best reason was indeed a great theme, well worthy to engage the
thoughts of the most talented and pious men of the age. And no doubt
Tillotson and many of his contemporaries and successors amply earned the
gratitude, not only of the English Church, but of all Christian people
in England. Their good service in the controversy with Deism was the
first and direct, but still a temporary result of their labours. They
did more than this. They broadened and deepened the foundations of the
English Church and of English Christianity not only for their own day,
but for all future time. They laboured not ineffectually in securing to
reason that established position without which no religious system can
maintain a lasting hold upon the intellect as well as upon the heart. On
the other hand, their deficiencies were great, and appear the greater,
because they were faults not so much of the person as of the age, and
were displayed therefore in a wide field, and often in an exaggerated
form. They loved reason not too well, but too exclusively; they
acknowledged its limits, but did not sufficiently insist upon them. They
accepted the Christian faith without hesitation or reserve; they
believed its doctrines, they reverenced its mysteries, fully convinced
that its truth, if not capable of demonstration, is firmly founded upon
evidence with which every unprejudiced inquirer has ample reason to be
satisfied. But where reason could not boldly tread, they were content to
believe and to be silent. Hence, as they put very little trust in
religious feelings, and utterly disbelieved in any power of spiritual
discernment higher than, or different from reason, the greater part of
their religious teaching was practically confined to those parts of the
Christian creed which are palpable to every understanding. In their wish
to avoid unprofitable disputations, they dwelt but cursorily upon
debated subjects of the last importance; and in their dread of a
correct theology doing duty for a correct life, they were apt grievously
to underestimate the influences of theology upon life. Their moral
teaching was deeply religious, pervaded by a sense of the overruling
Providence of a God infinite in love and holiness, and was enforced
perseveringly and with great earnestness by motives derived from the
rewards and punishments of a future state. If a reader of Tillotson
feels a sense of wonder that the writings of so good a man--of such deep
and unaffected piety, so sympathetic and kindly, so thoroughly
Christian-hearted--should yet be benumbed by the presence of a cold
prudential morality which might seem incompatible with the
self-forgetful impulses of warm religious feeling, he may see, in what
he wonders at, the ill effects of a faith too jealously debarred by
reason from contemplations in which the human mind quickly finds out its
limits. When religion, in fear lest it should become unpractical,
relaxes its hold upon what may properly be called the mysteries of
faith, it not only loses in elevation and grandeur, but it defeats the
very end it aimed at. It takes a lower ethical tone, and loses in moral
power. To form even what may be in some respects an erroneous conception
of an imperfectly comprehended doctrine, and so to make it bear upon the
life, is far better than timidly, for fear of difficulties or error, to
lay the thought of it aside, and so leave it altogether unfruitful.
Tillotson and many of his successors in the last century had a great
tendency to do this, and no excellences of personal character could
redeem the injurious influence it had upon their writings. His services
in the cause of religious truth were very great: they would have been
far greater, and his influence a far more unmixed good, if as a
representative leader of religious thought, he had been more superior to
what was to be its most characteristic defect.

The Latitudinarian section of the Church of England won its chief fame,
during the years that immediately followed the Revolution of 1688, by
its activity in behalf of ecclesiastical comprehension and religious
liberty. These exertions, so far as they extend to the history of the
eighteenth century, and were continued through that period, will be
considered in the following chapter.



[Footnote 195: H.S. Skeats, _History of the Free Churches_, 315.]

[Footnote 196: H. Hallam, _Literature of Europe_, iv, 177.]

[Footnote 197: _Life of Tillotson_, T. Birch, ccxxxv.]

[Footnote 198: Letter to G. Hanger, in Nichols' _Lit. An._, iv. 215.]

[Footnote 199: Birch, ccxxxv.]

[Footnote 200: _Letters_, ed. Berry, ii. 181.]

[Footnote 201: Birch, cccxxxviii.]

[Footnote 202: J. Wesley, _Works_, x. 299.]

[Footnote 203: Nichols, iv. 215.]

[Footnote 204: Sir R. Howard, _History of Religion_, 1694, preface.]

[Footnote 205: Fleetwood's _Works_, 516.]

[Footnote 206: No. 106.]

[Footnote 207: No. 155.]

[Footnote 208: No. 101. In the _Whig Examiner_ (No. 2) it is observed,
as an instance of the singular variety of tastes, that 'Bunyan and
Quarles have passed through several editions, and please as many readers
as Dryden and Tillotson.']

[Footnote 209: _Reflections on the Clergy_, &c., 1798, iv.; J.
Napleton's _Advice to a Student_. 1795, 26.]

[Footnote 210: Swift's _Works_, viii. 190.]

[Footnote 211: C. Leslie's _Works_, ii. 543.]

[Footnote 212: Id. ii. 596.]

[Footnote 213: No. 10.]

[Footnote 214: Lavington's _Enthusiasm of Meth. and Pap._, &c., 11, and
Polwhele's Introduction to id. ccxxxii.]

[Footnote 215: _Qu. Rev._, 31, 121.]

[Footnote 216: Sacheverell, Nov. 5, Sermon 'On False Brethren.']

[Footnote 217: Birch, ccxxxiii.]

[Footnote 218: Serm. v., _Works_, i. 465.]

[Footnote 219: Id. i. 448.]

[Footnote 220: S. lvi., _Works_, iv. 35.]

[Footnote 221: S. ccxxii., _Works_, ix. 219.]

[Footnote 222: H. More, Gen. Pref. § 3.]

[Footnote 223: Id. § 6.]

[Footnote 224: Id. § 3.]

[Footnote 225: S. xx., _Works_, ii. 277.]

[Footnote 226: _Works_, x. 199.]

[Footnote 227: Qu. in J. Hunt's _Religious Thought in England_, iii.

[Footnote 228: Id.]

[Footnote 229: S. xliv., _Works_, iii. 310.]

[Footnote 230: S. lviii., _Works_, v. 84.]

[Footnote 231: S. xxi., _Works_, ii. 207.]

[Footnote 232: Id. 273.]

[Footnote 233: Id. 277.]

[Footnote 234: S. xxi., _Works_, ii. 265-7.]

[Footnote 235: J.A. Dorner, _History of Protestant Theology_, ii. 77.]

[Footnote 236: Sir R. Howard's _History of Religion_, 1694.]

[Footnote 237: Cf. M. Pattison in _Essays and Reviews_, 293-4.]

[Footnote 238: W. Law, 'Spirit of Love,' _Works_, viii. 141.]

[Footnote 239: S. xlvi., _Works_, iii. 359.]

[Footnote 240: Id.]

[Footnote 241: C. Leslie, _Works_, ii. 669.]

[Footnote 242: Burnet's _Four Discourses_, 122.]

[Footnote 243: Id. 127.]

[Footnote 244: Id.]

[Footnote 245: Id. 134.]

[Footnote 246: S. xlvi., _Works_, iii. 359, and 383, 389.]

[Footnote 247: S. ccxxvii., _Works_, ix. 337.]

[Footnote 248: S. xlvii., _Works_, iii. 403.]

[Footnote 249: C. Leslie, _Works_, ii. 281.]

[Footnote 250: S. xlvi., _Works_, iii. 362.]

[Footnote 251: Id. 363.]

[Footnote 252: Id. 364.]

[Footnote 253: S. xlvi., _Works_ iii. 365]

[Footnote 254: S. xlvii. _Works_, iii. 398.]

[Footnote 255: Leslie, ii. 562.]

[Footnote 256: Leslie, ii. 596.]

[Footnote 257: Quotations from the _Shepherd_ of Hermas, in a review of
vol. i. of the _Ante-Nicene Library_ in the _Spectator_, July 27, 1867,
p. 836.]

[Footnote 258: Just. Mart. _Dial. cum Tryph._ i. b. i. § v. 20 (ed. W.
Trollope, 1846); also Iren. _Hær._ ii. 34, 3, quoted in note to above.]

[Footnote 259: _Sibyll._ ver. 331. _De Psalm._ 36, v. 15; _Serm._ xx. §
12; Lactant. _Div. Inst._ vii. 21, all quoted in H.B. Wilson's speech,
1863, 102-10.]

[Footnote 260: Jerome, _Com. in Is._ tom. 3, ed. Ben. 514, quoted by Le
Clerc, _Bib. Choisie_, vii. 326.]

[Footnote 261: Clem. Alex. _Strom._ vii. § 6, p. 851, quoted in Blunt,
J.J., _Early Fathers_, p. 80.]

[Footnote 262: Origen, _Hom._ 6, in _Ex. N._ 4, quoted by Wilson, and
_De Princip._ iii. c. v-vi. quoted by Blunt, _Early Fathers_, 99, and Le
Clerc, _Bibliothèque Choisie_, vii. 327.]

[Footnote 263: Wilson, 119 and 99.]

[Footnote 264: J.T. Rutt, note to Calamy's _Own Life_, i. 140.]

[Footnote 265: Biog. D., _Vane_.]

[Footnote 266: H. More, _Works_, ed. 1712. _On the Immortality of the
Soul_, b. iv. ch. xix. § 9.]

[Footnote 267: Worthington's unhesitating acceptance of the tenet in
question (_Essay on Man's Redemption_, 1748, 308) is particularly
noticeable, because he was an ardent believer in the gradual restoration
of mankind in general to a state of perfection.]

[Footnote 268: _Life of Young_. Anderson's _British Poets_, x. 10.]

[Footnote 269: Fielding's _Joseph Andrews_, b. ii. ch. 3.]

[Footnote 270: Birch, T., _Life of Tillotson_, cliv.]

[Footnote 271: Locke, J., _Reasonableness of Christianity_, Preface.]

[Footnote 272: S. xxxv., _Works_, iii. 85.]

[Footnote 273: Id. 84.]

[Footnote 274: Id. and i. 511; S. cxl.]

[Footnote 275: Birch, clvi.]

[Footnote 276: _Bibliothèque Choisie_, tom. vii. art. 7.]

[Footnote 277: S. ccxii., _Works_, ix. 84.]

[Footnote 278: C. Leslie, _Works_, ii. 596-7.]

[Footnote 279: Young's _Poems_, Sat. vi.]

[Footnote 280: They complained that Jesus Christ had not been preached
among them since Mr. Tillotson had been settled in the parish.--(Birch,
xviii.) This was in 1663. The contrast between Tillotson's style and
that of the Commonwealth preachers would in any case have been very
marked, the more so as Puritanism gained a strong footing in the eastern

[Footnote 281: S. xlii., _Works_, iii. 275.]

[Footnote 282: S. vii., _Works_, i. 495.]

[Footnote 283: S. xxxiv., _Works_, iii. 65.]

[Footnote 284: S. vii., _Works_, i. 499.]

[Footnote 285: Pope's _Essay on Man_, Ep. 4.]

[Footnote 286: In _Guardian_, No. 55.]

[Footnote 287: 'Ground, &c., of Morality,' Chubb's _Works_, iii. 6.]

[Footnote 288: Dorner, iii. 81.]

[Footnote 289: M. Pattison in _Essays and Reviews_, 275.]

[Footnote 290: Quoted in F.D. Maurice's Preface to _Law's Answer to
Mandeville_, lxx.]

[Footnote 291: Channing and Aikin's _Correspondence_, 46.]

[Footnote 292: Mackintosh's _Progress of Ethical Philosophy_, sect. i.]

[Footnote 293: S.T. Coleridge, _Aids to Reflection_, i. 37.]

[Footnote 294: Mackay, R.W., Introduction to _The Sophists_, 36.]

[Footnote 295: _Ecce Homo_, 114.]

[Footnote 296: G. Eliot, _Romola_, near the end.]

[Footnote 297: _Ecce Homo_, 115; cf. Coleridge, _The Friend_ Ess. xvi.
i. 162.]

[Footnote 298: F.W. Robertson, _Life and Letters_, i. 352.]

[Footnote 299: Cf. F.D. Maurice's Introduction to _Law on Mandeville_,

[Footnote 300: S. ccxxiii., _Works_, ix. 275.]

       *       *       *       *       *




The Latitudinarianism which occupies so conspicuous and important a
place in English ecclesiastical history during the half century which
followed upon the Revolution of 1688 has been discussed in some of its
aspects in the preceding chapter. It denoted not so much a particular
Church policy as a tone or mode of thought, which affected the whole
attitude of the mind in relation to all that wide compass of subjects in
which religious considerations are influenced by difference of view as
to the province and authority of the individual reason.

But that which gave Latitudinarianism its chief notoriety, as well as
its name, was a direct practical question. The term took its origin in
the efforts made in William and Mary's reign to give such increased
latitude to the formularies of the English Church as might bring into
its communion a large proportion of the Nonconformists. From the first
there was a disposition to define a Latitudinarian, much as Dr. Johnson
did afterwards, in the sense of 'one who departs from orthodoxy.' But
this was not the leading idea, and sometimes not even a part of the
idea, of those who spoke with praise or blame of the eminent
'Latitudinarian' bishops of King William's time. Not many were competent
to form a tolerably intelligent opinion as to the orthodoxy of this or
that learned prelate, but all could know whether he spoke or voted in
favour of the Comprehension Bill. Although therefore in the earlier
stages of that projected measure some of the strictest and most
representative High Churchmen were in favour of it, it was from first to
last the cherished scheme of the Latitudinarian Churchmen, and in
popular estimation was the visible badge, the tangible embodiment of
their opinions.

The inclusiveness of the Reformed Church of England has never been
altogether one-sided. It has always contained within its limits many who
were bent on separating themselves by as wide an interval as possible
from the Church of Rome, and many on the other hand who were no less
anxious that the breach of unity should not be greater than was in any
way consistent with spiritual independence and necessary reforms. The
Reformation undoubtedly derived the greater part of its force and energy
from the former of these two parties; to the temperate counsels of the
latter it was indebted for being a movement of reform rather than of
revolution. Without the one, religious thought would scarcely have
released itself from the strong bonds of a traditional authority.
Without the other, it would have been in danger of losing hold on
Catholic belief, and of breaking its continuity with the past. Without
either one or the other, the English Church would not only have lost the
services of many excellent men, but would have been narrowed in range,
lowered in tone, lessened in numbers, character, and influence. To use
the terms of modern politics, it could neither have spared its
Conservatives, though some of them may have been unprogressive or
obstructionist, nor its Liberals, although the more advanced among them
were apt to be rash and revolutionary.

At the opening of the eighteenth century, all notions of a wider
comprehension in favour of persons who dissented in the direction of
Rome, rather than of Geneva or Glasgow, were utterly out of question.
One of the most strongly-marked features in the Churchmanship of the
time, was the uncompromising hostility which everywhere displayed itself
against Rome. This animosity was relieved by a mitigating influence in
one direction only. Churchmen in this country could not fail to feel
interest in the struggle for national independence in religious matters
which was being carried on among their neighbours and ancestral enemies
across the Channel. The Gallican Church was in the height of its fame,
adorned by names which added lustre to it wherever the Christian faith
was known. No Protestant, however uncompromising, could altogether
withhold his admiration from a Fénelon,[301] a Pascal,[302] or a
Bossuet. And all these three great men seemed more or less separated,
though in different ways, from the regular Romish system. The spiritual
and semi-mystical piety of Fénelon detached him from the trenchant
dogmatism which, since the Council of Trent, had been stamped so much
more decisively than heretofore upon Roman tenets. Pascal,
notwithstanding his mediævalism, and the humble submissiveness which he
acknowledged to be due to the Papal see, not only fascinated cultivated
readers by the brilliancy of his style, not only won their hearts by the
simple truthfulness and integrity of his character, but delighted
Englishmen generally by the vigour of the attack with which, as leader
of the Jansenists, he led the assault upon the Jesuits. Bossuet's noble
defence of the Gallican liberties appealed still more directly to the
sympathies of this nation. It reminded men of the conflict that had
been fought and won on English soil, and encouraged too sanguine hopes
that it might issue in a reformation within the sister country, not
perhaps so complete as that which had taken place among ourselves, but
not less full of promise. In the midst of the war that was raging
between the rival forms of belief, English theologians of all opinions
were pleased with his graceful recognition, in the name of the French
clergy, of the services rendered to religion by Bishop Bull's learned
'Judgment of the Catholic Church.'[303]

Some time after the death of Bossuet, the renewed resistance which was
being made in France against Papal usurpations gave rise to action on
the part of the primate of our Church, which in the sixteenth century
might have been cordially followed up in England, but in the eighteenth
was very generally misunderstood and misrepresented. Archbishop Wake had
taken a very distinguished part in the Roman controversy, directing his
special attention to the polemical works of Bossuet, but had always
handled these topics in a broader and more generous tone than many of
his contemporaries. In 1717, at a time when many of the French bishops
and clergy, headed by the Sorbonne, and by the Cardinal de Noailles,
were indignantly protesting against the bondage imposed upon them by the
Bull Unigenitus, and were proposing to appeal from the Pope to a general
council, a communication was received by Archbishop Wake,[304] that Du
Pin, head of the theological faculty of the Sorbonne, had expressed
himself in favour of a possible union with the English Church.[305] The
idea was warmly favoured by De Gerardin, another eminent doctor of that
university. A correspondence of some length ensued, carried on with much
friendly and earnest feeling on either side. Separation from Rome was
what the English archbishop chiefly pressed;[306] 'a reformation in
other matters would follow of course.' Writing as he did without any
official authority, he was wise enough not to commit himself to any
details. First of all they ought 'to agree,' he said, 'to own each other
as true brethren and members of the Catholic Christian Church;' and then
the great point would be to acknowledge 'the independence (as to all
matters of authority) of every national Church on all others,' agree
with one another, as far as possible, on all matters of moment, and
leave free liberty of disagreement on other questions. He did not see
anything in our offices so essentially contrary to their principles,
that they need scruple to join in them; and if some alterations were
made, we also might join in theirs, on a clear understanding that on all
such points of disagreement as the doctrine of transubstantiation,
either body of Christians should hold the opinions which it approved.
Upon such terms,[307] two great national Churches might be on close
terms of friendly intercommunion notwithstanding great differences on
matters not of the first importance, which might well afford to wait
'till God should bring us to a union in those also.' Du Pin and De
Gerardin replied in much the same spirit. The former of the two soon
after died; and the incipient negotiation, which was never very likely
to be followed by any practical results, fell through. In fact, the
resuscitated spirit of independence which had begun to stir in France
was itself shortlived.

The correspondence between the English primate and the doctors of the
Sorbonne is an episode which stands by itself, quite apart from any
other incidents in the Church history of the time. It bears a
superficial resemblance to the overtures made by some of the English and
Scotch Nonjurors to the Eastern Church. There was, however, an essential
difference between them. Without any dishonour to Nonjuring principles,
and without passing any judgment upon the grounds of their separation,
it must be acknowledged that those of them who renounced the communion
of the English Church accepted a sectarian position. They had gained a
comparative uniformity of opinion, at the entire expense of that breadth
and expansiveness which only national Churches are found capable of.
Connection with the Eastern Church, if it could have been carried out
(though the difficulties in the way of this were far greater than they
were at all aware of), would simply have indicated a movement of their
whole body in one direction only, and, in proportion as it was
successful, would have alienated them more than ever from those whose
religious and ecclesiastical sympathies were of a very different kind.
Such communion, on the other hand, of independent national Churches as
was contemplated by Du Pin and Wake might have been quite free from
one-sidedness of this description. It need not have interfered with or
discouraged, it should rather have tended to promote, the near
intercourse, which many English Churchmen were greatly desirous of, with
the National Church of Scotland and with the reformed Churches of the
Continent. A relation of this kind with her sister Churches on either
hand would have been in perfect harmony both with the original
standpoint of the Church of England, and with an important office it may
perhaps be called to in the future. It was in reference to the
sympathetic reception given in this country to many of the proscribed
bishops and clergy of France at the time of the great revolution, that
the Count de Maistre made a remark which has often struck readers as
well worthy of notice. 'If ever,'--he said, 'and everything invites to
it--there should be a movement towards reunion among the Christian
bodies, it seems likely that the Church of England should be the one to
give it impulse. Presbyterianism, as its French nature rendered
probable, went to extremes. Between us and those who practise a worship
which we think wanting in form and substance, there is too wide an
interval; we cannot understand one another. But the English Church,
which touches us with the one hand, touches with the other those with
whom we have no point of contact.'[308]

Archbishop Wake, had he lived in more favourable times, would have been
well fitted, both by position and character, for this work of mutual
conciliation. His disposition toward the foreign Protestant Churches was
of the most friendly kind. In a letter to Le Clerc on the subject,[309]
he deprecated dissension on matters of no essential moment. He desired
to be on terms of cordial friendship with the Reformed Churches,
notwithstanding their points of difference from that of England. He
could wish they had a moderate Episcopal government, according to the
primitive model; nor did he yet despair of it, if not in his own time,
perhaps in days to come. He would welcome a closer union among all the
Reformed bodies, at almost any price. The advantages he anticipated from
such a result would be immense. Any approximations in Church government
or Church offices which might conduce to it he should indeed rejoice in.
Much to the same effect he wrote[310] to his 'very dear brothers,' the
pastors and professors of Geneva. The letter related, in the first
instance, to the efforts he had been making in behalf of the Piedmontese
and Hungarian Churches. But he took occasion to express the longing
desire he felt for union among the Reformed Churches--a work, he
allowed, of difficulty, but which undoubtedly could be achieved, if all
were bent on concord. He hoped he might not be thought trenching upon a
province in which he had no concern, if he implored most earnestly both
Lutherans and Reformed to be very tolerant and forbearing in the mutual
controversies they were engaged in upon abstruse questions of grace and
predestination; above all, to be moderate in imposing terms of
subscription, and to imitate in this respect the greater liberty of
judgment and latitude of interpretation which the Church of England had
wisely conceded to all who sign her articles. Archbishop Wake addressed
other letters on these subjects to Professor Schurer of Berne, and to
Professor Turretin of Geneva. He also carried on a correspondence with
the Protestants of Nismes, Lithuania, and other countries. 'It may be
affirmed,' remarks one of the editors of Mosheim's History, 'that no
prelate since the Reformation had so extensive a correspondence with the
Protestants abroad, and none could have a more friendly one.'[311] His
behaviour towards Nonconformists at home was in his later years less
conciliatory, and the inconsistency is a blemish in his character. The
case would probably have been different if any schemes for union or
comprehension had still been under consideration. In the absence of some
such incentive, his mind, liberal as it was by nature and general habit,
was overborne by the persistent clamour that the Dissenters were bent
upon overthrowing the National Church, and that concession had become
for the time impossible.

After the suppression of the Gallican liberties, the hostility between
the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches was for a long time wholly
unbroken. The theological controversy had abated. Pamphlet no longer
followed upon pamphlet, and folio upon folio, as when, a few years
before, every writer in divinity had felt bound to contribute his quota
of argument to the voluminous stock, and when Tillotson hardly preached
a sermon without some homethrust at Popery. But the general fear and
hatred of it long continued unmitigated. So long, particularly, as there
was any apprehension of Jacobite disturbances, it always seemed possible
that Romanism might yet return with a power of which none could guess
the force. Additions were still made to the long list of penalties and
disabilities attached to Popish recusancy; and when, in 1778, a
proposition was brought forward to abate them, it is well known what a
storm of riot arose in Scotland and burst through England.

It might be thought that in the dull ebb-tide of spiritual energies
which set in soon after the beginning of the eighteenth century, and
prevailed wherever the Methodist movement did not reach, Rome, with her
strong organisation and her experienced Propaganda, had as great a field
before her as Wesley had,--that she would have made rapid advance in
spite of all disabilities,--and that, in consequence, the Protestant
fears, which had been subsiding into indifference, would have arisen
again in full force. But Rome shared in the strange religious apathy
which was dominant not in England only, but the Continent. Her writers
generally acknowledge the greater part of the eighteenth century to have
been a period of comparative inactivity,[312] broken at last only by the
violent stimulus of the Revolution. Many thought that Romanism continued
to gain ground in England, and some cried out that still stricter laws
were needed to suppress the Papists. It is doubtful, however, whether
advances in some quarters were not more than balanced by losses
elsewhere. As the century advanced, Rome gradually ceased to be dreaded
as a subtle pervading power, full of mysterious activity, whose force
might be felt most severely at the very moment when least preparation
had been made to meet it. Later still, fear was sometimes replaced by a
confidence no less excessive. 'It is impossible,' said Mr. Windham in
the House of Commons, 1791, 'to deem them (the Roman Catholics)
formidable at the present period, when the power of the Pope is
considered as a mere spectre, capable of frightening only in the dark,
and vanishing before the light of reason and knowledge.'[313]

Until the last decade of the century, Roman Catholics were rarely spoken
of in any other spirit than as the dreaded enemies of Protestantism.
There was very little recognition of their being far more nearly united
to us by the tie of a common Christianity, than separated by the
differences in it. A man who was not a professed sceptic needed to be
both more unprejudiced and more courageous than his neighbours, to speak
of Roman Catholics with tolerable charity. In this, as in many other
points, Bishop Berkeley was superior to his age. He ventured to propose
that Roman Catholics should be admitted to the Dublin College without
being obliged to attend chapel or divinity lectures.[314] He could speak
of such an institution as Monasticism in a discriminative tone which was
then exceedingly uncommon. In Ireland he wisely accepted the fact that
the Roman Catholic priests had the heart of the people, and shaped his
conduct accordingly. His 'Word to the Wise' was an appeal addressed in
1749 to the priests, exhorting them to use their influence to promote
industry and self-reliance among their congregations. This sort of
Episcopal charge to the clergy of another Communion was received, it is
said, with a no less cordial feeling than that in which it was

Dr. Johnson, a man of a very different order of mind, may be mentioned
as another who joined a devoted attachment to the Church of England with
a candid and kindly spirit towards Roman Catholics. Perhaps his respect
for authority, and the tinge of superstition in his temperament,
predisposed him to sympathy. In any case, his masculine intellect
brushed away with scorn the prejudices, exaggerations, and
misconstructions which beset popular ideas upon the subject. He took
pleasure in dilating upon the substantial unity that subsisted between
them and denominations which, in externals, were separated from them by
a very wide interval. 'There is a prodigious difference,' he would say,
'between the external form of one of your Presbyterian Churches in
Scotland, and a Church in Italy; yet the doctrine taught is essentially
the same.'[316]

Many of the speeches made in favour of relief, at the time of the Irish
and English Emancipation Acts, were couched in terms which betoken a
marked departure from the bitterness of tone which had long been
customary. When the French Revolution broke out, the reaction became,
for an interval, in many quarters far stronger still. In the presence of
anti-Christian principles exultingly avowed, and triumphantly defiant,
it seemed to many Christians that minor differences, which had seemed
great before, dwindled almost into insignificance before the light of
their common faith. Moreover, there was a widespread feeling of deep
sympathy with the wrongs and sufferings of the proscribed clergy.
'Scruples about external forms,' said Bishop Horsley before the House of
Lords, 'and differences of opinion upon controvertible points, cannot
but take place among the best Christians, and dissolve not the fraternal
tie; none, indeed, at this season are more entitled to our offices of
love than those with whom the difference is wide in points of doctrine,
discipline, and external rites,--those venerable exiles, the prelates
and clergy of the fallen Church of France, endeared to us by the
edifying example they exhibit of patient suffering for conscience
sake.'[317] Horsley's words were far from meeting with universal
approval. There were some fanatics, Hannah More tells us, who said it
was a sin to oppose God's vengeance against Popery, and succour the
priests who it was His will should starve. And real sympathy, even while
the occasion of it lasted, was very often, as may well be imagined,
mixed with feelings of apprehension. These refugees might be only too
grateful. Thinking that salvation was obtainable only in their own
Church, was it not likely they would use their utmost art to extend this
first of blessings to those who had so hospitably protected them? Thus
interest was blended with anxiety in the nation which gave welcome to
the emigrants. But interest there certainly was, and considerable
abatement in the bitterness of earlier feeling.

The relations of the Church of England with other Reformed bodies abroad
and at home had been, since James II.'s time, a question of high
importance. Burnet justly remarks of the year 1685, that it was one of
the most critical periods in the whole history of Protestantism. 'In
February, a king of England declared himself a Papist. In June, Charles
the Elector Palatine dying without issue, the Electoral dignity went to
the house of Newburgh, a most bigoted Popish family. In October, the
King of France recalled and vacated the Edict of Nantes. And in
December, the Duke of Savoy, being brought to it not only by the
persuasion, but even by the threatenings of the court of France,
recalled the edict that his father had granted to the Vaudois.'[318] It
cannot be said that the crisis was an unexpected one. The excited
controversy which was being waged among theologians was but one sign of
the general uneasiness that had been prevailing. 'The world,' writes one
anonymous author in 1682, 'is filled with discourses about the
Protestant religion and the professors of it; and not without
cause.'[319] 'Who,' says another, 'can hold his peace when the Church,
our mother, hath the Popish knife just at her throat!'[320] But the
reverses of the Reformed faith abroad greatly increased the ferment, and
began to kindle Protestant feeling into a state of enthusiastic fervour.
When at last, in the next reign, war was proclaimed with Louis XIV., it
was everywhere recognised as a great religious struggle, in which
England had assumed her place as the champion of the Protestant

From the very beginning of the Reformation it had been a vexed question
how far the cause of the Reformed Church of England could be identified
with that of other communions which had cast off the yoke of Rome. In
dealing with this problem, a broad distinction had generally been made
between Nonconformists at home and Protestant communities abroad. The
relation of the English Church to Nonconformity may accordingly be
considered separately. So long as it was a question of communion, more
or less intimate, with foreign Churches, the intercourse was at all
events not embarrassed with any difficulties about schism. The preface
to the Book of Common Prayer had expressly declared that 'In these our
doings we condemn no other nations, nor prescribe anything but to our
own people only. For we think it convenient that every country should
use such ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of
God's honour and glory.' It was therefore acknowledged with very
tolerable unanimity that friendly relationship with Protestant Churches
on the Continent was by no means inconsistent with very considerable
differences of custom and opinion. Men of all parties in the Church of
England were ever inclined to allow great weight to the voice of
constituted authority in matters which did not seem to them to touch the
very life and substance of religion. Without taking this into
consideration, it is impossible to form a right view of the comparative
tenderness with which Churchmen passed over what they considered to be
defects in reformed systems abroad which they condemned with much
severity among Nonconformists at home.

The relations, however, of England with foreign Protestant bodies,
though not exactly unfriendly, have been characterised by a good deal of
reserve. The kinship has been acknowledged, and the right of difference
allowed; but belief in the great superiority of English uses,
Nonconformist difficulties, and a certain amount of jealousy and
intolerance, had always checked the advances which were sometimes made
to a more cordial intimacy. In Henry VIII.'s time, in 1533, and again in
1535, overtures were made for a Foedus Evangelicum, a league of the
great reforming nations.[321] The differences between the German and the
English Protestants were at that time very great, not only in details of
discipline and government, but in the general spirit in which the
Reformation in the two countries was being conducted. But an alliance of
the kind contemplated would perhaps have been carried out had it not
been for the bigotry which insisted upon signature of the Augsburg
Confession. Queen Elizabeth was at one time inclined to join on behalf
of England the Smalcaldic League of German Protestants, but the same
obstacle intervened.[322] Cromwell is said to have cherished a great
project of establishing a permanent Protestant Council, in which all the
principal Reformed communities in Europe, and in the East and West
Indies, would be represented under the name of provinces, and designs
for the promotion of religion advanced and furthered in all parts of the
world.[323] Such projects never had any important results. Statesmen, as
well as theologians, often felt the need of strengthening the whole
Protestant body by an organised harmony among its several members,
something akin to that which gives the Roman Catholic Church so imposing
an aspect of general unity. The idea was perhaps essentially
impracticable, as requiring for its accomplishment a closer uniformity
of thought and feeling than was either possible or desirable among
Churches whose greatest conquest had been a liberty of thinking. As
between England and Germany, one great impediment to a cordial
understanding arose out of the differences between Lutheran and
Reformed. So long as the English Church was under the guidance of
Cranmer and Ridley, it was not clear to which of these two parties it
most nearly approximated. In the reign of Edward VI. the Calvinistic
element gained ground--a tendency as much resented by the one party
abroad as it was welcomed by the other. The English clergymen who found
a refuge in the Swiss and German cities were treated with marked neglect
by the Lutherans, but received with great hospitality by the
Calvinists.[324] At a later period, when Presbyterianism had for the
time gained strong ground in England, the attitude had become somewhat
reversed. The Reformed or Calvinistic section of German Protestants
sided chiefly with the Presbyterians; the Lutherans with the English
Churchmen.[325] In a word, notwithstanding all professions of more
liberal sentiment, the hankering after an impossible uniformity was, on
either side of the Channel, too strong to permit of cordial union or
substantial unity. It was often admitted in theory, but not often in
practice, that the principles of the Reformation must be left to operate
with differences and modifications according to the varying
circumstances of the countries in which they were adopted. Bucer and
Peter Martyr, Calvin and Bullinger, made it almost a personal grievance
that the English retained much which they themselves had cast
aside.[326] Laud exhibited the same spirit in a more oppressive form
when he insisted that, in spite of the guarantees given by Elizabeth and
James I., no foreign Protestants should remain in England who would not
conform to the established liturgy.[327]

No doubt the differences between the Reformed Churches of England and
the Continent were very considerable. Yet, with the one discreditable
exception just referred to, there had been much comity and friendliness
in all personal relations between their respective members; and the
absence of sympathy on many points of doctrine and discipline was not
so great as to preclude the possibility of closer union and common
action in any crisis of danger. Before the end of the seventeenth
century such a crisis seemed, in the opinion of many, to have arrived.
The Protestant interest throughout Europe was in real peril. In England
there was as much anxiety on the subject as was compatible with a period
which was certainly not characterised by much moral purpose or deep
feeling. The people as a mass were not just then very much in earnest
about anything, but still they cared very really about their
Protestantism. They were not assured of its security even within their
own coasts; they knew that it was in jeopardy on the Continent. National
prejudices against France added warmth to the indignation excited by the
oppressions to which the Protestant subjects of the great monarch had
been subjected. National pride readily combined with nobler impulses to
create an enthusiasm for the idea that England was the champion of the
whole Protestant cause.

There is nothing which tends to promote so kindly a feeling towards its
objects as self-denying benevolence. This had been elicited in a very
remarkable degree towards the refugees who found a shelter here after
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Londoners beheld with a sort of
humorous dismay the crowd of immigrants who came to settle among them.

    Hither for God's sake and their own they fled;
    Some for religion came, and some for bread.
    Four hundred thousand wooden pair of shoes,
    Who, God be thanked, had nothing left to lose,
    To heaven's great praise, did for religion fly,
    To make us starve our poor in charity.[328]

But these poverty-stricken exiles were received with warm-hearted
sympathy. No previous brief had ever brought in such large sums as those
which throughout the kingdom were subscribed for their relief; nor, if
the increase of wealth be taken into account, has there been any greater
display of munificence in our own times.[329] Churchmen of all views
came generously forward. If here and there a doubt was raised whether
these demonstrations of friendliness might not imply a greater approval
of their opinions than really existed, compassion for sufferers who were
not fellow-Christians only, but fellow-Protestants, quickly overpowered
all such hesitation. Bishop Ken behaved in 1686 with all his accustomed
generosity and boldness. In contravention of the King's orders, who had
desired that the brief should be simply read in churches without any
sermon on the subject, he ventured in the Royal Chapel to set forth in
affecting language the sufferings they had gone through, and to exhort
his hearers to hold, with a like unswerving constancy, to the Protestant
faith. He issued a pastoral entreating his clergy to do the utmost in
their power for 'Christian strangers, whose distress is in all respects
worthy of our tenderest commiseration.' For his own part, he set a noble
example of liberality in the gift of a great part of 4000_l._ which had
lately come into his possession.[330] We are told of Rainbow, Bishop of
Carlisle, that in a similar spirit he gave to French Protestants large
sums, and bore 'his share with other bishops in yearly pensions' to some
of them.[331]

The burst of general sympathy evoked in favour of the French refugees
happened just at a time when Churchmen of all views were showing a more
or less hearty desire that the Church of England might be strengthened
by the adhesion of many who had hitherto dissented from it. Sancroft was
as yet at one with Tillotson in desiring to carry out a Comprehension
Bill, and was asking Dissenters to join with him 'in prayer for an
universal blessed union of all Reformed Churches at home and
abroad.'[332] Undoubtedly there was a short interval, just before the
Nonjuring secession, in which the minds not only of the so-called
Latitudinarians, but of many eminent High Churchmen, were strongly
disposed to make large concessions for the sake of unity, and from a
desire of seeing England definitely at the head of the Protestant cause
alike in England and on the Continent. They could not but agree with the
words of Samuel Johnson--as good and brave a man as the great successor
to his name--that 'there could not be a more blessed work than to
reconcile Protestants with Protestants.'[333] But the opportunity of
successfully carrying into practice these aspirations soon passed away,
and when it became evident that there could be no change in the
relations of the English Church towards Nonconformity, interest in
foreign Protestantism began to be much less universal than it had been.
The clergy especially were afraid--and there was justification for their
alarm--that some of the oldest and most characteristic features of their
Church were in danger of being swept away. They had no wish to see in
England a form of Protestantism nearly akin to that which existed in
Holland. But there was a strong party in favour of changes which might
have some such effect. The King, even under the new constitution, was
still a power in the Church, and it was well known that the forms of the
Church of England had no particular favour in his eyes. And therefore
the Lower House of Convocation, representing, no doubt, the views of a
majority of the clergy, while they professed, in 1689, that 'the
interest of all the Protestant Churches was dear to them,' were anxious
to make it very clear that they owned no close union with them.[334]
There was a perplexity in the mode of expression which thoroughly
reflected a genuine difficulty. As even the Highest Churchmen, at the
opening of the eighteenth century, were vehemently Protestant, afraid of
Rome, and exceedingly anxious to resist her with all their power, they
could not help sharing to some extent in the general wish to make common
cause with the Protestants abroad. On the other hand, there was much to
repel anything like close intercourse. The points of difference were
very marked. The English Church had retained Episcopacy. There was no
party in the Church which did not highly value it; a section of High
Churchmen reckoned it one of the essential notes of a true Church, and
unchurched all communions that rejected it. The foreign Reformers, on
the other hand, not, in some cases, without reluctance, and from force
of circumstances, had discarded bishops. English Churchmen, again,
almost universally paid great deference to the authority of the
primitive fathers and early councils. The Reformed Churches abroad,
under the leading of Daillé and others, no less generally depreciated
them.[335] Nor could it be forgotten that the sympathies of those
Churches had been with the Puritans during the Civil Wars, and that in
tone of thought and mode of worship they bore, for the most part, a
closer resemblance to English Nonconformity than to the English Church.
Lastly, the Protestants of France and Switzerland were chiefly
Calvinists, while in the Church of England Calvinism had for some length
of time been rapidly declining. The bond of union had need to be strong,
and the necessity of it keenly felt, if it was to prevail over the
influences which tended to keep the English and foreign Reformed
Churches apart.

Thus, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, while there was a very
general wish that the English Church should take its place at the head
of a movement which would aim at strengthening and consolidating the
Protestant cause throughout Europe, there was much doubt how far such a
project could be carried out consistently with the spirit and principles
of the Church. The hopes of High Churchmen in this direction were based
chiefly on the anticipation that the reformed churches abroad might
perhaps be induced to restore Episcopacy. It was with this view that
Dodwell wrote his 'Parænesis to Foreigners' in 1704. A year or two
afterwards, events occurred in Prussia which made it seem likely that in
that country the desired change would very speedily be made. Frederick
I., at his coronation in 1700, had given the title of bishop to two of
his clergy--one a Lutheran, the other Reformed. The former died soon
after; but the latter, Dr. Ursinus, willingly co-operated with the King
in a scheme for uniting the two communions on a basis of mutual
assimilation to the Church of England. Ernestus Jablonski, his chaplain,
a superintendent of the Protestant Church, in Poland, zealously promoted
the project. He had once been strongly prejudiced against the English
Church; but his views on this point had altered during a visit to
England, and he was now an admirer of it. By the advice of Ursinus and
Jablonski, the King caused the English Liturgy to be translated into
German. This was done at Frankfort on the Oder, where the English Church
had many friends among the professors. Frederick then directed Ursinus
to consult further with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and suggested
that, if the plan was encouraged in England, the Liturgy should be
introduced into the King's Chapel and the Cathedral Church on the 1st
Sunday in Advent, 1706. It was to be left optional to other Churches to
follow the example. After debate in the King's consistory, letters and
copies of the version were sent to the Queen of England and to
Archbishop Tenison. The former returned her thanks, but the primate
appeared not to have received the communication; and the King, offended
at the apparent slackness, allowed the matter to drop. Early, however,
in 1709, communications were reopened. On January 14 of that year, the
following entry occurs in Thoresby's 'Diary:' 'At the excellent Bishop
of Ely's [Moore]. Met the obliging R. Hales, Esq., to whose pious
endeavour the good providence of God has given admirable success in
reconciling the Reformed Churches abroad [Calvinists and Lutherans] one
to another (so that they not only frequently meet together, but some of
them join in the Sacrament), and both of them to the Church of England;
so that in many places they are willing to admit of Episcopacy, as I am
creditably informed.'[336] The negotiations continued. Jablonski's
recommendations were translated into English, and attracted considerable
attention both in England and Prussia. They were promoted by many
persons of eminence, especially by Archbishop Sharp, Bishop Smalridge
(who thought 'the honour of our own Church and the edification of
others much interested in the scheme'), Bishop Robinson and Lord Raby,
ambassador at Berlin. Secretary St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke,
wrote to Raby in behalf of this 'laudable design,' informing him that
the Queen was 'ready to give all possible encouragement to that
excellent work,' and that if previous overtures had received a cold
reception, yet that the clergy generally were zealous in the cause.
Bonel, the Prussian king's minister in London, wrote in 1711 to
Frederick that he thought the service of the Church of England was 'the
most perfect, perhaps, that is among Protestants,' that conformity
between the Prussian and English Churches would be received with great
joy in England, but that the conformity desired related more to Church
government than to any ritual or liturgy, and that Episcopacy was
generally looked upon as the only apostolical and true ecclesiastical
form of government. Later in the year, Jablonski placed in the hands of
Baron Prinz his more matured 'Project for introducing Episcopacy into
the King of Prussia's dominions.' Leibnitz engaged to interest the
Electress of Hanover in the proposal. He was afraid, however, that the
thirty-nine articles would be considered 'a little too much Geneva
stamp' at Berlin. The negotiations continued, but the interest of the
King had slackened; the proceedings of the Collegium Charitativum at
Berlin, which sat under the presidency of Bishop Ursinus, were somewhat
discredited by the wilder schemes started by Winkler, one of its chief
members; the grave political questions debated at Utrecht diverted
attention from ecclesiastical matters; Archbishop Sharp, who had taken
an active part in the correspondence, became infirm; and the conferences
were finally brought to a termination by the death, early in 1713, of
Frederick I.[337] Frederick William's rough and contracted mind was far
too much absorbed in the care of his giant regiment, and in the amassing
of treasure, to feel the slightest concern in matters so entirely
uncongenial to his temper as plans for the advancement of Church unity.

With the earlier years of the century all ideas of a closer relationship
between English and foreign Protestantism than had existed heretofore
passed away. The name of Protestant was still as cherished in popular
feeling as ever it had been; but soon after the beginning of the
Georgian period little was heard, as compared with what lately had been
the case, of the Protestant cause or the Protestant interest. In truth,
when minds were no longer intent upon immediate dangers, the bond was
severed which had begun to keep together, notwithstanding all
differences, the Reformed Churches in England and on the Continent. A
few leading spirits on either side had been animated by larger
aspirations after Christian unity. But self-defence against aggressive
Romanism had been the main support of all projects of combination. In
the eighteenth century there was plenty of the monotonous indifferentism
which bears a dreary superficial resemblance to unity, but there was
very little in the prevalent tone of thought which was adapted to
encourage its genuine growth. And even if it had been otherwise--if the
National Church had ever so much widened and deepened its hold in
England, and a sound, substantial unity had gained ground, such as gains
strength out of the very differences which it contains--insular feeling
would still, in all probability, have been too exclusive or uninformed
to care much, when outward pressure was removed, for ties of sympathy
which should extend beyond the Channel and include Frenchmen or Germans
within their hold. Quite early in the century we find Fleetwood[338] and
Calamy[339] complaining of a growing indifference towards Protestants
abroad. A generation later this indifference had become more general.
Parliamentary grants to 'poor French Protestant refugee clergy' and
'poor French Protestant laity' were made in the annual votes of supply
almost up to the present reign,[340] but these were only items in the
public charity; they no longer bore any significance.

In 1751 an Act was brought forward for the general naturalisation of
foreign Protestants resident in England. Much interest had been felt in
a similar Bill which had come before the House in 1709. But the
promoters of the earlier measure had been chiefly animated by the sense
of close religious affinity in those to whom the privilege was offered;
and those who resisted it did so from a fear that it might tend to
changes in the English Church of which they disapproved. At the later
period these sympathies and these fears, so far as they existed at all,
were wholly subordinate to other influences. The Bill was supported on
the ground of the drain upon the population which had resulted from the
late war; it was vehemently resisted from a fear that it would unduly
encourage emigration, and have an unfavourable effect upon English
labour.[341] Considerations less secular than these had little weight.
Religious life was circulating but feebly in the Church and country
generally; it had no surplus energy to spare for sisterly interest in
other communions outside the national borders.

The remarks that have been made in this chapter upon the relations of
the English Church in the eighteenth century, especially in its earlier
years, towards Rome on the one hand and the foreign Reformed Churches on
the other, began with a reference to those principles of Church
comprehensiveness which, however imperfectly understood, lay very near
the heart of many distinguished Churchmen. But all who longed to see the
Church of England acting in the free and generous spirit of a great
national Church were well aware that there was a wider and more
important field at home for the exercise of those principles. It was
one, however, in which their course seemed far less plain. Many who were
very willing to acknowledge that wide differences of opinion or practice
constituted no insuperable bar to a close friendly intercourse between
Churches of different countries, regarded those same variations in quite
another light when considered as occasions of schism among separatists
at home. Archbishop Sharp, for example, willingly communicated with
congregations of foreign Protestants, wherever he might be travelling on
the Continent, but could discuss no terms of conciliation with English
Dissenters which were not based upon a relinquishment of Nonconformity.
Liberty of opinion was not to be confused with needless infractions of
Church unity.

The Latitudinarian party in the English Church had, almost without
exception, a slight bias toward Puritan opinions. To them, the
differences by which they were separated from moderate Nonconformists
appeared utterly immaterial, and not worthy to be balanced for an
instant against the blessings of unity. Hence while, on the one hand,
they did their utmost to persuade the Dissenters to give up what seemed
to them needless, and almost frivolous scruples, they were also very
anxious that all ground for these scruples should be as far as possible
removed. 'Sure,' they argued, ''tis not ill-becoming an elder (and so a
wiser) brother in such a case as this to stoop a little to the weakness
of the younger, in keeping company still; and when hereby he shall not
go one step the further out of the ready road unto their Father's
house.'[342] On points of Church order and discipline, mitigate the
terms of uniformity, do not rigidly preclude all alternatives, admit
some considered system which will allow room for option. Frankly
acknowledge, that in regard of the doctrine of the sacraments, divers
opinions may still, as has ever been the case, be legitimately held
within the Church and modify here and there an expression in the
Liturgy, which may be thought inconsistent with their liberty, and gives
needless offence. Let it not be in anywise our fault if our brethren in
the same faith will not join us in our common worship. They appealed to
the apostolic rule of Charity, that they who use this right despise not
them who use it not; and those who use it not, condemn not them that use
it. They appealed to the example of the primitive Church, and bade both
Churchmen and Dissenters remember how both Polycarp and Irenæus had
urged, that they who agree in doctrine must not fall out for rites. The
early Church, said Stillingfleet,[343] showed great toleration towards
different parties within its communion, and allowed among its members
and ministers diverse rites and various opinions. They appealed again to
the practice and constitution of the English Church since the
Reformation. They did not so much ask to widen its limits, as that the
limits which had previously been recognised should not now be
restricted. There had always been parties in it which differed widely
from one another, Anglican and Puritan, Calvinist and Arminian. There
never had been a time when it had not included among its clergy men who
differed in no perceptible degree from those who were now excluded. They
appealed to the friendly feeling that prevailed between moderate men on
either side; and most frequently and most urgently they appealed to the
need of combination among Protestants. It was a time for mutual
conciliation among Protestants in England and abroad, not for increasing
divisions, and for imposing new tests and passwords which their fathers
had not known. The National Church ought to make a great effort to win
over a class of men who, as citizens, were prominent, for the most part,
for sobriety, frugality, and industry, and, as Christians, for a piety
which might perhaps be restricted in its ideas, and cramped by needless
scruples, but which at all events was genuine and zealous. A very large
number of them were as yet not disaffected towards the English Church,
and would meet with cordiality all advances made in a brotherly spirit.
It would be a sin to let the opportunity slip by unimproved.

The force of such arguments was vividly felt by the whole of that
Latitudinarian party in the Church, which numbered at the end of the
seventeenth century so many distinguished names. There was a time when
some of the High Church leaders were so far alarmed by Roman
aggressiveness, as to think that union among Protestants should be
purchased even at what they deemed a sacrifice, and when Sancroft, Ken,
and Lake moved for a bill of comprehension,[344] and Beveridge spoke
warmly in favour of it.[345] The moderate Dissenters were quite as
anxious on the subject as any of their conformist friends. 'Baxter
protested in his latest works, that the body to which he belonged was in
favour of a National State Church. He disavowed the term Presbyterian,
and stated that most whom he knew did the same. They would be glad, he
said, to live under godly bishops, and to unite on healing terms. He
deplored that the Church doors had not been opened to him and his
brethren, and pleaded urgently for a "healing Act of Uniformity." Calamy
explicitly states that he was disposed to enter the establishment, if
Tillotson's scheme had succeeded. Howe also lamented the failure of the
scheme.'[346] The trusts of their meeting-houses were in many instances
so framed, and their licences so taken out, that the buildings could
easily be transferred to Church uses.[347] The Independents, who came
next to the Presbyterians, both in influence and numerical strength,
were more divided in opinion. Many remained staunch to the principles of
their early founders, and were wholly irreconcilable.[348] Others,
perhaps a majority, of the 'Congregational Brethren,' as they preferred
to call themselves, were very willing to 'own the king for head over
their churches,' to give a general approval to the Prayer Book, and to
be comprehended, on terms which would allow them what they considered a
reasonable liberty, within the National Church.[349] They formed part of
the deputation of ministers to King William, by whom an ardent hope was
expressed that differences might be composed, and such a firm union
established on broad Christian principles 'as would make the Church a
type of heaven.'[350] How far they would have accepted any practical
scheme of comprehension is more doubtful. But, as Mr. Skeats remarks of
the measure proposed in 1689, 'Calamy's assertion, that if it had been
adopted, it would in all probability have brought into the Church
two-thirds of the Dissenters, indicates the almost entire agreement of
the Independents with the Presbyterians, concerning the expedience of
adopting it.'[351]

The Baptists showed little or no disposition to come to an agreement
with the Church. They were at this time a declining sect, who held
little intercourse with other Dissenters, and were much engaged in petty
but very acrimonious controversies among themselves. They had been
divided ever since 1633 into two sections, the Particular and General
Baptists. The former of the two were Calvinists of the most rigorous and
exclusive type, often conspicuous by a fervent but excessively narrow
form of piety, and illiterate almost on principle on account of their
disparagement of what was called 'human learning.'[352] The General
Baptists, many of whom merged, early in the eighteenth century, into
Unitarians, were less exclusive in their views. But the Baptists
generally viewed the English Church with suspicion and dislike. In many
cases their members were forbidden to enter, an any pretext whatever,
the national churches, or to form intermarriages or hold social
intercourse with Churchmen.[353] Yet some may not have forgotten the
example and teaching of the ablest defender, in the seventeenth century,
of Baptist opinions. 'Mr. Tombs,' says Wall, quoting from Baxter,
'continued an Antipædobaptist to his dying day, yet wrote against
separation for it, and for communion with the parish churches.'[354]
When Marshall, in the course of controversy, reproached the Baptists
with separation, Tombs answered that he must blame the persons, not the
general body. For his own part he thought such separation a 'practice
justly to be abhorred. The making of sects upon difference of opinions,
reviling, separating from their teachers and brethren otherwise
faithful, because there is not the same opinion in disputable points, or
in clear truths not fundamental, is a thing too frequent in all sorts of
dogmatists, &c., and I look upon it as one of the greatest plagues of
Christianity. You shall have me join with you in detestation of
it.'[355] He himself continued in communion with the National Church
until his death.

Unitarians have always differed from one another so very widely, that
they can hardly be classed or spoken of under one name. Their opinions
have always varied in every possible degree, from such minute departure
from generally received modes of expression in speaking of the mystery
of the Godhead, as needs a very microscopic orthodoxy to detect, down to
the barest and most explicit Socinianism. There were some who charged
with Unitarianism Bishop Bull,[356] whose learned defence of the Nicene
faith was famous throughout all Europe. There were many who made it an
accusation against Tillotson,[357] and the whole[358] of the Low or
Latitudinarian party in the Church of England. The Roman
Controversialists of the seventeenth century used to go further still,
and boldly assert[359] that to leave Rome was to go to Socinianism; and
the Calvinists, on their side, would sometimes argue that 'Arminianism
was a shoeing horn to draw on Socinianism.'[360] A great number of the
Unitarians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were themselves
scarcely distinguishable from the orthodox. 'For peace sake they submit
to the phrase of the Church, and expressly own Three Persons, though
they think the word person not so proper as another might be. If the
Three Persons should be defined by three distinct minds and spirits, or
substances, the Unitarian will be lost; but if person be defined by
mode, manifestation, or outward relation, he will be acquitted.... They
believe all the articles of the Apostles' Creed.... They believe the law
of Christ contained in the four gospels to be the only and everlasting
rule, by which they shall be judged hereafter.... They thankfully lay
hold of the message of Redemption through Christ.'[361] Some of the
Unitarians, we are told, even excommunicated and deposed from the
ministry such of their party as denied that divine worship was due to
Christ.[362] Of Unitarians such as these, if they can be called by that
name, and not rather Arians or Semi-Arians, the words of Dr. Arnold may
properly be quoted: 'The addressing Christ in the language of prayer and
praise is an essential part of Christian worship. Every Christian would
feel his devotions incomplete, if this formed no part of them. This
therefore cannot be sacrificed; but we are by no means bound to inquire
whether all who pray to Christ entertain exactly the same ideas of His
nature. I believe that Arianism involves in it some very erroneous
notions as to the object of religious worship; but if an Arian will join
in our worship of Christ, and will call Him Lord and God, there is
neither wisdom nor charity in insisting that he shall explain what he
means by these terms; nor in questioning the strength and sincerity of
his faith in his Saviour, because he makes too great a distinction
between the Divinity of the Father and that which he allows to be the
attribute of the Son.'[363] This was certainly the feeling of
Tillotson[364] and many other eminent men of the same school. If an
Unitarian chose to conform, as very many are accustomed to do, they
gladly received him as a fellow worshipper. Thomas Firmin the
philanthropist, leader of the Unitarians of his day was a constant
attendant at Tillotson's church of St. Lawrence Jewry, and at Dr.
Outram's in Lombard Street. Yet both these divines were Catholic in
regard of the doctrine of the Trinity, and wrote in defence of it. In
fact, the moderate Unitarians conformed without asking or expecting any
concessions. Latitudinarian Churchmen, as a party, entertained no idea
of including Unitarians in the proposed act of comprehension. For his
own part, said Burnet, he could never understand pacificatory doctrines
on matters which seemed to him the fundamentals of Christianity.[365] So
far from comprehension, Socinians were excluded even from the benefits
of the act of toleration; and more than thirty years later, in 1697, a
severe Act of outlawry was passed against all who wrote or spoke against
the divinity of Christ.[366] Until about 1720, Unitarians scarcely took
the form of a separate sect. Either they were scarcely distinguishable
from those who professed one or another form of Deism, and who assumed
the title of a Christian philosophy rather than of a denomination; or
they were proscribed heretics; or they conformed to the Church of
England and did not consider their opinions inconsistent with loyalty to

Little need be said, in this connexion, of the Quakers. Towards the end
of the seventeenth century they increased in wealth and numbers, and had
begun to hold far more mitigated tenets than those of a previous age.
For this they were much indebted to Robert Barclay, who wrote his
'Apology' in Latin in 1676, and translated it with a dedication to
Charles II. in 1678. A few Churchmen of pronounced mystical opinions
were to some extent in sympathy with them; but, as a rule, both among
Conformists and Nonconformists they were everywhere misunderstood,
ridiculed, and denounced. If it had not been so, their vehement
repudiation of all intervention of the State in religious matters would
have compelled them to hold aloof from all overtures of comprehension,
even if any had been proffered to them.

The Nonconformists, therefore, who in the latter part of the seventeenth
century might have been attached by a successful measure of
comprehension to the National Church, were the Presbyterians--at that
time a large and influential body--a considerable proportion, probably,
of the Independents, and individual members of other denominations. The
most promising, though not the best known scheme, appears to have been
that put forward by the Presbyterians, and earnestly promoted by Sir
Matthew Hale, Bishop Wilkins, and others, in 1667. Assent only was to
be required to the Prayer Book; certain ceremonies were to be left
optional; clergymen who had received only Presbyterian ordination were
to receive, with imposition of the bishop's hands, legal authority to
exercise the offices of their ministry, the word 'legal' being
considered a sufficient salvo for the intrinsic validity of their
previous orders; 'sacramentally' might be added after 'regenerated' in
the Baptismal service, and a few other things were to be made
discretional. Here was a very tolerable basis for an agreement which
might not improbably have been carried out, if the House of Commons had
not resolved to pass no bill of comprehension in that year.

Even this scheme, however, had one essential fault common to it with the
projects which were brought forward at a somewhat later period. No
measure for Church comprehension on anything like a large scale is ever
like to fulfil its objects, unless the whole of the question with all
its difficulties is boldly grasped and dealt with in a statesmanlike
manner. Nonconformist bodies, which have grown up by long and perhaps
hereditary usage into fixed habits and settled frames of thought, or
whose strength is chiefly based upon principles and motives of action
which are not quite in accordance with the spirit of the larger society,
can never be satisfactorily incorporated into a National Church, unless
the scheme provides to a great extent for the affiliation and
maintenance in their integrity of the existing organisations. The Roman
Church has never hesitated to utilise in this sort of manner new
spiritual forces, and, without many alterations of the old, to make new
additions to her ecclesiastical machinery at the risk of increasing its
complexity. The Church of England might in this respect have followed
the example of her old opponent to very great advantage. But neither in
the plan of 1689, nor in any of those which preceded or followed it
during the period which elapsed between the Act of Uniformity and the
close of the century, was anything of the kind attempted.

Much, no doubt, could be done and was proposed to be done, in the way of
removing from public services, where other words, not less to the
purpose and equally devotional, could be substituted for them, some
expressions which gave offence and raised scruples. Where this can be
done without loss, it must needs be a gain. A concession to scruples
which in no way impairs our perception of Christian truth, is a worthy
sacrifice to Christian charity. Such a work, however, of revision
demands much caution and an exceptional amount of sound discretion.
Least of all it can be done in any spirit of party. In proposing a
change of expression which would be in itself wholly unobjectionable,
the revisers have not only to consider the scruples of those whom they
wish to conciliate; they must respect even more heedfully, feelings and
sentiments which they may not themselves share in, but which are valued
by one or another party already existing in the Church. A revision
conducted by the moderates of a Church would plainly have no right to
meet scruples and objections on the part of Puritans, outside their
Communion, only by creating new scruples and objections among High
Churchmen within it; just as, reversely, it would be equally
unjustifiable to conciliate High Sacramentalists, or the lovers of a
grander or more touching ceremonial, who hovered on the borders of a
Church, by changes which would be painful to its Puritan members already
domiciled within it. When men of all the leading parties in a Church are
sincerely desirous (as they ought, and, under such contingencies, are
specially bound to be,) of removing unnecessary obstacles to Church
Communion, the work of revision will be comparatively easy; and changes,
which to unwilling minds would be magnified into alarming sacrifices,
will become peace offerings uncostly in themselves, and willingly and
freely yielded. Much then can be done in this way, but only where the
changes, however excellent and opportune in themselves, are promoted not
merely by a party, but by the Church in general.

Alterations, however, of this kind, although they may constitute a very
important part of a measure of Church comprehension, will rarely, if
ever, prove sufficient to fulfil in any satisfactory manner the desired
purpose. It would be simply ruinous to the vitality of any Church to be
neutral and colourless in its formularies. Irritating and polemical
terms may most properly be excluded from devotional use; but no Church
or party in a Church which has life and promise in it will consent, in
order to please others, to give up old words and accustomed usages which
give distinctiveness to worship and add a charm to the expression of
familiar doctrines.

One, therefore, of two things must be done as a duty both to the old and
to the incoming members. Either much must be left optional to the
clergy, or to the clergy acting in concert with their congregations, or
else, as was before said, the National Church must find scope and room
for its new members, not as a mere throng of individuals, but as
corporate bodies, whose organisations may have to be modified to suit
the new circumstances, but not broken up. When it is considered how
highly strict uniformity was valued by the ruling powers at the end of
the seventeenth century, the ample discretionary powers that were
proposed to be left are a strong proof how genuine in many quarters must
have been the wish to effect a comprehension. The difficulties,
however, which beset such liberty of option were obvious, and the
opponents of the bill did not fail to make the most of them. It was a
subject which specially suited the satirical pen and declamatory powers
of Dr. South. He was a great stickler for uniformity; unity, he urged,
was strength; and therefore he insisted upon 'a resolution to keep all
the constitutions of the Church, the parts of the service, and the
conditions of its communion entire, without lopping off any part of
them.' 'If any be indulged in the omission of the least thing there
enjoined, they cannot be said to "speak all the same thing."' And then,
in more forcible language, he descanted upon what he called 'the
deformity and undecency' of difference of practice. He drew a vivid
picture how some in the same diocese would use the surplice, and some
not, and how there would be parties accordingly. 'Some will kneel at the
Sacrament, some stand, some perhaps sit; some will read this part of the
Common Prayer, some that--some, perhaps, none at all.' Some in the
pulpits of our churches and cathedrals 'shall conceive a long crude
extemporary prayer, in reproach of all the prayers which the Church with
such admirable prudence and devotion hath been making before. Nay, in
the same cathedral you shall see one prebendary in a surplice, another
in a long coat, another in a short coat or jacket; and in the
performance of the public services some standing up at the Creed, the
Gloria Patri, and the reading of the Gospel; and others sitting, and
perhaps laughing and winking upon their fellow schismatics, in scoff of
those who practise the decent order of the Church.' Irreconcilable
parties, he adds, and factions will be created. 'I will not hear this
formalist, says one; and I will not hear that schismatic (with better
reason), says another.... So that I dare avouch, that to bring in a
comprehension is nothing else but, in plain terms, to establish a schism
in the Church by law, and so bring a plague into the very bowels of it,
which is more than sufficiently endangered already by having one in its
neighbourhood; a plague which shall eat out the very heart and soul, and
consume the vitals and spirit of it, and this to such a degree, that in
the compass of a few years it shall scarce have any being or
subsistence, or so much as the face of a National Church to be known
by.'[367] South's sermon was on the appropriate text, 'not give place,
no, not for an hour.' His picture was doubtless a highly exaggerated
one. The discretionary powers which some of the schemes of comprehension
proposed to give would not have left the Church of England a mere scene
of confusion, an unseemly Babel of anarchy and licence. A sketch might
be artfully drawn, in which nothing should be introduced but what was
truthfully selected from the practices of different London Churches of
the present day, which might easily make a foreigner imagine that in the
National Church uniformity and order were things unknown. Yet
practically, its unity remains unbroken; and the inconveniences arising
from such divergences are very slight as compared with the advantages
which result from them, and with the general life and elasticity of
which they are at once both causes and symptoms. Good feeling, sound
sense, and the natural instinct of order would have done much to abate
the disorders of even a large relaxation of the Act of Uniformity. In
1689, before yet the course taken by the Revolution had kindled the
strong spirit of party, there was nothing like the heat of feeling in
regard of such usages as the wearing of the surplice, kneeling at the
Communion, and the sign of the cross at Baptism, as there had been in
the earlier part of Elizabeth's reign. When prejudices began to pass
away, prevailing practice would probably have been guided, after an
interval, by the rule of the 'survival of the fittest,'--of those
customs, that is, which best suited the temper of the people and the
spirit of the Church. The surplice, for instance, would very likely have
become gradually universal, much in the same manner as in our own day it
has gradually superseded the gown in the pulpit. A concession to
Nonconformist scruples of some discretionary power in regard of a few
ceremonies and observances would certainly not have brought upon the
National Church the ruin foreboded by Dr. South. Possibly a licensed
variety of usage might have had indirectly a somewhat wholesome
influence. The mild excitement of controversies about matters in
themselves almost indifferent might have tended, like a gentle blister,
to ward off the lethargy which, in the eighteenth century, paralysed to
so great an extent the spiritual energies of the Church. No one can
doubt that Dr. South's remarks expressed in vigorous language genuine
difficulties. But it was equally obvious that if the National Church
were to be laced on a wider basis, as the opportunities of the time
seemed to demand, a relaxation of uniformity of some kind or another was
indispensable. It did not seem to occur to the reformers and
revisionists of the time that a concession of optional powers was a
somewhat crude, nor by any means the only solution of the difficulty;
and that it might be quite possible to meet all reasonable scruples of
Nonconformists without in any way infringing upon customs which all old
members of the Church of England were well satisfied to retain.

But even if the schemes for comprehension had been thoroughly sound in
principle, and less open to objection, the favourable opportunity soon
passed by. While there yet lingered in men's minds a feeling of
uneasiness and regret that the Restoration of 1660 should have been
followed by the ejection of so many deserving clergy; while the more
eminent and cultured of the sufferers by it were leavening the whole
Nonconformist body with principles and sentiments which belong rather to
a National Church than to a detached sect; while Nonconformity among
large bodies of Dissenters was not yet an established fact; while men of
all parties were still rejoicing in the termination of civil war, in the
conspicuous abatement of religious and political animosities, and in the
sense of national unity; while Protestants of all shades of opinion were
knit together by the strong band of a common danger, by the urgent need
of combination against a foe whose advances threatened the liberties of
all; while High Churchmen like Ken and Sancroft were advocating not
toleration only, but comprehension; while the voices of Nonconformists
joined heartily in the acclamations which greeted the liberation of the
seven bishops; while the Upper House of Convocation was not yet
separated from the Lower, nor the great majority of the bishops from the
bulk of the clergy, by a seemingly hopeless antagonism of Church
principles; while High Churchmen were still headed by bishops
distinguished by their services to religion and liberty; and while Broad
Churchmen were represented not only by eminent men of the type of
Stillingfleet and Tillotson, Burnet, Tenison and Compton, but by the
thoughtful and philosophic band of scholars who went by the name of the
Cambridge Platonists--under circumstances such as these, there was very
much that was highly favourable to the efforts which were being made in
favour of Church comprehension. These efforts met at all times with
strong opposition, especially in the House of Commons and among the
country clergy. But a well-considered scheme, once carried, would have
been welcomed with very general approval, and might have been attended
with most beneficial results.

The turn taken by the Revolution of 1688 destroyed the prospect of
bringing these labours to a really successful issue. They were pushed
on, as is well known, with greater energy than ever. They could not,
however, fail of being infected henceforth with a partisan and political
spirit which made it very doubtful whether the ill consequences of an
Act of Comprehension would not have more than counterbalanced its
advantages. The High Church party, deprived of many of their best men by
the secession of the Nonjurors, and suspected by a triumphant majority
of Jacobitism and general disaffection, were weakened, narrowed, and
embittered. Broad Churchmen, on the other hand, were looked upon by
those who differed from them as altogether Latitudinarians in religion,
and Whigs in politics--terms constantly used as practically convertible.
Danger from Rome, although by no means insignificant, was no longer so
visible, or so pressing, as it had been in James II.'s reign. Meanwhile,
it had become apparent that the Church of England was menaced by a peril
of an opposite kind. Not High Churchmen only, but all who desired to see
the existing character of the Church of England maintained, had cause to
fear lest under a monarch to whom all forms of Protestantism were alike,
and who regarded all from a political and somewhat sceptical point of
view, ideas very alien to those which had given the National Church its
shape and colour might now become predominant. If the Royal Supremacy
was no longer the engine of power it had been under some previous
rulers, and up to the very era of the Revolution, the personal opinions
of the sovereign still had considerable weight, especially when backed,
as they now were, by a strong mass of opinion, both within the English
Church, and among Nonconformists. There were many persons who drew back
with apprehension from measures which a year or two before they had
looked forward to with hope. They knew not what they might lead to.
Salutary changes might be the prelude to others which they would witness
with dismay. Moreover, changes which might have been salutary under
other circumstances, would entirely lose their character when they were
regarded as the triumph of a party and caused distrust and alienation.
They might create a wider schism than any they could heal. The Nonjuring
separation was at present a comparatively inconsiderable body in numbers
and general influence; and there was a hope, proved in the issue to be
well founded, that many of the most respected members of it would
eventually return to the communion which they had unwillingly quitted.
The case would be quite reversed, if multitudes of steady, old-fashioned
Churchmen, disgusted by concessions and innovations which they abhorred
and regarded as mere badges of a party triumph, came to look upon the
communion of Ken and Kettlewell and Nelson as alone representing that
Church of their forefathers to which they had given their attachment. It
would be a disastrous consequence of efforts pressed inopportunely in
the interests of peace if the ancient Church of England were rent in

Thus, before the eighteenth century had yet begun, the hopes which had
been cherished by so many excellent men on either side of the line which
marked off the Nonconformists from their conforming friends, had at
length almost entirely vanished. The scheme of 1689, well-meaning as it
was, lacked in a marked degree many of the qualities which most deserve
and command success. But when once William and Mary had been crowned,
and the spirit of party had become strong, the best of schemes would
have failed.

Church comprehension never afterwards became, in any direct form, a
question for much practical discussion. The interest which the late
efforts had excited lingered for some time in the minds, both of those
who had promoted the measure and of those who had resisted it. There was
much warm debate upon the subject in the Convocation of 1702.
Sacheverell and the bigots of his party in 1709 lashed themselves into
fury at the very thought that comprehension could be advocated. It was
treachery, rank and inexcusable; it was bringing the Trojan horse into
the Holy City; it was converting the House of God into a den of
thieves.[368] Such forms of speech were too common just about that
period to mean much, or to attract any particular notice. As Swift said,
if the zealots of either party were to be believed, their adversaries
were always wretches worthy to be exterminated.[369] Party spirit, at
this period, ran so high, both in political and ecclesiastical matters,
and minds were so excited and suspicious, that most men ranged
themselves very definitely on one or another side of a clearly-marked
line, and genuinely temperate counsels were much out of favour. To the
one party 'moderation,' that 'harmless, gilded name,'[370] had become
wholly odious, as ever 'importing somewhat that was unkind to the
Church, and that favoured the Dissenters.'[371] There was a story that
'a clergyman preaching upon the text, "Let your moderation be known unto
all men," took notice that the Latin word "moderor" signified rule and
government, and by virtue of the criticism he made his text to signify,
let the severity of your government be known unto all men.'[372] Yet it
was not to be wondered at that they had got to hate the word. The
opposite party, adopting moderation jointly with union as their
password, and glorifying it as 'the cement of the world,' 'the ornament
of human kind,' 'the chiefest Christian grace,' 'the peculiar
characteristic of this Church,'[373] would pass on almost in the same
breath to pile upon their opponents indiscriminate charges of
persecution, priestcraft, superstition, and to inveigh against them as
'a narrow Laudean faction,' 'a jealous-headed, unneighbourly, selfish
sect of Ishmaelites.'[374] Evidently, so long as the spirit of party was
thus rampant, any measure of Church comprehension was entirely out of
question. Many Low Churchmen were as anxious for it as ever. But they
were no longer in power; and had they been a majority, they could only
have effected it by sheer weight of numbers, and under imminent peril of
disrupture in the Church. Therefore, they did not even attempt it, and
were content to labour toward the same ends by more indirect means.

In the middle of the century--at a time when, except among the
Methodists, religious zeal seemed almost extinct, and when (to use
Walpole's words) 'religious animosities were out of date, and the public
had no turn for controversy'--thoughts of comprehension revived both in
the English Church and among the Nonconformists.

'Those,' wrote Mosheim in 1740, 'who are best acquainted with the state
of the English nation, tell us that the Dissenting interest declines
from day to day, and that the cause of Nonconformity owes this gradual
decay in a great measure to the lenity and moderation that are practised
by the rulers of the Established Church.'[375] No doubt the friendly
understanding which widely existed about this time between Churchmen and
Dissenters contributed to such a result. Herring, for instance, of
Canterbury, Sherlock of London, Secker of Oxford, Maddox of Worcester,
as well as Warburton, who was then preacher at Lincoln's Inn, Hildersley
afterwards Bishop of Sodor and Man, and many other eminent
Churchmen,[376] were all friends or correspondents with Doddridge, the
genial and liberal-minded leader of the Congregationalists, the devout
author of 'The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.' Much the same
might be said of Samuel Chandler, the eminent Presbyterian minister. An
old school fellow of Secker and Butler, when they were pupils together
at a dissenting academy in Yorkshire, he kept up his friendship with
them, when the one was Primate of the English Church, and the other its
ablest theologian. Personal relations of this kind insured the
recognition of approaches based on more substantial grounds. There was
real friendly feeling on the part of many principal Nonconformists not
only towards this or that bishop, this or that Churchman, but towards
the English Church in general. They coveted its wider culture, its freer
air. With the decline of prejudices and animosities, they could not but
feel the insignificance of the differences by which they were separated
from it. Many of them were by no means unfavourable to the principle of
a National Church. This was especially the case with Doddridge. While
he spoke with the utmost abhorrence of all forms of persecution, he
argued that regard alike to the honour of God and to the good of
society, should engage rulers to desire and labour that the people
should be instructed in matters of religion, and that they could not be
thus instructed without some public provision. He held, however, that
such an establishment should be as large as possible, so that no worthy
or good man, whose services could be of use, should be excluded. If the
majority agreed in such an establishment, the minority, he thought,
might well be thankful to be left in possession of their liberties. He
did not see that it was more unfair that they should be called upon to
assist in supporting such a Church, than that they should have to
contribute to the expenses of a war or any other national object of
which they might disapprove.[377] It must be added that the
Nonconformists of that time were drawn towards the National Church not
only by its real merits. They were in very many instances attracted
rather than repelled, by what was then its greatest defect, for it was a
defect which prevailed no less generally among themselves than in it. A
stiff and cold insistence upon morals and reasonable considerations, to
the comparative exclusion of appeals to higher Christian motive, was the
common vice of Nonconformist as well as of national pulpits. At a time,
therefore, when the great cardinal doctrines of Christianity were
insufficiently preached, it followed as a matter of course that
differences of opinion upon religious questions of less moment dwindled
in seeming importance.

Such was the frequent relation between the English Church and Dissent
when a charge happened to be delivered by Gooch, Bishop of Norwich,
which gave rise to some remonstrance on the part of Dr. Chandler, who
had been one of his auditors. Correspondence resulted in an interview,
in which Gooch, though generally considered a High Churchman, showed
himself not unfavourable to comprehension. Another time Bishop Sherlock
joined in the discussion. There were three points, he said, to be
considered--Doctrine, Discipline, and Ceremonies. Discipline was already
in too neglected and enfeebled a state, too much in need of being
recast, to be suggestive of much difficulty. Ceremonies could be left
indifferent. As for doctrine, both bishops were quite willing to agree
with Dr. Chandler that the Articles might properly be expressed in
Scripture words, and that the Athanasian Creed should be discarded.
Chandler, for his part, thought that dissenting clergy would consent to
a form of Episcopal ordination if it did not suggest any invalidity in
previous orders. Archbishop Herring was then consulted. The Primate had
already had a long conversation with Doddridge on the subject, and had
fallen in with Doddridge's suggestion, that, as a previous step, an
occasional interchange of pulpits between Churchmen and Dissenters might
be desirable. He thought comprehension 'a very good thing;' he wished it
with all his heart, and considered that there was some hope of its
success. He believed most of the bishops agreed with him in these

No practical results ensued upon these conversations. They are
interesting, and to some extent they were characteristic of the time. It
is not known whether Herring and his brethren on the Episcopal bench
suggested any practical measure of the kind to the Ministry then in
power. If they had done so, the suggestion would have met with no
response. 'I can tell you,' said Warburton, 'of certain science, that
not the least alteration will be made in the Ecclesiastical system. The
present ministers were bred up under, and act entirely on, the maxims of
the last. And one of the principal of theirs was, Not to stir what is at
rest.'[378] Pelham was a true disciple of Sir Robert Walpole, without
his talent and without his courage--a man whose main political object
was to glide quietly with the stream, and who trembled at the smallest
eddies.[379] He was the last man to give a moment's countenance to any
such scheme, if it were not loudly called for by a large or powerful
section of the community. This was far from being the case. Indifference
was too much the prevailing spirit of the age to allow more than a very
negative kind of public feeling in such a matter. A carefully planned
measure, not too suggestive of any considerable change, would have been
acquiesced in by many, but enthusiastically welcomed by very few, while
beyond doubt there would have been much vehement opposition to it.

Or, if circumstances had been somewhat different, and Herring and
Sherlock, Doddridge and Chandler, had seen their plans extensively
advocated, and carried triumphantly through Parliament, the result would
in all probability have been a disappointing one. It would infallibly
have been a slipshod comprehension. Carelessness and indifference would
have had a large share in promoting it; relaxation, greater than even
then existed, of the order of the Church, would have been a likely
consequence. The National Church was not in a sufficiently healthy and
vigorous condition to conduct with much prospect of success an enlarged
organisation, or to undertake, in any hopeful spirit, new and wider
responsibilities. Nor would accessions from the Dissenting communities
have infused much fresh life into it. They were suffering themselves
under the same defect; all the more visibly because a certain vigour of
self-assertion seemed necessary to justify their very existence as
separatist bodies. The Presbyterians were rapidly losing their old
standing, and were lapsing into the ranks of Unitarianism. A large
majority of the general Baptists were adopting similar views. The ablest
men among the Congregationalists were devoting themselves to teaching
rather than to pastoral work. Unitarianism was the only form of dissent
that was gaining in numbers and influence. The more orthodox
denominations were daily losing in numbers and influence, and were
secluding themselves more and more from the general thought and culture
of the age.

After all, the greatest question which arose in the eighteenth century
in connection with Church Comprehension was that which related to the
Methodist movement. Not that the word 'Comprehension' was ever used in
the discussion of it. In its beginnings, it was essentially an agitation
which originated within the National Church, and one in which the very
thought of secession was vehemently deprecated. As it advanced, though
one episcopal charge after another was levelled against it; though
pulpit after pulpit was indignantly refused to its leaders; though it
was on all sides preached against, satirised, denounced; though the
voices of its preachers were not unfrequently drowned in the clanging of
church bells; though its best features were persistently misunderstood
and misrepresented, and all its defects and weaknesses exposed with a
merciless hand, Wesley, with the majority of his principal supporters,
never ceased to declare his love for the Church of England, and his
hearty loyalty to its principles. 'We do not,' he said, 'we dare not,
separate from the service of the Church. We are not seceders, nor do we
bear any resemblance to them.' And when one of his bitterest opponents
charged him with 'stabbing the Church to her very vitals,' 'Do I, or
you,' he retorted, 'do this! Let anyone who has read her Liturgy,
Articles, and Homilies, judge.... You desire that I should disown the
Church. But I choose to stay in the Church, were it only to reprove
those who betray her with a kiss.'[380] He stayed within it to the last,
and on his deathbed, in 1791, he implored his followers even yet to
refrain from secession.

Comprehension had always related to Dissenters. The term, therefore,
could hardly be used in reference to men who claimed to be thorough
Churchmen, who attended the services of the Church, loved its Liturgy,
and willingly subscribed to all its formularies. The Methodist Societies
bore a striking resemblance to the Collegia Pietatis established in
Germany by Spener about 1670, which, at all events in their earlier
years, simply aimed at the promotion of Christian holiness, while they
preserved allegiance to the ecclesiastical order of the day;[381] or we
may be reminded of that Moravian community, by which the mind of Wesley
was at one time so deeply fascinated, whose ideal, as Matter has
observed, was to be 'Calviniste ici, Luthérienne là; Catholique partout
par ses institutions épiscopales et ses doctrines ascétiques, et
pourtant avant tout Chrétienne, et vraiment apostolique par ses
missions.'[382] 'At a very early period of the renewed Moravian Church,'
writes the translator of Schleiermacher's Letters, 'invitations were
sent from various quarters of Europe for godly men to labour in the
National Churches. These men did not dispense the Sacraments, but
visited, prayed, read the Bible, and kept meetings for those who,
without leaving the National Churches, sought to be "built up in
communion" with right-minded pious persons.'[383] These words are
exactly parallel to what Wesley wrote in one of his earlier works, and
requoted in 1766. 'We look upon ourselves not as the authors or
ringleaders of a particular sect or party, but as messengers of God to
those who are Christians in name, but heathens in heart and life, to
lead them back to that from which they are fallen, to real genuine
Christianity.'[384] His followers, he added, in South Britain, belong to
the Church of England, in North Britain to the Church of Scotland. They
were to be careful not to make divisions, not to baptize, nor administer
the Lord's Supper.[385]

The difficulties in the way of comprehending within the National Church
men such as these, and societies formed upon such principles, ought not
to have been insurmountable. Yet it must be allowed that in practice the
difficulties would in no case have been found trivial. As with
Zinzendorf and his united brethren, so with Wesley and his co-workers
and disciples. Their aims were exalted, their labours noble, the results
which they achieved were immense. But intermingled with it all there was
so much weakness and credulity, so much weight given to the workings of
a heated and over-wrought imagination, so many openings to a blind
fanaticism, such morbid extravagances, so much from which sober reason
and cultivated intellect shrank with instinctive repulsion, that even an
exaggerated distrust of the good effected was natural and pardonable.
Wesley's mind, though not by any means of the highest order of capacity,
was refined, well trained, and practical; Whitefield was gifted with
extraordinary powers of stirring the emotions by his fervid eloquence.
But they often worked with very rude instruments; and defects, which
were prominent enough even in the leaders, were sometimes in the
followers magnified into glaring faults. Wesley himself was a true
preacher of righteousness, and had the utmost horror of all
Antinomianism, all teaching that insisted slightly on moral duties, or
which disparaged any outward means of grace. But there was a section of
the Methodists, especially in the earlier years of the movement, who
seemed much disposed to raise the cry so well known among some of the
fanatics of the Commonwealth of 'No works, no law, no Commandments.'
There were many more who, in direct opposition to Wesley's sounder
judgment, but not uncountenanced by what he said or wrote in his more
excited moments, trusted in impressions, impulse, and feelings as
principal guides of conduct. Wesley himself was never wont to speak of
the Church of England or of its clergy in violent or abusive terms.[386]
Whitefield, however, and, still more so, many of the lesser preachers,
not unfrequently indulged in an undiscriminating bitterness of invective
which could not fail to alienate Churchmen, and to place the utmost
obstacles in the way of united action. Seward was a special offender in
this respect. How was it possible for them to hold out a right hand of
fellowship to one who would say, for example, that 'the scarlet whore of
Babylon is not more corrupt either in principle or practice than the
Church of England;'[387] and that Archbishop Tillotson, of whom, though
they might differ from him, they were all justly proud, was 'a traitor
who had sold his Lord for a better price than Judas had done.'[388] Such
language inevitably widened the ever-increasing gap. It might have been
provoked, although not justified, by tirades no less furious and
unreasoning on the part of some of the assailants of the Methodist
cause. In any case, it could not fail to estrange many who might
otherwise have gladly taken a friendly interest in the movement; it
could not fail to dull their perception of its merits and of its
spiritual exploits, and to incline them to point out with the quick
discernment of hostile critics the evident blots and errors which
frequently defaced it.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, when projects of Church
Comprehension had come to an end, a great deal of angry controversy in
Parliament, in Convocation, and throughout the country at large was
excited by the practice of occasional conformity. Never was a question
more debased by considerations with which it ought not to have had
anything to do. In itself it seemed a very simple one. The failure of
the schemes for Comprehension had left in the ranks of Nonconformity a
great number of moderate Dissenters--Presbyterians and others--who were
separated from the Low Churchmen of the day by an exceedingly narrow
interval. Many of them were thoroughly well affected to the National
Church, and were only restrained by a few scruples from being regular
members of it. But since the barrier remained--a slight one, perhaps,
but one which they felt they could not pass--might they not at all
events render a partial allegiance to the national worship, by
occasional attendance at its services, and by communicating with it now
and then? The question, especially under the circumstances of the time,
was none the less important for its simplicity. Unhappily, it was one
which could not be answered on its merits. The operation of the Test Act
interfered--a statute framed for the defence of the civil and
ecclesiastical constitution of the country, but which long survived to
be a stain and disgrace to it. A measure so miserably false in principle
as to render civil and military qualifications dependent upon a
sacramental test must in any case be worse than indefensible. As all
feel now, and as many felt even then, to make

             The symbols of atoning grace
    An office key, a pick-lock to a place,

must remain

    A blot that will be still a blot, in spite
    Of all that grave apologists may write;
    And though a bishop toil to cleanse the stain,
    He wipes and scours the silver cup in vain.

This Act, thus originated, which lingered in the Statute Book till the
reign of George IV., which even thoroughly religious men could be so
blinded by their prejudices as to defend, and which even such friends of
toleration as Lord Mansfield could declare to be a 'bulwark of the
Constitution,'[389] put occasional conformity into a very different
position from that which it would naturally take. Henceforth no
Dissenter could communicate in the parish churches of his country
without incurring some risk of an imputation which is especially
revolting to all feelings alike of honour and religion. He might have it
cast in his teeth that he was either committing or countenancing the
sacrilegious hypocrisy, the base and shuffling trick, of communicating
only to qualify for office.

It is needless here to enter into the details of the excited and
discreditable agitation by which the custom of occasional conformity was
at length, for a time, defeated. The contest may be said to have begun
in 1697, when Sir Humphrey Edwin, upon his election as Lord Mayor, after
duly receiving the Sacrament according to the use of the Church of
England, proceeded in state to the Congregational Chapel at Pinner's
Hall.[390] Exactly the same thing recurred in 1701, in the case of Sir
T. Abney.[391] The practice thus publicly illustrated was passionately
opposed both by strict Dissenters and by strict Churchmen. De Foe, as a
representative of the former, inveighed against it with great
bitterness, as perfectly scandalous, and altogether unjustifiable.[392]
The High Church party, on their side, reprobated it with no less
severity. A bill to prevent the practice was at once prepared. In spite
of the strength of the Tory and High Church reaction, the Whig party in
the House of Lords, vigorously supported by the Liberal Bishops, just
succeeded in throwing it out. A conference was held between the two
houses, 'the most crowded that ever had been known--so much weight was
laid on this matter on both sides,'[393] with a similar result. The
Commons made other endeavours to carry the Act in a modified form, and
with milder penalties; a somewhat unscrupulous minority made an attempt
to tack it to a money bill, and so effect their purpose by a manoeuvre.
The Sacheverell episode fanned the strange excitement that prevailed. A
large body of the country gentry and country clergy imagined that the
destinies of the Church hung in the balance. The populace caught the
infection, without any clear understanding what they were clamouring
for. The Court, until it began to be alarmed, used all its influence in
support of the proposed bill. Everywhere, but especially in
coffee-houses and taverns,[394] a loud cry was raised against the Whigs,
and most of all against the Whig Bishops, for their steady opposition to
it. At last, when all chance of carrying the measure seemed to be lost,
it was suddenly made law through what appears to have been a most
discreditable compromise between a section of the Whigs and the Earl of
Nottingham. Great was the dismay of some, great the triumph of others.
It was 'a disgraceful bargain,' said Calamy.[395] To many, Nottingham
was eminently a 'patriot and a lover of the Church.'[396] Addison makes
Sir Roger 'launch out into the praise of the late Act of Parliament for
securing the Church of England. He told me with great satisfaction, that
he believed it already began to take effect, for that a rigid Dissenter,
who chanced to dine at his house on Christmas-day, had been observed to
eat very plentifully of his plum-porridge.'[397] The Act which received
the worthy knight's characteristic panegyric was repealed seven years

Nothing could well be more alien--it may be rather said, more
repugnant--to the general tenor of present thought and feeling than this
controversy of a past generation. Its importance, as a question of the
day, mainly hinged upon the Test Act; and there is no fear of history so
repeating itself as to witness ever again the operation of a law
consigned, however tardily, to such well-merited opprobrium.
Unquestionably, when Dissenters received the Sacrament in the parish
churches, the motive was in most cases a secular one. 'It is manifest,'
says Hoadly, 'that there is hardly any occasional communicant who ever
comes near the Church but precisely at that time when the whole parish
knows he must come to qualify himself for some office.'[398] This was a
great scandal to religion; but it was one the guilt of which, in many,
if not in most cases, entirely devolved upon the authors and promoters
of the test. As the writer just quoted has elsewhere remarked, a man
might with perfect integrity do for the sake of an office what he had
always held to be lawful, and what some men whom he much respected
considered to be even a duty. It was a very scandalous thing for a
person who lived in constant neglect of his religious duties to come
merely to qualify. But plainly this was a sin which a Conformist was
quite as likely to commit as a Nonconformist.[399]

The imposition of a test on all accounts so ill-advised and odious in
principle was the more unfortunate, because, apart from it, occasional
conformity, though it would never have attracted any considerable
attention, might have been really important in its consequences.
Considered in itself, without any reference to external and artificial
motives, it had begun to take a strong hold upon the minds of many of
the most exemplary and eminent Nonconformists. When the projects of
comprehension failed, on which the moderates in Church and Dissent had
set their heart, the Presbyterian leaders, and some of the
Congregationalists, turned their thoughts to occasional conformity as to
a kind of substitute for that closer union with the National Church
which they had reluctantly given up. It was 'a healing custom,' as
Baxter had once called it. There were many quiet, religious people,
members of Nonconformist bodies, who, as an expression of charity and
Christian fellowship, and because they did not like to feel themselves
entirely severed from the unity of the National Church, made a point of
sometimes receiving the Communion from their parish clergyman, and who
'utterly disliked the design of the Conformity Bill, that it put a brand
upon those who least interest themselves in our unhappy disputes.'[400]
This was particularly the custom with many of the Presbyterian clergy,
headed by Calamy, and, before him, by three men of the highest
distinction for their piety, learning, and social influence, of whose
services the National Church had been unhappily deprived by the ejection
of 1662--Baxter, Bates, and Howe. Some distinguished Churchmen entirely
agreed with this. 'I think,' said Archbishop Tenison, 'the practice of
occasional Conformity, as used by the Dissenters, is so far from
deserving the title of a vile hypocrisy, that it is the duty of all
moderate Dissenters, upon their own principles, to do it.'[401] However
wrong they might be in their separation, he thought that everything that
tended to promote unity ought to be not discountenanced, but encouraged.
And Burnet, among others, argued in the same spirit, that just as it had
commonly been considered right to communicate with the Protestant
churches abroad, as he himself had been accustomed to do in Geneva and
Holland, so the Dissenters here were wholly right in communicating with
the National Church, even, though they wrongly considered it less
perfect than their own.[402] He has elsewhere remarked upon the unseemly
inconsistency of Prince George of Denmark, who voted in the House of
Lords against occasional Conformity, but was himself in every sense of
the word an occasional Conformist, keeping up a Lutheran service, but
sometimes receiving the Sacrament according to the English rites.[403]

There were of course many men of extreme views on either side to whom,
if there had been no such thing as a Test Act, the practice of
occasional conformity was a sign of laxity, wholly to be condemned. It
was indifference, they said, lukewarmness, neutrality; it was involving
the orthodox in the guilt of heresy; it was a self-proclaimed
confession of the sin of needless schism. Sacheverell, in his famous
sermon, raved against it as an admission of a Trojan horse, big with
arms and ruin, into the holy city. It was the persistent effort of false
brethren to carry the conventicle into the Church,[404] or the Church
into the conventicle. 'What could not be gained by comprehension and
toleration must be brought about by moderation and occasional
conformity; that is, what they could not do by open violence, they will
not fail by secret treachery to accomplish.'[405] Much in the same way,
there were Dissenters who would as soon hear the mass as the Liturgy,
who would as willingly bow themselves in the house of Rimmon as conform
for an hour to the usages of the English Church; and who, 'if you ask
them their exceptions at the Book, thank God they never looked at
it.'[406] By a decree of the Baptist conference in 1689,[407] repeated
in 1742,[408] persons who on any pretext received the Sacrament in a
parish church were to be at once excommunicated.

But, had it not been for the provisions of the Test Act, extreme views
on the subject would have received little attention, and the counsels of
men like Baxter, Bates, and Calamy would have gained a far deeper, if
not a wider, hold on the minds of all moderate Nonconformists. The
practice in question did, in fact, point towards a comprehension of
which the Liberal Churchmen of the time had as yet no idea, but one
which might have been based on far sounder principles than any of the
schemes which had hitherto been conceived. Under kindlier auspices it
might have matured into a system of auxiliary societies affiliated into
the National Church, through which persons, who approved in a general
way of the doctrine and order of the Prayer Book and Articles, but to
whom a different form of worship was more edifying or attractive, might
be retained by a looser tie within the established communion. A
comprehension of this kind suggests difficulties, but certainly they are
not insurmountable. It is the only apparent mode by which High
Anglicans, and those who would otherwise be Dissenters, can work
together harmoniously, but without suggestion of compromise, as brother
Churchmen. And in a great Church there should be abundant room for
societies thus incorporated into it, and functions for them to fulfil,
not less important than those which they have accomplished at the heavy
cost of so much disunion, bitterness, and waste of power. If, at the
opening of the eighteenth century, the test had been abolished, and
occasional conformity, as practised by such men as Baxter and Bates,
instead of being opposed, had been cordially welcomed, and its
principles developed, the English Church might have turned to a noble
purpose the popularity it enjoyed.

A chapter dealing in any way with Latitudinarianism in the last century
would be incomplete if some mention were not made of discussions which,
without reference to the removal of Nonconformist scruples, related
nevertheless to the general question of the revision of Church
formularies. Even if the Liturgy had been far less perfect than it is,
and if abuses in the English Church and causes for complaint had been
far more flagrant than they were, there would have been little
inclination, under the rule of Walpole and his successors, to meddle
with prescribed customs. Waterland, in one of his treatises against
Clarke, compared perpetual reforming to living on physic. The comparison
is apt. But it was rather the fault of his age to trust overmuch to the
healing power of nature, and not to apply medicine even where it was
really needed. There was very little ecclesiastical legislation in the
eighteenth century, except such as was directed at first to the
imposition, and afterwards to the tardy removal or abatement, of
disabilities upon Roman Catholics and Dissenters. Statesmen dreaded
nothing much more than 'a Church clamour.'[409] Their dread was in a
great measure justified by the passions which had been excited in the
times of the Sacheverell and Church in Danger cries, and by the
unreasoning intolerance which broke furiously out afresh when the Bill
for naturalising Jews was brought forward in 1753, and when relief to
Roman Catholics was proposed in 1778. At the end of the century the
panic excited by the French Revolution was an effectual bar against
anything that partook in any degree of the nature of innovation.
Throughout the whole of the period very little was done, except in
improvement of the marriage laws, even to check practices which brought
scandal upon the Church or did it evident injury; next to nothing was
done with a serious and anxious purpose of promoting its efficiency and
extending its popularity. The best considered plans of revision and
reform would have found but small favour. It was not without much regret
that the Low or Latitudinarian party gave up all hope of procuring any
of those alterations in the Prayer Book for which they had laboured so
earnestly in the reign of William III. Or rather, they did not entirely
give up the hope, but gradually ceased to consider the subject as any
longer a practical one. After them the advocacy of such schemes was
chiefly left to men who suffered more or less under the imputation of
heterodoxy. This, of course, still further discredited the idea of
revision, and gave a strong handle to those who were opposed to it. It
became easy to set down as Deists or Arians all who suggested
alterations in the established order. The 'Free and Candid
Disquisitions,'[410] published in 1749 by John Jones, Vicar of
Alconbury, did something towards reviving interest in the question. It
was mainly a compilation of opinions advanced by eminent divines, past
and living, in favour of revising the Liturgy, and making certain
omissions and emendations in it. Introductory essays were prefixed. The
book was addressed to 'the Governing Bodies of Church and State,' more
immediately to the two Houses of Convocation, and commended itself by
the modest and generally judicious spirit in which it was written.
Warburton wrote to Doddridge that he thought the 'Disquisitions' very
edifying and exemplary. 'I wish,' he added, 'success to them as much as
you can do.'[411] Some of the bishops would gladly have taken up some
such design, and have done their best to further its success. But there
was no prospect whatever of anything being done. It was evident that the
prevailing disposition was to allow that there were improvements which
might and ought to be made, but that all attempts to carry them out
should be deferred to some more opportune season, when minds were more
tranquil and the Church more united. The effect of the 'Disquisitions'
was also seriously injured by the warm advocacy they received from
Blackburne and others, who were anxious for far greater changes than any
which were then proposed. Blackburne, in the violence of his
Protestantism, insisted that in the Reformed Church of England there
ought not to be 'one circumstance in her constitution borrowed from the
Creeds, Ritual, and Ordinaries of the Popish system.'[412] A little of
the same tendency may be discovered in the proposals put forward in the
Disquisitions. In truth, in the eighteenth, as in the seventeenth
century, there was always some just cause for fear that a work of
revision, however desirable in itself, might be marred by some unworthy
concessions to a timid and ignorant Protestantism.

Revision of the Liturgy, although occasionally discussed, cannot be
said to have been an eighteenth-century question. Subscription, on the
other hand, as required by law to the Thirty-nine Articles, received a
great deal of anxious attention. This was quite inevitable. Much had
been said and written on the subject in the two previous centuries; but
until law, or usage so well established and so well understood as to
take the place of law, had interpreted with sufficient plainness the
force and meaning of subscription, the subject was necessarily
encompassed with much uneasiness and perplexity. Through a material
alteration in the law of the English Church, the consciences of the
clergy have at last been relieved of what could scarcely fail to be a
stumbling-block. By an Act passed by Parliament in 1865, and confirmed
by both Houses of Convocation, an important change was made in the
wording of the declaration required. Before that time the subscriber had
to 'acknowledge all and every the Articles ... to be agreeable to the
word of God.'[413] He now has to assent to the Articles, the Book of
Common Prayer, and of the ordering of priests and deacons, and to
believe the doctrine therein set forth to be agreeable to the Word of
God. The omission of the 'all and every,' and the insertion of the word
'doctrine' in the singular, constituted a substantial improvement, as
distinctly recognising that general adhesion and that liberty of
criticism, which had long been practically admitted, and in fact
authorised, by competent legal decisions, but which scarcely seemed
warranted by the wording of the subscription.

Dr. Jortin, in a treatise which he published about the middle of the
last century, summed up under four heads the different opinions which,
in his time, were entertained upon the subject. 'Subscription,' he said,
'to the Articles, Liturgy, &c., in a rigid sense, is a consent to them
all in general, and to every proposition contained in them; according to
the intention of the compiler, when that can be known, and according to
the obvious usual signification of the words. Subscription, in a second
sense, is a consent to them in a meaning which is not always consistent
with the intention of the compiler, nor with the more usual
signification of the words; but is consistent with those passages of
Scripture which the compiler had in view. Subscription, in a third
sense, is an assent to them as to articles of peace and conformity, by
which we so far submit to them as not to raise disturbances about them
and set the people against them. Subscription, in a fourth sense, is an
assent to them as far as they are consistent with the Scriptures and
themselves, but no further.[414] Jortin's classification might perhaps
be improved and simplified; but it serves to indicate in how lax a sense
subscription was accepted by some--the more so, as it was sometimes, in
the case, for instance, of younger undergraduates, evidently intended
for a mere declaration of churchmanship--and how oppressive it must have
been to the minds and consciences of others. From the very first this
ambiguity had existed. There can, indeed, be no doubt that the original
composers of the Articles cherished the vain hope of 'avoiding of
diversities of opinion,' and intended them all to be understood in one
plain literal sense. Yet, in the prefatory declaration, His Majesty
'takes comfort that even in those curious points in which the present
differences lie, men of all sorts take the Articles of the Church of
England to be for them,' even while he adds the strangely illogical
inference that 'therefore' no man is to put his own sense or meaning
upon any of them.

Those who insisted upon a stringent and literal interpretation of the
Articles were able to use language which, whatever might be the error
involved in it, could not fail to impress a grave sense of
responsibility upon every truthful and honourable man who might be
called upon, to give his assent to them. 'The prevarication,' said
Waterland, 'of subscribing to forms which men believe not according to
the true and proper sense of words, and the known intent of imposers and
compilers, and the subtleties invented to defend or palliate such gross
insincerity, will be little else than disguised atheism.'[415]
Winston,[416] and other writers, such as Dr. Conybeare,[417] Dean
Tucker,[418] and others, spoke scarcely less strongly. It is evident,
too, that where subscription was necessary for admission to temporal
endowments and Church preferment, the candidate was more than ever bound
to examine closely into the sincerity of his act.

But the answer of those who claimed a greater latitude of interpretation
was obvious. 'They,' said Paley, 'who contend that nothing less can
justify subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles than the actual belief
of each and every separate proposition contained in them must suppose
the Legislature expected the consent of ten thousand men, and that in
perpetual succession, not to one controverted position, but to many
hundreds. It is difficult to conceive how this could be expected by any
who observed the incurable diversity of human opinions upon all subjects
short of demonstration.'[419] Subscription on such terms would not only
produce total extinction of anything like independent thought,[420] it
would become difficult to understand how any rational being could
subscribe at all. Practically, those who took the more stringent view
acted for the most part on much the same principles as those whom they
accused of laxity. They each interpreted the Articles according to their
own construction of them. Only the one insisted that the compilers of
them were of their mind; the others simply argued that theirs was a
lawful and allowable interpretation. Bishop Tomline expressed himself in
much the same terms as Waterland had done; but was indignantly asked
how, in his well-known treatise, he could possibly impose an altogether
anti-Calvinistic sense upon the Articles without violation of their
grammatical meaning, and without encouraging what the Calvinists of the
day called 'the general present prevarication.'[421] A moderate
Latitudinarianism in regard of subscription was after all more candid,
as it certainly was more rational. Nor was there any lack of
distinguished authority to support it. 'For the Church of England,' said
Chillingworth, 'I am persuaded that the constant doctrine of it is so
pure and orthodox, that whosoever believes it, and lives according to
it, undoubtedly he shall be saved, and that there is no error in it
which may necessitate or warrant any man to disturb the peace or
renounce the communion of it. This, in my opinion, is all intended by
subscription.'[422] Bramhall,[423] Stillingfleet, Sanderson,[424]
Patrick,[425] Fowler, Laud,[426] Tillotson, Chief Justice King, Baxter,
and other eminent men of different schools of thought, were on this
point more or less agreed with Chillingworth. Moreover, the very freedom
of criticism which such great divines as Jeremy Taylor had exercised
without thought of censure, and the earnest vindication, frequent among
all Protestants, of the rights of the individual judgment, were standing
proofs that subscription had not been generally considered the
oppressive bondage which some were fain to make it.

Nevertheless, the position maintained by Waterland, by Whiston, by
Blackburne, and by some of the more ardent Calvinists, was strong, and
felt to be so. In appearance, if not in reality, there was clearly
something equivocal, some appearance of casuistry and reserve, if not of
insincerity, in subscribing to formularies, part of which were no longer
accepted in the spirit in which they had been drawn up, and with the
meaning they had been originally intended to bear. The Deistical and
Arian controversies of the eighteenth century threw these considerations
into more than usual prominence. Since the time of Laud, Arminian had
been so generally substituted for Calvinistical tenets in the Church of
England, that few persons would have challenged the right of subscribing
the Articles with a very different construction from that which they
wore when the influence of Bucer and Peter Martyr was predominant, or
even when Hales and Ward, and their fellow Calvinists, attended in
behalf of England at the Synod of Dort. On this point, at all events, it
was quite unmistakable that the Articles (as Hoadly said)[427] were by
public authority allowed a latitude of interpretation. But it was not
quite easy to see where the bounds of this latitude were to be drawn,
unless they were to be left to the individual conscience. And it was a
latitude which had become open to abuse in a new and formidable way.
Open or suspected Deists and Arians were known to have signed the
Articles on the ground of general conformity to the English Church. No
one knew how far revealed religion might be undermined, or attacked
under a masked battery, by concealed and unsuspected enemies. The danger
that Deists, in any proper sense of the word, might take English orders
appears to have been quite overrated. No disbeliever in Revelation,
unless guilty of an insincerity which precautions were powerless to
guard against, could give his allegiance to the English liturgy. But
Arian subscription had become a familiar name; and a strong feeling
arose that a clearer understanding should be come to as to what
acceptance of Church formularies implied. In another chapter of this
work the subject has come under notice in its relation to those who
held, or were supposed to hold, heretical opinions upon the doctrine of
the Trinity. The remarks, therefore, here made need only be concerned
with the uneasiness that was awakened in reference to subscription
generally. The society which was instituted at the Feathers Tavern, to
agitate for the abolition of subscription, in favour of a simple
acknowledgment of belief in Scripture, and which petitioned Parliament
to this effect in 1772, was a very mixed company. Undoubtedly there were
many Deists, Socinians, and Arians in it. But it also numbered in its
list many thoroughly orthodox clergymen, and would have numbered many
more, had it not been for the natural objection which they felt at
being associated, in such a connection, with men whose views they
greatly disapproved of. Archdeacon Blackburne himself, the great
promoter of it, held no heretical opinions on the subject of the
Trinity. There was a great deal in the doctrine, discipline, and ritual
of the Church of England which he thought exceptionable, but his
objections seem to have been entirely those which were commonly brought
forward by ultra-Protestants. His vehement opposition to subscription
rested on wholly general grounds. He could not, he said, accept the view
that the Articles could be signed with a latitude of interpretation or
as articles of peace. They were evidently meant to be received in one
strictly literal sense. This, no Church had a right to impose upon any
of its members; it was wholly wrong to attempt to settle religion once
for all in an uncontrollable form.[428] The petition, however, had not
the smallest chance of success. The Evangelicals--a body fast rising in
numbers and activity--and the Methodists[429] were strongly opposed. So
were all the High Churchmen; so also were a great number of the
Latitudinarians. Dr. Balguy, for instance, after the example of Hoadly,
while he strongly insisted that the laws of the Church and realm most
fully warranted a broad construction of the meaning of the Articles, was
entirely opposed to the abolition of subscription. It would, he feared,
seriously affect the constitution of the National Church. The Bill was
thrown out in three successive years by immense majorities. After the
third defeat Dr. Jebb, Theophilus Lindsey, and some other clergymen
seceded to the Unitarians. The language of the earlier Articles admits
of no interpretation by which Unitarians, in any proper sense of the
word, could with any honesty hold their place in the English Communion.

Thus the attempt to abolish subscription failed, and under circumstances
which showed that the Church had escaped a serious danger. But the
difficulty which had led many orthodox clergymen to join, not without
risk of obloquy, in the petition remained untouched. It was, in fact,
aggravated rather than not; for 'Arian subscription' had naturally
induced a disposition, strongly expressed in some Parliamentary
speeches, to reflect injuriously upon that reasonable and allowed
latitude of construction without which the Reformed Church of England
would in every generation have lost some of its best and ablest men.
Some, therefore, were anxious that the articles and Liturgy should be
revised; and a petition to this effect was presented in 1772 to the
Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the other names attached to it appears
that of Beilby Porteus, afterwards Bishop of London and a principal
supporter of the Evangelical party. Some proposed that the 'orthodox
Articles' only--by which they meant those that relate to the primary
doctrines of the Christian creed--should be subscribed to;[430] some
thought that it would be sufficient to require of the clergy only an
unequivocal assent to the Book of Common Prayer. It seems strange that
while abolition of subscription was proposed by some, revision of the
Articles by others, no one, so far as it appears, proposed the more
obvious alternative of modifying the wording of the terms in which
subscription was made. But nothing of any kind was done. The bishops,
upon consultation, thought it advisable to leave matters alone. They may
have been right. But, throughout the greater part of the century,
leaving alone was too much the wisdom of the leaders and rulers of the
English Church.

In all the course of its long history, before and after the Reformation,
the National Church of England has never, perhaps, occupied so
peculiarly isolated a place in Christendom as at the extreme end of the
last century and through the earlier years of the present one. At one or
another period it may have been more jealous of foreign influence, more
violently antagonistic to Roman Catholics, more intolerant of Dissent,
more wedded to uniformity in doctrine and discipline. But at no one time
had it stood, as a Church, so distinctly apart from all other
Communions. If the events of the French Revolution had slightly
mitigated the antipathy to Roman Catholicism, there was still not the
very slightest approximation to it on the part of the highest Anglicans,
if any such continued to exist. The Eastern Church, after attracting a
faint curiosity through the overtures of the later Nonjurors, was as
wholly unknown and unthought of as though it had been an insignificant
sect in the furthest wilds of Muscovy. All communications with the
foreign Protestant Churches had ceased. It had beheld, after the death
of Wesley, almost the last links severed between itself and Methodism.
It had become separated from Dissenters generally by a wider interval.
Its attitude towards them was becoming less intolerant, but more chilled
and exclusive. The Evangelicals combined to some extent with
Nonconformists, and often met on the same platforms. But there was no
longer anything like the friendly intercourse which had existed in the
beginning and in the middle of last century between the bishops and
clergy of the 'moderate' party in the Church on the one hand, and the
principal Nonconformist ministers on the other. Comprehension--until
the time of Dr. Arnold--was no longer discussed. Occasional conformity
had in long past time received the blow which deprived it of importance.
Again, the Church of England was still almost confined, except by its
missions, within the limits of the four seas. Pananglicanism was a term
yet to be invented. The Colonial empire was still in its infancy, and
its Church in tutelage. There was a sister Church in the United States.
But the wounds inflicted in the late war were scarcely staunched; and
the time had not arrived to speak of cordiality, or of community of
Church interests. It was from Scottish, not from English hands, that
America received her first bishop.

Perhaps, in the order of that far-reaching Providence which is traced in
the history of Churches as of States, it may, after all, have been well
that, in the century under our review, the somewhat sluggish stream of
life which circulated in the English Church had not sought out for
itself any new channels. A more diffusive activity might be reserved to
it for better times. In the eighteenth century there would always have
been cause for fear that, in seeking to embrace more, it might lose some
valuable part of what it already had, and which, once lost, it might not
be easy to recover. There were many to whom 'moderation' would have been
another word for compromise; and who, not so much in the interests of
true unity as for the sake of tranquil days, would have made concessions
which a later age would regret in vain. Moreover, the Churchmen of that
period had a great work before them of consolidation, and of examination
of fundamental principles. They did not do that part of their work
amiss. Possibly they might have done it not so well, had their energies
been less concentrated on the special task which employed their
intellects--if they had been called upon to turn their attention to
important changes in the ecclesiastical polity, or to new schemes of
Church extension. Faults, blunders, shortcomings, are not to be excused
by unforeseen good ultimately involved in them; yet it is, at all
events, an allowable and pleasant thing to consider whether good may not
have resulted in the end. Throughout the eighteenth century the
principles of the Church of England were retained, if sometimes
inactive, yet at least intact, ready for development and expansion, if
ever the time should come. Already, at the end of the century, our
National Church was teeming with the promise of a new or reinvigorated
life. The time for greater union, in which this Church may have a great
part to do, and for increased comprehensiveness, may, in our day, be
ripening towards maturity. Even now there is little fear that in any
changes and improvements which might be made, the English Church would
relax its hold either on primitive and Catholic uses, or on that
precious inheritance of liberty which was secured at the Reformation.
There may be difficulties, too great to be overcome, in the way either
of Church revision or Church comprehension; but if they should be
achieved, their true principles would be better understood than ever
they were in the days of Tillotson and Calamy, or of Secker and



[Footnote 301: Alison's _Life of Marlborough_, i. 199. Seward's
_Anecdotes_, ii. 271. Jortin's _Tracts_, ii. 43. E. Savage's _Poems_,
'The Character,' &c.]

[Footnote 302: _Spectator_, No. 116.]

[Footnote 303: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 329-30.]

[Footnote 304: Mosheim's _Church History_, Maclaine's edition, vol. v.
'Letter of Beauvoir to Wake,' December 11, 1717, Ap. 2, No. 2, p. 147.]

[Footnote 305: Id. Dupin to Wake, February 11. 1718. 'Unum addam, cum
bonâ veniâ tuâ, me vehementer optare, ut unionis inter ecclesias
Anglicanam et Gallicam via aliqua inveniri possit,' &c.]

[Footnote 306: Wake to Dupin, October 1, 1718. Id. 134, 152, 156.]

[Footnote 307: Wake to Dupin, October 1, 1718, Ap. 3, No. 8, p. 158.]

[Footnote 308: De Maistre: _Considérations sur la France_, chap. ii. p.

[Footnote 309: April, 1719. _Mosheim_, v. 169. Ap. 3, No. 19.]

[Footnote 310: Ap. 8, 1719. Id. 171-3, Ap. 3, No. 20.]

[Footnote 311: Maclaine's edition of _Mosheim_, v. 143.]

[Footnote 312: _Quarterly Review_, 89, 475.]

[Footnote 313: Id.]

[Footnote 314: _Berkeley's Life and Works_, ed. A.C. Fraser, iv. 243.]

[Footnote 315: _Life and Works_, iv. 321.]

[Footnote 316: Boswell's _Johnson_, ii. 154, 104.]

[Footnote 317: Sermon, January 30, 1793.]

[Footnote 318: Burnet's _Life and Works_, 420.]

[Footnote 319: _State and Fate of the Protestant Religion_, 1682, 3.]

[Footnote 320: _Endeavour for Peace_, &c. 1680, 15.]

[Footnote 321: Froude's _History of England_, ii. 405.]

[Footnote 322: Hallam's _Constitutional History_, i. 172, note.]

[Footnote 323: Burnet's _History of His Own Times_, 51.]

[Footnote 324: Hallam's _Constitutional History_, i. 171.]

[Footnote 325: _Life of Archbishop Sharp_, vol. ii. 186, App. 2.]

[Footnote 326: Hallam's _Constitutional History_, i. 102.]

[Footnote 327: Perry, G.G., _History of the Church of England_, i. 453.]

[Footnote 328: De Foe's _True-born Englishman_ (Ed. Chalmers' series),
vol. xx. 19.]

[Footnote 329: Hallam's _Constitutional History_, iii. 55.]

[Footnote 330: _Life of Bishop Ken_, by a Layman, 319-27.]

[Footnote 331: _Life of Rainbow_, 1688. Quoted in id. 326.]

[Footnote 332: Fleetwood's _Works_, 483.]

[Footnote 333: Birch's 'Life of Tillotson.'--_Works_, i. xciv.]

[Footnote 334: Birch's 'Life of Tillotson.'--_Works_, i. cxxxv.]

[Footnote 335: J.J. Blunt's _Early Fathers_, 20.]

[Footnote 336: Ralph Thoresby, _Diary_, ii. 22.]

[Footnote 337: The full history of this correspondence is given in the
_Life of Archbishop Sharp_, ed. Newcomb, i. 410-49.]

[Footnote 338: _Works_, 368.]

[Footnote 339: _Life and Times_, ii. 368, 482.]

[Footnote 340: _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 330.]

[Footnote 341: Mahon's _History of England_, chap. xxxi.]

[Footnote 342: _Endeavour for Peace, &c._ 1680, 20.]

[Footnote 343: _Irenicum._ Hunt, ii. 136. _Endeavour &c._, 22-7.]

[Footnote 344: Burnet's _Own Times_, 528. Birch's _Life of Tillotson_,
cix. _Life of Ken_, by a Layman, 501. Hunt, _Religious Thought_, ii.

[Footnote 345: Macaulay's _History of England_, chap. xiv.]

[Footnote 346: Skeats, 147.]

[Footnote 347: Id. 166.]

[Footnote 348: Hallam's _Constitutional History of England_, ii. 317.
Hunt, _Religious Thought in England_, i. 213.]

[Footnote 349: Hunt, _Religions Thought in England_, ii. 22.]

[Footnote 350: Skeats' _History of the Free Churches_, 147.]

[Footnote 351: Calamy's _Baxter_, 655 (quoted by Skeats), 149.
Thoresby's _Diary_, 399.]

[Footnote 352: Skeats, 158-65.]

[Footnote 353: Id. 186.]

[Footnote 354: Wall's _Dissuasive from Schism_, 477.]

[Footnote 355: _Tombs against Marshall_, p. 31, quoted by Wall.]

[Footnote 356: Nelson's _Life of Bull_, 240, 260.]

[Footnote 357: Birch's _Tillotson_, ccvii. Leslie's _Works_, ii.
533-600, &c.]

[Footnote 358: Leslie, ii. 659.]

[Footnote 359: Chillingworth's _Works_, vol. i. Preface, § 9.]

[Footnote 360: _The Principles of the Reformation concerning Church
Communion_, 1704.]

[Footnote 361: _An Apology for the Parliament, &c._, 1697, part i.]

[Footnote 362: Leslie's _Works_, ii. 656.]

[Footnote 363: Dr. Arnold, _Principles of Church Reform_, 285.]

[Footnote 364: Birch's _Life of Tillotson_, ccxxvii.]

[Footnote 365: Burnet's _Four Discourses to the Clergy of Sarum_, 1694,
Pref. v.]

[Footnote 366: Skeats, 185.]

[Footnote 367: R. South's _Sermons_, vol. iv. 174-95.]

[Footnote 368: Sermon of November 5, 1709. Hunt, 3, 12.]

[Footnote 369: _Works_, vol. 8, 264.]

[Footnote 370: South's _Sermons_, iv. 227.]

[Footnote 371: Burnet's _Own Times_, 751. Hoadly's _Works_, i. 24]

[Footnote 372: _A Brief Defence of the Church_, 1706.]

[Footnote 373: Id.]

[Footnote 374: Id.]

[Footnote 375: Mosheim's _Ecclesiastical History_ (Maclaine's Trans.),
5, 95.]

[Footnote 376: Hunt, 3, 247.]

[Footnote 377: Doddridge's _Works_, iv. 503-4.]

[Footnote 378: Doddridge's _Correspondence_, v. 167. Perry's _Church
History_, 3, 377.]

[Footnote 379: Lord Mahon's _History_, chap. 31.]

[Footnote 380: 'Answer to Bailey,' 1750,--_Works_, vol. ix. 83.]

[Footnote 381: Corner's _History of Protestant Theology_, ii. 204-6.
Rose's _Protestantism in Germany_, 46-9. A.S. Farrer's _History of
Religious Thought_, note 17, p. 600. M.J. Matter's _Histoire de
Christianisme_, 4, 346.]

[Footnote 382: Matter's _Histoire de Christianisme_, 4, 368.]

[Footnote 383: T. Rowan's _Life and Letters of Schleiermacher_, i. 30.]

[Footnote 384: 'Remarks on the Defence to Aspasio,' &c., 1766,--_Works_,
10, 351.]

[Footnote 385: Idem.]

[Footnote 386: Wesley's 'Answer to Lavington,'--_Works_, vol. ix. 3.]

[Footnote 387: Seward's 'Journal,' 45, quoted by Lavington. _Enthusiasm
of Methodists and Papists Compared_, 11.]

[Footnote 388: Seward's 'Journal,' 62. Lavington, _Id._]

[Footnote 389: Seward's _Anecdotes_, vol. ii. (ed. 1798), 437.]

[Footnote 390: Calamy's _Life and Times_, i. 404. Perry's _History of
the Church of England_, 3, 145.]

[Footnote 391: Calamy, i. 465. Skeats' _History of the Free Churches_,

[Footnote 392: Calamy, i. 465.]

[Footnote 393: Burnet's _History of his Own Times_, 721.]

[Footnote 394: Hoadly, 'Letter to a Clergyman,' &c.--_Works_, i. 19.]

[Footnote 395: Calamy, ii. 243.]

[Footnote 396: _Guardian_, No. 41.]

[Footnote 397: _Spectator_, No. 269.]

[Footnote 398: Hoadly, 'Reasonableness of Conformity.'--_Works_, i.

[Footnote 399: 'Letter to a Clergyman,' &c.--_Works_, i. 30.]

[Footnote 400: Matthew Henry, in Thoresby's _Correspondence_, i. 438.]

[Footnote 401: Speech in the House of Lords, 1704.]

[Footnote 402: Burnet's _Life and Times_, 741.]

[Footnote 403: Ibid. 721.]

[Footnote 404: At this date, as White Kennet's biographer remarks, 'the
name of Presbyterian was liberally bestowed on one of the archbishops,
on several of the most exemplary bishops, as well as on great numbers
among the interior clergy.'--_Life of Kennet_, 102.]

[Footnote 405: _Sermon before the Lord Mayor_, &c. November 5, 1709.]

[Footnote 406: _The Church of England free from the Imputation of
Popery_, 1683.]

[Footnote 407: Skeats' _History of the Free Churches_, 160.]

[Footnote 408: Id. 346.]

[Footnote 409: Horace Walpole's _Memoirs_, &c. 366.]

[Footnote 410: They are carefully summarised in a series of papers in
the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for 1750, vols. xix and xx. It is clear from
the correspondence on the subject how much interest they aroused.--See
also Nichols' _Lit. An._, vol. 3.]

[Footnote 411: Hunt's _Religious Thought in England_, iii. 300.]

[Footnote 412: Blackburne's _Historical View_, &c., Introduction, xx.]

[Footnote 413: Canon 36, § 3.]

[Footnote 414: 'Strictures on the Articles, Subscriptions, &c.,'
Jortin's _Tracts_, ii. 417.]

[Footnote 415: Quoted in _The Church of England Vindicated_, &c., 1801,
p. 2.]

[Footnote 416: Whiston's _Life of Clarke_, &c., 11, 40; _Memoirs_, 157,

[Footnote 417: Hunt's _Religious Thought in England_, 3, 305.]

[Footnote 418: Id. 312.]

[Footnote 419: Paley's _Moral and Political Philosophy_, chap. xxii.]

[Footnote 420: Mr. Buxton, Parl. Speech, June 21, 1865.]

[Footnote 421: _Church of England Vindicated_, &c., 52, 161.]

[Footnote 422: _Works_, vol. i. 35.]

[Footnote 423: Quoted in Jortin's _Tracts_, ii. 423, and Hunt's
_Religious Thought in England_, ii. 25.]

[Footnote 424: Quoted in Malone's note to Boswell's _Johnson_, ii. 104.]

[Footnote 425: Review of Maizeaux' 'Life of Chillingworth,' _Guardian_,
November 30, 1864.]

[Footnote 426: 'Sense of the Articles,' &c. _Works_, vol. xv., 528-33.
'Moral Prognostication,' &c. id. xv., 440.]

[Footnote 427: Answer to Rep. of Con. chap. i. § 20.--_Works_, ii. 534.]

[Footnote 428: Blackburne's _Historical View_, Introd. xxxix.]

[Footnote 429: H. Walpole, _Memoirs of the Reign of George III._
(Doran), i. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 430: _Consideration of the Present State of Religion_, &c.
1801, 11.]

       *       *       *       *       *



In an age which above all things prided itself upon its reasonableness,
it would have been strange indeed if that doctrine of Christianity which
is objected to by unbelievers as most repugnant to reason, had not taken
a prominent place among the controversies which then abounded in every
sphere of theological thought. To the thoughtful Christian, the question
of questions must ever be that which forms the subject of this chapter.
It is, if possible, even a more vital question than that which was
involved in the Deistical controversy. The very name 'Christian' implies
as much. A Christian is a follower of Christ. Who, then, is this Christ?
What relation does He bear to the Great Being whom Christians, Jews,
Turks, Infidels, and Heretics alike adore? What do we mean when we say
that He is the Son of God Incarnate? That He is still present with his
Church through his Holy Spirit? These are only other forms of putting
the question, What is the Trinity? The various answers given to this
question in the eighteenth century form an important part of the
ecclesiastical history of the period.

The subject carries us back in thought to the earliest days of
Christianity. During the first four centuries, the nature of the
Godhead, and the relation of the Three Persons of the Trinity to each
other, were directly or indirectly the causes of almost all the
divisions which rent the Church. They had been matters of discussion
before the death of the last surviving Apostle, and the three centuries
which followed his decease were fruitful in theories upon the subject.
These theories reappear with but little alteration in the period which
comes more immediately under our present consideration. If history ever
repeats itself, it might be expected to do so on the revival of this
discussion after an abeyance of many centuries. For it is one of those
questions on which modern research can throw but little light. The same
materials which enabled the inquirer of the eighteenth century to form
his conclusion, existed in the fourth century. Moreover, there was a
tendency in the discussions of the later period to run in an historical
direction; in treating of them, therefore, our attention will constantly
be drawn to the views of the earlier thinkers. With regard to these, it
will be sufficient to say that their speculations on the mysterious
subject of the Trinity group themselves under one or other of these four

1. The view of those who contend for the mere humanity of Christ--a view
which, as will be seen presently, is often claimed by Unitarians as the
earliest belief of Christendom.

2. The view of those who deny the distinct personality of the Second and
Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity. This was held with various
modifications by a great variety of thinkers, but it passes under the
general name of _Sabellianism_.

3. The view of those who hold that Christ was something more than man,
but less than God; less than God, that is, in the highest, and indeed
the only proper, sense of the word God. This, like the preceding view,
was held by a great variety of thinkers, and with great divergences, but
it passes under the general name of _Arianism_.

4. The view of those who hold that 'there is but one living and true
God,' but that 'in the Unity of this Godhead there are three Persons, of
one substance, power, and eternity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost.' This view is called by its advocates _Catholicism_, for they
hold that it is, and ever has been, the doctrine of the Universal Church
of Christ; but, inasmuch as the admission of such a name would be
tantamount to giving up the whole point in question, it is refused by
its opponents, who give it the name of _Athanasianism_.

In England, the Trinitarian question began to be agitated in the later
half of the seventeenth century. Possibly the interest in the subject
may have been stimulated by the migration into England of many
anti-Trinitarians from Poland, who had been banished from the country by
an Order of Council in 1660. At any rate, the date synchronises with the
re-opening of the question in this country. It is probable, however,
that under any circumstances the discussion would have arisen.

Before the publication of Bishop Bull's first great work in 1685, no
controversial treatise on either side of the question--none, at least,
of any importance--was published in this country, though there had of
course been individual anti-Trinitarians in England long before that

A few words on the 'Defensio Fidei Nicænæ' will be a fitting
introduction to the account of the controversy which belongs properly
to the eighteenth century. Bishop Bull's defence was written in Latin,
and was therefore not intended for the unlearned. It was exclusively
confined to this one question: What were the views of the ante-Nicene
Fathers on the subject of the Trinity, and especially on the relation of
the Second to the First Person? But though the work was addressed only
to a very limited number of readers, and dealt only with one, and that a
very limited, view of the question, the importance of thoroughly
discussing this particular view can scarcely be exaggerated for the
following reason. When, the attention of any one familiar with the
precise definitions of the Catholic Church which were necessitated by
the speculations of Arians and other heretics is called for the first
time to the writings of the ante-Nicene Fathers, he may be staggered by
the absence of equal definiteness and precision in them. Bishop Bull
boldly met the difficulties which might thus occur. He minutely examined
the various expressions which could be wrested into an anti-Trinitarian
sense, showing how they were compatible with the Catholic Faith, and
citing and dwelling upon other expressions which were totally
incompatible with any other belief. He showed that the crucial test of
orthodoxy, the one single term at which Arians and semi-Arians
scrupled--that is, the Homoousion or Consubstantiality of the Son with
the Father--was actually in use before the Nicene Council, and that it
was thoroughly in accordance with the teaching of the ante-Nicene
Fathers. This is proved, among other ways, by the constant use of a
simile which illustrates, as happily as earthly things can illustrate
heavenly, the true relation of the Son to the Father. Over and over
again this is compared by the early fathers to the ray of light which
proceeding from the sun is a part of it, and yet without any division or
diminution from it, but actually consubstantial with it. He fully admits
that the early fathers acknowledged a certain pre-eminence in the First
Person, but only such a pre-eminence as the term Father suggests, a
pre-eminence implying no inequality of nature, but simply a priority of
order, inasmuch as the Father is, as it were, the fountain of the Deity,
God in Himself,[431] while the Son is God _of_ God, and, to recur to the
old simile incorporated in the Nicene Creed, Light _of_ Light.[432]

Bishop Bull's two subsequent works on the subject of the Trinity
('Judicium Ecclesiæ Catholicæ' and 'Primitiva et Apostolica Traditio')
may be regarded as supplements to the 'Defence.' The object of the
'Judicium' was to show, in opposition to Episcopius, that the Nicene
fathers held a belief of Our Lord's true and proper divinity to be an
indispensable term of Catholic communion; his latest work was directed
against the opinion of Zuicker that Christ's divinity, pre-existence,
and incarnation were inventions of early heretics.[433]

It is somewhat remarkable that although in the interval which elapsed
between the publication of these and of his first work the Trinitarian
controversy in England had been assuming larger proportions and
awakening a wider interest, Bull never entered into the arena with his
countrymen. But the fact is, his point of view was different from
theirs. He confined himself exclusively to the historical aspect of
the question, while other defenders of the Trinity were 'induced to
overstep the boundaries of Scripture proof and historical testimony,
and push their inquiries into the dark recesses of metaphysical
speculation.'[434] Chief among these was Dr. W. Sherlock, Dean of St.
Paul's, who in 1690 published his 'Vindication of the Trinity,' which he
describes as 'a new mode of explaining that great mystery by a
hypothesis which gives an easy and intelligible notion of a Trinity in
Unity, and removes the charge of contradiction.' In this work Sherlock
hazarded assertions which were unquestionably 'new,' but not so
unquestionably sound. He affirmed, among other things, that the Persons
of the Godhead were distinct in the same way as the persons of Peter,
James, and John, or any other men. Such assertions were not unnaturally
suspected of verging perilously near upon Tritheism, and his book was
publicly censured by the Convocation of the University of Oxford. On the
other hand, Dr. Wallis, Professor of Geometry, and the famous Dr. South,
published treatises against Dr. Sherlock, which, while avoiding the
Scylla of Tritheism, ran dangerously near to the Charybdis of
Sabellianism. Like all his writings, South's treatise was racy, but
violently abusive, and such irritation and acrimony were engendered,
that the Royal authority was at last exercised in restraining each party
from introducing novel opinions, and requiring them to adhere to such
explications only as had already received the sanction of the Church.

Chillingworth, in his Intellectual System, propounded a theory on the
Trinity which savoured of Arianism; Burnet and Tillotson called down the
fiercest invectives from that able controversialist Charles Leslie, for
'making the Three Persons of God only three manifestations, or the same
Person of God considered under three different qualifications and
respects as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier,' while Burnet argued
that the inhabitation of God in Christ made Christ to be God.

Thus at the close of the seventeenth century the subject of the Trinity
was agitating the minds of some of the chief divines of the age. It must
be observed, however, that so far the controversy between theologians of
the first rank had been conducted within the limits of the Catholic
Faith. They disputed, not about the doctrine of the Trinity itself, but
simply about the mode of explaining it.

Still these disputes between English Churchmen strengthened the hands of
the anti-Trinitarians. These latter represented the orthodox as divided
into Tritheists and Nominalists, and the press teemed with pamphlets
setting forth with more or less ability the usual arguments against the
Trinity. These were for the most part published anonymously; for their
publication would have brought their writers within the range of the
law, the Act of 1689 having expressly excluded those who were unsound on
the subject of the Trinity from the tolerated sects. One of the most
famous tracts, however, 'The Naked Gospel,' was discovered to have been
written by Dr. Bury, Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, and was burnt by
order of the Convocation of that University. 'A Historical Vindication
of the Naked Gospel,' was also a work of considerable power, and was
attributed to the famous Le Clerc. But with these exceptions, the
anti-Trinitarians, though they were energetic and prolific in a certain
kind of literature, had not yet produced any writer who had succeeded in
making his mark permanently upon the age.

Thus the question stood at the commencement of the eighteenth century.
In one sense the controversy was at its height; that is to say, some of
the ablest writers in the Church had written or were writing upon the
subject; but the real struggle between the Unitarians (so called) and
the Trinitarians had hardly yet begun, for under the latter term almost
all the disputants of high mark would fairly have come.

The new century found the pen of that doughty champion of the Faith,
Charles Leslie, busy at work on the Socinian controversy. His letters on
this subject had been begun some years before this date; but they were
not finally completed until the eighteenth century was some years old.
Leslie was ever ready to defend what he held to be the Christian faith
against all attacks from whatever quarter they might come. Deists, Jews,
Quakers, Romanists, Erastians, and Socinians, all fell under his lash;
his treatise on the last of these, being the first in order of date, and
by no means the last in order of merit among the eighteenth-century
literature on the subject of the Trinity, now comes under our notice.

Although his dialogue is nominally directed only against the Socinians,
it is full of valuable remarks on the anti-Trinitarians generally; and
he brings out some points more clearly and forcibly than subsequent and
more voluminous writers on the subject have done. For example, he meets
the old objection that the doctrine of the Trinity is incredible as
involving a contradiction, by pointing out that it rests upon the
fallacy of arguing from a nature which we know to quite a different
nature of which we know little or nothing.[435] The objection that the
Christian Trinity was borrowed from the Platonists he turns against the
objectors by asking, 'What is become of the master argument of the
Socinians that the Trinity is contradictory to common sense and
reason?--Yet now they would make it the invention of the principal and
most celebrated philosophers, men of the most refined reason.'[436]

On the whole this is a very valuable contribution to the apologetic
literature on the subject of the Trinity, for though Leslie, like his
predecessors, sometimes has recourse to abstruse arguments to explain
the 'modes' of the divine presence, yet he is far too acute a
controversialist to lay himself open, as Sherlock and South had done, to
imputations of heresy on any side; and his general method of treating
the question is lucid enough, and full of just such arguments as would
be most telling to men of common sense, for whom rather than for
profound theologians the treatise was written.

About the same time that this treatise was published, there arose what
was intended to be a new sect, or, according to the claims of its
founders, the revival of a very old one--a return, in fact, to original
Christianity. The founder or reviver of this party was William Whiston,
a man of great learning, and of a thoroughly straightforward and candid
disposition, but withal so eccentric, that it is difficult sometimes to
treat his speculations seriously. His character was a strange compound
of credulity and scepticism. He was 'inclined to believe true' the
legend of Abgarus' epistle to Christ, and Christ's reply. He published a
vindication of the Sibylline oracles 'with the genuine oracles
themselves.' He had a strong faith in the physical efficacy of anointing
the sick with oil. But his great discovery was the genuineness and
inestimable value of the Apostolical Constitutions and Canons. He was
'satisfied that they were of equal value with the four Gospels;' nay,
'that they were the most sacred of the canonical books of the New
Testament; that polemical controversies would never cease until they
were admitted as the standing rule of Christianity.' The learned world
generally had pronounced them to be a forgery, but that was easily
accounted for. The Constitutions favoured the Eusebian doctrines, and
were therefore repudiated of course by those who were interested in
maintaining the Athanasian heresy.

Whiston had many missions to fulfil. He had to warn a degenerate age
against the wickedness of second marriages; he had to impress upon
professing Christians the duty of trine immersion and of anointing the
sick; he had to prepare them for the Millennium, which, according to his
calculations when he wrote his Memoirs, was to take place in twenty
years from that time. But his great mission of all was to propagate
Eusebianism and to explode the erroneous notions about the Trinity which
were then unhappily current in the Church. His favourite theory on this
subject may be found in almost all his works; but he propounded it _in
extenso_ in a work which he entitled 'Primitive Christianity revived.'
Whiston vehemently repudiated the imputation of Arianism. He called
himself an Eusebian, 'not,' he is careful to tell us, 'that he approved
of all the conduct of Eusebius of Nicomedia, from whom that appellation
was derived; but because that most uncorrupt body of the Christian
Church which he so much approved of had this name originally bestowed
upon them, and because 'tis a name much more proper to them than
Arians.' Whiston formed a sort of society which at first numbered among
those who attended its meetings men who afterwards attained to great
eminence in the Church; among others, B. Hoadly, successively Bishop of
Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury and Winchester, Rundle, afterwards Bishop of
Derry, and then of Gloucester, and Dr. Samuel Clarke. But Whiston was a
somewhat inconvenient friend for men who desired to stand well with the
powers that be. They all fell off lamentably from the principles of
primitive Christianity,--Hoadly sealing his defection by the crowning
enormity of marrying a second wife.

Poor Whiston grievously lamented the triumph of interest over truth,
which these defections implied. Neither the censures of Convocation nor
the falling off of his friends had any power to move _him_. He still
continued for some time a member of the Church of England. But his
character was far too honest and clear-sighted to enable him to shut his
eyes to the fact that the Liturgy of the Church was in many points sadly
unsound on the principles of primitive Christianity. To remedy this
defect he put forth a Liturgy which he termed 'The Liturgy of the Church
of England reduced nearer to the Primitive Standard.' It was in most
respects precisely identical with that in use, only it was purged from
all vestiges of the Athanasian heresy. The principal changes were in the
Doxology, which was altered into what he declares was its original form,
in the prayer of St. Chrysostom, in the first four petitions of the
Litany, and one or two others, and in the collect for Trinity Sunday.
The Established Church was, however, so blind to the truth that she
declined to adopt the proposed alterations, and Whiston was obliged to
leave her communion. He found a home, in which, however, he was not
altogether comfortable, among the General Baptists.

The real reviver of modern Arianism in England was Whiston's friend, Dr.
Samuel Clarke. It has been seen that hitherto all theologians of the
highest calibre who had taken part in the Trinitarian controversy would
come under the denomination of Trinitarians, if we give that term a
fairly wide latitude. In 1712 Dr. Clarke, who had already won a high
reputation in the field of theological literature,[437] startled the
world by the publication of his 'Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity.'
This book was long regarded as a sort of text-book of modern Arianism.
The plan of the work was to make an exhaustive collection of all the
texts in the New Testament which bear upon the nature of the Godhead--in
itself a most useful work, and one which was calculated to supply a
distinct want in theology. No less than 1,251 texts, all more or less
pertinent to the matter in hand, were collected by this industrious
writer, and to many of them were appended explanations and criticisms
which bear evident marks of being the product of a scholar and a divine.
But the advocates of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity had no need to
go further than the mere headings of the chapters of this famous work to
have their suspicions justly awakened respecting its tendency. Chapter
i. treated 'of God the Father;' chapter ii. 'of the Son of God;' chapter
iii. 'of the Holy Spirit of God.' The natural correlatives to 'God the
Father' would be 'God the Son' and 'God the Holy Ghost;' there was
something suspicious in the change of these expressions into 'the Son of
God' and the 'Holy Spirit of God.' A closer examination of the work will
soon show us that the change was not without its significance. 'The
Scripture Doctrine' leads substantially to a very similar conclusion to
that at which Whiston had arrived. The Father alone is the one supreme
God; the Son is a Divine being as far as divinity is communicable by
this supreme God; the Holy Ghost is inferior both to the Father and the
Son, not in order only, but in dominion and authority. Only Dr. Clarke
expresses himself more guardedly than his friend. He had already made a
great name among theologians, and he had no desire to lose it.

We may take the appearance of Dr. Clarke's book as the commencement of a
new era in this controversy, which after this time began to reach its
zenith. Various opponents at once arose, attacking various parts of Dr.
Clarke's scheme. Dr. Wells complained that he had taken no notice of the
Old Testament, that he had failed to show how the true sense of
Scripture was to be ascertained, and that he had disparaged creeds,
confessions of faith, and the testimony of the fathers; Mr. Nelson
complained, not without reason, of his unfair treatment of Bishop Bull;
Dr. Gastrell pointed out that there was only one out of Dr. Clarke's
fifty-five propositions to which an Arian would refuse to

These and others did good service on particular points; but it remained
for Dr. Waterland to take a comprehensive view of the whole question,
and to leave to posterity not only an effective answer to Dr. Clarke,
but a masterly and luminous exposition, the equal to which it would be
difficult to find in any other author, ancient or modern. It would be
wearisome even to enumerate the titles of the various 'Queries,'
'Vindications,' 'Replies,' 'Defences,' 'Answers to Replies,' which
poured forth from the press in luxurious abundance on either side of the
great controversy. It will be sufficient to indicate generally the main
points at issue between the combatants.

Dr. Clarke then, and his friends[439] (who all wrote more or less under
his inspiration), maintained that the worship of God is in Scripture
appointed to one Being, that is, to the Father _personally_. That such
worship as is due to Christ is the worship of a mediator and cannot
possibly be that paid to the one supreme God. That all the titles given
to the Son in the New Testament, and all powers ascribed to Him, are
perfectly well consistent with reserving the supremacy of absolute and
independent dominion to the Father alone. That the highest titles of God
are never applied to the Son or Spirit. That the subordination of the
Son to the Father is not merely nominal, consisting in the mere position
or order of words, which in truth of things is a _co_-ordination; but
that it is a _real_ subordination in point of authority and dominion
over the universe. That three persons, that is, three intelligent
agents in the same individual, identical substance, is a self-evident
contradiction, and that the Nicene fathers, by the term Homoousion, did
not mean one individual, identical substance. That the real difficulty
in the conception of the Trinity is _not_ how three persons can be one
God, for Scripture nowhere expresses the doctrine in those words; and
the difficulty of understanding a Scripture doctrine ought not to lie
wholly upon words not found in Scripture, but _how_ and in what sense,
consistently with everything that is affirmed in Scripture about Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, it is still certainly and infallibly true that to
us there is but 'one God the Father' (I Cor. viii. 6). That as to the
claims of the Holy Ghost to be worshipped on an equality with the
Father, there is really no one instance in Scripture of any direct act
of adoration or invocation being paid to Him at all.

Such is the outline of the system of which Dr. Clarke was the chief
exponent. The various arguments by which it was supported will be best
considered in connection with that great writer who now comes under our
notice--Dr. Waterland. Among the many merits of Waterland's treatment of
the subject, this is by no means the least--that he pins down his
adversary and all who hold the same views in any age to the real
question at issue. Dr. Clarke, for example, admitted that Christ was, in
a certain sense, Creator. 'Either, then,' argues Waterland, 'there are
two authors and governors of the universe, _i.e._ two Gods, or not. If
there are, why do you deny it of either; if not, why do you affirm it of
both?' Dr. Clarke thought that the divinity of Christ was analogous to
the royalty of some petty prince, who held his power under a supreme
monarch. 'I do not,' retorts Waterland, 'dispute against the notion of
one king under another; what I insist upon is that a great king and a
little king make two kings; (consequently a supreme God and an inferior
God make two Gods).' Dr. Clarke did not altogether deny omniscience to
be an attribute of Christ, but he affirmed it to be a relative
omniscience, communicated to him from the Father. 'That is, in plain
language,' retorted Waterland, 'the Son knows all things, except that He
is ignorant of many things.' Dr. Clarke did not altogether deny the
eternity of the Son. The Son is eternal, because we cannot conceive a
time when He was not. 'A negative eternity,' replies Waterland, 'is no
eternity; angels might equally be termed eternal.'

One point on which Waterland insists constantly and strongly is that the
scheme of those who would pay divine honours to Christ, and yet deny
that He is very God, cannot escape from the charge of polytheism. 'You
are tritheists,' he urges, 'in the same sense as Pagans are called
polytheists. One supreme and two inferior Gods is your avowed doctrine;
that is, three Gods. If those texts which exclude all but one God,
exclude only supreme deities, and do not exclude any that are not
supreme, by such an interpretation you have voided and frustrated every
law of the Old Testament against idolatry.' Dr. Clarke and his friends
distinguished between that supreme sovereign worship which was due to
the Father only, and the mediate, relative, inferior worship which was
due to others. 'What authority,' asks Waterland, 'is there in Scripture
for this distinction? What rules are there to regulate the intention of
the worshipper, so as to make worship high, higher, or highest as
occasion requires? All religious worship is determined by Scripture and
antiquity to be what you call absolute and sovereign.' 'Scripture and
antiquity generally say nothing of a supreme God, because they
acknowledge no inferior God. Such language was borrowed from the Pagans,
and then used by Christian writers. So, too, was the notion of
"mediatorial worship" borrowed from the Pagans, handed on by Arians, and
brought down to our own times by Papists.'

But Dr. Clarke and his friends maintained that they were not Arians, for
they did not make Christ a creature. 'Impossible,' replies Dr.
Waterland; 'you assert, though not directly, yet consequentially, that
the Maker and Redeemer of the whole world is no more than a creature,
that He is mutable and corruptible; that He depends entirely upon the
favour and good pleasure of God; that He has a precarious existence and
dependent powers, and is neither so perfect in His nature nor exalted in
privileges but that it is in the Father's power to create another equal
or superior. There is no middle between being essentially God and being
a creature.' Dr. Clarke cannot find a medium between orthodoxy and
Arianism. He has declared against the consubstantiality and proper
divinity of Christ as well as His co-eternity. He cannot be neutral. In
condemning Arians he has condemned himself. Nay, he has gone further
than the Arians. 'Sober Arians will rise up in judgment and condemn you
for founding Christ's worship so meanly upon I know not what powers
given after His resurrection. They founded it upon reasons antecedent to
His incarnation, upon His being God before the world, and Creator of the
world of His own power.'

Waterland showed his strength in defence as well as in attack. He boldly
grappled with the difficulties which the Catholic doctrine of the
Trinity unquestionably involves, and his method of dealing with these
difficulties forms not the least valuable part of his writings on the

Into the labyrinths, indeed, of metaphysical speculation he distinctly
declined to follow his opponents. They, as well as he, acknowledged, or
professed to acknowledge, the force of the testimony from Scripture and
the fathers. He is ready to join issue on this point, 'Is the Catholic
doctrine true?' but for resolving this question he holds that we must
have recourse to Scripture and antiquity. 'Whoever debates this question
should forbear every topic derived from the _nature_ of things, because
such arguments belong only to the other question, whether the doctrine
be _possible_, and in all reason possibility should be presupposed in
all our disputes from Scripture and the fathers.' He consistently
maintains that our knowledge of the nature of God is far too limited to
allow us to dogmatise from our own reason on such a subject. 'You can
never fix any certain principles of individuation, therefore you can
never assure me that three real persons are not one numerical or
individual essence. You know not precisely what it is that makes one
being, one essence, one substance.' There are other difficulties in the
nature of the Godhead quite as great as any which the doctrine of the
Trinity involves. 'The Omnipresence, the Incarnation, Self-existence,
are all mysteries, and eternity itself is the greatest mystery of all.
There is nothing peculiar to the Trinity that is near so perplexing as
eternity.' And then he finely adds: 'I know no remedy for these things
but a humble mind. If we demur to a doctrine because we cannot fully and
adequately comprehend it, is not this too familiar from a creature
towards his Creator, and articling more strictly with Almighty God than
becomes us?'

Is the Trinity a mysterious doctrine? 'The tremendous Deity is all over
mysterious, in His nature and in His attributes, in His works and in His
ways. If not, He would not be divine. If we reject the most certain
truths about the Deity, only because they are incomprehensible, when
everything about Him must be so of course, the result will be Atheism;
for there are mysteries in the works of nature as well as in the Word of

If it be retorted, Why then introduce terms and ideas which by your own
admission can only be imperfectly understood? Why not leave such
mysteries in the obscurity in which they are shrouded, and not condemn
those who are unable to accept without understanding them? The reply is,
'It is you and not we who are responsible for the discussion and
definition of these mysteries. The faith of the Church was at first, and
might be still, a plain, simple, easy thing, did not its adversaries
endeavour to perplex and puzzle it with philosophical niceties. Early
Christians did not trouble their heads with nice speculations about the
_modus_ of the Three in One.' 'All this discourse about _being_ and
_person_ is foreign and not pertinent, because if both these terms were
thrown out, our doctrine would stand just as before, independent of
them, and very intelligible without them. So it stood for about 150
years before _person_ was heard of in it, and it was later before
_being_ was mentioned. Therefore, if all the objection be against these,
however innocent, expressions, let the objectors drop the name and
accept the thing.' It was no wish of Waterland to argue upon such
mysteries at all. 'Perhaps,' he says, 'after all, it would be best for
both of us to be silent when we have really nothing to say, but as you
have begun, I must go on with the argument.... It is really not
reasoning but running riot with fancy and imagination about matters
infinitely surpassing human comprehension. You may go on till you
reason, in a manner, God out of His attributes, and yourself out of your
faith, and not know at last when to stop.' These are weighty and wise
words, and it would be well if they were borne in mind by disputants on
this profound mystery in every age. But while deprecating all
presumptuous prying into the secret nature of God, Waterland is
perfectly ready to meet his adversaries on that ground on which alone he
thinks the question can be discussed.

Summing up and setting in one compendious view all that the modern
Arians taught in depreciation of Christ, Waterland showed that in spite
of their indignation at being represented as teaching that Christ was a
mere creature, they yet clearly taught that He was 'brought into
existence as well as any other creature, that He was precarious in
existence, ignorant of much more than He knows, capable of change from
strength to weakness, and from weakness to strength; capable of being
made wiser, happier, and better in every respect; having nothing of his
own, nothing but what He owes to the favour of His lord and governor.'
By the arguments which they used to prove all this, they put a most
dangerous weapon into the hands of Atheists, or at least into the hands
of those who denied the existence of such a God as is revealed to us in
Holy Scripture. 'Through your zeal against the divinity of the Son, you
have betrayed the cause to the first bold Marcionite that shall deny the
eternal Godhead of the Father and the Son, and assert some unknown God
above both. The question was, whether a particular Person called the
Father be the Eternal God. His being called God would amount to nothing,
that being no more than a word of office. His being Creator, nothing;
that you could elude. His being Jehovah, of no weight, meaning no more
than a person true and faithful to his promises. Almighty is capable of
a subordinate sense. The texts which speak of eternity are capable of a
subordinate sense. The term "first cause" is not a Scriptural

Waterland boldly faces the objection against the Catholic doctrine of
the Trinity which was derived from certain texts of Scripture which
taken by themselves might seem to favour the Arian view. How, for
example, it was asked, could it be said that all power was _given_ unto
Christ (Matt, xxviii. 18), and that all things were put under His feet
after His Resurrection (Eph. i. 22), if He was Lord long before? 'The
Logos,' replies Waterland, 'was from the beginning Lord over all, but
the God man ([Greek: Theanthrôpos]) was not so till after the
Resurrection. Then He received in that capacity what He had ever enjoyed
in another; He received full power in both natures which He had
heretofore only in _one_.'[440] The passage on which the Arians insisted
most of all, and which they constantly asserted to be by itself decisive
of the whole question, is 1 Corinthians viii. 6. There, they asserted,
the Son is excluded in most express words from being one with the
Supreme God. Dr. Clarke told Waterland in downright terms that 'he
should be ashamed when he considered that he falsified St. Paul, who
said, "To us there is but one God, the Father."' 'But,' replies Dr.
Waterland, 'do we who make the Son essentially the same God with that
one, and suppose but one God in all, or you who make two Gods, and in
the same _relative_ sense, God _to us_, falsify St. Paul? _We_ can give
a reason why the Son is tacitly included, being so intimately united to
the Father as partaker of the same divine nature, but that any creature
should not be excluded from being God is strange.'

To turn now from Scripture to antiquity. The question as to what was the
opinion of the ante-Nicene fathers had been so thoroughly handled by
Bishop Bull, that Waterland (his legitimate successor) had no need to
enter upon it at large over again. But Bishop Bull had done his work too
well to suit the theory of Dr. Clarke and his friends. Although the
latter professed to find in the early fathers a confirmation of their
views, yet from a consciousness, perhaps, of the unsatisfactoriness of
this confirmation they constantly depreciate the value of patristic
evidence. In connection, therefore, with the subject of the Trinity,
Waterland clearly points out what is and what is not the true character
of the appeal to antiquity. The fathers are certain proofs in many cases
of the Church's doctrine in that age, and probable proofs of what that
doctrine was from the beginning. In respect of the latter they are
inferior additional proofs when compared with plain Scripture proof; of
no moment if Scripture is plainly contrary, but of great moment when
Scripture looks the same way, because they help to fix the true
interpretation in disputed texts. Waterland, however, would build no
article of faith on the fathers, but on Scripture alone. If the sense of
Scripture be disputed, the concurring sentiments of the fathers in any
doctrine will be generally the best and safest comments on Scripture,
just as the practice of courts and the decisions of eminent lawyers are
the best comments on an Act of Parliament made in or near their own
times, though the obedience of subjects rests solely on the laws of the
land as its rule and measure. To the objection that interpreting
Scripture by the ancients is debasing its majesty and throwing Christ
out of His throne, Waterland replies in somewhat stately terms, 'We
think that Christ never sits more secure or easy on His throne than when
He has His most faithful guards about Him, and that none are so likely
to strike at His authority or aim at dethroning Him as they that would
displace His old servants only to make way for new ones.' But this
respect for the opinion of antiquity in no way involved any compromise
of the leading idea of all eighteenth-century theology, that it should
follow the guidance of reason. Reason was by no means to be sacrificed
to the authority of the fathers. Indeed, 'as to authority,' he says, 'in
a strict and proper sense I do not know that the fathers have any over
us; they are all dead men; therefore we urge not their _authority_ but
their testimony, their suffrage, their judgment, as carrying great force
of reason. Taking them in here as lights or helps _is_ doing what is
_reasonable_ and using our own understandings in the best way.' 'I
follow the fathers,' he adds, 'as far as reason requires and no further;
therefore, this _is_ following our own reason.' In an age when patristic
literature was little read and lightly esteemed this forcible, and at
the same time highly reasonable, vindication of its importance had a
value beyond its bearing upon the doctrine of the Trinity, in connection
with which the subject was introduced by our author.[441]

Here our notice of the points at issue between Dr. Waterland and the
modern Arians, so far as they concerned the truth of the Catholic
doctrine of the Trinity, may fitly close. But there was yet another
question closely connected with the above which it concerned the
interests of morality, no less than of religion, thoroughly to sift. It
was no easy task which Dr. Clarke and his friends undertook when they
essayed to prove from Scripture and antiquity that the Son and Holy
Ghost were not one with the supreme God. But they attempted a yet
harder task than this. They contended that their views were not
irreconcilable with the formularies and Liturgy of the Church of
England. The more candid and ingenuous mind of Whiston saw the utter
hopelessness of this endeavour. It was, he says, an endeavour 'to wash
the blackmore white,' and so, like an honest man as he was, he retired
from her communion. Dr. Clarke could not, of course, deny that there was
at least an apparent inconsistency between his views and those of the
Church to which he belonged. One of the chapters in his 'Scripture
Doctrine of the Trinity' is devoted to a collection of 'passages in the
Liturgy which may seem in some respects to differ from the foregoing
doctrine.' But he and his friends were 'ready to subscribe any test
containing nothing more than is contained in the Thirty-nine Articles;'
their avowed principle being that 'they may do it in their own sense
agreeably to what they call Scripture.' In his 'Case of Arian
Subscription' Dr. Waterland had no difficulty in showing the utter
untenableness of this position. He maintained that 'as the Church
required subscription to _her own_ interpretation of Scripture, so the
subscriber is bound to that and that only.' 'The rules,' he says, 'for
understanding what her sense is are the same as for understanding oaths,
laws, &c.--that is, the usual acceptation of words, the custom of speech
at the time being, the scope of the writer from the controversies then
on foot,' &c. It is but a shallow artifice for fraudulent subscribers to
call their interpretation of Scripture, Scripture. The Church has as
good a right to call her interpretation Scripture. Let the Arian sense
be Scripture to Arians; but then let them subscribe only to Arian

The case of Arian subscriptions was really part of a larger question.
There were some who, without actually denying the _truth_ of the
doctrine of the Trinity, doubted whether it was of sufficient
_importance_ or clearly enough revealed to make it a necessary article
of the Christian faith. These were sometimes called Episcopians, a name
derived from one Episcopius, an amiable and not unorthodox writer of the
seventeenth century, who was actuated by a charitable desire to include
as many as possible within the pale of the Christian Church, and to
minimize the differences between all who would, in any sense, own the
name of Christians. The prevalence of such views in Dr. Waterland's days
led him to write one of his most valuable treatises in connection with
the Trinitarian controversy. It was entitled, 'The Importance of the
Doctrine of the Trinity Asserted,' and was addressed to those only who
believed the _truth_ of the doctrine but demurred to its importance.
Waterland concludes this work, which is rather a practical than a
controversial treatise, with some wise words of caution to those
persons of 'more warmth than wisdom,' who from a mistaken liberality
would make light of heresy.

It is now time to close this sketch of the method in which this great
writer--one of the few really great divines who belong to the eighteenth
century--handled the mysterious subject of the Trinity. Not only from
his profound learning and acuteness, but from the general cast of his
mind, Waterland was singularly adapted for the work which he undertook.
To treat this subject of all subjects, the faculties both of thinking
clearly and of expressing thoughts clearly are absolutely essential.
These two qualifications Dr. Waterland possessed in a remarkable degree.
He always knew exactly what he meant, and he also knew how to convey his
meaning to his readers. His style is nervous and lucid, and he never
sacrifices clearness to the graces of diction. His very deficiencies
were all in his favour. Had he been a man of a more poetical temperament
he might have been tempted, like Platonists and neo-Platonists, to soar
into the heights of metaphysical speculations and either lose himself or
at least render it difficult for ordinary readers to follow him. But no
one can ever complain that Dr. Waterland is obscure. We may agree or
disagree with his views, but we can never be in doubt what those views
are. Had Waterland been of a warmer and more excitable temperament he
might have been tempted to indulge in vague declamation or in that
personal abusiveness which was only too common in the theological
controversies of the day. Waterland fell into neither of these snares;
he always argues, never declaims; he is a hard hitter in controversy,
but never condescends to scurrilous personalities. The very completeness
of his defence of the doctrine of the Trinity against Arian assailants
furnishes, perhaps, the reason why this part of his writings has not
been so widely and practically useful as it deserves to be. He so
effectually assailed the position of Dr. Clarke and his friends that it
has rarely been occupied by opponents of the Catholic doctrine in modern

It has been thought desirable to present the great controversy in which
Drs. Clarke and Waterland were respectively the leaders in one
uninterrupted view. In doing so the order of events has been
anticipated, and it is now necessary to revert to circumstances bearing
upon the subject of this chapter which occurred long before that
controversy closed.

Dr. Clarke's 'Scripture Doctrine' was published in 1712; Dr. Waterland
did not enter into the arena until 1719; but five years before this
latter date, Dr. Clarke was threatened with other weapons besides those
of argument. In 1714, the Lower House of Convocation made an
application to the Upper House to notice the heretical opinions of Dr.
Clarke on the subject of the Trinity. They submitted to the bishops
several extracts, and also condemned the general drift of the book. The
danger of ecclesiastical censures drew from Dr. Clarke a declaration in
which he promised not to preach any more on such subjects, and also an
explanation which almost amounted to a retractation; this he immediately
followed by a paper delivered to the Bishop of London, half recanting
and half explaining his explanations. These documents appear to have
satisfied nobody except perhaps the bishops. The Lower House resolved
'that the paper subscribed by Dr. Clarke and communicated by the bishops
to the Lower House doth not contain in it any recantation of the
heretical assertions, &c., nor doth give such satisfaction for the great
scandal occasioned by the said books as ought to put a stop to further
examination thereof;' while his outspoken friend, Whiston, wrote to him,
'Your paper has occasioned real grief to myself and others, not because
it is a real retractation, but because it is so very like one, yet is
not, and seems to be penned with a plain intention only to ward off
persecution,' and told him face to face that '_he_ would not have given
the like occasion of offence for all the world.' However, the bishops
were satisfied and the matter proceeded no further.

Subsequently Dr. Clarke was taken to task by his diocesan, the Bishop of
London, for altering the doxology into an accordance with Arianism. He
was neither convinced nor silenced by Waterland; and though his
influence may (as Van Mildert tells us) have perceptibly declined after
the great controversy was closed, he was not left without followers, and
maintained a high reputation which survived him. He was for many years
known among a certain class of admirers as 'the great Dr. Clarke.' Among
those who were at least interested in, if not influenced by the doctor
was Queen Caroline, the clever wife of George II.

Nor was the excitement caused by the speculations of Dr. Clarke on the
doctrine of the Trinity confined to the Church of England alone. It was
the occasion of one of the fiercest disputes that ever arose among
Nonconformists. Exeter was the first scene of the spread of Arianism
among the Dissenters. Two ministers gave great offence to their
congregations by preaching Arianism. The alarm of heresy spread rapidly,
and there was so great an apprehension of its tainting the whole country
that--strange as it may sound to modern ears--the judge at the county
assize made the prevalence of Arianism the chief subject of his charge
to the grand jury. Among Churchmen, some were alarmed lest the heresy
should spread among their own body, while others rather gloried in it
as a natural result of schism. A statement of the case was sent to the
dissenting ministers in the metropolis. The Presbyterian ministers at
Exeter, in order to allay the panic, agreed to make a confession of
faith, every one in his own words _vivâ voce_. This caused a revival of
the old discussion as to whether confessions of faith should be made in
any but Scripture language. The matter was referred to the ministers in
London, and a meeting was held at Salters' Hall, at which the majority
agreed to the general truth that 'there is but one living and true God,
and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are that one God.' Numbers,
however, of the Presbyterians, and some of the Baptists, adhered to
Arianism, and thence drifted into Socinianism or rather simple

This, indeed, was the general course inside as well as outside the
Church. The very name of Arian almost died out, and the name of Socinian
took its place. The term Socinian is, however, misleading. It by no
means implies that those to whom it was given agreed with the doctrine
of Faustus Socinus. It was often loosely and improperly applied on the
one hand to many who really believed more than he did, and on the other
to many who believed less. In fact, the stigma of Socinianism was tossed
about as a vague, general term of reproach in the eighteenth century,
much in the same way as 'Puseyite,' 'Ritualist,' and 'Rationalist' have
been in our own day. This very inaccurate use of the word Socinian may
in part be accounted for by remembering that one important feature in
the system of Socinus was his utter denial of the doctrine of the
atonement or satisfaction made by Christ in any sense. 'Christ,' he
said, 'is called a mediator not because He made peace between God and
man, but because He was sent from God to man to explain the will of God
and to make a covenant with them in the name of God. A mediator (_a
medio_) is a middle person between God and man.'[442] Now there is
abundance of evidence that before and at the time of the Evangelical
revival in the Church of England, this doctrine of the atonement had
been, if not denied, at least practically ignored. Bishop Horsley, in
his Charge in 1790, complains of this; and in the writings of the early
Evangelical party we find, of course, constant complaints of the general
ignoring of these doctrines. Now it is probable that the term Socinian
was often applied to those who kept these doctrines in the background,
and not, indeed, applied altogether improperly; only, if we assume that
all those who were termed Socinians disbelieved in the true divinity or
personality of the Son and the Holy Ghost, we shall be assuming more
than was really the case.

On the other hand, many were called Socinians who really believed far
less than Socinus and the foreign Socinians did. It is true that Socinus
'regarded it as a mere human invention, not agreeable to Scripture and
repugnant to reason, that Christ is the only begotten Son of God,
because He and no one besides Him was begotten of the divine
substance;'[443] but he also held that 'Scripture so plainly attributes
a divine and sovereign power to Christ as to leave no room for a
figurative sense.'[444] And the early Socinians thought that Christ must
not only be obeyed but His assistance implored, and that He ought to be
worshipped, that 'invocation of Christ or addressing prayers to Him was
a duty necessarily arising from the character He sustained as head of
the Church;' and that 'those who denied the invocation of Christ did not
deserve to be called Christians.'[445]

Let us now return to the history of our own Socinians, or, as they
preferred to be called, Unitarians; we shall soon see how far short they
fell in point of belief of their foreign predecessors. The heresy
naturally spread more widely among Nonconformists than it could in the
Church of England. As the biographer of Socinus remarks, 'The
Trinitarian forms of worship which are preserved in the Church of
England, and which are so closely incorporated with its services, must
furnish an insuperable objection against conformity with all sincere and
conscientious Unitarians.'[446] If the common sense and common honesty
of Englishmen revolted against the specious attempts of Dr. Clarke and
his friends to justify _Arian_ subscription, a much more hopeless task
would it have been to reconcile the further development of
anti-Trinitarian doctrines with the formularies of the Church.

At the same time it must be admitted that the cessation or abatement of
anti-Trinitarian efforts in the Church after the death of Dr. Clarke is
not to be attributed solely to the firmness and earnestness of
Churchmen's convictions on this subject. It arose, in part at least,
from the general indisposition to stir up mooted questions. Men were
disposed to rest satisfied with 'our happy establishment in Church and
State;' and it was quite as much owing to the spiritual torpor which
overtook the Church and nation after the third decade of the eighteenth
century, as to strength of conviction, that the Trinitarian question was
not further agitated.

Among the Nonconformists, and especially among the Presbyterians, the
case was different. The Arianism which led to the Salters' Hall
conference drifted by degrees into Unitarianism pure and simple. Dr.
Lardner was one of the earliest and most distinguished of those who
belonged to this latter school. He passed through the stage of Arianism,
but the mind of the author of 'The Credibility of Gospel History' was
far too clear and logical to allow him to rest there, and he finally
came to the conclusion that 'Jesus Christ was a mere man, but a man with
whom God was, in a peculiar and extraordinary manner.' This is not the
place to refer to the various Nonconformists, such as Caleb Fleming,
Hugh Farmer, James Foster, Robert Robinson, John Taylor, and many others
who diverged more or less from the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. But
the views of one Nonconformist whose name is a household word in the
mouth of Churchmen and Dissenters alike, and some of whose hymns will
live as long as the English language lives, claim at least a passing

Isaac Watts belonged to the Independents, a sect which in the first half
of the eighteenth century was less tainted with Socinianism than any of
'the three denominations.' His 'Treatise on the Christian Doctrine of
the Trinity,' and that entitled 'The Arian invited to the Orthodox
Faith,' were professedly written in defence of the Catholic doctrine.
The former, like most of Dr. Watts's compositions, was essentially a
popular work. 'I do not,' he writes, 'pretend to instruct the learned
world. My design here was to write for private and unlearned Christians,
and to lead them by the fairest and most obvious sense of Scripture into
some acquaintance with the great doctrine of the Trinity.'[447] In some
respects his work is very effective. One point especially he brings out
more forcibly than almost any other writer of his day. It is what he
calls 'the moral argument' for the Trinity. There is real eloquence in
his appeal to the 'great number of Christians who, since the Apostles,
under the influence of a belief in the Divinity of the Son and the
Spirit, have paid divine honours to both, after they have sought the
knowledge of the truth with the utmost diligence and prayer; when they
have been in the holiest and most heavenly frames of spirit, and in
their devoutest hours; when they have been under the most sensible
impressions of the love of the Father and the Son, and under the most
quickening influences of the Blessed Spirit himself; in the devotions of
a death-bed, and in the songs and doxologies of martyrdom.' 'Now can
we,' he asks, 'suppose that in such devout and glorious seasons as
these, God the Father should ever thus manifest His own love to souls
that are degrading Him by worshipping another God? That Christ Jesus
should reveal Himself in His dying love to souls that are practising
idolatry and worshipping Himself instead of the true God?'

But there are other passages of a very different tendency, in which Dr.
Watts virtually gives up the whole point at issue, and apparently
without being conscious that he is doing so. On the worship of the Holy
Ghost, for example, he writes. 'There is great silence in Scripture of
precepts or patterns of prayer and praise to the Holy Spirit.'
'Therefore,' he thinks, 'we should not bind it on our own consciences or
on others as a piece of necessary worship, but rather practise it
occasionally as prudence and expediency may require.'[448] On the famous
question of the Homoousion, he thinks 'it is hard to suppose that the
eternal generation of the Son of God as a distinct person, yet co-equal
and consubstantial or of the same essence with the Father, should be
made a fundamental article of faith in the dawn of the Gospel.' He is
persuaded therefore 'that faith in Him as a divine Messiah or
all-sufficient and appointed Saviour is the thing required in those very
texts where He is called the Son of God and proposed as such for the
object of our belief; and that a belief of the natural and eternal and
consubstantial sonship of Christ to God as Father was not made the
necessary term or requisite of salvation;' neither can he 'find it
asserted or revealed with so much evidence in any part of the Word of
God as is necessary to make it a fundamental article of faith.'[449] And
once more, on the Personality of the Holy Ghost, he writes: 'The general
and constant language of Scripture speaks of the Holy Ghost as a power
or medium of divine operation.' Some places may speak of him as
personal, but 'it was the frequent custom of Jews and Oriental nations
to speak of powers and qualities under personal characters.' He can find
'no plain and express instance in Holy Scripture of a doxology directly
and distinctly addressed to the Holy Spirit,' and he thinks the reason
of this may be 'perhaps because he is only personalised by idioms of

Now anyone who has studied the course of the Trinitarian controversy
will see at once that an anti-Trinitarian would require no further
concessions than these to prove his point quite unanswerably. The
amiable design of Dr. Watts's second treatise was 'to lead an Arian by
soft and easy steps into a belief of the divinity of Christ,'[451] but
if he granted what he did, the Arian would have led him, if the
controversy had been pushed to its logical results.

To return to the Church of England. About the middle of the eighteenth
century there was a revival of one phase of the Trinitarian controversy.
A movement arose to procure the abolition of subscription to the
Articles and Liturgy. The spread of Unitarian opinions among the clergy
is said to have originated this movement, though probably this was not
the sole cause. One of the most active promoters of this attempt was
Archdeacon Blackburne; he was supported by Clayton, Bishop of Clogher,
who boldly avowed that his object was to open the door for different
views upon the Trinity in the Church. His own views on this subject
expressed in a treatise entitled 'An Essay on Spirit' were certainly
original and startling. He held that the Logos was the Archangel
Michael, and the Holy Spirit the angel Gabriel!

This treatise and that of Blackburne, entitled 'The Confessional,'
called forth the talents of an eminent Churchman in defence of the
received doctrine of the Trinity--Jones of Nayland. His chief work on
the subject was entitled 'The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity,' and was
drawn up after the model of Dr. Clarke's famous book, to which, indeed,
it was partly intended to be an antidote. It was written on the
principle that Scripture is its own best interpreter, and consisted of a
series of well-chosen texts marshalled in order with a brief explanation
of each, showing its application to the doctrine of the Trinity. On one
point Jones insists with great force, viz., that every article of the
Christian faith depends upon the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity; and
he illustrates this by applying it to 'our creation, redemption,
sanctification, resurrection, and glorification by the power of Christ
and the Holy Spirit.'[452] Jones did, perhaps, still more useful if less
pretentious work in publishing two little pamphlets, the one entitled 'A
Letter to the Common People in Answer to some Popular Arguments against
the Trinity,' the other 'A Preservative against the Publications
dispersed by Modern Socinians.' Both of these set forth the truth, as he
held it, in a very clear and sensible manner, and at a time when the
Unitarian doctrines were spreading widely among the multitudes who could
not be supposed to have either the time or the talents requisite to
grapple with long, profound, and elaborate arguments, they were very
seasonable publications.

But the most curious contribution which Jones made to the Trinitarian
controversy was a pamphlet entitled 'A Short Way to Truth, or the
Christian Doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, Illustrated and Confirmed from
an Analogy in the Natural Creation.' He shows that the powers of nature
by which all natural life and motion are preserved are three--air, fire,
and light. That these three thus subsisting together in unity are
applied in Scripture to the Three Persons of the Divine Nature, and that
the manifestations of God are always made under one or other of these
signs. These three agents support the life of man. There is a Trinity in
the body (1) the heart and blood-vessels; (2) the organs of respiration;
(3) the nerves, the instruments of sensation; these three departments
are the three moving principles of nature continually acting for the
support of life. 'Therefore,' he concludes, 'as the life of man is a
Trinity in Unity, and the powers which act upon it are a Trinity in
Unity, the Socinians being, in their natural capacity, formed and
animated as Christians, carry about with them daily a confutation of
their own unbelief.'[453]

In the year 1782, the Trinitarian controversy received a fresh impulse
from the appearance in it of a writer whose eminence in other branches
of knowledge lent an adventitious importance to what he wrote upon this
subject. In that year, Dr. Priestley published his 'History of the
Corruptions of Christianity,' which, as Horsley says, was 'nothing less
than an attack upon the creeds and established discipline of every
church in Christendom.' Foremost among these corruptions were both the
Catholic doctrine of our Lord's divinity and the Arian notion of His
pre-existence in a state far above the human.

The great antagonist of Dr. Priestley was Dr. Horsley, who, first in a
Charge to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of St. Albans, and then in a
series of letters addressed to Priestley himself, maintained with
conspicuous ability the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity.

An able modern writer[454] says that the Unitarian met at the hands of
the bishop much the same treatment as Collins had received from Bentley.
But the comparison scarcely does justice either to Horsley or Priestley.
From a purely intellectual point of view it would be a compliment to any
man to compare him with 'Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,' but the brilliant
wit and profound scholarship displayed in Bentley's remarks on Collins
were tarnished by a scurrility and personality which, even artistically
speaking, injured the merits of the work, and were quite unworthy of
being addressed by one gentleman (not to say clergyman) to another.
Horsley's strictures are as keen and caustic as Bentley's; but there is
a dignity and composure about him which, while adding to rather than
detracting from the pungency of his writings, prevent him from
forgetting his position and condescending to offensive invectives.
Priestley, too, was a more formidable opponent than Collins. He was not
only a man who by his scientific researches had made his mark upon his
age, but he had set forth Unitarianism far more fully and powerfully
than Collins had set forth Deism. Still he unquestionably laid himself
open to attack, and his opponent did not fail to take advantage of this

Horsley distinctly declines to enter into the general controversy as to
the truth or possibility of the Christian Trinity. Everything, he
thinks, that can be said on either side has been said long ago. But he
is ready to join issue with Priestley on the historical question. This
he feels it practically necessary to do, for 'the whole energy and
learning of the Unitarian party is exerted to wrest from us the argument
from tradition.'[455]

He shows, then, that so far from all the Church being originally
Unitarian, there was no Unitarian before the end of the second century,
when Theodotus, 'the learned tanner of Byzantium,' who had been a
renegade from the faith, taught for the first time that His humanity was
the whole of Christ's condition, and that He was only exalted to Heaven
like other good men. He owns that the Cerinthians and Ebionites long
before that had affirmed that Jesus had no existence previous to Mary's
conception, and was literally and physically the carpenter's son, and so
asserted the mere humanity of the Redeemer, 'but,' he adds, 'they
admitted I know not what unintelligible exaltation of His nature upon
His Ascension by which He became no less the object of worship than if
His nature had been originally divine.'[456] He acknowledges that the
Cerinthian Gnostics denied the proper divinity of Christ, but, he adds
very pertinently, 'if you agree with me in these opinions, it is little
to your purpose to insist that Justin Martyr's reflections are levelled
only at the Gnostics.'[457]

Like Waterland, and indeed all defenders of the Catholic doctrine,
Horsley fully admits the difficulties and mysteriousness of his subject,
'but,' he asks, 'is Christianity clear of difficulties in any of the
Unitarian schemes? Hath the Arian hypothesis no difficulty when it
ascribes both the first formation and perpetual government of the
Universe not to the Deity, but an inferior being? In the Socinian scheme
is it no difficulty that the capacity of a mere man should contain that
wisdom by which God made the universe?'[458]

Horsley rebukes his opponent in severe and dignified language for
presuming to write on a subject on which, by his own confession, he was
ignorant of what had been written. In reply to a passage in Horsley's
'Charge,' in which it was asserted that Priestley's opinions in general
were the same as those propagated by Daniel Zuicker, and that his
arguments were in essential points the same as Episcopius had used,
Priestley had said that he had never heard of Zuicker, and knew little
of Episcopius; he also let slip that he had only 'looked through' the
ancient fathers and the writings of Bishop Bull, an unfortunate phrase,
which Horsley is constantly casting in his teeth.[459] On the positive
proofs of his own position, Horsley cites numerous passages from the
ante-Nicene fathers. He contends that in the famous passage of
Tertullian on which Priestley had laid so much stress, Tertullian meant
by 'idiotæ,' not the general body of unlearned Christians, but some
stupid people who could not accept the great mystery which was generally
accepted by the Church. He shows that the Jews in Christ's time _did_
believe in a Trinity, and expected the Second Person to come as their
Messiah. He maintains that when Athanasius spoke of Jews who held the
simple humanity of Christ, he meant what he said, viz., Jews simply, not
Christian Jews, as Priestley asserted.

There is a fine irony in some of his remarks on Priestley's
interpretations of Scripture. 'To others,' he says in his 'Charge,' 'who
have not the sagacity to discern that the true meaning of an inspired
writer must be the reverse of the natural and obvious sense of the
expressions which he employs, the force of the conclusion that the
Primitive Christians could not believe our Lord to be a mere man because
the Apostles had told them He was Creator of the Universe (Colossians i.
15, 17) will be little understood.'[460] In the famous text which speaks
of Christ as 'come in the flesh,' for 'come _in_ the flesh' Priestley
substitutes 'come _of_ the flesh.' 'The one,' says Horsley, 'affirms an
Incarnation, the other a mortal extraction. The first is St. John's
assertion, the second Dr. Priestley's. Perhaps Dr. Priestley hath
discovered of St. John, as of St. Paul, that his reasoning is sometimes
inconclusive and his language inaccurate, and he might think it no
unwarrantable liberty to correct an expression, which, as not perfectly
corresponding with his own system, he could not entirely approve. It
would have been fair to advertise his reader of so capital an
emendation, an emendation for which no support is to be found in the
Greek Testament or any variety of manuscripts.'[461] In a similar tone,
he trusts 'that the conviction of the theological student that his
philosophy is Plato's, and his creed St. John's, will alleviate the
mortification he might otherwise feel in differing from Dr.

One of the most important and interesting parts of Horsley's letters was
that in which he discussed the old objection raised by Priestley that
the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was borrowed from Plato. There is,
and Horsley does not deny it, a certain resemblance between the Platonic
and the Christian theories. The Platonist asserted three Divine
hypostases, the Good Being ([Greek: tagathon]), the word or reason
([Greek: logos] or [Greek: noys]), and the Spirit ([Greek: psychê]) that
actuates or influences the whole system of the Universe (_anima mundi_),
which had all one common Deity ([Greek: to theion]), and were eternal
and necessarily existent.[463] Horsley can see no derogation to
Christianity in the resemblance of this theory to that of the Christian
Trinity. He thinks that the advocates of the Catholic Faith in modern
times have been too apt to take alarm at the charge of Platonism. 'I
rejoice,' he says, 'and glory in the opprobrium. I not only confess, but
I maintain, not a perfect agreement, but such a similitude as speaks a
common origin, and affords an argument in confirmation of the Catholic
doctrine for its conformity to the most ancient and universal
traditions.'[464] For was this idea of a Triad peculiar to Plato? or did
it originate with him? 'The Platonists,' says Horsley, 'pretended to be
no more than expositors of a more ancient doctrine which is traced from
Plato to Parmenides; from Parmenides to his master of the Pythagorean
sect; from the Pythagoreans to Orpheus, the earliest of Grecian
mystagogues; from Orpheus to the secret lore of Egyptian priests in
which the foundations of the Orphic theology were laid. Similar notions
are found in the Persian and Chaldean theology; even in Roman
superstition from their Trojan ancestors. In Phrygia it was introduced
by Dardanus, who carried it from Samothrace.' In short, 'the Trinity was
a leading principle in all ancient schools of philosophy and

Not, of course, that Horsley approved of the attempts made at the close
of the second century to meet the Platonists half-way by professing that
the leading doctrines of the Gospel were contained in Plato's writings.
He strongly condemned, _e.g._, the conceit of the Platonic Christians
that the external display of the powers of the Son in the business of
Creation is the thing intended in Scripture language under the figure of
his generation. 'There is no foundation,' he thinks, 'in Holy Writ, and
no authority in the opinions and doctrines of preceding ages. It
betrayed some who were most wedded to it into the use of very improper
language, as if a new relation between the First and Second Persons took
place when the creative powers were first exerted.' He condemns 'the
indiscretion of presuming to affix a determinate meaning upon a
figurative expression of which no particular exposition can be drawn
safely from Holy Writ.' 'But,' he adds, 'the conversion of an attribute
into a person, whatever Dr. Priestley may imagine, is a notion to which
they were entire strangers.' On the main question of the Trinity he
asserts, in opposition to Dr. Priestley, that they were quite sound.

Adopting the same line of argument which Leslie had used before him,
Horsley dexterously turns the supposed resemblance between Platonism and
Christianity, which, as has been seen, he admits, into a plain proof
that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be such a contradiction as the
Unitarians represented it to be.

The controversy between Priestley and Horsley brings us nearly to the
close of the eighteenth century. There had been a considerable secession
of English clergymen to the Unitarians,[466] and Horsley's masterly
tracts were a very opportune defence of the Catholic doctrine. On one
point he and his adversary thoroughly concurred--viz., that there could
be no medium between making Christ a mere man and owning Him to be in
the highest sense God. Arianism in its various forms had become by this
time well-nigh obsolete in England. It was a happy thing for the Church
that this point had been virtually settled. The alternative was now
clearly set before English Churchmen--'Choose ye whom ye will serve; if
Christ be God, follow him; if not, be prepared to give up all notions of
a creature worship.' The Unitarians at the close of the eighteenth
century all took their stand on this issue. Such rhapsodies as those
which were indulged in by early Socinians as well as Arians were now
unheard. The line of demarcation was strictly drawn between those who
did and those who did not believe in the true Godhead and distinct
personality of the Second and Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity, so
that from henceforth men might know on what ground they were standing.

Here the sketch of this famous controversy, which was certainly a
marked feature of the eighteenth century, may fitly close. But a few
general remarks in conclusion seem requisite.

And first as to the nomenclature. The name claimed by the
anti-Trinitarians has, for want of a better, been perforce adopted in
the foregoing pages. But in calling them Unitarians, we must do so under
protest. The advocates of the Catholic doctrine might with equal
correctness be termed, from one point of view, Unitarians, as they are
from another point of view termed Trinitarians. For they believe in the
Unity of God as firmly as they believe in the Trinity. And they hold
that there is no real contradiction in combining those two subjects of
belief; because the difficulty of reconciling the Trinity with the Unity
of the Godhead in reality proceeds simply from our human and necessary
incapacity to comprehend the nature of the union. Therefore they cannot
for a moment allow to disbelievers in the Trinity the title of
Unitarians, so as to imply that the latter monopolise the grand truth
that 'the Lord our God is one Lord.' They consent reluctantly to adopt
the term Unitarian because no other name has been invented to describe
the stage at which anti-Trinitarians had arrived before the close of the
eighteenth century. These latter, of course, differed essentially from
the Arians of the earlier part of the century. Neither can they be
properly termed Socinians, for Socinus, as Horsley justly remarks,
'though he denied the original divinity of Our Lord, was nevertheless a
worshipper of Christ, and a strenuous asserter of his right to worship.
It was left to others,' he adds, 'to build upon the foundation which
Socinus laid, and to bring the Unitarian doctrine to the goodly form in
which the present age beholds it.'[467] Indeed, the early Socinians
would have denied to Dr. Priestley and his friends the title of
Christians, and would have excommunicated them from their Society.
'Humanitarians' would be a more correct designation; but as that term is
already appropriated to a very different signification, it is not
available. For convenience' sake, therefore, the name of Unitarians must
be allowed to pass, but with the proviso that so far from its holders
being the sole possessors of the grand truth of the unity of the
Godhead, they really, from the fact of their denying the divinity of two
out of the three Persons in the Godhead, form only a very maimed and
inadequate conception of the one God.

The outcry against all mystery, or, to use a modern phrase, the spirit
of rationalism, which in a good or bad sense pervaded the whole domain
of religious thought, orthodox and unorthodox alike during the
eighteenth century, found its expression in one class of minds in Deism,
in another in anti-Trinitarianism. But though both disavowed any
opposition to real Christianity, yet both in reality allow no scope for
what have been from the very earliest times to the present day
considered essential doctrines of the Gospel. If the Deist strikes at
the very root of Christianity by questioning the evidence on which it
rests, no less does the Unitarian divest it of everything
distinctive--of the divine condescension shown in God taking our nature
upon Him, of the divine love shown in God's unseen presence even now in
His Church by His Holy Spirit. Take away these doctrines, and there will
be left indeed a residuum of ethical teaching, which some may please to
call Christianity if they will; but it differs as widely from what
countless thousands have understood and still understand by the term, as
a corpse differs from a living man.



[Footnote 431: [Greek: autotheos].]

[Footnote 432: [Greek: phôs ek phôtos].]

[Footnote 433: See Van Mildert's _Life of Waterland_, § 3, p. 29.]

[Footnote 434: Id.]

[Footnote 435: 'We cannot charge anything to be a contradiction in one
nature because it is so in another, unless we understand both natures.
Because a nature we understand not, cannot be explained to us but by
allusion to some nature we do understand.'--Leslie's _Theological
Works_, vol. ii. p. 402, 'The Socinian Controversy.']

[Footnote 436: Leslie's _Theological Works_, ii. 405.]

[Footnote 437: By his famous 'à priori' arguments for the Being and
Attributes of God, and by his answers to the Deists generally.]

[Footnote 438: Potter also, subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury,
entered into the lists against Clarke.]

[Footnote 439: Dr. Whitby (already favourably known in the theological
world by his commentary on the Bible), Mr. Sykes, and Mr. Jackson, Vicar
of Rossington and afterwards of Doncaster, &c.]

[Footnote 440: He proceeds to explain S. Matthew, xxiv. 36, S. Luke, ii.
52, and S. John, v. 19, in a sense consistent with the Catholic

[Footnote 441: See vols. i. ii. and iii. _passim_ of Waterland's
_Works_, edited by Van Mildert.]

[Footnote 442: Toulmin's _Memoirs of Faustus Socinus_, p. 191.]

[Footnote 443: Toulmin's _Memoirs of Faustus Socinus_, p. 180.]

[Footnote 444: Id. 211.]

[Footnote 445: Id. p. 467.]

[Footnote 446: Toulmin, p. 281. See also on this point Thomas Scott's
interesting account of his own religious opinions in the _Force of
Truth_, and in his biography by his son.]

[Footnote 447: 'The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity,' by Isaac Watts,
vol. vi. of _Works_, p. 155.]

[Footnote 448: 'The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity,' by Isaac Watts,
vol. vii. of _Works_, p. 196.]

[Footnote 449: Watts, p. 200.]

[Footnote 450: 'The Arian Invited to an Orthodox Faith.'--_Works_, vol.
vi. p. 348.]

[Footnote 451: Id. 225.]

[Footnote 452: Address to the Reader, p. viii. prefixed to _The Catholic
Doctrine of the Trinity._]

[Footnote 453: Jones of Nayland's _Theological Works_, vol. i. p. 214,

[Footnote 454: Hunt's _History of Religious Thought_, iii. 349.]

[Footnote 455: _Charge_, p. 67.]

[Footnote 456: Id. 43, &c.]

[Footnote 457: _Letter X. to Dr. Priestley_, p. 183.]

[Footnote 458: _Letters to Dr. Priestley_, p. 249.]

[Footnote 459: _Letters_, &c. p. 91, &c.]

[Footnote 460: _Charge_, p. 14.]

[Footnote 461: _Charge_, p. 17.]

[Footnote 462: Id. p. 73.]

[Footnote 463: See Maimbourg's _History of Arianism_, i. 6, note 3.]

[Footnote 464: _Letters_, p. 215.]

[Footnote 465: _Charge_, p. 43. Horsley rather lays himself open in this
passage to the charge of confounding history with mythology; but
probably all he meant was to show the extreme antiquity of Trinitarian

[Footnote 466: Evanson, Disney, Jebb, Gilbert Wakefield, &c.]

[Footnote 467: _Letters_, &c. 243.]

       *       *       *       *       *



Few things are more prominent in the religious history of England in the
eighteenth century, than the general suspicion entertained against
anything that passed under the name of enthusiasm. It is not merely that
the age was, upon the whole, formal and prosaic, and that in general
society serenity and moderation stood disproportionately high in the
list of virtues. No doubt zeal was unpopular; but, whatever was the case
in the more careless language of conversation, zeal is not what the
graver writers of the day usually meant when they inveighed against
enthusiasts. They are often very careful to guard themselves against
being thought to disparage religious fervour. Good and earnest men, no
less than others, often spoke of enthusiasm as a thing to be greatly
avoided. Nor was it only fanaticism, though this was especially odious
to them. Some to whom they imputed the charge in question were utterly
removed from anything like fanatical extravagance. The term was
expressive of certain modes of thought and feeling rather than of
practice. Under this theological aspect it forms a very important
element in the Church history of the period, and is well worthy of
attentive consideration.

Enthusiasm no longer bears quite the same meaning that it used to do. A
change, strongly marked by the impress of reaction from the prevailing
tone of eighteenth-century feeling, has gradually taken place in the
usual signification of the word. In modern language we commonly speak of
enthusiasm in contrast, if not with lukewarmness and indifference, at
all events with a dull prosaic level of commonplace thought or action. A
slight notion of extravagance may sometimes remain attached to it, but
on the whole we use the words in a decidedly favourable sense, and imply
in it that generous warmth of impetuous, earnest feeling without which
few great things are done. This meaning of the word was not absolutely
unknown in the eighteenth century, and here and there a writer may be
found to vindicate its use as a term of praise rather than of reproach.
It might be applied to poetic[468] rapture with as little offence as
though a bard were extolled as fired by the muses or inspired by
Phoebus. But applied to graver topics, it was almost universally a term
of censure. The original derivation of the word was generally kept in
view. It is only within the last one or two generations that it has
altogether ceased to convey any distinct notion of a supernatural
presence--an afflatus from the Deity. But whereas the early Alexandrian
fathers who first borrowed the word from Plato and the ancient mysteries
had Christianised it and cordially adopted it in a favourable
signification, it was now employed in a hostile sense as 'a misconceit
of inspiration.'[469] It thus became a sort of byeword, applied in
opprobrium and derision to all who laid claim to a spiritual power or
divine guidance, such as appeared to the person by whom the term of
reproach was used, fanatical extravagance, or, at the least, an
unauthorised outstepping of all rightful bounds of reason. Its preciser
meaning differed exceedingly with the mind of the speaker and with the
opinions to which it was applied. It sometimes denoted the wildest and
most credulous fanaticism or the most visionary mysticism; on the other
hand, the irreligious, the lukewarm, and the formalist often levelled
the reproach of enthusiasm, equally with that of bigotry, at what ought
to have been regarded as sound spirituality, or true Christian zeal, or
the anxious efforts of thoughtful and religious men to find a surer
standing ground against the reasonings of infidels and Deists.

A word which has not only been strained by constant and reckless use in
religious contests, but is also vague in application and changeable in
meaning, might seem marked out for special avoidance. Yet it might be
difficult to find a more convenient expression under which to group
various forms of subjective, mystic, and emotional religion, which were
in some cases strongly antagonistic to one another, but were closely
allied in principle and agreed also in this, that they inevitably
brought upon their supporters the unpopular charge of enthusiasm. All
were more or less at variance with the general spirit of the century.
But, in one shape or another, they entered into almost every religious
question that was agitated; and, in many cases, it is to the men who in
their own generation were called mystics and enthusiasts that we must
chiefly turn, if we would find in the eighteenth century a suggestive
treatment of some of the theological problems which are most deeply
interesting to men of our own time.

When Church writers no longer felt bound to exert all their powers of
argument against Rome or rival modes of Protestantism, and when disputes
about forms of government, rites, and ceremonies, and other externals of
religion ceased to excite any strong interest, attention began to be
turned in good earnest to the deeper and more fundamental issues
involved in the Reformation. There arose a great variety of inquiries as
to the principles and grounds of faith. Into all of these entered more
or less directly the important question, How far man has been endowed
with a faculty of spiritual discernment independent of what is properly
called reason. It was a subject which could not be deferred, although at
this time encompassed by special difficulties and beset by prejudices.
The doctrine of 'the inner light' has been in all ages the favourite
stronghold of enthusiasts and mystics of every kind, and this was more
than enough to discredit it. All the tendencies of the age were against
allowing more than could be helped in favour of a tenet which had been
employed in support of the wildest extravagances, and had held the place
of highest honour among the opinions of the early Quakers, the
Anabaptists, the Muggletonians, the Fifth Monarchy men, and other
fanatics of recent memory. Did not the very meaning of the word
'enthusiasm,' as well as its history, point plainly out that it is
grounded on the belief in such inward illumination? And who, with the
examples of the preceding age before him, could foretell to what
dangerous extremes enthusiasm might lead its excited followers?
Whenever, therefore, any writers of the eighteenth century had occasion
to speak of man's spiritual faculties, one anxiety was constantly
present to their minds. Enthusiasm seemed to be regarded with continual
uneasiness, as a sort of unseen enemy, whom an incautious expression
might let in unawares, unless they watchfully guarded and circumscribed
the province which it had claimed as so especially its own.

It is certainly remarkable that a subject which excited so much
apprehension should have entered, nevertheless, into almost every
theological discussion. Yet it could not be otherwise. Controversy upon
the grounds of faith and all secondary arguments and inferences
connected with it gather necessarily round four leading
principles--Reason, Scripture, Church Authority, Spiritual Illumination.
Throughout the century, the relation more particularly of the last of
these principles to the other three, became the real, though often
unconfessed centre alike of speculation and of practical theology. What
is this mystic power which had been so extravagantly asserted--in
comparison with which Scripture, Reason, and Authority had been almost
set aside as only lesser lights? Is there indeed such a thing as a
Divine illumination, an inner light, a heavenly inspiration, a directing
principle within the soul? If so--and that there is in man a spiritual
presence of some kind no Christian doubts--what are its powers? how far
is it a rule of faith? What is its rightful province? What are its
relations to faith and conscience? to Reason, Scripture, Church
Authority? Can it be implicitly trusted? By what criterion may its
utterances be distinguished and tested? Such, variously stated, were the
questions asked, sometimes jealously and with suspicion, often from a
sincere, unprejudiced desire to ascertain the truth, and often from an
apprehension of their direct practical and devotional value. The
inquiry, therefore, was one which formed an important element both in
the divinity and philosophy of the period, and also in its popular
religious movements. It was discussed by Locke and by every succeeding
writer who, throughout the century, endeavoured to mark the powers and
limits of the human understanding. It entered into most disputes between
Deists and evidence writers as to the properties of evidence and the
nature of Reasonable Religion. It had to do with debates upon
inspiration, upon apostolic gifts, upon the Canon of Scripture, with
controversies as to the basis of the English Church and of the
Reformation generally, the essentials and nonessentials of Christianity,
the rights of the individual conscience, toleration, comprehension, the
authority of the Church, the authority of the early fathers. It had
immediate relation to the speculations of the Cambridge Platonists, and
their influence on eighteenth-century thought, upon such subjects as
those of immutable morality and the higher faculties of the soul. It was
conspicuous in the attention excited in England, both among admirers and
opponents, by the reveries of Fénelon, Guyon, Bourignon, and other
foreign Quietists. It was a central feature of the animated controversy
maintained by Leslie and others with the Quakers, a community who, at
the beginning of the century, had attained the zenith of their numerical
power. It was further illustrated in writings upon the character of
enthusiasm elicited by the extravagances of the so-called French
Prophets. In its aspect of a discussion upon the supra-sensual faculties
of the soul, it received some additional light from the transcendental
conceptions of Bishop Berkeley's philosophy. In its relation with
mediæval mysticism on the one hand and with some distinctive aspects of
modern thought on the other, it found an eminent exponent in the
suggestive pages of William Law; with whom must be mentioned his admirer
and imitator, the poet John Byrom. The influence of the Moravians upon
the early Methodists, the controversy of Wesley with Law, the progress
of Methodism and Evangelicalism, the opposition which they met, the
ever-repeated charge of 'enthusiasm,' and the anxiety felt on the other
side to rebut the charge, exhibit the subject under some of its leading
practical aspects. From yet another point of view, a similar reawakening
to the keen perception of other faculties than those of reason and
outward sense is borne witness to in the rise of a new school of
imaginative art and poetry, in livelier sympathy with the more spiritual
side of nature, in eager and often exaggerated ideals of what might be
possible to humanity. Lastly, there remains to notice the very important
influence exercised upon English thought by Coleridge, not only by the
force of his own somewhat mystic temperament, but by his familiarity
with such writers as Kant, Lessing, Schleiermacher, and Schelling, who
had studied far more profoundly than any English philosophers or
theologians, the relation of man's higher understanding to matters not
cognisable by the ordinary powers of human reason.

But it is time to enter somewhat further into detail on some of the
points briefly suggested. Reference was made to the Cambridge
Platonists, for although they belong to the history of the seventeenth
century, some of their opinions bear too directly on the subject to be
entirely passed over. Moreover, Cudworth's 'Immutable Morality' was not
published till 1731, at which time it had direct reference to the
controversies excited by Mandeville's 'Fable of the Bees.' The
popularity also of Henry More's writings continued into the century
after his death, and a new edition of his 'Discourse of Enthusiasm'
appeared almost simultaneously with writings of Lord Shaftesbury, Dr.
Hickes, and others upon the same subject. It might have been well if the
works of such men as H. More and Cudworth, J. Smith and Norris, had made
a deeper impression on eighteenth-century thought. Their exalted but
restrained mysticism and their lofty system of morality was the very
corrective which the tone of the age most needed. And it might have been
remembered to great advantage, that the doctrine of an inner light, far
from being only the characteristic tenet of the fanatical disciples of
Fox and Münzer, had been held in a modified sense by men who, in the
preceding generation, had been the glory of the English Church--a band
of men conspicuous for the highest culture, the most profound learning,
the most earnest piety, the most kindly tolerance. Cudworth, at all
events, held this view. Engaged as he was, during a lengthened period of
intellectual activity, in combating a philosophical system which, alike
in theology, morals, and politics, appeared to him to sap the
foundations of every higher principle in human nature, he was led by the
whole tenour of his mind to dwell upon the existence in the soul of
perceptions not derivable from the senses, and to expatiate on the
immutable distinctions of right and wrong. Goodness, freed from all
debasing associations of interest and expedience, such as Hobbes sought
to attach to it, was the same, he was well assured, as it had existed
from all eternity in the mind of God. To a mind much occupied in such
reflections, and nurtured in the sublime thoughts of Plato, the doctrine
of an inner light naturally commended itself. All goodness of which man
is capable is a participation of the Divine essence--an effluence, as it
were, from God; and if knowledge is communicable through other channels
than those of the outward senses, what is there which should forbid
belief in the most immediate intercourse between, the soul and its
Creator, and in a direct intuition of spiritual truth? We may attain a
certain comprehension of the Deity, 'proportionate to our measure; as we
may approach near to a mountain, and touch it with our hands, though we
cannot encompass it all round and enclasp it within our arms.' In fact,
Cudworth's general train of reasoning and of feeling brought him into
great sympathy with the mystics, though he was under little temptation
of falling into the extravagances which had lately thrown their special
tenets into disrepute. He did not fail, indeed, to meet with some of the
customary imputations of enthusiasm, pantheism, and the like. But an
ordinary reader will find in him few of the characteristic faults of
mystic writers and many of their merits. In him, as in his fellow
Platonists, there is little that is visionary, there is no disparagement
of reason, no exaggerated strain of self-forgetfulness. On the other
hand, he resembles the best mystics in the combination of high
imaginative with intellectual power, in warmth of piety, in fearlessness
and purity of motive. He resembles them too in the vehemence with which
he denies the liberty of interpreting Scripture in any sense which may
appear to attribute to God purposes inconsistent with our moral
perceptions of goodness and justice--in his horror of the more
pronounced doctrines of election--in his deep conviction that love to
God and man is the core of Christianity--in his disregard for
controversy on minor points of orthodoxy, and in the comprehensive
tolerance and love of truth and liberty which should be the natural
outgrowth of such opinions.

The other Cambridge Platonist whose writings may be said to have a
distinct bearing on the subject and period before us, is Henry More.
Even if there were no trace of the interest with which his works
continued to be read in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, it
would still seem like an omission if his treatise upon the question
under notice were passed over. For perhaps there never was an author
more qualified than he was to speak of 'enthusiasm' in a sympathetic but
impartial spirit. He felt himself that the subject was well suited to
him. 'I must,' he said, 'ingenuously confess that I have a natural touch
of enthusiasm in my complexion, but such, I thank God, as was ever
governable enough, and have found at length perfectly subduable.' He was
in truth, both by natural temperament and by the course which his
studies had taken, thoroughly competent to enter into the mind of the
mystics and enthusiasts against whom he wrote. It was perhaps only his
sound intellectual training, combined with the English attribute of
solid practical sense, that had saved him from running utterly wild in
fanciful and visionary speculations. As it is, he has been
occasionally[470] classed among the so-called Theosophists, such as
Paracelsus and Jacob Behmen. His exuberant imagination delighted in
subjects which, since his time, have been acknowledged to be closed to
all efforts of human reason, and have been generally abandoned to the
dreams of credulity and superstition. He revelled in ingenious
conjectures upon the condition of the soul in the intermediate state
after death, upon the different stages and orders of disembodied
spirits, and upon mysterious sympathies between mind and matter. We have
continually to remember that he wrote before the dawn of the Newtonian
philosophy, if we would appreciate his reasonings and guesses about
strange attractions and affinities, which pointed as he thought to an
incorporeal soul of the world, or spirit of nature, acting as 'a great
quartermaster-general of Providence' in directing relations between the
spiritual and material elements of the universe.[471]

Such was Henry More in one side of his character. The counterbalancing
principle was his unwavering allegiance to reason, his zealous
acknowledgment of its excellence as a gift of God, to be freely used and
safely followed on every subject of human interest. He held it to be the
glory and adornment of all true religion, and the special prerogative of
Christianity. He nowhere rises to greater fervour of expression than
where he extols the free and devotional exercise of reason in a pure and
undefiled heart; and he is convinced of the high and special spiritual
powers which under such conditions are granted to it. 'I should commend
to them that will successfully philosophise the belief and endeavour
after a certain principle more noble and inward than reason itself, and
without which reason will falter, or at least reach but to mean and
frivolous things. I have a sense of something in me while I thus speak,
which I must confess is of so retruse a nature that I want a name for
it, unless I should adventure to term it Divine sagacity, which is the
first rise of successful reason.... All pretenders to philosophy will
indeed be ready to magnify reason to the skies, to make it the light of
heaven, and the very oracle of God: but they do not consider that the
oracle of God is not to be heard but in his Holy Temple, that is to say,
in a good and holy man, thoroughly sanctified in spirit, soul, and

Believing thus with all his heart both in the excellence of reason and
in a true inspiration of the spirit granted to the pure in heart, but
never dissociating the latter from the former; well convinced that
'Christian religion is rational throughout,' and that the suggestions of
the Holy Spirit are in all cases agreeable to reason--More wrote with
much force and beauty of argument his 'Exorcism of Enthusiasm.' He
showed that to abandon reason for fancy is to lay aside the solid
supports of religion, to trust faith to the mere ebb and flow of
'melancholy,' and so to confirm the sceptic in his doubts and the
atheist in his unbelief. He dwelt upon the unruly power of imagination,
its deceptive character, its intimate connection with varying states of
physical temperament--upon the variety of emotional causes which can
produce quakings and tremblings and other convulsive forms of
excitement--upon the delusiveness of visions, and revelations, and
ecstasies, and their near resemblance to waking dreams--upon the sore
temptations which are apt to lead into sin those who so closely link
spirituality with bodily feelings, making religion sensual. He warned
his readers against that sort of intoxication of the understanding, when
the imagination is suffered to run wild in allegorical interpretations
of Scripture, in fanciful allusions, in theories of mystic influences
and properties which carry away the mind into wild superstitions and
Pagan pantheism. He spoke of the self-conceit of many fanatics, their
turbulence, their heat and narrow scrupulosity, and asked how these
things could be the fruits of heavenly illumination. He suggested as the
proper remedies against enthusiasm, temperance (by which he meant
temperate diet, moderate exercise, fresh air, a due and discreet use of
devotion), humility, and the sound tests of reason--practical piety, and
service to the Church of God. Such is the general scope of his treatise;
but the most interesting and characteristic portion is towards the close
and in the Scholia appended to it, in which he speaks of 'that true and
warrantable enthusiasm of devout and holy souls,' that 'delicious sense
of the Divine life'[473] which the spirit of man is capable of
receiving. If space allowed, one or two fine passages might be quoted in
which he describes these genuine emotions. He has also some good remarks
upon the value, within guarded limits, of disturbed and excited
religious feelings in rousing the soul from lethargy, and acting as
external aids to dispose the mind for true spiritual influences.

Henry More died the year before King William's accession. But his
opinions were, no doubt, shared by some of the best and most cultivated
men in the English Church during the opening years of the eighteenth
century. After a time his writings lost their earlier popularity.
Wesley, to his credit, recommended them in 1756 to the use of his
brother clergymen.[474] As a rule, they appear at that time to have been
but little read; their spiritual tone is pitched in too high a key for
the prevalent religious taste of the period which had then set in. Some
years had to pass before the rise of a generation more prepared to draw
refreshment from the imaginative and somewhat mystical beauties of his
style and sentiment.[475]

When once the genius of Locke was in the ascendant, more spiritual forms
of philosophy fell into disrepute. Descartes, Malebranche, Leibnitz were
considered almost obsolete; More and Cudworth were out of favour: and
there was but scanty tolerance for any writer who could possibly incur
the charge of transcendentalism or mysticism. It is not that Cartesian
or Platonic, or even mystic opinions, are irreconcileable with Locke's
philosophy. When he spoke of sensation and reflection as the original
sources of all knowledge, there was ample room for innate ideas, and for
intuitive perceptions, under the shelter of terms so indefinite.
Moreover, the ambiguities of expression and apparent inconsistencies of
thought, which stand out in marked contrast to the force and lucidity of
his style, are by no means owing only to his use of popular language,
and his studied avoidance of all that might seem to savour of the
schools. His devout spirit rebelled against the carefully defined limits
which his logical intellect would have imposed upon it. He could not
altogether avoid applying his system to the absorbing subjects of
theology, but he did so with some unwillingness and with much reserve.
Revelation, once acknowledged as such, was always sacred ground to him;
and though he often appears to reduce all evidence to the external
witness of the senses, there is something essentially opposed to
materialistic notions, in his feeling that there is that which we do not
know simply by reason of our want of a new and different sense, by
which, if we had it, we might know our souls as we know a triangle.[476]
Locke would have heartily disowned the conclusions of many who professed
themselves his true disciples, and of many others whose whole minds had
been trained and formed under the influences of his teaching, and who
insisted that they were but following up his arguments to their
legitimate consequences.[477] The general system was the same; but there
was nothing in common between the theology of Locke and Toland's
repudiation of whatever in religion transcended human reason, or
Bolingbroke's doubts as to the immortality of the soul, or the
pronounced materialism of Hartley and Condillac, or the blank negative
results at which Hume arrived.

But though Locke and multitudes of his admirers were profoundly
Christian in their belief, the whole drift of his thought tended to
bring prominently forward the purely practical side of religion and the
purely intellectual side of theology, and to throw into the background,
and reduce to its narrowest compass, the more entirely spiritual region
which marks the contact of the human with the Divine. Its uncertain
lights and shadows, its mysteries, obscurities, and difficulties, were
thoroughly distrusted by him. He did not--a religious mind like his
could not--deny the existence of those feelings and intuitions which,
from their excessive prominence in that school, may be classed under the
name of mystic. But he doubted their importance and dreaded their
exaggerations. Not only could they find no convenient place, scarcely
even a footing, in his philosophical system, but they were out of accord
with his own temperament and with the opinions, which he was so greatly
contributing to form, of the age in which he lived. They offended
against his love of clearness, his strong dislike of all obscurity, his
wish to see the chart of the human faculties mapped out and defined, his
desire to translate abstract ideas into the language of sound,
practical, ordinary sense, divested as far as could be of all that was
open to dispute, and of all that could in any way be accounted
visionary. His perpetual appeal lay to the common understanding, and he
regarded, therefore, with much suspicion, emotions which none could at
all times realise, and which to some minds were almost, or perhaps
entirely unknown. Lastly, his fervent love of liberty indisposed him to
admissions which might seem to countenance authority over the
consciences of men on the part of any who should assert special claims
to spiritual illumination.

Locke struck a keynote which was harped upon by a host of theologians
and moralists after him, whenever, as was constantly the case, they had
occasion to raise their voice against that dreaded enemy, enthusiasm.
There were many who inveighed against 'the new modish system of reducing
all to sense,' when used to controvert the doctrines of revelation. But
while with vigour and success they defended the mysteries of faith
against those who would allow nothing but what reason could fairly
grasp, and while they dwelt upon the paramount authority of the Spirit
which inspired Holy Scripture, they would allow no sort of spiritual
influence to compete with reason as a judge of truth. Reason, it was
perpetually argued, is sufficient for all our present needs. Revelation
is adequately attested by evidence addressed to the reason. We need no
other proof or ground of assent; at all events, none other is granted to
us. It was not so indeed in the first age of the Church. Special gifts
of spiritual knowledge and illumination were then given to meet special
requirements. The Holy Spirit was then in very truth immediately present
in power, the greatest witness to the truth, and its direct revealer to
the hearts of men. Many of the principal preachers and theological
writers of the eighteenth century dwell at length upon the fulness of
that spiritual outpouring. But it is not a little remarkable to notice
with what singular care they often limit and circumscribe its duration.
A little earlier or a little later, but, at all events, at the end of a
generation or two after the first Christian Pentecost, a line of
demarcation was to be drawn and jealously guarded.

In the second book of Warburton's 'Doctrine of Grace' there is a
singular instance of apparent incapacity on the part of a most able
reasoner to acknowledge the possible existence in his own day of other
spiritual influences than those which, in the most limited sense of the
word, may be called ordinary. He is speaking of the splendour of the
gifts which shed their glory upon the primitive Church and afterwards
passed away. He dwells with admiration upon the sudden and entire
changes which were made in the dispositions and manner of those whom the
Holy Spirit had enlightened. Sacred antiquity, he says, is unmistakeable
in its evidence on this point, and even the assailers of Christianity
confessed it. Conversions were effected among early Christians such as
could not be the result of mere rational conviction. It is utterly
impossible for the magisterial faculty of reason to enforce her
conclusions with such immediate power, and to win over the will with
such irresistible force, as to root out at once inveterate habits of
vice. 'To what must we ascribe so total a reform, but to the
all-powerful operation of grace?'[478] These remarks are true enough;
but it seems incredible that, writing in the very midst of an
extraordinary religious outburst, he should calmly assume the
impossibility in other than primitive times of such sudden changes from
irreligion to piety, and should even place the miraculous conversions of
apostolic times at the head of an argument against Methodist
enthusiasts. Well might Wesley remark with some surprise, 'Never were
reflections more just than these,'[479] and go on to show that the very
same changes were constantly occurring still.

In truth, it may be said without any disparagement of a host of eminent
English divines of the eighteenth century, that their entire sympathies
were with the reasonable rather than with the spiritual side of
religion. Their ideal of Christian perfection was in many respects an
elevated one, but absolutely divested of that mystic element which in
every age of the Church has seemed to be inseparable from the higher
types of saintliness. If we may judge from the treatises of Lord
Lyttelton and Dean Graves, the character even of the apostles had to be
carefully vindicated from all suspicion of any taint of enthusiasm if
they were to maintain their full place of reverence as leaders and
princes of the Christian army. Only it must not be supposed that this
religious characteristic of the age was by any means confined to the
sceptical and indifferent on the one hand, or to persons of a sober and
reflective spirit on the other. It was almost universal. John Wesley,
for example, repeatedly and anxiously rebuts the charges of enthusiasm
which were levelled upon him from all sides. He would have it understood
that he had for ever done with enthusiasm when once he had separated
from the Moravians. The same shrinking from the name, as one of
opprobrium, is shown by Dr. Watts;[480] and one of the greatest troubles
in Hannah More's life seems to have been her annoyance, that she and
other faithful members of the English Church should be defamed as
encouragers of enthusiasm.[481]

The eighteenth century was indeed an age when sober reason would hear of
no competitor, and whose greatest outburst of religious zeal
characteristically took its name from the well-ordered method with which
it was organised. It will not, however, be inferred that enthusiasm, as
the word was then commonly understood, scarcely existed. On the
contrary, the vigour and constancy of the attack points with sufficient
clearness to the evident presence of the enemy. In fact, although the
more exaggerated forms of mysticism and fanaticism have never
permanently thriven on English soil, there has never been an age when
what may be called mystical religion has not had many ardent votaries.
For even the most extravagant of its multiform phases embody an
important element of truth, which cannot be neglected without the
greatest detriment to sound religion. Whatever be its particular type,
it represents the protest of the human soul against all that obscures
the spirituality of belief. But of all the accidents and externals of
religion, there is not one, however important in itself, which may not
be made unduly prominent, and under such circumstances interfere between
the soul and the object of its worship. It will be readily understood,
therefore, upon how great a variety of grounds that protest may be
based, how right and reasonable it may sometimes be, but also how easily
it may itself run into excess, and how quickly the understanding may
lose its bearings, when once, for fear of the abuse, it begins to
dispense with what was not intended to check, but to guide and regulate
the aspirations of the Spirit. Mystical and enthusiastical religion,
whether in its sounder or in its exaggerated and unhealthy forms, may be
a reaction against an over-assertion of the powers of reason in
spiritual matters and questions of evidence, or against the undue
extension, in subjects too high for it, of the domain of 'common sense;'
or it may be a vindication of the spiritual rights of the uneducated
against the pretensions of learning; or an assertion of the judgment and
conscience of the individual against all tyranny of authority. It may be
a protest against excessive reverence for the letter of Holy Scripture
as against the Spirit which breathes in it, against all appearance of
limiting inspiration to a book, and denying it to the souls of living
men. It may express insurrection against all manner of formalism, usages
which have lost their significance, rites which have ceased to edify,
doctrines which have degenerated into formulas, orthodoxy which has
become comparatively barren and profitless. It may represent a
passionate longing to escape from party differences and sectarian strife
into a higher, purer atmosphere, where the free Spirit of God bloweth
where it listeth. It often owes its origin to strong revulsion against
popular philosophies which limit all consciousness to mere perceptions
of the senses, or against the materialistic tendencies which find an
explanation for all mysteries in physical phenomena. It may result from
endeavours to find larger scope for reverie and contemplation, or fuller
development for the imaginative elements of religious thought. It may be
a refuge for spirits disgusted at an unworthy and utilitarian system of
ethics, and at a religion too much degraded into a code of moral
precepts. All these tendencies, varying in every possible degree from
the healthiest efforts after greater spirituality of life to the wildest
excesses of fanatical extravagance, may be copiously illustrated from
the history of enthusiasm. The writers of the eighteenth century were
fully alive to its dangers. It was easy to show how mystical religion
had often led its too eager, or too untaught followers into the most
mischievous antinomianism of doctrine and life, into allegorising away
the most fundamental grounds of Christianity, and into the vaguest
Pantheism. They could produce examples in abundance of bewildered
intellects, of 'illuminations' obscurer than any darkness, of religious
rapture, in its ambitious distrust of reason, lapsing into physical
agencies and coarse materialism. They could hold up, in ridicule or
warning, profuse illustrations of exorbitant spiritual pride, blind
credulity, infatuated self-deceit, barefaced imposture. It was much more
congenial to the prevalent temper of the age to draw a moral from such
perversions of a tone of feeling with which there was little sympathy,
than to learn a useful lesson from the many truths contained in it.
Doubtless, it is not easy to deal with principles which have been
maintained in an almost identical form, but with consequences so widely
divergent, by some of the noblest, and by some of the most foolish of
mankind, by true saints and by gross fanatics. The contemporaries of
Locke, Addison, and Tillotson, trained in a wholly different school of
thought, were ill-fitted to enter with patience into such a subject, to
see its importance, to discriminate its differences, and to solve its

At the opening of the eighteenth century, the elements of enthusiasm
were too feeble to show themselves in any acknowledged form either in
the Church of England or in the leading Nonconformist bodies. In
England, no doubt, as in every other European country, there were, as
Mr. Vaughan observes, 'Scattered little groups of friends, who nourished
a hidden devotion by the study of pietist and mystical writings....
Whenever we can penetrate behind the public events which figure in
history at the close of the seventeenth, and the opening of the
eighteenth century, indications are discernible, which make it certain
that a religious vitality of this description was far more widely
diffused than is commonly supposed.[482] But these recluse societies
made no visible impression upon the general state of religion. If it
were not for the evident anxiety felt by many writers of the period to
expose and counteract the dangers of a mystical and enthusiastical bias,
it might have been supposed that there never was a time when the Church
was so entirely free from any possible peril in that direction. Their
fear, however, was not without some foundation. When an important phase
of spiritual truth is comparatively neglected by established authorities
and in orthodox opinion, it is sure to find full vent in another less
regular channel. We are told that in the first years of the century, the
Quakers had immensely increased. 'They swarm,' said Leslie, 'over these
three nations, and they stock our plantations abroad.'[483] Quakerism
had met with little tolerance in the previous century. Churchmen and
Dissenters had unanimously denounced it, and Baxter, large-minded as he
often proved himself, denied its adherents all hope of salvation. But
the sect throve under persecution; and; in proportion as its follies and
extravagances became somewhat mitigated, the spirituality of belief,
which even in its most exaggerated forms had always been its soul of
strength, became more and more attractive to those who felt its
deficiency elsewhere. Between the passing of the Toleration Act and the
end of William III.'s reign it made great progress. After that it began
gradually to decline. This was owing to various causes. Some share in it
may perhaps be attributed to the continued effects of the general
religious lethargy which had set in some years before, but may have now
begun to spread more visibly among the classes from which Quakerism was
chiefly recruited. Again, its intellectual weakness would naturally
become more apparent in proportion to the daily increasing attention
paid to the reasonable aspects of faith. The general satisfaction felt,
except by the pronounced High Church and Jacobite party, at the newly
established order in Church and State, was unfavourable to the further
progress of a communion which, from its rejection of ideas common to
every other ecclesiastical body, seemed to many to be rightly called
'the end and centre of all confusion.'[484] It may be added that, as the
century advanced, there gradually came to be within the confines of the
National Church a little more room than had lately existed for the
upholders of various mystical tenets. With the rise of Wesleyanism
enthusiasm found full scope in a new direction. But the power of
Quakerism was not only silently undermined by the various action of
influences such as these. In the first years of the century it received
a direct and serious blow in the able exposure of its extravagances
written by Leslie. The vagaries of the French 'Prophets' also
contributed to discredit the assumption of supernatural gifts in which
many Quakers still indulged.

It is needless to dwell with Leslie on the wild heretical opinions into
which the over-strained spirituality of the disciples of Fox and Penn
had led them. Certainly, the interval between them and other Christian
communities had sometimes been so wide that there was some justification
for the assertions made on either side, that the name of Christian could
not be so widely extended as to be fitly applied to both. Archbishop
Dawes, for example, in the House of Lords, roundly refused them all
claim to the title; and there were thousands of Quakers who would
retaliate the charge in terms of the most unsparing vigour. To these
men, all the Gospel was summed up in the one verse that tells how Christ
is the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Leslie
was able to produce quotations in plenty from acknowledged authorities
among them which allegorised away all belief in a personal Saviour, and
which bade each man seek within himself alone for the illuminating
presence of his Christ and God.

It was well that the special dangers to which Quakerism and other forms
of mysticism are liable should be brought clearly and openly into view.
But after all it is not from the extravagances and perversions of a
dogma that the main lesson is to be learnt. With the Bible open before
them, and with hearts alive to the teachings of holiness, the generality
of religious-minded Quakers were not likely to be satisfied with what
Warburton rightly called not so much a religion as 'a divine
philosophy, not fit for such a creature as man,'[485] nor with a
religious vocabulary summed up, as a writer in the 'Tatler' humorously
said, in the three words, 'Light,' 'Friend,' and 'Babylon.'[486] There
was no reason why the worship of the individual should not be very free
from the prevalent errors of the sect, and be in a high sense pure and
Christian. For the truths which at one time made Quakerism so strong are
wholly separable, not only from the superficial eccentricities of the
system, but from its gravest deficiencies in form and doctrine. There is
nothing to forbid a close union of the most intensely human and personal
elements of Christian faith with that refined and pervading sense of a
present life-giving Spirit which was faithfully borne witness to by
Quakers when it was feeblest and most neglected elsewhere. If Quaker
principles, instead of being embodied in a strongly antagonistic form as
tenets of an exclusive and often persecuted sect,[487] had been
transfused into the general current of the national religious life, they
would at once have escaped the extravagances into which they were led,
and have contributed the very elements of which the spiritual condition
of the age stood most in need. Not only in the moderate and constantly
instructive pages of Barclay's 'Apology' for the Quakers, but also in
the hostile expositions of their views which we find in the works of
Leslie and their other opponents, there is frequent cause for regret
that so much suggestive thought should have become lost to the Church at
large. The Quakers were accustomed to look at many important truths in
somewhat different aspects from those in which they were commonly
regarded; and the Church would have gained in power as well as in
comprehension, if their views on some points had been fully accepted as
legitimate modes of orthodox belief. English Christianity would have
been better prepared for its formidable struggle with the Deists, if it
had freely allowed a wider margin for diversity of sentiment in several
questions on which Quaker opinion almost universally differed from that
of the Churchmen of the age. It was said of Quakers that they were mere
Deists, except that they hated reason.[488] The imputation might not
unfrequently be true; for a Quaker consistently with his principles
might reject some very essential features of Christianity. Often, on
the other hand, such a charge would be entirely erroneous, for, no less
consistently, a Quaker might be in the strictest sense of the word a
thorough and earnest Christian. But in any case he was well armed
against that numerous class of Deistical objections which rested upon an
exclusively literal interpretation of Scripture. This is eminently
observable in regard of theories of inspiration. To Quakers, as to
mystical writers in general, biblical infallibility has never seemed to
be a doctrine worth contending for. They have always felt that an
admixture of human error is perfectly innocuous where there is a living
spirit present to interpret the teaching of Scripture to the hearts of
men. But elsewhere, the doctrine of unerring literal inspiration was
almost everywhere held in its straitest form. Leslie, for example,
quotes with horror a statement of Ellwood, one of his Quaker opponents,
that St. Paul expected the day of judgment to come in his time. 'If,'
answers Leslie, 'he thought it might, then it follows that he was
mistaken, and consequently that what he wrote was not truth; and so not
only the authority of this Epistle, but of all the Epistles, and of all
the rest of the New Testament, will fall to the ground.'[489] Such
specious, but false and dangerous reasoning is by no means uncommon
still; but when it represented the general language of orthodox
theologians, we cannot wonder that the difficulties started by Deistical
writers caused widespread disbelief, and raised a panic as if the very
foundations of Christianity were in danger of being overthrown.

There were other ways in which profound confidence in direct spiritual
guidance shielded Quakers from perplexities which shook the faith of
many. They had been among the first to turn with horror from those stern
views of predestination and reprobation which, until the middle of the
seventeenth century, had been accepted by the great majority of English
Protestants without misgiving. It was doctrine utterly repugnant to men
whose cardinal belief was in the light that lighteth every man. The same
principle kept even the most bigoted among them from falling into the
prevalent opinion which looked upon the heathen as altogether without
hope and without God in the world. They, almost alone of all Christian
missionaries of that age, pointed their hearers (not without scandal to
their orthodox brethren) to a light of God within them which should
guide them to the brighter radiance of a better revelation. Nor did they
scruple, to assert that 'there be members of this Catholic Church both
among heathens, Jews, and Turks, men and women of integrity and
simplicity of heart, who, though blinded in some things of their
understanding, and burdened with superstition, yet, being upright in
their hearts before the Lord, ... and loving to follow righteousness,
are by the secret touches of the holy light in their souls enlivened and
quickened, thereby secretly united to God, and thereby become true
members of this Catholic Church.'[490] Such expressions would be
generally assented to in our day, as embodying sound and valuable
truths, which cannot be rejected on account of errors which may
sometimes chance to attend them. At the beginning of the eighteenth
century there were few, except Quakers, who were willing to accept from
a wholly Christian point of view the element of truth contained in the
Deistical argument of 'Christianity as old as the Creation.'

Somewhat similar in kind was the protest of the Quakers against
dogmatism as to the precise nature of the Atonement,[491] and against
unspiritual and, so to say, physical interpretations put upon passages
in Scripture which speak of the efficacy of the blood of Christ. On this
ground also they, and the mystic school in general, were constantly
inveighed against as mere Deists. Yet the rigid definitions insisted
upon by many of the Reformers were much at variance with the wider views
held in earlier and later times. It is at all events certain that, both
within and without the English Church, those who held these views were
protected from many of the most forcible objections with which the
Christianity of the age was assailed.

The Quakerism, which at the end of the seventeenth and at the beginning
of the eighteenth century was strong in numbers and in religious
influence, has claimed our attention thus far in regard only of those
modes of thought which it holds in common with most other forms of
so-called mystic theology. On this ground it comes into close relation
with the history of the English Church. M. Matter, in his 'History of
Christianity,' speaks of Quakerism in conjunction with Methodism as the
two forms of English reaction against formalism alike in doctrine and in
government.[492] But it has been a merit of the English Church, and its
most distinguishing title to the name of 'National,' that it has been
able to learn from the sects which have grown up around it. Cautiously
and tardily--often far too much so for its own immediate advantage--it
has seldom neglected to find at last within its ample borders some room
for modes and expressions of Christian belief which, for a time
neglected, had been growing up outside its bounds. It was so with
Methodism; it was so also with Quakerism. When Quakers found that its
more reasonable tenets could be held, and find a certain amount of
sympathy within the Church, it quickly began to lose its strength. A
remark of Boswell's in 1776, that many a man was a Quaker without his
knowing it,[493] could scarcely have been made in the corresponding year
of the previous century. At the earlier date there was almost nothing in
common between the Church and a sect which, both on its strongest and
weakest side, was marked by a conspicuous antagonism to established
opinions. At the latter date Quakerism had to a great extent lost both
its mystic and emotional monopolies. After a few years' hesitation
Southey concluded that he need not join the Quakers simply because he
disliked 'attempting to define what has been left indefinite.'[494] The
semi-mystical turn of thought which is most keenly alive to the futility
of such endeavours was no longer a tenable ground for secession. Or if a
man believed in visible manifestations of spiritual influences, he would
more probably become a Methodist than a Quaker; and the time was not yet
come when to be a Methodist was to cease to be a Churchman. In one
respect, however, Quakerism possessed a safeguard to emotional
excitement which in Methodism was wanting.[495] It was that notion of
tranquil tarrying and spiritual quiet which was as alien to the spirit
of later Methodism as it is congenial to that of mysticism. The language
of the Methodist would entirely accord with that of the Quaker in
speaking of the pangs of the new birth, and of the visible tokens of the
Spirit's presence; but the absence of reserve and the mutual
'experiences' of the Methodist stand out in a strong, and to many minds
unfavourable, contrast with the silence and self-absorption of which
Quakerism had learnt the value.

    Then comes the Spirit to our hut,
    When fast the senses' doors are shut;
    For so Divine and pure a guest
    The emptiest rooms are furnished best.[496]

Or, in the words of one of the saintliest of the mediæval mystics, 'In
the chamber of the heart God works. But what He works in the souls of
those with whom He holds direct converse none can say, nor can any man
give account of it to another; but he only who has felt it knows what it
is; and even he can tell thee nothing of it, save only that God in very
truth hath possessed the ground of his heart.'[497]

It may here be observed that what has been said of Quakerism, so far as
it was at one time representative of that mystic element which the
eighteenth century called enthusiasm, will be a sufficient reason for
passing all the more briefly over other branches of the same subject.
The idea of self-surrender to the immediate action of spiritual
influence is a bond of union far more potent than any external or
ecclesiastical differences. Whatever be the period, or Church, or state
of society in which it is found, mysticism is always very nearly the
same both in its strength and in its weakness. It exhibits, indeed, the
most varied phases, according to the direction and degree in which it
falls into those excesses to which it is peculiarly liable, but such
extravagances are very independent of the particular community in which
they happen to appear. Different as are the associations connected with
such names as Plato and Pythagoras, Plotinus and Dionysius, St. Bernard
and T. à Kempis, Eckhart and Tauler, More and Norris, Fénelon and Guyon,
Arndt and Spener, Law and Byrom, Quakers and Moravians, Schleiermacher
and Schelling, yet passages might be collected from each, often striking
and sometimes sublime, which show very close and essential points of
affinity. And just in proportion as each form of mysticism has relaxed
its hold upon steadying grounds of reason, the diversified dangers to
which it is subject uniformly recur. Every successive type of mystic
enthusiasm, if once it has passed its legitimate bounds, has produced
exactly analogous instances of pantheism, antinomianism, or fanaticism.

Early in the eighteenth century, when Quakerism was just beginning to
lose its influence, its wild assumptions of an earlier date were
paralleled by a new form of fanatical enthusiasm. In 1706 there arose,
says Calamy, 'a mighty noise as concerning new prophets.'[498] These
were certain Camisards,[499] as they were called, of the Cevennes, who,
after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had risen in the cause of
their religion, and had been suppressed with great severity by Marshals
Montrevel and Villars. Suffering and persecution have always been
favourable to highly-wrought forms of mysticism. In their sore distress
men and women have implored for and obtained consolations which
transcend all ordinary experience. They have cried, in agonies of faith
and doubt, for cheering visions of brighter things.

    Father, O Father, what do we here,
    In this land of unbelief and fear?
    The land of dreams is brighter far,
    Above the light of the morning star.[500]

Not only have they been comforted by what they feel to be direct
intuitions of a Divine Presence in them and about them, but their
imaginations have been kindled into fervent anticipations of triumphs
near at hand and of judgments soon to fall upon their oppressors. From
excited feelings such as these it is but a very little step for
illiterate and undisciplined minds to pass into the wildest phrensies of
fanaticism. So it was with these 'French prophets.' The cause of foreign
Protestantism was at this time very popular in England; and when a
number of them found their way hither as refugees they met at first with
much sympathy, and had many admirers. Some men even of learning and
reputation, as Sir Edward Bulkeley and John Lacy, threw themselves heart
and soul into the movement, on the not unreasonable ground that the
dulness of religion and the degeneracy of the time needed a new
dispensation of the Spirit, and that a great revival had begun. It is
unnecessary to follow up the history in any detail. The impulse had been
very genuine in the first instance, and had stood the test of much
fierce trial. Transplanted to alien soil, it rapidly degenerated, and
presently became degraded into mere imposture. For a time, however, it
not only created much excitement throughout England, and even as far
north as Aberdeen, but also attracted the anxious attention of several
men of note. There could not be many subjects on which Hoadly and
Shaftesbury, Spinckes the Nonjuror, Winston and Calamy could all be
writing contemporaneously on the same side. But it was so in this case.

The commotion caused by these Camisard refugees quickly passed away, but
left its impression on the public mind, and made the educated classes
more than ever indisposed to bear with any outbursts of religious
feelings which should in any way outstep the bounds of sobriety and
order. When strange physical manifestations began to break out under the
preaching of Wesley and Whitefield, the quakings and tremblings, the
sighings and convulsions, which middle-aged people had seen or heard of
in their younger days were by many recalled to memory, and helped to
strengthen the unfortunate prejudices which the new movement had
created, Wesley himself was vexed and puzzled at the obvious
resemblance. He was quite ready to grant that such agitations betokened
'natural distemper'[501] in the case of the French prophets, yet the
remembrance of them embarrassed him, for he was convinced that what he
saw around him were veritable pangs of the new birth, the undoubted
effects of spiritual and supernatural agencies.

About the same time that the Protestant enthusiasts of the Cevennes were
conspicuously attracting the admiration or derision of the English
public, another form of mysticism imported from Catholic France was
silently working its way among a few persons of cultivated thought and
deep religious sentiment. Fénelon was held in high and deserved esteem
in England. Even when vituperation was most unsparingly lavished upon
Roman Catholics in general, his name, conjointly with those of Pascal
and Bossuet, was honourably excepted. His mild and tolerant spirit, his
struggles with the Jesuits, the purity of his devotion, the simple,
practical way in which he had discussed the evidences of religion, and,
lastly, but perhaps not least, the great popularity of his 'Telemachus,'
combined to increase his reputation in this country. The Duke of
Marlborough, at the siege of Bouchain, assigned a detachment of troops
to protect his estates and conduct provisions to his dwelling.[502]
Steele copied into one of the Saturday papers of the 'Guardian,'[503]
with a preface expressive of his high admiration of the piety and
talents of its author, the devotional passage with which Fénelon
concluded his 'Demonstration.' Lyttelton made Plato welcome him to
heaven as 'the most pure, the most gentle, the most refined, disciple of
philosophy that the world in modern times has produced.'[504] Richard
Savage spoke of him as the pride of France.[505] Jortin, in reference to
him and other French Churchmen of his stamp, observed that no European
country had produced Romanists of so high a type.[506] But Fénelon is
thoroughly representative of a pure and refined mysticism. He is,
indeed, singularly free from the various errors which closely beset its
more exaggerated forms. Yet no admirer of his who had become at all
penetrated with the spirit that breathes in his writings could fail to
sympathise with the fundamental ideas common to every form of mystic
theology. An age which abhorred enthusiasm might have found,
nevertheless, in the author whom all extolled, opinions closely
analogous to those by which the wildest fanatics had justified their
extravagances. The doctrines of an inner light, of perfection, of reason
quiescent amid the tumult of the soul, of mystical union, of
disinterested love, are all strongly maintained by the Archbishop of
Cambray. He wrote his 'Maximes des Saints' with the express purpose of
showing how, in every age of the Church, opinions identical with those
held by himself and Madame Guyon had been sanctioned by great
authorities.[507] It was, in fact, a detailed defence of the Quietism
and moderated mystical views which had excited the violent and unguarded
attack of Bossuet.

Fénelon, with instinctive ease, escaped the pitfalls with which his
subject was encompassed; but it was not so with Madame Guyon, whose
opinions he had so vigorously defended and all but identified with his
own. There could scarcely be a better example of the insensible degrees
in which, by the infirmity of human nature, sound spiritualism may
decline into visionary fancies and a morbid state of religious emotion,
than to notice how the writings of Guyon and Bourignon form transitory
links between Fénelon and the extreme mystics. Their principles were the
same, but the meditations of Madame Bourignon, although sometimes ranked
in devotional value with those of À Kempis and De Sales, fell, if Leslie
and others may be trusted,[508] into most of the dangerous and heretical
notions into which an unreined enthusiasm is apt to lead. A defence of
her opinions, published in London in 1699, and a collection, which
followed soon after, of her translated letters, had considerable
influence with many earnest spirits[509] who chafed at the coldness of
the times, and cared little for other faults so long as they could find
a religious literature in which they could, at all events, be safe from
formalism and scholastic or sectarian disputings.

Lyttelton, in the same paper in which he pronounces his panegyric on
Fénelon, calls Madame Guyon a 'mad woman' and 'a distracted enthusiast.'
So much depends upon the greater or less sobriety with which views are
stated; and excellent as Madame Guyon was, her effuse and somewhat
morbid form of devotional sentiment can never be altogether congenial to
English feeling, still less to English feeling such as it was in the
first half of the eighteenth century. But her hymns, made familiar to
readers in this country by Cowper's translations, were received by many
with the same welcome as the works of Madame de Bourignon. If there were
few who could appreciate the high-strung mystic aspirations after
perfect self-renunciation, self-annihilation, and absorption in the
abyss of the Divine infinity, the ecstatic joy in self-denial and
suffering, whereby the soul might be so refined from selfishness as to
surrender itself wholly to the will of God, and to see the marks of His
love equally present everywhere--if to religious men and women outside
the cloister this seemed like vainly striving

           To wind ourselves too high
    For sinful man beneath the sky,

yet in the general spirit of her verses they could gain refreshment not
always to be found elsewhere. They could sympathise with the intense
longing for a closer walk with God, with the hunger and thirst after a
purer righteousness, a more unselfish love, a closer mystical union with
the Divine life.

Yet, after all, it is not France, but Germany that has been for many
centuries the chosen abode of every variety of mystic sentiment. The
most exalted forms of spiritual Christianity have prospered there, and,
on the other hand, the vaguest reveries and the grossest epidemics of
fanaticism. We turn from the influence in the England of the eighteenth
century of French revivalists and French Pietists to that exercised by
one of the most remarkable of German mystics, Jacob Behmen. If it was an
influence no longer popular and widely spreading, as it once had been,
yet it directly and profoundly impressed one of the most eminent of our
theologians, and indirectly its effects were by no means inconsiderable.

Behmen's writings (1612-24) travelled rapidly through Europe, found
readers in every class, and are said to have been widely instrumental in
recalling unbelievers to a Christian faith. They popularised and gave an
immense extension to mysticism of every kind, good and bad. In Germany
they largely contributed[510] to form the opinions of Arndt and
Andreas, Spener and Francke, men to whom their country was indebted for
a remarkable revival of spiritual religion. Their further influence may,
perhaps, be traced through Francke on Count Zinzendorf and the
Moravians,[511] and through Wolff on the mystic rationalism of later
Germany. The German Romanticists of the end of the last and the
beginning of this century were extravagant in his praises,[512] Schlegel
declaring that he was superior to Luther. Novalis was scarcely less
ardent in his admiration. Kahlman protested that he had learnt more from
him than he could have learnt from all the wise men of his age
together.[513] In England, both in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, he had many devoted followers and many violent opponents.
Henry More speaks of him as a good and holy man, but at the same time
'an egregious enthusiast,' and regrets that he 'has given occasion to
the enthusiasts of this nation in our late troublesome times to run into
many ridiculous errors and absurdities.'[514] J. Wesley admitted that he
was a good man, but says 'the whole of Behmenism, both phrase and sense,
is useless.'[515] With an absence of appreciation almost amounting to a
want of candour, not uncommon in this eminent man towards those from
whom he disagreed, he will not even allow that he had any 'patrons'[516]
who have adorned the doctrine of Christ. 'His language is barbarous,
unscriptural, and unintelligible.' 'It is most sublime nonsense,
inimitable bombast, fustian not to be paralleled.' Bishop Warburton also
refers to him in the most unqualified[517] terms of contempt. William
Blake, most mystical of poets and painters, delighted, as might well be
expected, in Behmen's writings.[518] A far weightier testimony to their
value is to be found in the high estimate which William Law--a
theologian of saintly life, and most thoughtful and suggestive in his
reasonings--formed of the spiritual treasury which he found there. He
can scarcely find words to express his thankfulness for 'the depth and
fulness of Divine light and truth opened in them by the grace and mercy
of God.'[519]

This extreme contrast of opinions may be easily accounted for. To most
modern readers Jacob Behmen's works must be an intolerable trial of
patience. They will find page after page of what they may very
pardonably call, as Wesley did, 'sublime nonsense' or unintelligible
jargon. Repetitions, obscurities, and verbal barbarisms abound in them,
and the most ungrounded fancies are poured profusely forth as the most
indubitable verities. But it is like diving for pearls in a deep and
turbid sea. The pearls are there, if patiently sought for, and sometimes
of rare beauty. To Behmen's mind the whole universe of man and nature is
transfigured by the pervading presence of a spiritual life. Everywhere
there is a contest against evil, sin, and death; everywhere there is a
longing after better things, a yearning for the recovery of the heavenly
type. Everywhere there is a groaning and travailing in pain until now,
awaiting the adoption--to wit, the redemption of the body. None felt
more keenly than Behmen that heaven is truly at our doors, and God not
far away from every one of us. The Holy Spirit is to him in very deed
Lord and Giver of all life, and teaches all things, and leads into all
truth. He is well assured that to him who thirsts after righteousness,
and hath his conversation in heaven, and knoweth God within him, and
whose heart is prepared by purity and truth, such light of the eternal
life will be granted that, though he be simple and unlearned, heavenly
wisdom will be granted to him, and all things will become full of
meaning. He puts no limit to the grand possibilities and capabilities of
human nature. To him the soul of man is indeed 'larger than the sky,
deeper than ocean,'[520] but only through union and conformity with that
Divine Spirit which 'searcheth all things--yea, the deep things of God.'
He would have welcomed as a wholly congenial idea that grand mediæval
notion of an encyclopædic wisdom in which all forms of philosophy, art,
and science build up, as it were, one noble edifice, rising heavenwards,
domed in by Divine philosophy, the spiritual and intellectual knowledge
of God; he would have agreed with Bonaventura that all human science
'emanates, as from its source, from the Divine Light.'[521] He felt also
that in the unity of 'the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man
severally as He will,' would be found something deeper than all
diversities in religion, which would reconcile them, and would solve
Scripture difficulties and the mysteries which have tormented men.

These and suchlike thoughts, intensely realised, and sometimes expressed
with singular vividness and power, possessed great attraction to minds
wearied with the religious controversies or spiritual dulness of the
time, and which were not repelled by the wilderness of verbiage, the
hazy cloudland, in which Behmen's conceptions were involved. William
Law, the Nonjuror, was thoroughly fascinated by them, and their
influence upon him forms an episode of considerable interest in the
religious history of the period.

Yet if it had been only as the translator and exponent of 'the Teutonic
theosophy' that William Law had become prominent, and incurred on every
side the hackneyed charge of 'enthusiasm,' this excellent man might have
claimed but a passing notice. His theological position in the eighteenth
century is rendered chiefly remarkable by the power he showed (in his
time singularly exceptional) of harmonising the ideas of mediæval
mysticism with some of the most characteristic features of modern
religious thought. A man of deep and somewhat ascetic piety, and gifted
with much originality and with a cultured and progressive mind, he had
many readers and a few earnest and admiring adherents, yet was never
greatly in sympathy with the age in which he lived. Three or four
generations earlier, or three or four generations later, he would have
found much more that was congenial to one or another side of his
intellectual temperament. At the accession of George I. in 1716 he
declined to take the oaths, and resigned his fellowship at Cambridge,
although, like others among the moderate Nonjurors, he remained to the
last constant to the communion of the National Church.[522] In 1726 he
wrote the 'Serious Call,' one of the most remarkable devotional books
that have ever been published. Dr. Johnson, upon whom it made a profound
and lasting impression, describes it as 'the finest piece of hortatory
theology in any language.'[523] Gibbon, in whose father's house Law
lived for some time as tutor and chaplain, says of it that 'if it found
a spark of piety in the reader's mind it would soon kindle it to a
flame.'[524] Southey remarks of it that 'few books have made so many
religious enthusiasts.' The reading of it formed one of the first epochs
in Wesley's religious life. It did much towards forming the character of
the elder Venn. It was mainly instrumental in effecting the conversion
from profligacy to piety of the once famous Psalmanazar.[525] Effects
scarcely less striking are recorded in 1771 to have resulted upon its
copious distribution among the inhabitants of a whole parish.[526] And
lastly it may be added that Bishop Horne made himself thoroughly
familiar with a kindred work by the same author--on 'Christian
Perfection'--and was wont to express the greatest admiration of it.

From his retirement at Kingscliffe,[527] where he lived a life of
untiring benevolence, Law took an active part in the religious
controversies of the time; refusing, however, all payment for his
publications. He entered the lists against Tindal, Chubb, and
Mandeville, against Hoadly, against Warburton, against Wesley. His
answer to Mandeville is called by J. Sterling 'a most remarkable
philosophical essay,' full 'of pithy right reason,'[528] and has been
republished by Frederick Maurice, with a highly commendatory
introduction. The authority last mentioned also speaks of him as 'a
singularly able controversialist in his argument with Hoadly;' and adds:
'Of all the writers whom he must have irritated--Freethinkers,
Methodists, actors, Hanoverians,--of all the nonjuring friends whom he
alienated by his quietism, none doubted his singleness of purpose.' It
may be added that there were few of his opponents who might not have
learnt from him a lesson of Christian courtesy. Living in an age when
controversy of every kind was, almost as a rule, deformed by virulent
personalities, he yet, in the face of much provocation, kept always
faithful to his resolve that, 'by the grace of God, he would never have
any personal contention with anyone.'[529]

Such was the man who, from about 1730 to his death in 1761, was a most
earnest student of mystical theology. 'Of these mystical divines,' he
says, 'I thank God I have been a diligent reader, through all ages of
the Church, from the Apostolical Dionysius the Areopagite down to the
great Fénelon, the illuminated Guyon, and M. Bertot.'[530] Tauler made a
great impression on his mind, but Jacob Behmen most of all. Of these
writers in general he speaks in grateful terms, as true spiritual
teachers, purified by trials and self-discipline, and deeply learned in
the mysteries of God, 'truly sons of thunder and sons of consolation,
who awaken the heart, and leave it not till the kingdom of heaven is
raised up in it.'

William Law was a man of far too great intellectual ability to be a
mere borrower of ideas. What he read he thoroughly assimilated; and
Behmen's strange theosophy, after passing through the mind of his
English exponent, reappeared in a far more logical and comprehensible
form. It cannot be said that Law was altogether a gainer by his later
studies. To many of his contemporaries the result appeared quite the
contrary; and he was constantly reproached with having become a mere
mystic or a hopeless enthusiast. No doubt, he borrowed from his
favourite authors some of their faults as well as many of their virtues.
Jacob Behmen's most glaring faults in style and phraseology are
sometimes transferred with little mitigation to his pages. A person who
gathered his ideas of William Law from Wesley's critique would probably
turn with impatience, and something like aversion, from one who could
use upon the gravest subjects what might seem a strange jargon
compounded out of Gnostic cosmogonies and alchemistic fancies. We take
Jacob Behmen for what he was--a man in some respects of extraordinary
spiritual insight, but perfectly illiterate; living at a time when the
fame of Agrippa and Paracelsus was still recent, and accustomed to refer
all his conceptions to immediate revelation from heaven. But we do not
expect to find in a cultivated scholar of the eighteenth century such
outlandish sayings as 'Nature is in itself a hungry, wrathful fire of
life,' or pages of argument grounded upon the condition and fall of
angels before the creation of the world. Such phraseology and such
reasonings, even if culled from Law's writings less unrelentingly and
more fairly than by Wesley and Warburton, are quite sufficient to create
a reasonable prejudice against his opinions. Yet these are blemishes
which lie comparatively on the surface. They are always found in
reference to certain views which he had adopted about creation and the
fall of man. Although, therefore, they occur constantly--for the Fall is
always a very essential feature in the whole of Law's theology--they do
not interfere with the general lucidity of his argument, or the
devotional beauty of his thought.

Independently of occasional obscurities of language and visionary
notions, Law does not altogether escape those more serious objections to
which mystic writers are almost always liable. When he speaks of
heavenly illumination, and of the birth of Christ within the soul, or of
the all of God and the nothingness of man, or when he refers over
slightingly to 'human reason' or 'human learning,' or to the outward
machinery of religion in contrast to the direct communion of the soul
with its Creator, it is impossible not to feel that he sometimes
approaches over nearly to the dangerous verge where sound spiritualism
loses self-control.

The ascetic austerity of Law's life and teaching was at once a
recommendation and an impediment to the influence of his writings. From
the beginning to the end of his active life he would never swerve an
atom from the high and uncompromising type of holiness which he
constantly set before himself as the bounden goal of all human effort.
His mysticism only intensified this feeling. Assured as of a certain
truth that, corrupt, fallen, and earthly as human nature is, there is
nevertheless in the soul of every man 'the fire and light and love of
God, though lodged in a state of hiddenness, inactivity, and death, ...
overpowered by the workings of flesh and blood,'[531] it seemed to him
the one worthy object of life, by purification and by mortification of
the lower nature, to remove all hindrances to the enlightening efficacy
of the Holy Spirit. So only could the Divine Image, the life of the
triune God within the soul, be restored, and the heaven-born Spirit,
'that angel that died in Paradise,'[532] be born again to life within
us. His words sound like a Christian paraphrase of what Plato had said
in the 'Republic,' where he compares the present appearance of the soul
to an image of the sea-god Glaucus, so battered by waves, so disfigured
by the overgrowth of shells, and seaweed, and all kinds of earthy
substances, that it has almost lost the similitude of the immortal
likeness.[533] No one could have felt more keenly than William Law the
overpowering need of this restorative process, and the fervent longing
of the awakened soul to be delivered from that bondage of corruption
which presses like a burden too heavy to be borne, not upon man only,
but upon all creation, groaning and travailing in sympathetic pain, to
be delivered from the evil and misery and death with which it is
laden.[534] He will allow of no ideal short of the highest pattern of
angelic[535] goodness, nor concede that we are called upon to pray,
'God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' without its full
accomplishment being in human power. This height of aspiration gives
great stimulative power to Law's writing, but, as is unfortunately apt
to be the case, it is a source of weakness as well as of power. With
him, as with many mystic writers, all other elements of human nature are
slighted and neglected in the absorbing thirst for holiness. His ideal
is indeed lofty, but it fails in expansiveness. When he speaks of
absorption into the Divine will--of seeking 'deliverance from the misery
and captivity of self by a total continual self-denial'[536]--of
converting 'this poison of an earthly life into a state of
purification'[537]--of 'turning from all that is earthly, animal, and
temporal, and dying to the will of flesh and blood, because it is
darkness, corruption, and separation from God;'[538] when--sound and
thoughtful reasoner as he often is--he speaks with thorough distrust of
'the guidance of our own Babylonian reason,' and of learning as good
indeed within its own sphere, but 'as different from Divine light as
heaven from earth,'[539] and wholly useless to one who would 'be well
qualified to write notes upon the spirit and meaning of the words of
Christ;'[540] it is impossible not to feel that he is approaching very
closely to the morbid pietism of the recluse. His was indeed no mere
contemplative asceticism, but fruitful in practical virtues; and even
its weaker points stand out in noble contrast with the deficiencies of
an age which admired prudential religion, and took in good earnest the
words of the Preacher as to being righteous overmuch.[541] But his
writings would probably have had greater and wider influence if his
piety had been less austere, and his ideal of life more comprehensive.

Yet, on the whole, William Law's mysticism had a most elevating effect
on his theology, and has done much toward raising him to the very
foremost rank of eighteenth-century divines. It broadened and deepened
his views, so that from being only a luminary of the estimable but
somewhat narrow section of the Nonjurors, he became a writer to whom
some of the most distinguished leaders of modern religious thought have
thankfully acknowledged their obligations. He learnt to combine with
earnest piety and strong convictions an unreserved sympathy, as far as
possible removed from the sectarianism of religious parties, with all
that is good and Christlike wherever it might be found, wherever the
Light that lighteth every man shines from its inward temple. He would
like no truth, he said, the less because Ignatius Loyola or John Bunyan
or George Fox were very zealous for it;[542] and while he chose to live
and die in outward communion with the Church of England,[543] he
desired to 'unite and join in heart and spirit with all that is
Christian, holy, good, and acceptable to God in all other
Churches.'[544] He deplored the 'partial selfish orthodoxy which cannot
bear to hear or own that the spirit and blessing of God are so visible
in a Church from which it is divided.'[545] He grieved that 'even the
most worthy and pious among the clergy of the Established Church are
afraid to assert the sufficiency of the Divine Light, because the
Quakers who have broken off from the Church have made this doctrine
their corner-stone.'[546] Of Romanism he remarked that 'the more we
believe or know of the corruptions and hindrances of true piety in the
Church of Rome, the more we should rejoice to hear that in every age so
many eminent spirits, great saints, have appeared in it, whom we should
thankfully behold as so many great lights hung out by God to show the
true way to heaven.'[547]

Nor would he by any means limit the operations of true redeeming grace
to the bounds of Christendom. Ever impressed with the sense that 'there
is in all men, wherever dispersed over the earth, a divine, immortal,
never-ending Spirit,'[548] and that by this Spirit of God in man all are
equally His children, and that as Adam is spoken of as first father of
all, so the second Adam is the regenerator of all,[549] he insisted that
'the glorious extent of the Catholick Church of Christ takes in all the
world. It is God's unlimited, universal mercy to all mankind.'[550]
Understood rightly, Christianity might truly be spoken of as being old
as the Creation; for the Son of God was the eternal life and light of
men, quite independently of the infinitely blessed revelation of Himself
afforded in the Gospel. There is a Gospel Christianity, which is as the
possession compared with the expectation. There is an 'original,
universal Christianity, which began with Adam, was the religion of the
Patriarchs, of Moses and the Prophets, and of every penitent man in
every part of the world that had faith and hope towards God, to be
delivered from the evil of this world.'[551] The real infidel, whether
he be a professed disciple of the Gospel, of Zoroaster, or of Plato, is
he who lives for the world and not for God.[552]

There was probably no one man in the eighteenth century, unless we
except Samuel Coleridge, so competent as William Law to appreciate, from
a thoroughly religious point of view, spiritual excellence in Christian
and heathen, in Anglican, and Roman Catholic, and Methodist, and
Quaker. Much in the same way, although a firm believer in revealed
religion and a vigorous opponent of the Deists, engaged 'for twenty
years in this dust of debate,'[553] he did not yield even to Bishop
Butler in his power of recognising what was most forcible in their
objections. The mystical tendencies of his religion, whatever may have
been the special dangers incidental to them, at all events enabled him
to meet the Deists with advantage on their own chosen ground. How he met
Tindal's 'Christianity as Old as Creation' has been already mentioned.
As Eusebius and St. Augustine and many others had done before him, he
accepted it as to a great extent true, while he declined to accept
Tindal's inferences from it.'[554] So of the Atonement which was always
considered the cardinal point in the controversy with Deists. Law
willingly acknowledged the justice of many of their arguments, but
maintained that the opinions they impugned were simply a mistaken view
of true Christianity. The author of 'Deism fairly stated,' &c.--a work
which excited much attention at its publication in 1746--had said, 'That
a perfectly innocent Being, of the highest order among intelligent
natures, should personate the offender and suffer in his place and
stead, in order to take down the wrath and resentment of the Deity
against the criminal, and dispose God to show mercy to him--the Deist
conceives to be both unnatural and improper, and therefore not to be
ascribed to God without blasphemy.' 'What an arrow,' answers Law, 'is
here: I will not say shot beside the mark, but shot at nothing!... The
innocent Christ did not suffer to quiet an angry Deity, but as
cooperating, assisting, and uniting with that love of God which desired
our salvation. He did not suffer in our place or stead, but only on our
account, which is a quite different matter.'[555] 'Our guilt is
transferred upon Him in no other sense than as He took upon Him the
state and condition of our fallen nature ... to heal, remove, and
overcome all the evils that were brought into our nature by the fall ...
His merit or righteousness is imputed or derived into us in no other
sense than as we receive from Him a birth, a nature, a power to become
the sons of God.'[556] There is nothing here said which would not now
be widely assented to among members of most sections of the Christian
Church. William Law's writings will not be rightly estimated unless it
be remembered that in his time orthodox theology in England scarcely
allowed of any other than those scholastic and forensic notions of the
Atonement which he deprecates. Other views were commonly thought to
savour of rank Deism or rank Quakerism. His theological opponents seemed
somewhat to doubt under which of these denominations he should be
placed, or whether he would not more properly be referred to both.[557]

Law's unwavering trust in a Spirit which guides faith and goodness into
all necessary truth, led him to take a different course from the
evidence writers of his time. 'I would not,' he says, 'take the method
generally practised by the defenders of Christianity. I would not
attempt to show from reason and antiquity the necessity and
reasonableness of a Divine revelation in general, or of the Mosaic and
Christian in particular. Nor do I enlarge upon the arguments for the
credibility of the Gospel history, the reasonableness of its creeds,
institutions, and usages; or the duty of man to receive things above,
but not contrary to his reason. I would avoid all this, because it is
wandering from the true point in question, and only helping the Deist to
oppose the Gospel with a show of argument, which he must necessarily
want, was the Gospel left to stand upon its own bottom.'[558] To follow
up the line of thought suggested by these words would be in itself a
treatise. It is a first axiom among all mystics, that light is its own
witness. With what limitations and precautions this is to be transferred
to the spiritual region, and how far Christianity is independent of
other testimony than its own intrinsic excellence--is a question of
profound importance, and one which various minds will answer very
differently. Law's unhesitating answer is another example of the way in
which he was wont to combat Deists with their own weapons.

The vigour and success with which Law controverted the reasonings of
those who grounded human society upon expedience, was also owing in
large part to what was styled his mysticism or his enthusiasm. A
religious philosophy which led him to dwell with special emphasis on the
Divine element inherent in man's nature, and his faculties in communion
with the Infinite, inspired him with the strongest force of conviction
in combating theories such as that expressed in its barest form by
Mandeville--that, in man's original state, right and wrong were but
other expressions for what was found to be expedient or otherwise, that
not rarely

    Vice is beneficial found,
    When it's by justice lopt and bound;[559]

and that 'moral virtues' (unless regarded as dictates of a special
revelation) 'are but the political offspring which flattery begot on
pride.'[560] The answers even of Berkeley and Hutchinson had been
comparatively feeble. They could not altogether escape from being
hampered by those favourite reasonings of the day about the wisdom of
morality and the advantages of religion, which after all were much like
the very same argument from expedience, clothed in fairer garb. Law
wrote in a different strain. Addressing himself to Deists who, whatever
else might be their doubts, rarely departed from belief in a God, he
bade them find their answer in that belief. 'Once turn your eyes to
heaven, and dare but own a just and good God, and then you have owned
the true origin of religion and moral virtue.' 'Suppose that God is of
infinite justice, goodness, and truth ... this is the strong and
unmoveable foundation of moral virtue, having the same certainty as the
attributes of God.'[561] Thence came that original excellence of man's
nature which is essentially his healthy state, his sound and perfect
condition, and of which all evil is the corruption and disease. Examine
goodness, analyse it with unsparing strictness; and see 'whether the
investigation does not prove that evil is _not_ the substantial part of
any act which is acted, or thought which is thought, in this world; but,
on the contrary, the destructive element of it, that which makes it
unreal and false.'[562]

Closely connected with this unfaltering conviction of the immutable
character of right and wrong, that the light of our souls comes direct
from the source of light, and that the principles of justice, truth, and
mercy cannot be otherwise than identical in God and His reasoning
creatures--came William Law's speculations about the ultimate destinies
of man. It has been truly observed that 'the first step commonly taken
by Protestant mysticism is an endeavour to mitigate the gloom which
hangs over the future state.'[563] This is very strongly marked in all
the later productions of Law's mind. He was very far from taking
anything like an optimist view of the world around him. There is no
writer of his age who shows himself more impressed with an abhorrence of
sin, and with the sense of its widespread and deeply rooted influences.
He is austere even to excess in his views of what godliness requires.
His whole soul is oppressed with the wilful ruin of spiritual life which
he everywhere beholds. Yet he can conceive of no hope except by the
recovery of that spiritual life, no atonement except by the
extinguishing of sin,[564] no salvation nor redemption except by
regeneration of nature,[565] no forgiveness of sin but by being made
free from sin.[566] But paramount above all such thoughts is his
ever-ruling conviction of the perfect love of God. 'Ask what God is? His
name is Love; He is the good, the perfection, the peace, the joy, the
glory and blessing of every life. Ask what Christ is? He is the
universal remedy of all evil broken forth in nature and creature. He is
the destruction of misery, sin, darkness, death, and hell. He is the
resurrection and life of all fallen nature. He is the unwearied
compassion, the long-suffering pity, the never-ceasing mercifulness of
God to every want and infirmity of human nature. He is the breathing
forth of the heart, life, and Spirit of God into all the dead race of
Adam. He is the seeker, the finder, the restorer of all that was lost
and dead to the life of God.'[567] Law utterly rejected the possibility
of Divine love contradicting the highest conceptions which man can form
of it; and he turned with horror from the arbitrary sovereignty
suggested in the Calvinistic scheme. Nations or individuals, he said,
might be chosen instruments for special designs, but 'elect' ordinarily
meant 'beloved.' In any other sense the evil nature only in every man is
reprobated, and that which is divine in him elected.[568] 'The goodness
and love of God,' he asserted, 'have no limits or bounds, but such as
His omnipotence hath.'[569] It was indeed conceivable that there may be
spirits of men or fallen angels that have so totally lost every spark of
the heavenly nature, and have become so essentially evil, that
restoration is no more consistent with their innermost nature than for a
circle to have the properties of a straight line. If not, 'their
restoration is possible, and they will infallibly have all their evil
removed out of them by the goodness of God.'[570] Christianity, he said,
is the one true religion of nature, because man's corrupt state
'absolutely requires two things as its only salvation. First, the Divine
life must be revived in the soul of man. Secondly, there must be a
resurrection of the body in a better state after death.'[571] That
religion only can be sufficient to the want of his nature which can
provide this salvation. God's redeeming love, said Law, will not suffer
the sinner to have rest or peace until, in time or in eternity,
righteousness is restored and purification completed.[572] He expressed
in the strongest language his belief that 'every act of what is called
Divine vengeance, recorded in Scripture, may and ought, with the
greatest strictness of truth, to be called an act of the Divine love. If
Sodom flames and smokes with stinking brimstone, it is the love of God
that kindled it, only to extinguish a more horrible fire. It was one and
the same infinite love, when it preserved Noah in the ark, when it
turned Sodom into a burning lake, and overwhelmed Pharaoh in the Red
Sea.'[573] If God did not chastise sin, that lenience would argue that
He was not all love and goodness towards man. And so far from its being
a lessening of the just 'terrors of the Lord,' to say that His
punishments, however severe, are inflicted not in vengeance but in love,
such wholesome terrors are placed on more certain ground. Every work of
piety is turned into a work of love; but from the licentious all false
and idle hopes are taken away, and they must know that there is 'nothing
to trust to as a deliverance from misery but the one total abolition of

A few words may be added upon what was said of enthusiasm by one who was
generally looked upon as the special enthusiast of his age. How much the
usual meaning of the word has altered since the middle of the last
century, is well illustrated by the length at which he argues that
'enthusiasm' ought not to be applied only to religion, and that it
should be used in a good as well as in a bad sense.[575] It is 'a
miserable mistake,' he says, 'to treat the real power and operation of
an inward life of God in the birth of our souls, as fanaticism and
enthusiasm.'[576] 'It is the running away from this enthusiasm that has
made so many great scholars as useless to the Church as tinkling
cymbals, and all Christendom a mere Babel of learned confusion.'[577]
Instead of being blameable, the enthusiasm which meant perfect
dependence on the immediate inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit
in the whole course of life was one, he said, in which every good
Christian should endeavour to live and die.[578] But he was too wise a
man not to warn his readers against expecting uncommon illuminations,
visions, and voices, and revelations of mysteries. Extraordinary
operations of the Holy Spirit granted to men raised up as burning and
shining lights are not matters of common instruction.[579] Many a fiery
zealot would be fitly rebuked by his words, 'Would you know the sublime,
the exalted, the angelic in the Christian life, see what the Son of God
saith, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy
neighbour as thyself." And without these two things no good light ever
can arise or enter into your soul.'[580]

John Byrom, whose life and poetical writings will be found in Chalmers'
edition of the British poets, has already been slightly referred to. His
works would demand more attention at this point, were they not to a
great degree an echo in rhyme of William Law's prose works. One of his
longest poems was written in 1751, on the publication of Law's 'Appeal,'
&c., upon the subject of 'Enthusiasm.' It may be said of it, as of
several other pieces he has left, that although written in very
pedestrian verse, they are worth reading, as containing some thoughtful
remarks, expressed occasionally with a good deal of epigrammatic force.
A few of his hymns and short meditations rise to a higher poetical
level. They are referred to with much praise by Mr. G. Macdonald,[581]
who adds the just remark that 'The mystical thinker will ever be found
the reviver of religious poetry.' Like Law, John Byrom was a great
admirer of Behmen. He learnt High Dutch for the purpose of studying him
in the original, and, nowise daunted by the many dark parables he found
there, paraphrased in his halting rhymes what Socrates had said of

    All that I understand is good and true,
    And what I don't, is I believe so too.[582]

The same influences, springing from a German origin, which thus deeply
and directly impressed William Law, and a few other devout men of the
same type of thought, acted upon the national mind far more widely, but
also far more indirectly, through a different channel. The Moravian
brethren, though dating in the first instance from the time of Huss,
owed their resuscitation to that wave of mystic pietism which passed
through Germany in the seventeenth century,[583] showing its early power
in the writings of Behmen, and reaching its full tide in the new vigour
of spiritual life inspired into the Lutheran Church by the activity of
Arndt and Spener. Their work was carried on by Francke, 'the S. Vincent
de Paul of Germany.' Educated by him, and trained up in the teaching of
Spener's School at Halle, Count Zinzendorf imbibed those principles
which he carried out with such remarkable success in his Moravian
settlement at Herrnhut. There he organised a community to which their
severest critics have never refused a high amount of admiration; a
society which set itself with simple zeal to lead a Christian life after
the primitive model--frugal, quiet, industrious, shunning temptation and
avoiding controversy,--a band of brethren who held out the hand of
fellowship to all in every communion who, without giving up a single
distinctive tenet, would unite with them in a union of godly
living--which sent out labourers into Christian countries to convert but
not to proselytise--whose missionaries were to be found among the
remotest heathen savages. That they should fall short of their ideal was
but human weakness; and no doubt they had their special failings. They
might be apt, in the fervency of their zeal, to speak too disdainfully
of all gifts of learning;[584] they might risk alternations of
distressing doubt by too presumptuous expectations of visible
supernatural help;[585] they might think too lightly of all outward aids
to religion.[586] Such errors might, and sometimes did, prove very
dangerous. But one who knew them well, and to whom, as his mind
expanded, their too parental discipline, their timid fears of reasoning,
their painful straining for experiences, had become intolerable, could
yet say of them, 'There is not throughout Christendom, in our day, a
form of public worship which expresses more thoroughly the spirit of
true Christian piety, than does that of the Herrnhut brotherhood.... It
is the truest Christian community, I believe, which exists in the
outward world.'[587]

The first Diaspora, or missionary colony, established by the Moravians
in England was in 1728, at the instance of a lady in that centre of
intellectual and religious activity, the Court of Queen Caroline. They
did not, however, attract much attention. Winston, ever inquisitive and
unsettled, wanted to know more about them, and began to read some of
their sermons, but 'found so much weakness and enthusiasm mixed with a
great degree of seriousness,' that he did not care to go to their
worship.[588] Their strictly organised discipline was in itself a great
impediment to success among a people so naturally attached to liberty
as the English. In the middle of the century, their missionary
enterprise secured them special privileges in the American colonies.
More than this. At the instance of Gambold, who was exceedingly anxious
that the Brotherhood should gain ground in England within the bosom of
the Anglican Church, a Moravian synod, held in 1749, formally elected
Wilson, the venerable Bishop of Sodor and Man, 'into the order and
number of the Antecessors of the General Synod of the brethren of the
Anatolic Unity.' With this high-sounding dignity was joined 'the
administration of the Reformed Tropus' (or Diaspora) 'in our hierarchy,
for life, with full liberty, in case of emergency, to employ as his
substitute the Rev. T. Wilson, Royal Almoner, Doctor of Theology, and
Prebendary of St. Peter's, Westminster.' It is further added that the
good old man accepted the office with thankfulness and pleasure.[589]
Here their success ended. Soon afterwards many of the English Moravians
fell for a time into a most unsatisfactory condition, becoming largely
tainted with Antinomianism, and with a sort of vulgar lusciousness of
religious sentiment, which was exceedingly revolting to ordinary English
feeling.[590] After the death of Zinzendorf in 1760, the Society
recovered for the most part a healthier condition,[591] but did not
regain any prospect of that wider influence in England which Gambold and
others had once begun to hope for, and perhaps to anticipate.

Warburton said of Methodism, that 'William Law was its father, and Count
Zinzendorf rocked the cradle.'[592] The remark was no doubt a somewhat
galling one to Wesley, for he had afterwards conceived a great
abhorrence of the opinions both of the father and the nurse. But it was
perfectly just; and Wesley, though he might have been unwilling to own
it, was greatly and permanently indebted to each. The light which, when
he read Law's 'Christian Perfection and Serious Call,' had 'flowed so
mightily on his soul that everything appeared in a new view,' was
rekindled into a still more fervent flame by the glowing words of the
Moravian teacher on the morning of the day from which he dated his
special 'conversion.' Nor was his connection with men of this general
turn of thought by any means a passing one. His visit to William Law at
Mr. Gibbon's house at Putney in 1732--the correspondence he carried on
with him for several years afterwards--his readings of the mystic
divines of Germany--his loving respect for the company of Moravians who
were his fellow-travellers to Georgia in 1736--his meeting with Peter
Böhler in 1738--the close intercourse which followed with the London
Moravians--the fortnight spent by him at Herrnhut, 'exceedingly
strengthened and comforted by the conversation of this lovely
people,'[593]--his intimate friendship with Gambold, who afterwards
completely threw in his lot with the United Brethren and became one of
their bishops,[594]--all these incidents betoken a deep and cordial
sympathy. It is true that all this fellow-feeling came at last to a
somewhat abrupt termination. Passing, at first, almost to the bitter
extreme, he even said in his 'Second Journal' that 'he believed the
mystic writers to be one great Anti-Christ.'[595] Some years afterwards
he retracted this expression, as being far too strong. He had, he said,
'at one time held the mystic writers in great veneration as the best
explainers of the Gospel of Christ;'[596] but added, that though he
admired them, he was never of their way; he distrusted their tendency to
disparage outward means. 'Their divinity was never the Methodist
doctrine. We cannot swallow either John Tauler or Jacob Behmen.'[597]
His friendly correspondence with Law ceased after a few years. He
continued to 'admire and love' his personal character, but attacked his
opinions[598] with a vehemence contrasting somewhat unfavourably with
the patience and humility of Law's reply.[599] As for the Moravians, not
Warburton, nor Lavington, nor Stinstra, nor Duncombe, ever used stronger
words against 'these most dangerous of the Antinomians--these cunning
hunters.'[600] Count Zinzendorf, on the other hand, published a notice
that his people had no connection with the Wesleys.

Like many other men who have been distinguished in divinity and
religion,[601] John Wesley, as he grew older, became far more
charitable and large-hearted in what he said or thought of opinions
different from his own. Methodism also had become, by that time, well
established upon a secure basis of its own. Wesley had no longer cause
to be disturbed by its features of relationship with a school of
theology which he had learnt greatly to distrust. The fanciful and
obscure philosophy of Dionysius, of Behmen, or of Law had been repugnant
to him from the first. He had beheld with the greatest alarm Law's
departures from commonly received doctrine on points connected with
justification, regeneration, the atonement, the future state. Above all,
he had become acquainted with that most degenerate form of mysticism,
when its phraseology becomes a pretext to fanatics and Antinomians. Much
in the same way as in the Germany of the fourteenth century the lawless
Brethren of the Free Spirit[602] had justified their excesses in
language which they borrowed from men of such noble and holy life as
Eckhart[603] and Tauler, and Nicolas of Basle, so the flagitious
conduct, at Bedford and elsewhere, of some who called themselves
Moravians threw scandal and odium on the tenets of the pure and
simple-minded community of Herrnhut. This was a danger to which Wesley
was, without doubt, all the more sensitive, because he lived among
hostile critics who were only too ready to discredit his teaching by
similar imputations on its tendencies. The truth is that Methodism, in
its different aspects, had so many points of contact with the essential
characteristics of mysticism, both in its highest and more
spiritualised, and in its grosser and more fanatical forms, that Wesley
was exceedingly anxious his system should not be confused with any such
'enthusiasm,' and dwelt with jealous care upon its more distinctive

It has been already observed that a French historian of Christianity
speaks of Quakerism and Methodism as the two chief forms of English
mysticism.[604] To an educated man of ordinary observation in the
eighteenth century, especially if he regarded the new movement with
distrust, the analogy between this and different or earlier varieties of
'enthusiasm' appeared still more complete. Lord Lyttelton, for example,
in discussing a favourite theological topic of that age--namely, the
absence of enthusiasm in St. Paul, and his constant appeals to the
evidence of reason and the senses--contrasts with the life and writings
of the Apostles the extravagant imaginations, and the pretensions to
Divine illumination, of 'mystics, ancient and modern,' mediæval saints,
'Protestant sectaries of the last age, and some of the Methodists
now.'[605] Montanus and Dionysius, St. Francis and Ignatius Loyola,
Madame Bourignon, George Fox, and Whitefield are all ranked together in
the same general category. Methodists, Moravians, and Hutchinsonians are
classed as all nearly-related members of one family. Just in the same
way[606] Bishop Lavington, in his 'Enthusiasm of Methodists and
Papists,' has entered into an elaborate comparison between what he finds
in Wesley's journals and in the lives and writings of saints and mystics
of the Roman Church.[607] Nor does he fail to discover similar
resemblances to Methodist experiences among the old mystic philosophers,
Montanists, Quakers, French Quietists, French prophets, and Moravians.
The argumentative value of Lavington's book may be taken for what it was
worth. To his own contemporaries it appeared the achievement of a great
triumph if he could prove in frequent cases an almost identical tone of
thought in Wesley and in Francis of Assisi or Francis de Sales. To most
minds in our own days it will rather seem as if he were constantly
dealing blows which only rebounded upon himself, in comparing his
opponent to men whose deep piety and self-denying virtues, however much
tinged by the errors of their time and order, worked wonders in the
revival of earnest faith. On the whole Lavington proved his case
successfully, but he only proved by what easy transitions the purest and
most exalted faith may pass into extravagances, and, above all, the
folly of his own Church in not endeavouring to find scope for her
enthusiasts and mystics, as Rome had done for a Loyola and a St.
Theresa. He himself was a typical example of the tone of thought out of
which this infatuation grew. What other views could be looked for from a
bishop who, though himself an awakening preacher and a good man, whose
dying words[608] were an ascription of glory to God ([Greek: doxa tô
theô]), was yet so wholly blind to the more intense manifestations of
religious fervour that he could see nothing to admire, nothing even to
approve, in the burning zeal of the founders of the Franciscans and of
the Jesuits? Of the first he had nothing more to say than that he was
'at first only a well-minded but weak enthusiast, afterwards a mere
hypocrite and impostor;' of the other he spoke with a certain compassion
as 'that errant, shatter-brained, visionary fanatic.'[609] And the
Methodist, he thought, had a somewhat 'similar texture of brain.'

The Methodist leaders were wholly free from some dangerous tendencies
which mysticism has been apt to develop. They never disparaged any of
the external aids to religion; their meaning is never hidden under a
haze of dim conceptions; above all, they never showed the slightest
inclination to the vague and unpractical pantheistic opinions which are
often nurtured by a too exclusive insistance on the indwelling and
pervading operations of the Divine Spirit. In the two latter points they
resembled the Quietist and Port-Royal mystics of the French school, who
always aimed at lucidity of thought and language, rather than those of
German origin. From mystics generally they differed, most of all, in
adopting the Pauline rather than the Johannine phraseology.

But, with some important differences, there can be no question that
Methodism rose and prospered under the same influences which in every
age of Christianity, or rather in every age of the world, have attended
all the most notable outbursts of mystic revivalism. Its causes were the
same; its higher manifestations were much the same; its degenerate and
exaggerated forms were the same; its primary and most essential
principle was the same. As the religious brotherhoods of the
Pythagoreans rose in spiritual revolt against the lax mythology and
careless living of the Sybarites in Sicily;[610] as in the third century
of the Christian era Neoplatonism concentrated within itself whatever
remains of faith and piety lingered in the creeds and philosophies of
paganism;[611] as in the Middle Ages devout men, wearied with forms and
controversies, and scholastic reasoners seeking refuge from the logical
and metaphysical problems with which they had perplexed theology, sought
more direct communion with God in the mystic devotion of Anselm and
Bernard, of Hugo and Bonaventura;[612] as Bertholdt and Nicolas, Eckhart
and Tauler,[613] organised their new societies throughout Germany to
meet great spiritual needs which established systems had wholly ceased
to satisfy; as Arndt and Spener and Francke in the seventeenth century
breathed new life into the Lutheran Church, and set on foot their
'collegia pietatis,' their systematised prayer-meetings, to supplement
the deficiencies of the time[614]--so in the England of the eighteenth
century, when the force of religion was chilled by drowsiness and
indifference in some quarters, by stiffness and formality and
over-cautious orthodoxy in others, when the aspirations of the soul were
being ever bidden rest satisfied with the calculations of sober reason,
when proofs and evidences and demonstrations were offered, and still
offered, to meet the cry of those who called for light, how else should
religion stem the swelling tide of profligacy but by some such inward
spiritual revival as those by which it had heretofore renewed its
strength? If Wesley and Whitefield and their fellow-workers had not come
to the rescue, no doubt other reformers of a somewhat kindred spirit
would have risen in their stead. How or whence it is useless to
speculate. Perhaps Quakerism, or something nearly akin to it, might have
assumed the dimensions to which a half-century before it had seemed not
unlikely to grow. The way was prepared for some strong reaction. Past
aberrations of enthusiasm were well-nigh forgotten, and large masses of
the population were unconsciously longing for its warmth and fire. It
was highly probable that an active religious movement was near at hand,
and its general nature might be fairly conjectured; its specific
character, its force, extent, and limits, would depend, under
Providence, upon the zeal and genius of its leaders.

Nothing could be more natural than that to many outside observers early
Methodism should have seemed a mere repetition of what England, in the
century before, had been only too familiar with. The physical phenomena
which manifested themselves under the influence of Wesley's and
Whitefield's preaching were in all points exactly the same as those of
which the annals of imaginative and excited religious feeling have in
every age been full. Swoons and strange convulsive agitations, however
impressive and even awe-inspiring to an uninformed beholder, were
undistinguishable from those, for example, which had given their name to
English Quakers[615] and French Convulsionists,[616] which were to be
read of in the Lives of Guyon and St. Theresa,[617] and which were a
matter of continual occurrence when Tauler preached in Germany.[618] It
is no part of this inquiry to dwell upon their cause and nature, or upon
the perplexity Wesley himself felt on the subject. Occasionally he was
mortified by the discovery of imposture or of superstitious credulity,
and something he was willing to attribute to natural causes.[619] On
the whole his opinion was that they might be rejoiced in as a glorious
sight,[620] visible evidences of life-giving spiritual agencies, but
that the bodily pain was quite distinct and due to Satan's
hindrance.[621] He sometimes added a needful warning that all such
physical disturbances were of a doubtful nature, and that the only tests
of spiritual change which could be relied upon were those indisputable
fruits of the Spirit which the Apostle Paul enumerates.[622] His less
guarded words closely correspond with what may be read in the journals
of G. Fox and other early Quakers. When he writes more coolly and
reflectively we are reminded not of the first fanatical originators of
that sect, but of what their distinguished apologist, Barclay, has said
of those 'pangs of the new birth' which have often accompanied the
sudden awakening to spiritual life in persons of strong and
undisciplined feelings. 'From their inward travail, while the darkness
seeks to obscure the light and the light breaks through the darkness ...
there will be such a painful travail found in the soul that will even
work upon the outward man, so that oftentimes through the working
thereof the body will be greatly shaken, and many groans, and sighs, and
tears, will lay hold upon it.'[623]

Wesley himself was protected both by disposition and training from
falling deeply into some of the dangers to which enthusiastic and
mystical religion is very liable. He was credulous, and even
superstitious, but he checked his followers in the credence which many
of them were inclined to give to stories of ecstasies, and visions, and
revelations. He spoke slightingly of orthodoxy, and held that 'right
opinions were a very slender part of religion;'[624] but, far from
countenancing anything like a vague undogmatic Pietism, his opinions
went almost to the opposite extreme of precise definition. Neither could
it be said of him that he spiritualised away the plain meaning of
Scripture--a charge to which the old Quakers were constantly liable, and
which was sometimes alleged against the later Methodists. He himself
never spoke contemptuously--as the mystics have been so apt to do--of
the value of learning; and of reason he said, in the true spirit of
Henry More, 'I believe and reason too, for I find no inconsistency
between them. And I would as soon put out my eyes to secure my faith, as
lay aside my reason.'[625] But the Methodists, as a body, were far less
inclined to act on this principle. Without disparagement to the
conspicuous ability of some individual members of their communion, both
in the present and in the past, it may be certainly said that they have
always utterly failed to attract the intellect of the country at large.
Great, therefore, as was its moral and spiritual power among large
classes of the people, Methodism was never able to take rank among great
national reformations.

Neither Wesley nor the Wesleyans have ever yielded to a mischievous
tendency which has beset most forms of mysticism. They have never, in
comparison with the inward worship of the soul, spoken slightingly of
'temples made of stones,'[626] or of any of the chief outward ordinances
of religion. Their opponents often attempted to make it a charge against
them, and thought, no doubt, they would be sure to prove it. But they
never did so. Wesley was always able to answer, with perfect
correctness, that what was thus said might be true of Moravians, or of
Tauler, or of Behmen, or of St. Theresa, or of Madame de Bourignon, or
of the Quakers, or even of William Law, but that he himself had never
done otherwise than insist most strongly on the essential need of making
use of all the external helps which religion can offer.[627]

By far the gravest imputation that has ever been brought against the
disciples of each various form of mystical or emotional religion is
that, in aspiring after some loftier ideal of spiritual communion with
the Divine, they have looked down with a kind of scorn upon 'mere
morality,' as if it were a lower path. And it must be acknowledged that
men of the most pure and saintly lives have, nevertheless, used
expressions which misguided or unprincipled men might pervert into
authority for lawlessness. Tauler, whom an admiring contemporary once
called 'the holiest of God's children now living on the earth,'[628]
could yet say of the higher elevation of the Christian life that, 'where
this comes to pass, outward works become of no moment.'[629] What wonder
that the fanatical Beghards, or Brethren of the Free Spirit, against
whom he contended with all his energies,[630] should seek to confuse his
principles with theirs, and assert that, having attained the higher
state, they were not under subjection to moral commandments? So, again,
of the early Quakers Henry More[631] observed that, although their
doctrine of special illumination had guided many into much sanctity of
life, the more licentious sort had perverted it into a cloke for all
kinds of enormity, on the ground that they were inspired by God, and
could be guilty of no sin, as only exercising their rights of liberty.
Madame de Bourignon was an excellent woman, but Leslie and
Lavington[632] showed that some of her writings seem dangerously to
underrate good works. Moravian principles, lightly understood, made
Herrnhut a model Christian community; misunderstood, they became
pretexts for the most dangerous Antinomianism.[633] An example may even
be quoted from the last century where the nobler elements of mystic
enthusiasm were found in one mind combined with the pernicious tendency
in question. In that very remarkable but eccentric genius, William
Blake, mysticism was rich in fruits of faith and love, and it is
needless, therefore, to add that he was a good man, of blameless morals;
yet, by a strange flaw or partial derangement in his profoundly
spiritual nature, 'he was for ever, in his writings, girding at the
"mere moral law" as the letter that killeth. His conversation, his
writings, his designs, were equally marked by theoretic licence and
virtual guilelessness.'[634]

Bishop Berkeley's name could not be passed over even in such a sketch as
this without a sense of incompleteness. He was, it is true, strongly
possessed with the prevalent feeling of aversion to anything that was
called enthusiasm. When, for example, his opinion was asked about John
Hutchinson--a writer whose mystic fancies as to recondite meanings
contained in the words of the Hebrew Bible[635] possessed a strange
fascination for William Jones of Nayland, Bishop Horne, and other men of
some note[636]--he answered that he was not acquainted with his works,
but 'I have observed him to be mentioned as an enthusiast, which gave
me no prepossession in his favour.'[637] But the Christianity of
feeling, which lies at the root of all that is sound and true in what
the age called enthusiasm, was much encouraged by the theology and
philosophy of Berkeley. It may not have been so to any great extent
among his actual contemporaries. A thoroughly prosaic generation, such
as that was in which he lived, was too unable to appreciate his subtle
and poetic intellect to gain much instruction from it. He was much
admired, but little understood. 'He is indeed,' wrote Warburton to Hurd,
'a great man, and the only visionary I ever knew that was.'[638] It was
left for later reasoners, in England and on the Continent, to separate
what may be rightly called visionary in his writings from what may be
profoundly true, and to feel the due influence of his suggestive and
spiritual reflections.

The purely mystic element in Berkeley's philosophy may be illustrated by
the charm it had for William Blake, a man of whom Mr. Swinburne says
that 'his hardest facts were the vaguest allegories of other men. To him
all symbolic things were literal, all literal things symbolic. About his
path and about his bed, around his ears and under his eyes, an infinite
play of spiritual life seethed and swarmed or shone and sang.'[639] To
this strange artist-poet, in whose powerful but fantastic mind fact and
imagination were inextricably blended, whose most intimate friends could
not tell where talent ended and hallucination began, whom Wordsworth
delighted in,[640] and whose conversation in any country walk is
described as having a marvellous power of kindling the imagination, and
of making nature itself seem strangely more spiritual, almost as if a
new sense had awakened in the mind of his hearer[641]--to William Blake
the theories of Berkeley supplied a philosophy which exactly suited
him.[642] Blake's ruling idea was that of an infinite spiritual life so
imprisoned under the bondage of material forces[643] that only by
spiritual perception--a power given to all to cultivate--can true
existence be discovered.[644] He longed for the full emancipation which
a better life would bring.

At the very close of the century, in the year 1798, an elaborate
treatise on enthusiasm was published by Richard Graves, Dean of Ardagh,
a man of considerable learning and earnest piety. It is needless to
enter into the arguments of his 'Essay on the Character of the Apostles
and Evangelists.' Its object was to prove they were wholly free from the
errors of enthusiasts; that in their private conduct, and in the
government of the Church, they were 'rational and sober, prudent and
cautious, mild and decorous, zealous without violence, and steady
without obstinacy; that their writings are plain, calm, and
unexaggerated, ... natural and rational, ... without any trace of
spiritual pride, any arrogant claims to full perfection of virtue; ...
teaching heartfelt piety to God without any affectation of rapturous
ecstasy or extravagant fervour.'[645] On the other hand, he illustrates
the extravagances into which enthusiasts have been led, from the history
of Indian mystics and Greek Neoplatonists, from Manichæans and
Montanists, from monastic saints, from the Beghards of Germany, the
Fratricelli of Italy, the Illuminati of Spain, the Quietists of France,
from Anabaptists, Quakers, and French prophets. He refers to what had
been written against enthusiasm within the preceding century by
Stillingfleet, Bayle, Locke, Hicks, Shaftesbury, Lord Lyttelton,
Barrington, Chandler, Archibald Campbell, Stinstra, Warburton,
Lavington, and Douglas--a list the length of which is in itself a
sufficient evidence of the sensitive interest which the subject had
excited. He remarks on the attempts made by Chubb and Morgan to attach
to Christianity the opprobrium of being an enthusiastic religion, and
reprobates the assertions of the younger Dodwell that _faith_ is not
founded on argument. The special occasion of his work[646] arose out of
more recent events--the publication at Geneva in 1791 of Boulanger's
'Christianity Unmasked,' and the many similar efforts made during the
period of the French Revolution to represent fanaticism and Christianity
as synonymous terms.

But while Dean Graves was writing in careful and moderate language his
not unseasonable warnings, thoughts representative of a new and deeper
strain of theological feeling were passing through the mind of Samuel
Coleridge. His was a genius singularly receptive of the ideas which
emanated from the leading intellect of his age in England or abroad. He
was probably better acquainted than any other of his countrymen with the
highest literature of Germany, which found in him not only an
interpreter, but a most able and reflective exponent. Few could be
better fitted than he was--no one certainly in his own country and
generation--to deal with those subtle and intricate elements of human
nature upon which enthusiasts and mystics have based their speculations,
and hopelessly blended together much that is sublime and true with not a
little that is groundless and visionary, and often dangerous in its
practical or speculative results. In the first place, he could scarcely
fail in sympathy. He was endowed with a rich vein of that imaginative
power which is the very life of all enthusiasm. It is the most prominent
characteristic of his poetry; it is no less conspicuous in the intense
glow of excited expectation with which he, like so many other young men
of rising talent, cherished those millennial visions of peace and
brotherhood, and simple faith and love, which the French Revolution in
its progress so rudely crushed. Mysticism also must have had great
charms for one who could write verses so imbued with its spirit as are
the following:--

    He first by fear uncharmed the drowsèd soul,
    Till of its nobler nature it 'gan feel
    Dim recollections; and thence soared to hope,
    Strong to believe whate'er of mystic good
    The Eternal dooms for His immortal sons;
    From hope and firmer faith to perfect love
    Attracted and absorbed; and centred there,
    God only to behold, and know, and feel,
    Till by exclusive consciousness of God,
    All self annihilated, it shall make
    God its identity--God all in all!
    We and our Father one!
                            And blest are they
    Who in this fleshy world, the elect of heaven,
    Their strong eye darting through the deeds of men,
    Adore with steadfast, unpresuming gaze
    Him, nature's essence, mind, and energy;
    And gazing, trembling, patiently ascend,
    Treading beneath their feet all visible things
    As steps, that upward to their Father's throne
    Lead gradual.[647]

If we would further understand how far removed must have been
Coleridge's tone of thought from that which for so long a time had
regarded enthusiasm in all its forms as the greatest enemy of sober
reason and sound religion, we should only have to consider what a new
world of thought and sentiment was that in which Coleridge was living
from any of which the generation before him had experience. The band of
poets and essayists represented by Coleridge and Wordsworth, Southey,
Lamb, De Quincey, and we may add Blake, were in many respects separated
by a wider gulf, except only in time, from the authors of twenty years
before, than they were from the writers of the Elizabethan age. New
hopes and aspirations as to the capabilities of human life, new and more
spiritual aspects of nature, of art, of poetry, of history, made it
impossible for those who felt these influences in all the freshness of
their new life to look with the same eyes as their fathers on those
questions above all others which related to the intellectual and
spiritual faculties of the soul. It was a worthy aim for a
poet-philosopher such as Coleridge was--a mystic and enthusiast in one
aspect of his mind, a devoted 'friend of reason' in another--to analyse
reason and unite its sublimer powers with conscience as a divinely given
'inner light,' to combine in one the highest exercise of the
intellectual and the moral faculties. Emotional religion had exhibited
on a large scale alike its powers and deficiencies. Thoughtful and
religious men could scarcely do better than set themselves to restore
the balance where it was unequal. They had to teach that faith must be
based, not only upon feeling and undefined impulse, but on solid
intellectual apprehension. They had to urge with no less earnestness
that religious truth has to be not only outwardly apprehended, but
inwardly appropriated before it can become possessed of true spiritual
efficacy. It is most true that vague ideas of some inward illumination
are but a miserable substitute for a sound historical faith, but it is
no less true that a so-called historical faith has not become faith at
all until the soul has received it into itself, and made of it an inward
light. In the eighteenth century, as in every other, mystics and
enthusiasts have insisted only on inward illuminations and spiritual
experiences, while of men of a very different cast of mind some have
perpetually harped upon authority and some upon reason and
reasonableness. It may be hoped that our own century may be more
successful in the difficult but not discouraging task of investigating
and harmonising their respective claims.



[Footnote 468: Or to a painter's imagination. The _Idler_, not however
without some fear of 'its wild extravagances' even in this sphere,
allows that 'one may very safely recommend a little more enthusiasm to
the modern painters; too much is certainly not the vice of the present
age.'--No. 79.]

[Footnote 469: Henry More, _Enthus. Triumphatus_, § 4.]

[Footnote 470: _Quarterly Review_, xxviii 37.]

[Footnote 471: H. More, _On the Immortality of the Soul_, b. iii. ch.
12; and the whole treatise, especially the third and fourth books.]

[Footnote 472: H. More, _Phil. Works_, General Preface, § 6; and
_Enthusiasmus Triumphatus_, § 52.]

[Footnote 473: § 62.]

[Footnote 474: 'Address to the Clergy.'--Wesley's _Works_, 492.]

[Footnote 475: Coleridge seems to have read H. More with much
enjoyment.--_Aids to Reflection_, i. 106-10. 'Occasional draughts,'
Channing writes, of More and other Platonists, 'have been refreshing to
me.' ... Their mysticism was noble in its kind, 'and perhaps a necessary
reaction against the general earthliness of men's minds. I pardon the
man who loses himself in the clouds, if he will help me upwards.'--W.E.
Channing's _Correspondence_ 338.]

[Footnote 476: Quoted by Bishop Berkeley, _Theory of Vision_, pt. i. §

[Footnote 477: Schlosser, _History of the Eighteenth Century_, chap. 1.
i. Horsley's _Charges_, 86. _Quarterly Review_, July 1864, 70-9.]

[Footnote 478: Warburton's _Works_, iv. 568.]

[Footnote 479: 'Letter to the Bishop of Gloucester.'--Wesley's _Works_,
ix. 151.]

[Footnote 480: Dedication to his _Three Sermons_, quoted by H.S. Skeats,
_History of the free Churches_, 333.]

[Footnote 481: W. Roberts, _Memoirs of Hannah More_, i. 500, ii. 61, 70,

[Footnote 482: R.A. Vaughan's _Hours with the Mystics_, ii. 391.]

[Footnote 483: C. Leslie, 'Snake in the Grass.'--_Works_, iv. 21.]

[Footnote 484: Dr. Sherlock, _On Public Worship_, chap. iii. § 1, 4.]

[Footnote 485: Warburton's 'Alliance.'--_Works_, 1788, iv. 53.]

[Footnote 486: _Tatler_, No. 257.]

[Footnote 487: Canon Curteis remarks of the early Quakers, 'What was
urgently wanted, and what Christ (I think) was really commissioning
George Fox and others to do, was not a destructive, but a constructive
work,--the work of breathing fresh life into old forms, recovering the
true meaning of old symbols, raising from the dead old words that needed
translating into modern equivalents.'--G.H. Curteis, _Dissent in
Relation to the Church of England_, 268.]

[Footnote 488: C. Leslie, 'Defence, &c.'--_Works_, v. 164.]

[Footnote 489: C. Leslie, _Works_, iv. 428.]

[Footnote 490: R. Barclay's _Apology for the Quakers_, 259.]

[Footnote 491: No doubt some forms of Quakerism (for in it, as in every
form of mystic theology, there were many varieties) lost sight almost
altogether of any idea of atonement. Cf. _British Quarterly_, October
1874, 337; C. Leslie, 'Satan Disrobed.'--_Works_, iv. 398-418; id. v.

[Footnote 492: M.J. Matter, _Histoire du Christianisme_, iv. 343.]

[Footnote 493: Boswell's _Life of Dr. Johnson_, ii. 456.]

[Footnote 494: Southey's 'Letters,' quoted in _Quarterly Review_, 98,

[Footnote 495: 'I fancy that most of the Churches need to learn and
receive of one another; and I have often wished that the zealous
Methodist, for instance, who lives so much in action and in the
atmosphere of religious excitement, could sometimes enter thoroughly
into the spirit of the more religious Friends.'--H.H. Dobney, _Free
Churches_, 106.]

[Footnote 496: J. Byrom's _Poems_.]

[Footnote 497: Tauler's _Sermon for Epiphany_; Winkworth's _History and
Life, with twenty-five Sermons translated_, 223.]

[Footnote 498: Calamy's _Own Life_, ii. 71.]

[Footnote 499: W.M. Hatch's edition of Shaftesbury's _Characteristics_,
Appen. 376-8.]

[Footnote 500: W. Blake, _Miscellaneous Poems_, 'The Land of Dreams.']

[Footnote 501: Wesley's _Third Journal_, p. 24, quoted by Lavington,
_Enthus. of Meth. and Pa. Comp._, 252.]

[Footnote 502: A. Alison's _Life of Marlborough_, chap. ix. § 30.]

[Footnote 503: _Guardian_, No. 69.]

[Footnote 504: Lord Lyttelton's _Dialogues of the Dead_, No. 3.]

[Footnote 505: R. Savage's _Miscellaneous Poems_,' Character of Rev. J.

[Footnote 506: Jortin's _Letters_, ii. 43.]

[Footnote 507: R.H. Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, ii. 226.]

[Footnote 508: C. Leslie's 'Snake in the Grass.'--_Works_, iv. 1-14. So
also Lavington's _Enthusiasm_, &c., 346.]

[Footnote 509: 'In England her works have already deceived not a
few.'--Leslie, Id. 14. 'What think you too of the Methodists? You are
nearer to Oxford. We have strange accounts of their freaks. The books of
Madame Bourignon, the French _visionnaire_, are, I hear, much enquired
after by them.'--Warburton to Doddridge, May 27, 1738. Doddridge's
_Correspondence_, &c., iii. 327.

Francis Lee, the Nonjuror, an excellent man, one of Robert Nelson's
friends, was 'once a great Bourignonist.'--Hearne to Rawlinson, App. in.
1718, quoted in H.B. Wilson's _History of Merchant Taylors' School_ ii.

[Footnote 510: M.J. Matter, _Histoire du Christianisme_, iv. 344.]

[Footnote 511: Francis Okely, one of the most distinguished of the
English Moravians of the last century, was a great student and admirer
of Behmen.--Nichol's _Literary Anecdotes_, iii. 93.]

[Footnote 512: Schelling and others, says Dorner, 'sought out and
utilised many a noble germ in the fermenting chaos of Böhme's
notions.'--J.A. Dorner's _History of Protestant Theology_, 1871, ii.

[Footnote 513: R.A. Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, ii. 349.]

[Footnote 514: H. More's _Works_, 'Antidote against Atheism,' note to
chap. xliv.]

[Footnote 515: J. Wesley, 'Thoughts upon Jacob Behmen.'--_Works_, ix.

[Footnote 516: Id. 513.]

[Footnote 517: Unqualified, even for Warburton. 'Doctrine of Grace,' b.
iii. ch. ii. _Works_, iv. 706.]

[Footnote 518: A. Gilchrist's _Life of Blake_, i. 16.]

[Footnote 519: W. Law's introduction to his translation of Behmen's

[Footnote 520: H. Coleridge, _Sonnet on Shakspeare_.]

[Footnote 521: Quoted in _Christian Schools and Scholars_, ii. § 5.]

[Footnote 522: For fuller details, see _The Life and Opinions of W.
Lam_, by J.H. Overton, published since the first edition of this work.]

[Footnote 523: Boswell's _Johnson_, ii. 125.]

[Footnote 524: E. Gibbon, _Memoirs of My Life_, 13.]

[Footnote 525: _Quarterly Review_, 103, 310.]

[Footnote 526: Ewing's _Present-Day Papers_, 14.]

[Footnote 527: In Leslie Stephen's _English Thought in the Eighteenth
Century_ we have a vivid picture of the retreat at Kingscliffe--the
devotional exercises, the unstinted almsgiving, and Law's little study,
four feet square, furnished with its chair, its writing-table, the
Bible, and the works of Jacob Behmen. 'Certainly a curious picture in
the middle of that prosaic eighteenth century, which is generally
interpreted to us by Fielding, Smollett, and Hogarth.'--Chap. xii. 6

[Footnote 528: F.D. Maurice, Introduction to Law's _Answer to
Mandeville_, v.]

[Footnote 529: _Works_, xi. 216.]

[Footnote 530: _Answer to Dr. Trapp._--_Works_, vi. 319.]

[Footnote 531: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 2nd ed. 1762, p. 7.--_Works_,
vol. vii.]

[Footnote 532: Id.]

[Footnote 533: Plato, _Republic_, b. x. § 611.]

[Footnote 534: _Appeal to all that Doubt_, 3rd ed. 1768, p.
131.--_Works_, vol. vi. _Spirit of Prayer_, 1st part, 73, vol. vii.]

[Footnote 535: Id. 24.]

[Footnote 536: _Answer to Dr. Trapp_, 38-39, vol. vi.]

[Footnote 537: Id.]

[Footnote 538: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 14.]

[Footnote 539: _Answer to Dr. Trapp_, 244.]

[Footnote 540: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 98.]

[Footnote 541: The special reference to Dr. Joseph Trapp's 'Four Sermons
on the Folly, Sin, and Danger of being Righteous overmuch; with a
particular view to the Doctrines and Practices of Modern Enthusiasts,'
1739. The work had an extensive sale. S. Johnson's _Works_ (R. Lynam),
v. 497. It should be added that, from their own point of view, the
sermons contain much sound sense and are by no means deficient in
religious feeling.]

[Footnote 542: _Appeal_, &c., 278.]

[Footnote 543: _Appeal_, &c., 279.]

[Footnote 544: Id. 280.]

[Footnote 545: Id. 282.]

[Footnote 546: Id. 275.]

[Footnote 547: Id. 282.]

[Footnote 548: Id. 4.]

[Footnote 549: _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. i. 56-8.]

[Footnote 550: _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. i. 67.]

[Footnote 551: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 78, and 31. _Appeal_, &c., 5.]

[Footnote 552: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 14.]

[Footnote 553: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 15.]

[Footnote 554: One of the passages on the title-page of Tindal's
_Christianity as Old as the Creation_, was the following sentence from
the _Retractations_ of St. Augustine: 'The thing which is now called the
Christian Religion was also among the ancients, nor was it wanting from
the beginning of the human race, until Christ came in the flesh, when
the true religion that then was began to be called Christian.'--Quoted
in Hunt's _Religious Thought in England_, ii. 434.]

[Footnote 555: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 124, vol. viii.]

[Footnote 556: _Appeal_, &c., 199-200. _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. ii. 159.]

[Footnote 557: Wesley's 'Letter to W. Law.'--_Works_, ix. 488--. Also
Warburton on Middleton; and 'Doctrine of Grace,' part iii.--_Works_,
vol. iv.]

[Footnote 558: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 10. _Appeal_, &c., 325.]

[Footnote 559: Mandeville's _Fable of the Bees_, 1714, l. 425.]

[Footnote 560: Mandeville's _Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue_,
p. 12.]

[Footnote 561: W. Law's _Answer to Mandeville_, 27.]

[Footnote 562: F.D. Maurice's Preface to Id.]

[Footnote 563: R.A. Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, ii. 246.]

[Footnote 564: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 87.]

[Footnote 565: _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. i. 58. Also, Id. 39, _Way to
Divine Knowledge_, 96.]

[Footnote 566: W. Law's _Letters_, in R. Tighe's _Life of Law_, 72.]

[Footnote 567: _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. ii. 127]

[Footnote 568: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 161.]

[Footnote 569: _Appeal to all that Doubt_, 88.]

[Footnote 570: _Way to Divine Knowledge_, 65.]

[Footnote 571: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 140.]

[Footnote 572: _Letters_, in Tighe, 73; and _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii.

[Footnote 573: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 80.]

[Footnote 574: Id. 112-9.]

[Footnote 575: _Appeal_, &c., 301-13.]

[Footnote 576: _Spirit of Love_, pt. ii. 46. _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. i.

[Footnote 577: _Answer to Dr. Trapp_, 87.]

[Footnote 578: _Appeal_, &c., 310-3.]

[Footnote 579: _Spirit of Prayer_, pt. ii. 202.]

[Footnote 580: Id.]

[Footnote 581: G. Macdonald's _England's Antiphon_, 288.]

[Footnote 582: Chalmers' _English Poets_, xv. 269. _Thoughts on Human

[Footnote 583: M.J. Matter, _Histoire de Christianisme_, vol. iv. 347.
H.J. Rose, _Protestantism in Germany_, 46-9. Dorner's _History of
Protestant Theology_, ii. 217-227.]

[Footnote 584: Matter, _Histoire_, &c., 348.]

[Footnote 585: Lavington's _Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists_, 1747,
§ 14.]

[Footnote 586: Id. 20.]

[Footnote 587: Schleiermacher, in a Letter to his Sister, 1805; F.
Rowan's _Life of Schleiermacher_, ii. 23.]

[Footnote 588: Whiston's _Life_, by Himself, 576.]

[Footnote 589: Hatton's _Memoirs_, p. 216, quoted in L. Tyerman's 'Life
of J. Gambold,' in his _Oxford Methodists_, 188. Archbishop Potter, in
1737, wrote a Latin letter to Zinzendorf, full of sympathy and interest.
It is given in Doddridge's _Correspondence_, v. 264.]

[Footnote 590: Mosheim's _Ecclesiastical History_, 1758, vol. v. 86.
Doddridge's _Correspondence_, v. 271, note. Remarks on Stinstra's
'Letters,' in J. Hughes' _Correspondence_, 1772, ii. 204-5.]

[Footnote 591: Tyerman, _Oxford Methodists_, 197.]

[Footnote 592: Warburton's 'Doctrine of Grace,' chap. vi.--_Works_,
1788, 4, 626.]

[Footnote 593: Wesley's _Journal_. Quoted in _Wesley's Life_, Religious
Tract Society, 34.]

[Footnote 594: 'Life of Gambold,' in L. Tyerman's _Oxford Methodists_,

[Footnote 595: _Second Journal_, p. 26-7. (Quoted by Lavington, § 21);
and _Works_, ed. x. 438.]

[Footnote 596: 'Remarks on Mr. Hill's Review,' &c.--_Works_, x. 438.]

[Footnote 597: 'Answer to Lavington.'--_Works_, ix. 49.]

[Footnote 598: 'Letter to Mr. Law.'--_Works_, ix. 466-509.]

[Footnote 599: I. Taylor, _Wesley and Methodism_, 33.]

[Footnote 600: 'Short View,' &c.--_Works_, x. 201. 'My soul,' he wrote
in one of his journals, 'is sick of their _sublime_ divinity.' Quoted in
H. Curteis, _Dissent in Relation to the Church of England_, 366.]

[Footnote 601: Stanley instances, in addition to Wesley, Athanasius,
Augustine, Luther, and Baxter.--_Speech at Edinburgh_, January 2, 1872.]

[Footnote 602: S. Winkworth's _Tauler's Life and Times_, 86.]

[Footnote 603: Id.; also a review of F. Pfeiffer's 2nd vol. of _Deutsche
Mystiker_ (Meister Eckhart) in _Saturday Review_, January 9, 1858, and
_British Quarterly_, October 1874, 300-5.]

[Footnote 604: M.J. Matter's _Histoire du Christianisme_, 4, 343.]

[Footnote 605: _Works of George, Lord Lyttelton_, 239.]

[Footnote 606: Id. 271.]

[Footnote 607: _Enthusiasm of Romanists and Methodists Compared_,

[Footnote 608: Polwhele's _Introduction to Lavington_, clxxx.]

[Footnote 609: Lavington's _Enthusiasm_, &c., § 2.]

[Footnote 610: G. Grote's _History of Greece_, chap. xxxvii. There is a
full and interesting account of the Pythagorean revival in Dr. F.
Schwartz's _Geschichte der Erziehung_, 1829, 301-21.]

[Footnote 611: H.H. Milman. _Early History of Christianity_, 1840, ii.

[Footnote 612: H.H. Milman, _Lat. Christianity_, 1857, iii. 270, vi.
263, 287; R.A. Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, i. 49, 152.]

[Footnote 613: Milman's _Lat. Christianity_, vi. 371-80; Winkworth's
_Life and Times of Tauler_, 186.]

[Footnote 614: M.J. Matter's _Histoire du Christianisme_, 4, 347; H.T.
Rose, _Protestantism in Germany_, 50.]

[Footnote 615: C. Leslie's _Works_, 'The Snake in the Grass,' and
'Defence, &c.' Id. vols. iv. and v. passim; R.A. Vaughan's _Hours with
the Mystics_, ii. 255-60. Barclay's _Apology_, 339.]

[Footnote 616: N. Spinckes, _New Pretenders to Prophecy_, 1709, 402,

[Footnote 617: Vaughan, ii. 165-208.]

[Footnote 618: Winkworth's _Life of Tauler_, 172.]

[Footnote 619: J. Wesley, 'Letter to the Bishop of
Gloucester.'--_Works_, ix. 137, 142.]

[Footnote 620: Wesley's _Journal_, quoted by Lavington, _Enthusiasm_,
&c., 271.]

[Footnote 621: _Works_, ix. 121; and _Journal_, 1738-43, quoted by
Warburton, 'Doctrine of Grace.'--_Works_, iv. 605-75.]

[Footnote 622: _Works_, ix. 143.]

[Footnote 623: Barclay's _Apology_, 339. Cf. Wesley's 'Letter to W.
Downes,' 1759. _Works_, ix. 104-5.]

[Footnote 624: Wesley's _Plain Account of the People called the
Methodists_, 6th ed. 1764, 4.]

[Footnote 625: 'Predestination calmly considered,' 1745.--_Works_, x.

[Footnote 626: Behmen, _Three Principles_, chap. xxvi.]

[Footnote 627: 'Answer to Lavington.'--_Works_, ix. 50; 'Letter to Mr.
Law,' id. 505.]

[Footnote 628: Winkworth's _Life, &c., of Tauler_, 96]

[Footnote 629: Tauler, 'Sermon for Third Sunday after Epiphany,' id.

[Footnote 630: Id. 86, 137-8.]

[Footnote 631: H. More's note to § 44 of _Enthus. Triumphatus_.]

[Footnote 632: C. Leslie, _Works_, iv. 5-8; Lavington, 346.]

[Footnote 633: Mosheim's _Ecclesiastical History_, 1758, v. 86 (note);
Tyerman, _Oxford Methodists_, 194; Wesley, continually; &c.]

[Footnote 634: A. Gilchrist's _Life of W. Blake_, 331.]

[Footnote 635: Warburton called him and his followers 'our new
Cabalists.'--Letter to Doddridge, May 27, 1758.]

[Footnote 636: A full statement of Hutchinson's views may be found in
the _Works of G. Horne_, by W. Jones (of Nayland), Pref. xix-xxiii,
20-23, &c. His own views were visionary and extreme. Natural religion,
for example, he called 'the religion of Satan and of Antichrist' (id.
xix). But he had many admirers, including many young men of promise at
Oxford (id. 81). They were attracted by the earnestness of his
opposition to some theological tendencies of the age. It was to this
reactionary feeling that his repute was chiefly owing. 'Of Mr.
Hutchinson we hear but little; his name was the match that gave fire to
the train' (id. 92).]

[Footnote 637: Berkeley to Johnson, July 25, 1751.--_G. Berkeley's Life
and Works_, ed. A.C. Fraser, iv. 326.]

[Footnote 638: Warburton and Hurd's _Correspondence_, Letter xx.]

[Footnote 639: Alg. C. Swinburne, _W. Blake: a Critical Essay_, 41.]

[Footnote 640: A. Gilchrist's _Life of W. Blake_, i. 303.

It was not only that Wordsworth was at one with Blake in his intense
feeling of the mysterious loveliness of nature. There is also an
occasional vein of mysticism in his poetry. Thus it is observed in Ch.
Wordsworth's _Memoirs of his Life_ (p. 111), that his _Expostulation and
Reply_ (1798) was a favourite with the Quakers. It is the poem in which
these verses occur:--

    'Nor less I deem that there are powers
      Which of themselves our minds impress;
    That we can feed these minds of ours
      In a wise passiveness.
    Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum
      Of things for ever speaking,
    That nothing of itself will come,
      But we must still be seeking?'--_Poems_, iv. 180.]

[Footnote 641: Gilchrist, i. 311.]

[Footnote 642: Id. 190-1.]

[Footnote 643: Swinburne, 274.]

[Footnote 644: Gilchrist, 321.]

[Footnote 645: R. Graves's _Works_, 'The Apostles not Enthusiasts,' i.

[Footnote 646: Id., _Memoirs_, i. lvi.]

[Footnote 647: S.T. Coleridge's _Poetical Works_, 'Religious Musings,'
i. 83-4.]

       *       *       *       *       *



Never since her Reformation had the Church of England given so fair a
promise of a useful and prosperous career as she did at the beginning of
the eighteenth century. Everything seemed to be in her favour. In 1702 a
sovereign ascended the throne who was enthusiastically devoted to her
interests, and endeavoured to live according to the spirit of her
teaching. The two great political parties were both bidding for her
support. Each accused the other of being her enemy, as the worst
accusation that could be brought against them. The most effective cry
which the Whigs could raise against the Tories was, that they were
imperilling the Church by dallying with France and Rome; the most
effective cry which the Tories could raise against the Whigs was, that
the Church was in danger under an administration which favoured
sectaries and heretics. Both parties vehemently denied the charge, and
represented themselves as the truest friends of the Church. Had they
done otherwise they would have forfeited at once the national
confidence. For the nation at large, and the lower classes even more
than the higher, were vehement partisans of the National Church. The now
unusual spectacle of a High Church mob was then not at all unusual.[648]
The enemies of the Church seemed to be effectually silenced. Rome had
tried her strength against her and had failed--failed in argument and
failed in policy. Protestant Dissent was declining in numbers, in
influence, and in ability. Both Romanists and Nonconformists would have
been only too thankful to have been allowed to enjoy their own opinions
in peace, without attempting any aggressive work against the dominant

Sad indeed is the contrast between the promise and the performance. Look
at the Church of the eighteenth century in prospect, and a bright scene
of uninterrupted triumph might be anticipated. Look at it in retrospect,
as it is pictured by many writers of every school of thought, and a dark
scene of melancholy failure presents itself. Not that this latter view
is altogether a correct one. Many as were the shortcomings of the
English Church of this period, her condition was not so bad as it has
been represented.

In the early part of the century the Nonjurors not unnaturally regarded
with a somewhat jealous eye those who stepped into the places from which
they for conscience' sake had been excluded, and the accounts which they
have left us of the abuses existing in the Church which had turned them
adrift must not be accepted without some allowance for the circumstances
under which they were written. The Deists, again, taking their stand on
the absolute perfection and sufficiency of natural religion, and the
consequent needlessness of any further revelation, would obviously
strengthen their position if they could show that the ministers of
Christianity were, as a matter of fact, faithless and useless. Hence the
Church and her ministers were favourite topics for their invectives. The
reputation of the Church suffered, perhaps, still more from the attacks
of the free-livers than from those of the free-thinkers. The strictures
of the latter formed part of the great Deistical controversy, and were
therefore replied to by the champions of orthodoxy; but the reckless
aspersions of the former, not being bound up with any controversy, were
for the most part suffered to pass unchallenged. Then, again, the
leaders of the Evangelical revival, who were misunderstood, and in many
cases cruelly treated, by the clergy of their day, could scarcely help
taking the gloomiest possible view of the state of the Church at large,
and were hardly in a position to appreciate the really good points of
men who were violently prejudiced against themselves; while their
biographers in later times have been too apt to bring out in stronger
relief the brightness of their heroes' portraits by making the
background as dark as possible.

Thus various causes have contributed to bring into prominence the abuses
of the Church of the eighteenth century, and to throw its merits into
the shade.

Still, after making full allowance for the distorting influence of
prejudice on many sides, there remains a wide margin which no amount of
prejudice can account for. 'Church abuses' must still form a painfully
conspicuous feature in any sketch of the ecclesiastical history of the

Before entering into the details of these abuses it will be well to
specify some of the general causes which tended to paralyse the energies
and lower the tone of the Church.

Foremost among these must be placed that very outward prosperity which
would seem at the first glance to augur for the Church a useful and
prosperous career. But that 'which should have been for her wealth'
proved to her 'an occasion of falling.' The peace which she enjoyed made
her careless and inactive. The absence of the wholesome stimulus of
competition was far from being an unmixed advantage to her. Very soon
after the accession of George I., when the voice of Convocation was
hushed, a dead calm set in, so far as the internal affairs of the
Church were concerned--a calm which was really more perilous to her than
the stormy weather in which she had long been sailing. The discussion of
great questions has always a tendency to call forth latent greatness of
mind where any exists. But after the second decade of the eighteenth
century there was hardly any question _within_ the Church to agitate
men's minds. There was abundance of controversy with those without, but
within all was still. There was nothing to encourage self-sacrifice, and
self-sacrifice is essential to promote a healthy spiritual life. The
Church partook of the general sordidness of the age; it was an age of
great material prosperity, but of moral and spiritual poverty, such as
hardly finds a parallel in our history. Mercenary motives were too
predominant everywhere, in the Church as well as in the State.

The characteristic fault of the period was greatly intensified by the
influence of one man. The reigns of the first two Georges might not
inaptly be termed the Walpolian period. For though Walpole's fall took
place before the period closed, yet the principles he had inculcated and
acted upon had taken too deep a root in the heart of the nation to fall
with his fall. Walpole had learned the wisdom of applying his favourite
maxim, '_Quieta non movere_,' to the affairs of the Church before he
began to apply it to those of the State. 'In 1710,' writes his
biographer, 'Walpole was appointed one of the managers for the
impeachment of Sacheverell, and principally conducted that business in
the House of Commons. The mischievous consequences of that trial had a
permanent effect on the future conduct of Walpole when head of the
Administration. It infused into him an aversion and horror at any
interposition in the affairs of the Church, and led him to assume
occasionally a line of conduct which appeared to militate against those
principles of toleration to which he was naturally inclined.'[649] And
so his one idea of managing ecclesiastical affairs was to keep things
quiet; he calmed down all opposition to the Church from without, but he
conferred a very questionable benefit upon her by this policy.[650]

We have seen in the chapter on the Deists how the Church suffered in
her practical work from the controversies of her own generation; and no
less did she suffer from the effects left by the controversies of a
preceding age. The events which had occurred during the seventeenth
century had tended to excite an almost morbid dread of extravagance both
in the direction of High Church and Low Church principles--according to
the nineteenth, not the eighteenth, century's acceptation of those
terms. The majority of the clergy shrank, not unnaturally, from anything
which might seem in any degree to assimilate them either to Romanism or
to Puritanism. Recent experience had shown the danger of both. The
violent reaction against the reign of the Saints continued with more or
less force almost to the end of the eighteenth century. The fear of
Romanism, which had been brought so near home to the nation in the days
of James II., was even yet a present danger, at least during the first
half of the century. In casting away everything that seemed to savour of
either of these two extremes there was a danger of casting away also
much that might have been edifying and elevating. On the one hand,
ornate and frequent services and symbolism of all kinds were regarded
with suspicion, and consequently infrequent services, and especially
infrequent communions, carelessness about the Church fabrics, and bad
taste in the work that was done, are conspicuous among the Church abuses
of the period. On the other side, fervency and vigour in preaching were
regarded with suspicion as bordering too nearly upon the habits of the
hated Puritans of the Commonwealth, and a dry, dull, moralising style of
sermon was the result. And, generally, this fear on both sides
engendered a certain timidity and obstructiveness and want of elasticity
which prevented the Church from incorporating into her system anything
which seemed to diverge one hair's breadth from the groove in which she

Again, the Church was an immense engine of political power. The most
able and popular statesmen could not afford to dispense with her aid.
The bench of bishops formed so compact a phalanx in the Upper House of
the Legislature, and the clergy could and did influence so many
elections into the Lower House, that the Church had necessarily to be
courted and favoured, often to the great detriment of her spiritual

Nor, in touching upon the general causes which impaired the efficiency
of the Church during the eighteenth century, must we omit to notice the
want of all synodal action. There may be different opinions as to the
wisdom or otherwise of the indefinite prorogation of Convocation, as it
existed in the early years of the eighteenth century. That it was the
scene of unseemly disputes, and altogether a turbulent element in the
Constitution, when the Ministry of George I. thought good to prorogue it
_sine die_ in 1717, is not denied; but that the Church should be
deprived of the privilege, which every other religious body enjoyed, of
discussing in her own assembly her own affairs, was surely in itself an
evil. And we must not too hastily assume that she was not then in a
condition to discuss them profitably. The proceedings of the later
meetings of Convocation in the eighteenth century which are best known
are those which concerned subjects of violent altercation. But these
were by no means the only subjects suggested for discussion.[651] The
re-establishing and rendering useful the office of rural deans, the
regulating of marriage licences, the encouragement of charity schools,
the establishment of parochial libraries, the licentiousness of the
stage, protests against duelling, the want of sufficient church
accommodation, the work of Christian missions both to the heathen and
our own plantations--these and other thoroughly practical questions are
found among the agenda of Convocation during the eighteenth century; and
the mention of them suggests some of the very shortcomings with which
the Church of the Hanoverian period is charged.

The causes which led to the unhappy disputes between the Upper and Lower
Houses were obviously only temporary; it is surely not chimerical to
assume that time and a change of circumstances would have brought about
a better understanding between the bishops and the inferior clergy, and
that Convocation would have seen better days, and have been instrumental
in rolling away some at least of the reproaches with which the Church of
the day is now loaded.[652] To the action of Convocation in the early
part of the eighteenth century the Church was indebted for at least one
good work. The building and endowment of the fifty new churches in
London would probably never have been projected had not Convocation
stirred itself in the matter, and would probably have never been
abandoned if Convocation had continued to meet.[653] There was ample
room for similar work, of which every good Christian of every school of
thought might have approved. And there were many occasions on which it
would appear, _primâ facie_, that synodal deliberation might have
proved of immense benefit to the Church. For instance, on that very
important, but at the time most perplexing, question, 'How should the
Church deal with the irregular but most valuable efforts of the Wesleys
and Whitefield and their fellow-labourers?' it would have been most
desirable for the clergy to have taken counsel together in their own
proper assembly. As it was, the bishops had to deal with this new phase
of spiritual life entirely on their own responsibility. They had no
opportunity of consulting with their brethren on the bench, or even with
the clergy in their dioceses; for not only was the voice of Convocation
hushed, but diocesan synods and ruridecanal chapters had also fallen
into abeyance. The want of such consultation is conspicuous in the doubt
and perplexity which evidently distracted the minds both of the bishops
and many of the clergy when they had to face the earlier phenomena of
the Methodist movement.

It will thus be seen that there were many general causes at work which
tended to debase the Church during the period which comes under our
consideration. No doubt some that have been mentioned were symptoms as
well as causes of the disease; but, in so far as they were causes, they
must be fully taken into account before we condemn indiscriminately the
clergy whose lot it was to live in an age when circumstances were so
little conducive to the development of the higher spiritual life, or to
the carrying out of the Church's proper mission to the nation. It is
extremely difficult for any man to rise above the spirit of his age. He
who can do so is a spiritual hero. But it is not given to everyone to
reach the heroic standard; and it surely does not follow that because a
man cannot be a hero he must therefore be a bad man.

Bearing these cautions in mind, we may now proceed to consider some of
the more flagrant abuses, the existence of which has affixed a stigma,
not altogether undeserved, upon the English Church of the eighteenth

One of the worst of these abuses--worst both in itself and also as the
fruitful source of many others--was the glaring evil of pluralities and
non-residence, an evil which was inherited from an earlier generation.
It is perfectly astonishing to observe the lax views which even really
good men seem to have held on this subject in the middle part of the
century. Bishop Newton, the amiable and learned author of the
'Dissertation on the Prophecies,' mentions it as an act of almost
Quixotic disinterestedness that 'when he obtained the deanery of St.
Paul's (that is, in addition to his bishopric) he resigned his living in
the City, having held it for twenty-five years.' In another passage he
plaintively enumerates the various preferments he had to resign on
taking the bishopric of Bristol. 'He was obliged to give up the prebend
of Westminster, the precentorship of York, the lectureship of St.
George's, Hanover Square, and the genteel office of sub-almoner.' On
another occasion we find him conjuring his friend Bishop Pearce, of
Rochester, not to resign the deanery of Westminster. 'He offered and
urged all the arguments he could to dissuade the Bishop from his purpose
of separating the two preferments, which had been united for near a
century, and lay so convenient to each other that neither of them would
be of the same value without the other; and if once separated they might
perhaps never be united again, and his successors would have reason to
reproach and condemn his memory.' In another passage he complains of the
diocese of Lincoln being 'so very large and laborious, so very extensive
and expensive;' but the moral he draws is not that it should be
subdivided, so that its bishop might be able to perform his duties, but
'that it really requires and deserves a good commendam to support it
with any dignity.'

Herring held the deanery of Rochester in commendam with the bishopric of
Bangor. Wilcocks was Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster, and
was succeeded both in the deanery and the bishopric by Zachary Pearce.
Hoadly held the see of Bangor for six years, apparently without ever
seeing the diocese in his life. Even the excellent Dr. Porteus (one of
the most pious, liberal, and unselfish of men) thought it no sin to hold
a country living in conjunction with the bishopric of Chester. He
actually had permission to retain the important living of Lambeth as
well; but 'he thought,' says his biographer with conscious pride, 'with
so many additional cares he should not be able to attend to so large a
benefice, at least to the satisfaction of his own mind, and therefore
hesitated not a moment in giving it up into other hands.'[654] Bishop
Watson, of Llandaff, gives a most artless account of his non-residence.
'Having,' he tells us, 'no place of residence in my diocese, I turned my
attention to the improvement of land. I thought the improvement of a
man's fortune by cultivating the earth was the most useful and
honourable way of providing for a family. I have now been several years
occupied as an improver of land and planter of trees.'[655] The same
bishop gives us a most extraordinary description of the sources from
whence his clerical income was derived. 'The provision of 2,000_l._, a
year,' he says, 'which I possess from the Church arises from the tithes
of two churches in Shropshire, two in Leicestershire, two in my diocese,
three in Huntingdonshire, on all of which I have resident curates; of
five more appropriations to the bishopric, and two more in the Isle of
Ely as appropriations to the archdeaconry of Ely.[656]

Pluralities and non-residence being thus so common among the very men
whose special duty it was to prevent them, one can hardly wonder that
the evil prevailed to a sad extent among the lower clergy.

Archbishop Secker, in his charge to the diocese of Canterbury in 1758,
complains of 'the non-resident clergyman, who reckons it enough that,
for aught he knows to the contrary, his parishioners go on like their
neighbours,' and attributes to this, among other causes, 'the rise of a
new sect, pretending to the strictest piety.' It seems, however, to have
been taken for granted that the evil practice must be recognised to a
certain extent. Thus Paley, in his charge in 1785, recommends 'the
clergy who cannot talk to their parishioners, and non-resident
incumbents, to distribute the tracts of the Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge;'[657] and even so late as 1796 Bishop Horsley
admits that 'many non-residents are promoting the general cause of
Christianity, and perhaps doing better service than if they confined
themselves to the ordinary labours of the ministry.' He thinks it would
be 'no less impolitic than harsh to call such to residence,' and adds
that 'other considerations make non-residence a thing to be connived

The collateral evils which would necessarily result from the scandals we
are noticing are obvious. When the incumbent of a parish was
non-resident, and more especially when, as was not unfrequently the
case, there was not even a resident curate, it was impossible that the
duties of the parish could be properly attended to. Evidences of this
are only too plentiful. But, instead of quoting dreary details to prove
a point which has been generally admitted, it will be sufficient in this
place to refer to some passages in the charges of a worthy prelate which
throw a curious light upon what such a one could reasonably look for in
his clergy in the middle of the eighteenth century. In his charge to the
diocese of Oxford, in 1741, Bishop Secker recommends the duty of
catechising; but he feels that his recommendation cannot in many cases
be carried out. 'I am sensible,' he adds, 'that some clergymen are
unhappily obliged to serve two churches the same afternoon.' We gather
from the same charge a sad idea of the infrequency of the celebration of
the Holy Communion. 'One thing,' the Bishop modestly suggests, 'might be
done in all your parishes: a Sacrament might easily be interposed in
that long interval between Whitsuntide and Christmas. If afterwards you
can advance from a quarterly Communion to a monthly, I have no doubt you
will.' In the same charge he reminds the clergy that 'our liturgy
consists of evening as well as morning prayer, and no inconvenience can
arise from attending it, provided persons are within tolerable distance
of church. Few have business at that time of day, and amusement ought
never to be preferred on the Lord's day before religion; not to say that
there is room for both.'[659] When it is remembered that the state of
things described in the above remarks existed in the great University
diocese, which was presumably in advance rather than behind the age, and
that, moreover, the clergy were presided over by a man who was
thoroughly earnest and conscientious, and yet that he can only hint in
the most delicate way at improvements which, as the tone of his
exhortation evidently shows, he hardly hoped would be carried out, it
may be imagined what was the condition of parishes in less favoured and
more remote dioceses.

Another evil, which was greatly aggravated by the multiplication of
benefices in a single hand, was clerical poverty. There was in the last
century a far wider gap between the different classes of the clergy than
there is at the present day. While the most eminent or most fortunate
among them could take their places on a stand of perfect equality with
the highest nobles in the land, the bulk of the country curates and
poorer incumbents hardly rose above the rank of the small farmer. A much
larger proportion than now lived and died without the slightest prospect
of rising above the position of a stipendiary curate; and the regular
stipend of a curate was 30_l._ a year. When Collins complained of the
expense of maintaining so large a body of clergy, Bentley replied that
'the Parliamentary accounts showed that six thousand of the clergy had,
at a middle rate, not 50_l._ a year;' and he then added that argument
which was subsequently used with so much effect by Sydney Smith--viz.
that 'talent is attracted into the Church by a few great prizes.'[660]
Some years later, when Lord Shelburne asked Bishop Watson 'if nothing
could be gotten from the Church towards alleviating the burdens of the
State,' the Bishop replied that the whole revenue of the Church would
not yield 150_l._ a year to each clergyman, and therefore a diminution
would be inexpedient unless Government would be contented to have a
beggarly and illiterate clergy, which no wise minister would wish.'[661]
He might have added that, even as it was, a great number of the clergy,
if not 'beggarly and illiterate,' were either weighed down with the
pressure of poverty, or, to escape it, were obliged to have recourse to
occupations which were more fit for illiterate men. Dr. Primrose, in his
adversity, and Parson Adams are specimens of the better type of this
class of clergy, and it is to be feared that Parson Trulliber is not a
very unfair specimen of the worst. There is an odd illustration of the
immeasurable distance which was supposed to separate the bishop from the
curate in Cradock's 'Reminiscences.' Bishop Warburton was to preach in
St. Lawrence's Church in behalf of the London Hospital. 'I was,' writes
Cradock, 'introduced into the vestry by a friend, where the Lord Mayor
and others were waiting for the Duke of York, who was their president;
and in the meantime the bishop did everything in his power to entertain
and alleviate their patience. He was beyond measure condescending and
courteous, and even graciously handed some biscuits and wine in a salver
to the curate who was to read prayers!'[662]

So far as one can judge, this wide gulf which divided the higher from
the lower clergy was by no means always a fair measure of their
respective merits. The readers of 'Joseph Andrews' will remember that
Parson Adams is represented not only as a pious and estimable clergyman,
but also as a scholar and a divine. And there were not wanting in real
life unbeneficed clergymen who, in point of abilities and erudition,
might have held their own with the learned prelates of the period.
Thomas Stackhouse, the curate of Finchley, is a remarkable case in
point. His 'Compleat Body of Divinity,' and, still more, his 'History of
the Bible,' published in 1733, are worthy to stand on the same shelf
with the best writings of the bishops in an age when the Bench was
extraordinarily fertile in learning and intellectual activity. John
Newton wrote most of his works in a country curacy. Romaine, whose
learning and abilities none can doubt, was fifty years old before he was
beneficed. Seed, a preacher and writer of note, was a curate for the
greater part of his life. It must be added, however, that as the
eighteenth century advanced, a very decided improvement took place in
the circumstances of the bulk of the clergy--an improvement which would
have been still more extensive but for the prevalence of pluralities.

Unhappily, among the evils resulting from the multiplication of a needy
clergy, which may be in part attributed to the undue accumulation of
Church property in a few hands, mere penury was not the worst. Some
clergy struggled manfully and honestly against its pressure, but others
fell into disreputable courses. These latter are not, of course, to be
regarded as representative men of any class in the Church. They were
simply the Pariahs of ecclesiastical society; the black sheep which will
be found, in one form or another, in every age of the Church. But owing
to the causes noted above, they formed an exceptionally large class at
the close of the seventeenth and during the first half at least of the
eighteenth century.

Some belonging to this class of clergy supported themselves as
hangers-on to the families of the great. Domestic chaplains in great
houses became less common as the century advanced. The admirable hits of
Addison and Steele against the indignities to which domestic chaplains
were subjected are more applicable to the early than to the latter part
of the century. Boswell adduced it as an instance that 'there was less
religion in the nation than formerly,' that 'there used to be a chaplain
in every great family, which we do not find now;' and was well answered
by Dr. Johnson, 'Neither do you find any of the state servants in great
families. There is a change in customs.' The change, however, was not
wholly to the advantage of the Church. Bad as was the relation between
the chaplain and his patron, where the former was degraded to an
inferior position in the household, there was still some sort of
spiritual tie between them.[663] The parson who was simply the boon
companion of the ignorant and sensual squire of the Hanoverian period
was in a still worse position. This class of clergyman is a constant
subject of satire in the lighter literature and caricatures of the day.
Not that they were so numerous or so bad as they are often represented
to have been. There was a strong and growing tendency in the Georgian
era to make the very worst of clerical delinquencies. For it is a
curious fact that while the Church as an establishment was most popular,
her ministers were most unpopular. Secker complained, not without
reason, in 1738, that 'Christianity is now railed at and ridiculed with
very little reserve, and the teachers of it without any at all. Against
us our adversaries appear to have set themselves to be as bitter as they
can--not only beyond all truth, but beyond probability--exaggerating
without mercy,' &c.[664] And nearly thirty years later he still makes
the same complaint. 'You cannot but see,' he warns candidates for Holy
Orders, 'in what a profane and corrupt age this stewardship is committed
to you; how grievously religion and its ministers are hated and
despised.'[665] 'Since the Lollards,' writes Mr. Pattison, 'there had
never been a time when the ministers of religion were held in so much
contempt as in the Hanoverian period, or when satire upon Churchmen was
so congenial to the general feeling. There was no feeling against the
Establishment, nor was Nonconformity ever less in favour. The contempt
was for the persons, manners, and characters of ecclesiastics.'[666]
This unpopularity arose from a complication of causes which need not be
investigated in this place; it is sufficient to notice the fact, which
should be thoroughly borne in mind in estimating the value to be
attached to contemporary complaints of clerical misdoings. The evils
resulting from pluralities and non-residence would have been mischievous
under any circumstances; but their mischief was still further enhanced
by the false principles upon which ecclesiastical patronage was too
often distributed. Statesmen who valued religion chiefly as a State
engine had an eye merely to political ends in the distribution of Church
preferment. This is of course a danger to which an Established Church is
peculiarly liable at all times; but the critical circumstances of the
eighteenth century rendered the temptation of using the Church simply
for State purposes especially strong. The memorable results of the
Sacheverell impeachment, which contributed so largely to bring about the
downfall of the Whig Ministry in 1710, showed how dangerous it was for
statesmen to set themselves against the strong feeling of the majority
of the clergy. The lifelong effects which this famous trial produced
upon Sir R. Walpole have already been noticed. Both he and his timid
successor prided themselves upon being friends of the Church, and
expected the Church to be friends to them in return. Neither of them
made any secret of the fact that they regarded Church preferment as a
useful means of strengthening their own power. Nor were these isolated
cases. 'Lord Hardwicke' (his biographer tells us) 'thought it his duty
to dispose of the ecclesiastical preferments in his gift [as Chancellor]
with a view to increase his own political influence, without any
scrupulous regard for the interests of religion, and without the
slightest respect for scientific or literary merit.'[667] Lord Shelburne
gave the bishopric of Llandaff to Dr. Watson, 'hoping,' the Bishop tells
us, 'I was a warm, and might become a useful partisan; and he told the
Duke of Grafton he hoped I might occasionally write a pamphlet for their
administration.'[668] Warburton complains with characteristic roughness
of 'the Church being bestrid by some lumpish minister.'[669] Even Dr.
Johnson, that stout defender of the Established Church, and of
everything connected with the administration of its affairs, was obliged
to own that 'no man can now be made a bishop for his learning and piety;
his only chance of promotion is his being connected with some one who
has parliamentary interest.'[670] He seems, however, to think the system
inevitable and justifiable, owing to the weakness of the Government, for
he prefaces his admission by remarking that 'all that Government, which
has now too little power, has to bestow, must be given to support
itself; it cannot reward merit.' Mr. Grenville's well-known remark to
Bishop Newton,[671] that he considered bishoprics of two sorts, either
as bishoprics of business or bishoprics of ease, is another instance of
the low views which statesmen took, and were not ashamed to avow, of
their responsibilities as dispensers of Church preferment.

Such a system naturally tended to foster a false estimate of their
duties on the part of those who were promoted. If the dispenser of
Church preferment was too apt to regard merely political ends, the
recipient or expectant was on his part too often ready to play the
courtier or to become the mere political partisan. Whiston complains
that 'the bishops of his day were too well known to be tools of the
Court to merit better bishoprics by voting as directed.'[672] Warburton
owns that 'the general body of the clergy have been and (he is afraid)
always will be very intent upon pushing their temporal fortunes.'[673]
Watson considered 'the acquisition of a bishopric as no proof of
personal merit, inasmuch as they are often given to the flattering
dependants and unlearned younger branches of noble families.' Nay,
further, he considered 'the possession of a bishopric as a frequent
occasion of personal demerit.' 'For,' he writes, 'I saw the generality
of bishops bartering their independence and dignity of their order for
the chance of a translation, and polluting Gospel humility by the pride
of prelacy.'[674] Lord Campbell informs us that 'in spite of Lord
Thurlow's living openly with a mistress, his house was not only
frequented by his brother the bishop, but by ecclesiastics of all
degrees, who celebrated the orthodoxy of the head of the law and his
love of the Established Church.'[675] If one might trust two memoir
writers who had better opportunities of acquiring correct information
than almost any of their contemporaries, inasmuch as one was the son of
the all-powerful minister, and the other was the intimate friend and
confidential adviser of the chief dispenser of ecclesiastical patronage,
the sycophancy and worldliness of the clergy about the Court in the
middle of the eighteenth century must have been flagrant indeed. The
writers referred to are, of course, Horace Walpole and John, Lord
Hervey. Both of them, however, are so evidently actuated by a bitter
animus against the Church that their statements can by no means be
relied upon as authentic history.

Let us take another kind of evidence. Several of the Church dignitaries
of the eighteenth century have been obliging enough to leave
autobiographies to posterity, so that we can judge of their characters
as drawn, not by the prejudiced or imperfect information of others, but
by those who ought to know them best--themselves. One of the most
popular of these autobiographies is that of Bishop Newton. A great part
of his amusing memoirs is taken up with descriptions of the methods
which he and his friends adopted to secure preferment. There is very
little, if anything, in them of the duties and responsibilities of the
episcopal office. Where will they be most comfortable? What are their
chances of further preferment? How shall they best please the Court and
the ministers in office? These are the questions which Bishop Newton and
his brother prelates, to whom he makes frequent but never ill-natured
allusions, are represented as constantly asking in effect. Curious
indeed are the glimpses which the Bishop gives us into the system of
Church patronage and the race for preferment which were prevalent in his
day. But more curious still is the impression which the memoirs convey
that the writer himself had not the faintest conception that there was
anything in the least degree unseemly in what he relates. There appears
to be a sort of moral obtuseness in him in reference to these subjects,
but to these subjects only.[676] The memoir closes with a beautiful
expression of resignation to the Divine will, and of hopeful confidence
about the future, in which he was no doubt perfectly sincere. And yet he
openly avows a laxity of principle in the matter of preferment-seeking
and Court-subservience which taken by itself would argue a very worldly
mind. How are we to reconcile the apparent discrepancy? The most
charitable as well as the most reasonable explanation is that the good
Bishop's faults were simply the faults of his age and of his class. And
for this very reason the autobiography is all the more valuable as an
illustration of the subject before us. Bishop Newton is eminently a
representative man. His memoir contains evidently not the exceptional
sentiments of one who was either in advance of or behind his age, but
reflects a faithful picture of a general attitude of mind very prevalent
among Church dignitaries of that date.

Bishop Watson's 'Anecdotes of his own Life' furnish another curious
illustration of the sentiments of the age on the matter of Church
preferment. But the Bishop of Llandaff treats the matter from an
entirely different point of view from that of the Bishop of Bristol. The
latter was perfectly content with his own position, and with the
preferment before him of his brother clergy. 'He was rather pleased with
his little bishopric.' 'His income was amply sufficient, and scarce any
bishop had two more comfortable or convenient houses. Greater he might
have been, but he could not have been happier; and by the good blessing
of God was enabled to make a competent provision for those who were to
come after him, as well as to bestow something on charity.'[677] Bishop
Watson writes in a very different strain. His 'Anecdotes' are full of
the bitterest complaints of the neglect he had met with. He is
'abandoned by his friends, and proscribed the emoluments of his
profession.' He is 'exhibited to the world as a marked man fallen under
royal displeasure.' He appeals to posterity in the most pathetic terms.
'Reader!' he exclaims, 'when this meets your eye, the author of it will
be rotting in his grave, insensible alike to censure and to praise; but
he begs to be forgiven this apparently self-commendation. It has not
sprung from vanity, but from anxiety for his reputation, lest the
disfavour of a Court should by some be considered as an indication of
general disesteem or a proof of professional demerit.' And yet, by his
own confession, Bishop Watson had a clerical income from his bishopric
and professorship of divinity at Cambridge of 2,000_l._ a year; in
return for which, the work he did in either of these capacities was,
from his own showing, really next to nothing. In fact, in many respects
he seems to have been an exceptionally lucky man. He was appointed to
two professorships at Cambridge when by his own admission he was totally
unqualified for performing the duties of either. In 1764, when he was
only twenty-seven years of age, he 'was unanimously elected, by the
Senate assembled in full congregation, Professor of Chemistry.' 'At the
time this honour was conferred upon me,' he tells us with charming
frankness, 'I knew nothing at all of chemistry, had never read a
syllable on the subject, nor seen a single experiment in it; but I was
tired with mathematics and natural philosophy, and the _vehementissima
gloriæ cupido_ stimulated me to try my strength in a new pursuit, and
the kindness of the University (it was always kind to me) animated me to
very extraordinary exertions.' A few years later the University was
kinder still. At the early age of thirty-four he was appointed 'to the
first office for honour in the University, the Regius Professorship of
Divinity.' Then with the same delightful naïveté he tells us, 'On being
raised to this distinguished office I immediately applied myself with
great eagerness to the study of divinity.' One would have thought that
his theological studies should have commenced before he undertook the
duties of a divinity professorship. But, happily for him, his ideas of
what would qualify him to be a theologian were on the most limited
scale. 'I determined to study nothing but my Bible, being much
unconcerned about the opinions of councils, fathers, churches, bishops,
and other men as little inspired as myself.' If troublesome people
wanted to argue on theological questions with the Regius Professor of
Divinity, 'I never,' he tells us, 'troubled myself with answering their
arguments, but used on such occasions to say to them, holding the New
Testament in my hand, "_En sacrum codicem_."' This was a simple plan,
and it must be confessed, under the circumstances, a very convenient and
prudent one, but it scarcely justified the strong claims for preferment
which the Bishop constantly founded upon it, as if he had rendered an
almost priceless service to religion. The compendious method of
silencing a gainsayer or satisfying an anxious inquirer by flourishing a
New Testament in his face, and crying '_En sacrum codicem_,' seems
hardly likely to have been very effective. For the first few years of
his professorship he attended to its duties personally, after the
fashion that has been described; but for the greater part of the long
time during which he held that office he employed a deputy. When he was
appointed to the bishopric of Llandaff he found there was no residence
for him in his diocese, and he does not seem to have particularly cared
about having one. He was content with paying it an occasional visit at
very rare intervals, and settled himself in comfortable quarters 'in the
beautiful district on the banks of Winandermere.' Here he employed his
time 'not,' he proudly tells us, 'in field diversions and visiting. No!
it has been spent partly in supporting the religion and constitutions of
my country, by seasonable publications, and principally in building
farmhouses, blasting rocks, enclosing wastes, making bad land good,
planting larches, &c. By such occupations I have recovered my health,
preserved my independence, set an example of a spirited husbandry, and
honourably provided for my family.'

If we formed our estimate of Bishop Watson's character simply from such
samples as these, we might conclude that he was a covetous, unreasonably
discontented, and worldly-minded man. But this would be a very unfair
conclusion to arrive at. The Bishop gives us only one, and that the
weakest side of his character. He was most highly esteemed by some of
his contemporaries, whose good opinion was well worth having. Gibbon
pays him a very high compliment, calling him 'his most candid as well as
able antagonist.' Wilberforce wrote to him in 1800 saying that 'he hoped
ere now to be able to congratulate him on a change of situation which in
public justice ought to have taken place.' In 1797, Hayley wrote to him
(saying it was Lord Thurlow's expression), 'Your writings have done more
for Christianity than all the bench of bishops put together.'[678] Lord
Campden told Pitt that 'it was a shame for him and the Church that he
had not the most exalted station upon the Bench.' As in the case of
Bishop Newton, one can only reconcile these anomalies by bearing fully
in mind the low views which were commonly taken of clerical
responsibilities, and the general scramble for the emoluments of the
Church which was not thought unseemly in the eighteenth century.

One of the most characteristic specimens of the courtier prelate of the
eighteenth century on whom so much abuse has been somewhat unfairly
lavished both by contemporaries and by writers of our own time, who have
dwelt exclusively upon the weak side of their character, was Bishop
Hurd. Hurd is now chiefly known as the devoted friend--or rather the
'_fidus Achates_'--of Warburton. He was a man, however, who had a very
distinct individuality of his own, and may be regarded as a fair
representative of a type of bishop now extinct. He was distinguished as
a scholar, a divine, and a courtier. When, however, it is said that Hurd
was a courtier, it is not meant to imply that he was servile or in any
way unduly complaisant to the King or the Court. There is no evidence of
anything of the sort. Neither does he appear to have been, like some of
his contemporaries, unduly intent upon advancing his own selfish
interests. His preferments came apparently unsought, and he refused the
Primacy, although it was pressed upon him by the King on the death of
Archbishop Cornwallis in 1783. Although he rose from a comparatively
humble origin, 'his parents,' he tells us, 'were plain, honest, and good
people' (his father was, in fact, a farmer); he seems to have been
gifted by nature with great courtliness of manner, and with aristocratic
tastes. On his first introduction at Court he won by these graces the
heart of the King, who remarked that he thought him more naturally
polite than any man he had ever met with. Hurd subsequently became the
most trusted friend and constant adviser of George III. There is a very
touching letter extant, which the King wrote to Hurd in one of his great
sorrows, expressing most feelingly the value in which George held the
religious ministrations of his favourite bishop, and the high opinion he
had of his piety and worth. The mere fact that Hurd won the affectionate
respect--one might almost say veneration--of so good a Christian as King
George, furnishes a presumption that he must have been a man of some
merit; and there is nothing whatever in any of his writings, or in
anything we hear of his life, that should lead us to think otherwise.
Nevertheless, it was just such men as Hurd who tended to keep the Church
of the eighteenth century in its apathetic state. Hurd was a
religious-minded man; but his religion was characterised by a cold,
prim propriety which was not calculated to commend it to men at large.
Like his friend Warburton, he could see nothing but folly and fanatical
madness in the great evangelical revival which was going on around him,
and which he seems to have thought would soon be stamped out. He only
emerged from his stately seclusion on great occasions; but when he did
go forth, he was surrounded with all 'the pomp and circumstance' which
might impress beholders with a sense of his dignity. 'Hartlebury Church
is not above a quarter of a mile from Hartlebury Castle, and yet that
quarter of a mile Hurd always travelled in his episcopal coach, with his
servants in full-dress liveries; and when he used to go from Worcester
to Bristol Hot Wells, he never moved without a train of twelve
servants.' Hurd has left us a very short memoir of his own life; but
short as the memoir is, it gives us a curious insight into one side of
his character. The whole account is compressed into twenty-six pages,
and consists for the most part merely of a bare recital of the chief
events of his life. But one day--one memorable day to be marked with the
whitest of white chalk--is described at full length. Out of the
twenty-six pages, no less than six are devoted to the description of a
visit with which the King honoured him at Hartlebury, when 'no
accident,' we are glad to learn, 'of any kind interrupted the mutual
satisfaction which was given and received on the occasion.'

It has been already observed that the Church interest formed a most
important element in the reckoning of statesmen of this century; and the
extent to which the clergy were mixed up with the politics of the day
must, under the circumstances, be reckoned among the Church abuses of
the period. Not, of course, that this is in itself an evil. On the
contrary, it would be distinctly a misfortune, both to the State and to
the Church, if the clergy of a Church constituted like our own were to
abstain altogether from taking any part in politics. It could hardly
fail to be a loss to the State if a large and presumably intelligent
class stood entirely aloof from its affairs. And the clergy themselves
by so doing would be both forfeiting a right and neglecting a duty. As
citizens who have an equal stake with the laity in the interests of the
country, they clearly enjoy the right to have a voice in the conduct of
its affairs. And as Christians they have a positive duty incumbent upon
them to use the influence they possess in this, as in every other
relation of life, for the cause of Christianity. But with this right and
this duty there is also a danger lest those, whose chief concern ought
to be with higher objects, should become overmuch entangled with the
affairs of this life; and a danger also lest men whose training is, as a
rule, not adapted to make them good men of business, should throw their
influence into the wrong scale. In so far, but only in so far as the
clergy fell into one or the other of these snares, can the political
Churchmanship of the eighteenth century be classed among the Church
abuses of the period. The circumstances of the times increased these
dangers. During the reigns of the first two Georges political morality
was at so low an ebb that it was difficult for the clergy to take a
leading part in politics without injury to their spiritual character.
They could hardly touch the pitch without being defiled. It is to be
feared that politics at this period did more to debase the clergy than
the clergy did to elevate politics. Not but that they often incurred an
unpopularity for the part they took in political questions which was
wholly undeserved. Nothing, for example, brought more odium upon the
bishops than the share they had in throwing out the Quakers' Tithes Bill
in 1736. Yet apparently without just cause; for a high legal authority
of our own day, who certainly shows no prejudice in favour of the Church
and her ministers, characterises this measure as a well-meant but
impracticable Bill. Again, in 1753, many of the bishops were exposed to
unmerited abuse for supporting, as they were clearly right in doing, the
Jews' Naturalisation Bill. Again, in 1780, the bishops had the good
sense not to be led astray by the senseless 'No Popery' cry which led to
the Gordon riots; and by their moral courage on this occasion they drew
down upon themselves much undeserved censure. The good sense, however,
which characterised the political conduct of the clergy on these and
other occasions was, unfortunately, exceptional. As a rule, the
political influence of the clergy was not very wisely exercised.

In his summary of the period which closed with the death of George II.,
Horace Walpole writes:--'The Church was moderate and, when the Ministry
required it, yielding.' From the point of view of this writer, whose
sentiments on religious matters exactly corresponded with those of his
father, nothing could have been more satisfactory than this state of
things. To those who look upon the Church merely as a State
Establishment, 'moderate, and, when the Ministry require it, yielding,'
would represent its ideal condition. But to those who believe in it as a
Divine institution, the picture will convey a different impression. They
will see in it a worldly man's description of the spiritual lethargy
which had overtaken English Christendom. The expression will not be
deemed too strong when it is remembered what was, as a matter of fact,
the real state of affairs so far as the practical work of the Church was
concerned. Under the very different conditions amidst which we live, it
is difficult to realise what existed, or rather what did not exist, in
the last century. What would now be considered the most ordinary part of
parochial machinery was then wanting. The Sunday school, which was first
set on foot about the middle of this century,[679] was regarded with
suspicion by many of the clergy, and vehemently opposed by some. The
interest in foreign missions which had been awakened at the beginning of
the century was not sustained. The population of the country had far
outgrown the resources of the National Church, even if her ministers had
been as energetic as they were generally the reverse; and there were no
voluntary societies for home missions to supply the defects of the
parochial machinery. The good old plan of catechising not only children
but domestic servants and apprentices on Sunday afternoons had fallen
into disuse.[680] In the early part of the century plans had been set on
foot for the establishment of parochial libraries, but these had fallen
through. In short, beyond the personal influence which a clergyman might
exercise over his friends and dependants in his parish (which was often
very wholesome and also very extensive), his clerical work consisted
solely in reading the services and preaching on Sundays. When Boswell
talked of the assiduity of the Scottish clergy in visiting and privately
instructing their parishioners, and observed how much in this they
excelled the English clergy, Johnson, who would never hear one word
against that Church of which he was a worthy member and a distinguished
ornament, could only reply, 'There are different ways of instructing.
Our clergy pray and preach. The clergy of England have produced the
most valuable books in support of religion, both in theory and
practice.' The praise contained in this last sentence was thoroughly
deserved. The clergy, if inactive in other respects, were not inactive
with their pens; only of course the work done in this direction was done
by a very small minority.

But they all preached. What was the character of their sermons?

On this point, as on many others, the censure that has been passed upon
the Church of the eighteenth century has been far too sweeping and far
too severe. When one hears the sermons of the period stigmatised without
any qualification as 'miserable moral essays,' and 'as unspeakably and
indescribably bad,' one calls to mind almost indignantly the great
preachers of the time, whose sermons have been handed down to us and may
be referred to by anyone who chooses to do so. Surely this is not a
proper description of the sermons of such men as Sherlock, Smalridge,
Waterland, Seed, Ogden, Atterbury, Mudge, Hare, Bentley, and last but
not least, Butler himself, whose practical sermons might be preached
with advantage before a village congregation at this day. Too much
stress has been laid upon a somewhat random observation of Sir William
Blackstone, who 'had the curiosity, early in the reign of George III.,
to go from church to church and hear every clergyman of note in London.
He says that he did not hear a single discourse which had more
Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero, and that it would have
been impossible for him to discover, from what he heard, whether the
preacher were a follower of Confucius, of Mahomet, or of Christ.' The
famous lawyer does not specify the churches which he visited. He may
have been unfortunate in his choice, or he may have been in a frame of
mind which was not conducive to an unbiassed judgment;[681] but we have
the best of all means of testing how far his sweeping censure may be
fairly taken as applicable to the general character of the sermons of
the day. The most celebrated of them are still in existence, and will
give their own contradiction to the charge. It is not true that the
preachers of this period entirely ignored the distinctive doctrines of
Christianity; it would be more correct to say that they took the
knowledge of them too much for granted--that they were as a rule too
controversial, and that they too often appealed to merely prudential
motives. Even Dr. Johnson, who set a very high value upon the sermons of
his Church, and declared on one occasion that 'sermons make a
considerable branch of English literature, so that a library must be
very imperfect if it has not a numerous collection of sermons,' yet
confessed that they did not effect the good they ought to do. A
sensitive dread of anything like enthusiasm was a marked characteristic
of the eighteenth century: this dread did not originate with the clergy,
but it was taken up by them and reflected in their sermons. This, of
course, was at first greatly intensified by the excitement raised by the
Methodist movement, although it was afterwards dispelled by the same
cause. The orthodox preacher of the Hanoverian period felt bound to
protest against the superstitions of Rome on the one hand and the
fanaticism of sectaries on the other; in contrast with both of whom the
moderation of 'our happy Establishment' was extolled to the skies. To
such a morbid extent was his dread of extremes carried, so carefully had
he to guard himself against being supposed to diverge one hair's breadth
from the middle course taken up by the Church of England, that in his
fear of being over-zealous he became over-tame and colourless. Tillotson
was his model, and, like most imitators, he exaggerated the defects of
his master. So far as it is possible to group under one head so vast and
varied an amount of composition, produced by men of the most diverse
casts of mind, and extending over so long a period as a hundred years,
one may perhaps fairly characterise the typical eighteenth century
sermon as too stiff and formal, too cold and artificial, appealing more
to the reason than to the feelings, and so more calculated to convince
the understanding than to affect the heart. 'We have no sermons,' said
Dr. Johnson, 'addressed to the passions that are good for anything.'

These defects were brought out into stronger relief by their contrast to
the very different style of preaching adopted by the revived Evangelical
school. And the success of this latter school called the attention of
some of the most thoughtful divines to the deficiencies of the ordinary
style of preaching, which they fully admitted and unsparingly but
judiciously exposed. Thus Archbishop Secker, in his Charge to the
Diocese of Canterbury in 1758, in speaking of the 'new sect pretending
to the strictest piety,' wisely urges his clergy 'to emulate what is
good in them, avoiding what is bad, to edify their parishioners with
awakening but rational and Scriptural discourses, to teach the
principles not only of virtue and natural religion, but of the Gospel,
not as almost refined away by the modern refiner, but the truth as it is
in Jesus and as it is taught by the Church.' Still stronger are the
censures passed in later years upon the lack in the sermons of the day
of evangelical doctrines, by men who were very far from identifying
themselves with the Evangelical school. Thus Paley, in his seventh
charge,[682] comments upon this point. And Bishop Horsley, in his first
Charge to the Diocese of St. David's in 1709, stigmatises the
unchristian method of preaching in that dignified but incisive language
of which he was a consummate master.

If, on the one hand, a somewhat heartless and vague method of dealing
with the great distinctive doctrines of Christianity, and especially the
practical application of them, may fairly be reckoned among Church
abuses, there was, on the other hand, an abuse of sermons which arose
from an excess of zeal. There were occasions on which the preacher could
make strong enough appeals to the passions; but, unfortunately, the
subjects were not those which fall primarily within the province of the
pulpit. But here again, as on so many other points, the abuse arose
rather from the circumstances of the time than from the faults of the
men. The proper province of the preacher was not clearly defined. The
eighteenth century was a transition period in regard to the relation
between politics and the pulpit. The lately emancipated press was
beginning to make itself felt as a great power in the country;
periodical literature was by degrees taking the place which in earlier
times had been less fitly occupied by the pulpit for the ventilation of
political questions. The bad old custom of 'tuning the pulpits' had died
out; but political preaching could not be quickly or easily put a stop

In ranking political sermons among the Church abuses of the eighteenth
century, it is by no means intended to imply that the preacher ought
under all circumstances to abstain from touching upon politics. There
are occasions when it is his bounden duty as a Christian champion to
advocate Christian measures and to protest against unchristian ones; the
danger is lest he should forget the Christian advocate in the political
partisan; and it is only in so far as the political preachers of the
eighteenth century fell into this snare (as at times they unquestionably
did) that their sermons can be classed among the Church abuses of the

In treating of Church abuses, a question naturally arises which deserves
and requires serious consideration. How far were these abuses
responsible for the low state of morals and religion into which the
nation sank during the reigns of the first two Georges? That lax
morality and religious indifference prevailed more or less among all
classes of society during this period, we learn from the concurrent
testimony of writers of every kind and creed. Turn where one will, the
same melancholy picture is presented to us. If we ask what was the state
of the Universities, which ought to be the centres of light diffusing
itself throughout the whole nation, the training-grounds of those who
are to be the trainers of their fellow men, we have the evidence of such
different kinds of men as Swift, Defoe, Gray, Gibbon, Johnson, John
Wesley, Lord Eldon, and Lord Chesterfield all agreeing on this point,
that both the great Universities were neglectful and inefficient in the
performance of their proper work. If we ask what was the state of the
highest classes, we find that there were sovereigns on the throne whose
immorality rivalled that of the worst of the Stuarts without any of
their redeeming qualities, without any of the grace and elegance and
taste for literature and the fine arts which to a certain extent
palliated the vices of that unfortunate race; we find political morality
at its lowest ebb; we find courtiers and statesmen living in open
defiance of the laws of morality; we find luxury without taste, and
profligacy without refinement predominant among the highest circles. If
we ask what was the state of the lower classes, we find such notices as
these in a contemporary historian: '1729-30. Luxury created necessities,
and these drove the lower ranks into the most abandoned wickedness. It
was unsafe to travel or walk in the streets.' '1731. Profligacy among
the people continued to an amazing degree.'[683] These extracts, taken
almost at haphazard from the pages of a contemporary, are confirmed by
abundance of testimony from all quarters. The middle classes were
confessedly better than those either above or below them.[684]
Nevertheless, there are not wanting indications that the standard of
morality was not high among them. For example, it is the middle class
rather than those above or below them who set the fashion of popular
amusements. What, then, was the character of the amusements of the
period? The stage, if it was a little improved since the wild days of
the Restoration, was yet so bad that even a lax moralist like Lord
Hervey was obliged to own in 1737, 'The present great licentiousness of
the stage did call for some restraint and regulation.'[685] Such brutal
pastimes as cock-fighting and bull-baiting were everywhere popular.
Drunkenness was then, as now, a national vice, but it was less
disreputable among the middle classes than it happily is at
present.[686] What was the state of literature? Notwithstanding the
improvement which such writers as Addison and Steele had effected, it
was still very impure. Let us take the evidence of the kindly and
well-informed Sir Walter Scott. 'We should do great injustice to the
present day by comparing our manners with those of the reign of George
I. The writings even of the most esteemed poets of that period contain
passages which now would be accounted to deserve the pillory. Nor was
the tone of conversation more pure than that of composition; for the
taint of Charles II.'s reign continued to infect society until the
present reign [George III.], when, if not more moral, we are at least
more decent.'[687] What was the state of the law? The criminal law was
simply barbarous. Any theft of more than 40_s._ was punishable by death.
Objects of horror, such as the heads of the rebel chiefs fixed on Temple
Bar in 1746, were exposed in the vain hope that they might act as a
'terriculum.'[688] Prisons teemed with cruel abuses. The Roman Catholics
were still suffering most unjustly, and if the laws had been rigorously
enforced they would have suffered more cruelly still. A more tolerant
spirit was happily gaining ground in the hearts of the nation, but so
far as the laws were concerned there were few if any traces of it. The
Act of 1779, for the relief of Dissenters, is affirmed to be 'the first
statute in the direction of enlarged toleration which had been passed
for ninety years.'[689] It was about the middle of the century when
irreligion and immorality reached their climax. In 1753, Sir J. Barnard
said publicly, 'At present it really seems to be the fashion for a man
to declare himself of no religion.'[690] In the same year Secker
declared that immorality and irreligion were grown almost beyond
ecclesiastical power.

The question, then, arises, 'How far were the clergy responsible for
this sad state of affairs?' As a body they were distinctly superior to
their contemporaries. It is a remarkable fact that when the clergy were,
as a rule, very unpopular, during the reign of the Georges I. and
II.,[691] and when, therefore, any evil reports against them would be
eagerly caught up and circulated, we find singularly few charges of
gross immorality brought against them. Excessive love of preferment, and
culpable inactivity in performing the duties of their office, are the
worst accusations that are brought against them as a body. Even men like
Lord Hervey, and Horace Walpole and Lord Chesterfield rarely bring, and
still more rarely substantiate, any charges against them on this head.
Speaking of the shortcomings of the clergy in the early part of the
century, Bishop Burnet, who does not spare his order, carefully guards
against the supposition that he accuses them of leading immoral lives.
'When,' he writes, 'I say live better, I mean not only to live without
scandal, which I have found the greatest part of them to do, but to lead
exemplary lives.'[692] Some years later, Bentley could boldly assert of
'the whole clergy of England' that they were 'the light and glory of
Christianity,'[693] an assertion which he would scarcely have dared to
make had they been sunk into such a slough of iniquity as they are
sometimes represented to have been. Writing to Courayer in 1726,
Archbishop Wake laments the infidelity and iniquity which abounded, but
is of opinion that 'no care is wanting in our clergy to defend the
Christian faith.'[694] John Wesley, while decrying the notion that the
unworthiness of the minister vitiates the worth of his ministry, admits
that 'in the present century the behaviour of the clergy in general is
greatly altered for the better,' although he thinks them deficient both
in piety and knowledge. Or if clerical testimony be suspected of
partiality, we have abundance of lay evidence all tending to the same
conclusion. Smollett, a contemporary, declares that in the reign of
George II. 'the clergy were generally pious and exemplary.'[695] When a
Presbyterian clergyman talked before Dr. Johnson of fat bishops and
drowsy deans, he replied, 'Sir, you know no more of our Church than a
Hottentot.'[696] One of the most impartial historians of our own day and
country, in dwelling upon the immoralities of the age and upon the
clerical shortcomings, adds that 'the lives of the clergy were, as a
rule, pure.'[697]

It is necessary to bring into prominence such testimony as this because
there has been a tendency to insinuate what has never been proved--that
the clergy were, as a body, living immoral lives. At the same time it is
not desired to palliate their real defects. It is admitted that a more
active and earnest performance of their proper duties might have done
much more than was done by the clergy to stem the torrent of iniquity.

Yet after all it is doubtful whether the clergy, even if they had been
far more energetic and spiritually-minded than they were, could have
effected such a reformation as was needed.[698] For there was a long
train of causes at work dating back for more than a century, which
tended not only to demoralise the nation, but also to cut it off from
many influences for good which under happier circumstances the Church
might have exercised. The turbulent and unsettled condition of both
Church and State in the seventeenth century was bearing its fruit in the
eighteenth. As in the life of an individual, so also in the life of a
nation, there are certain crises which are terribly perilous to the
character. In the eighteenth century England as a nation was going
through such a crisis. She was passing from the old order to the new.
The early part of the century was a period of many controversies--the
Deistic controversy, the Nonjuring controversy, the Bangorian
controversy, the Trinitarian controversy, the various ethical
controversies, and all these following close upon the Puritan
controversy and the Papal controversy, both of which had shaken the
Constitution to its very foundation. How was it possible that a country
could pass through such stormy scenes without having its faith
unsettled, and the basis of its morals weakened? How could some help
asking, What is truth? where is it to be found among all these
conflicting elements? The Revolution itself was in its immediate effects
attended with evil. England submitted to be governed by foreigners, but
she had to sacrifice much and stoop low before she could submit to the
necessity. All the romantic halo which had hung about royalty was rudely
swept away. Queen Anne was the last sovereign of these realms round whom
still lingered something of the 'divinity that doth hedge a king.'
Under the Georges loyalty assumed a different form from that which it
had taken before. The sentiment which had attached their subjects to the
Tudors and the Stuarts was exchanged for a colder and less enthusiastic
feeling; mere policy took the place of chivalry.

Nor was it only in her outward affairs that the nation was passing
through a great and fundamental change. In her inner and spiritual life
she was also in a period of transition. The problem which was started in
the early part of the sixteenth century had never yet been fairly worked
out. The nation had been for more than a century and a half so busy in
dealing with the pressing questions of the hour that it had never yet
had time to face the far deeper questions which lay behind
these--questions which concerned not the different modes of
Christianity, but the very essence of Christianity itself. The matters
which had so violently agitated the country in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries were now virtually settled. The Church was now at
last 'established.' But other questions arose. It was not now asked, 'Is
this or that mode of Church government most Scriptural?' 'Is this or
that form of worship most in accordance with the mind of Christ?' but,
'What _is_ this Scripture to which all appeal?' 'Who _is_ this Christ
whom all own as Master?' This is really what is meant, so far as
religion is concerned, when it is said that the eighteenth century was
the age of reason--alike in the good and in the bad sense of that term.
The defenders of Christianity, no less than its assailants, had to
prove, above all things, the reasonableness of their position. The
discussion was inevitable, and in the end productive of good, but while
it was going on it could not fail to be to many minds harmful. Reason
and faith, though not really antagonistic, are often in seeming
antagonism. Many might well ask, Can we no longer rest upon a simple,
childlike faith, founded on authority? What is there, human or Divine,
that is left to reverence? The heart of England was still sound at the
core, and she passed through the crisis triumphantly; but the transition
period was a dangerous and a demoralising one, and there is no wonder
that she sank for a time under the wave that was passing over her.

It has been already said that the morbid dread of anything which
savoured either of Romanism or Puritanism tended to reduce the Church to
a dead level of uniform dulness. The same dread affected the nation at
large as well as the Church. It practically cut off the laity from
influences which might have elevated them. Anything like the worship of
God in the beauty of holiness, all that is conveyed in the term
symbolism, the due observance of fast and festival--in fact, all those
things which to a certain class of minds are almost essential to raise
devotion--were too much associated in men's minds with that dreaded
enemy from whom the nation had but narrowly escaped in the preceding age
to be able to be turned to any good effect in the eighteenth century.

On the other hand, stirring appeals to the feelings, analyses of
spiritual frames--everything, in short, which was termed in the jargon
of the seventeenth century 'savoury preaching' and 'a painful ministry,'
was too much associated in men's minds with the hated reign of the
Saints to be employed with any good effect.

And thus, both on the objective and on the subjective side, the people
were practically debarred from influences which might have made their
religion a more lovely or a more hearty thing.

Again, if the clergy showed, as they confessedly did, an inertness, an
obstructiveness, a want of expansiveness, and a dogged resistance to any
adaptation of old forms to new ideas, they were in these respects
thoroughly in accord with the feelings of the mass of the nation. The
clergy were not popular, but it was not their want of zeal and
enterprise which made them unpopular; if in exceptional cases they did
show any tendency in these directions, this only made them more
unpopular than ever. Had it been otherwise we might naturally have
expected to find the zeal which was lacking in the National Church
showing itself in other Christian bodies. But we find nothing of the
sort. The torpor which had overtaken our Church extended itself to all
forms of Christianity. Edmund Calamy, a Nonconformist, lamented in 1730
that 'a real decay of serious religion, both in the Church _and out of
it_, was very visible.' Dr. Watts declares that in his day 'there was a
_general_ decay of vital religion in the hearts and lives of men.'[699]
A modern writer who makes no secret of his partiality for Nonconformists
owns that 'religion, whether in the Established Church or out of it,
never made less progress than after the cessation of the Bangorian and
Salter's Hall disputes. Breadth of thought and charity of sentiment
increased, but religious activity did not.'[700] In 1712 Defoe
considered 'Dissenters' interests to be in a declining state, not so
much as regarded their wealth and numbers as the qualifications of their
ministers, the decay of piety, and the abandonment of their political
friends.' Such is the testimony of Nonconformists themselves, who will
not be suspected of taking too dark a view of the condition of
Nonconformity. There is no need to add to this the evidence of
Churchmen. It is a fact patent to all students of the period that the
moral and religious stagnation of the times extended to all religious
bodies outside as well as inside the National Church. The most
intellectually active part of Dissent was drifting gradually into
Socinianism and Unitarianism.

There is yet one more circumstance to be taken into account in
estimating the extent to which the clergy were responsible for the
irreligion and immorality which prevailed. A change of manners was fast
rendering ineffectual a weapon which they had formerly used for waging
war against sin. Ecclesiastical censures were becoming little better
than a mere _brutum fulmen_. Complaints of the difficulty, not to say
impossibility, of enforcing Church discipline are of constant
occurrence. In 1704 Archbishop Sharp, while urging his clergy to present
'any that are resolved to continue heathens and absolutely refuse to
come to church,' and, while admitting that the abuses of the commutation
for penance were 'a cause of complaints against the spiritual courts and
of the invidious reflections cast upon them,' adds that 'he was very
sensible both of the decay of discipline in general and of the curbs put
upon any effectual prosecution of it by the temporal courts, and of the
difficulty of keeping up what little was left entire to the
ecclesiastics without creating offence and administering matter for
aspersion and evil surmises.'[701] The same excellent prelate, when, a
writ _de excommunicato capiendo_ was evaded by writs of _supersedeas_
from Chancery, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him 'to
represent the case to the Lord Chancellor, that he might give such
directions that his courts might go on to enforce ecclesiastical
censures with civil penalties, without fear of being baffled in their
proceedings.'[702] In the later meetings of Convocation this subject of
the enforcement of Church discipline was constantly suggested for
discussion; but, as questions which were, or were supposed to be, of
more immediate interest claimed precedence, no practical result
ensued.[703] The matter, however, was not suffered to fall altogether
into abeyance. In 1741 Bishop Secker gives the same advice to the clergy
of the diocese of Oxford as Archbishop Sharp had given nearly forty
years before to those of the diocese of York, but he seems still more
doubtful as to whether it could be effectually carried out. 'Persons,'
he writes, 'who profess not to be of our Church, if persuasions will
not avail, must be let alone. But other absentees must, after due
patience, be told that, unwilling as you are, it will be your duty to
present them, unless they reform; and if, when this warning hath been
repeated and full time allowed for it to work, they still persist in
their obstinacy, I beg you to do it. For this will tend much to prevent
the contagion from spreading, of which there is else great danger.' In
1753 he repeats his injunctions, but in a still more desponding tone.
'Offences,' he says, 'against religion and morals churchwardens are
bound by oath to present; and incumbents or curates are empowered and
charged by the 113th and following canons to join with them in
presenting, if need be, or to present alone if they refuse. This implies
what the 26th canon expresses, that the minister is to urge
churchwardens to perform that part of their office. Try first by public
and private rebukes to amend them; but if these are ineffectual, get
them corrected by authority. I am perfectly sensible that immorality and
irreligion are grown almost beyond the reach of ecclesiastical power,
which, having in former times been very unwarrantably extended, hath
since been very unjustly and imprudently cramped and weakened many
ways.' After having given directions about excommunications and penance,
he urges them, as a last resort, 'to remind the people that, however the
censures of the Church may be relaxed or evaded, yet God's judgment
cannot.' Yet even so late as 1766 he explains to candidates for orders
the text addressed to them at their ordination, 'Whose sins thou dost
retain, they are retained,' as conferring 'a right of inflicting
ecclesiastical censures for a shorter or longer time, and of taking them
off, which is, in regard to external communion, retaining or forgiving
offences.' 'Our acts,' he adds, 'as those of temporal judges, are to be
respected as done by competent authority. Nor will other proofs of
repentance be sufficient if submission to the discipline of the Church
of Christ, when it hath been offended and requires due satisfaction, be
obstinately refused.'[704] This is not the place to discuss the
possibility or the advisability under altered circumstances of enforcing
ecclesiastical discipline, but in common fairness to the clergy, who
were accused of doing little or nothing to oppose the general depravity,
it should be borne in mind that they were practically debarred from
using a formidable weapon which in earlier times had been wielded with
great effect.[705]

Nor should we forget that if the clergy were inactive and unsuccessful
in one direction, many of them at least were singularly active and
successful in another. There was within the pale of the Church at the
period of which we are speaking a degree of intellect and learning which
has rarely been surpassed in its palmiest days. When among the higher
clergy were found such men as Butler, and Hare, and Sherlock, and
Warburton, and South, and Conybeare, and Waterland, and Bentley, men who
were more than a match for the assailants of Christianity, formidable as
these antagonists undoubtedly were--when within her fold were found men
of such distinguished piety as Law and Wilson, Berkeley and Benson, the
state of the Church could not be wholly corrupt.

And, finally, it should be remembered that if England was morally and
spiritually in low estate at this period, she was, at any rate, in a
better plight than her neighbours. If there were Church abuses in
England, there were still worse in France. If there was too wide an
interval here between the higher and the lower clergy, the inequality
was not so great as there, where, 'while the prelates of the Church
lived with a pomp and state falling little short of the magnificence of
royalty, not a few of the poorer clergy had scarcely the wherewithal to
live at all,' where 'the superior clergy regarded the cures as hired
servitors, whom in order to dominate it was prudent to keep in poverty
and ignorance.' If the distribution of patronage on false principles and
the inordinate love of preferment were abuses in England, matters were
worse in France, where 'there was an open traffic in benefices; the
Episcopate was nothing but a secular dignity; it was necessary to be
count or marquis in order to become a successor of the apostles, unless
some extraordinary event snatched some little bishopric for a parvenu
from the hands of the minister;' and where 'the bishops squandered the
revenues of their provinces at the court.'[706] If the lower classes
were neglected here, they were not, as in France, dying from misery and
hunger at the rate of a million a year. Neither, sordid as the age was
in England, was it so sordid as in Germany, where a coarse eudæmonism
and a miscalled illuminism were sapping the foundations of Christianity.

Moreover, England, unlike her next-door neighbour, improved as the years
rolled on. A gradual but distinct alteration for the better may be
traced in the later part of the century. Many causes contributed to
effect this. After the accession of George III. a growing sense of
security began to pervade the country. An unsettled state is always
prejudicial to national morals, and there were henceforward no serious
thoughts of deranging the established order of things. Influences, too,
were at work which tended to raise the tone of morality and religion in
all orders of society. The upper classes had a good example set them by
the blameless lives of the King and the Queen. In the present day, when
it is the fashion to ridicule the foibles and to condemn the troublesome
interference in State affairs of the well-meaning but often ill judging
King, it is the more necessary to bear in mind the debt of gratitude
which the nation owed him for the good effects which his personal
character unquestionably produced--effects which, though they told more
directly and immediately upon the upper classes, yet permeated more or
less through all the strata of society. Among the middle classes, too,
there arose a set of men whose influence for good it would be difficult
to exaggerate. Foremost among them stands the great and good Dr.
Johnson. 'Dr. Johnson,' writes Lord Mahon, 'stemmed the tide of
infidelity.' And the greatest of modern satirists does not state the
case too strongly when he declares that 'Johnson had the ear of the
nation. His immense authority reconciled it to loyalty and shamed it out
of irreligion. He was revered as a sort of oracle, and the oracle
declared for Church and King. He was a fierce foe to all sin, but a
gentle enemy to all sinners.'[707] Sir J. Reynolds, and E. Burke, and
Hogarth, and Pitt, each in his way, helped on the good work. The rising
Evangelical school--the Newtons, the Venns, the Cecils, the Romaines,
among the clergy, and the Wilberforces, the Thorntons, the Mores, the
Cowpers, among the laity--all affected beneficially to an immense extent
the upper and middle classes, while among the lower classes the
Methodist movement was effecting incalculable good. These latter
influences, however, were far too important an element in the national
amelioration to be dealt with at the end of a chapter. Suffice it here
to add that, glaring as were the abuses of the Church of the eighteenth
century, they could not and did not destroy her undying vitality. Even
when she reached her nadir there was sufficient salt left to preserve
the mass from becoming utterly corrupt. The fire had burnt low, but
there was yet enough light and heat left to be fanned into a flame which
was in due time to illumine the nation and the nation's Church.



[Footnote 648: In 1705, 1706, 1710, 1711, 1714, 1715, &c. &c., there
were High Church mobs.]

[Footnote 649: Coxe's _Memoirs of Sir S. Walpole_, vol. i. pp. 24, 25.]

[Footnote 650: A glaring instance of the blighting effects of the
Walpole Ministry upon the Church is to be found in the treatment of
Berkeley's attempt to found a university at Bermuda. See a full account
of the whole transaction in Wilberforce's _History of the American
Church_, ch. iv. pp. 151-160. Mr. Anderson calls it a 'national crime.'
See _History of the Colonial Church_, vol. iii. ch. xxix. p. 437, &c.
The Duke of Newcastle pursued the same policy. In spite of the efforts
of the most influential Churchmen, such as Gibson, Sherlock, and Secker,
who all concurred in recognising the need of clergymen, of churches, of
schools, in our plantations, 'the mass of inert resistance presented in
the office of the Secretary of State, responsible for the colonies, was
too great to be overcome.'--Ibid. p. 443.]

[Footnote 651: Bishop Fitzgerald (_Aids to Faith_, Essay ii. § 7)
stigmatises the impotency and turbulence of Convocation, but entirely
ignores the practical agenda referred to above. See Cardwell's
_Synodalia_, on the period.]

[Footnote 652: See the introduction to Palin's _History of the Church of
England from the Revolution to the Last Acts of Convocation_.]

[Footnote 653: See Cardwell's _Synodalia_, xlii.]

[Footnote 654: Hodgson's 'Life of Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London,' in
vol. i. of Porteus's _Works_, p. 45. Another thoroughly good man, Bishop
Gibson, was, before he was mitred, Precentor and Residentiary of
Chichester, Rector of Lambeth, and Archdeacon of Surrey. See Coxe's
_Memoirs of Sir R. Walpole_, i. 478.]

[Footnote 655: _Anecdotes of the Life of R. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff_,
published by his Son, vol. i. p. 307.]

[Footnote 656: Id. ii. 349.]

[Footnote 657: Paley's 'Charges,' vol. vii of his _Works_, in 7 vols.]

[Footnote 658: 'Charge of the Bishop of Rochester,' 1796, Bishop
Horsley's _Charges_.]

[Footnote 659: Bishop of Oxford's Second Charge, 1741, Secker's

[Footnote 660: Remarks on a _Discourse of Freethinking, by
Phileleutherus Lipsiensis_, xl. (edition of 1743).]

[Footnote 661: _Anecdotes of the Life of R. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff_,
i. 159.]

[Footnote 662: Quoted in Kilvert's _Life of Bishop Hurd_, p. 97. Dean
Swift, in his _Project for the Advancement of Religion_, speaks of
curates in the most contemptuous terms. 'In London, a clergyman, _with
one or two sorry curates_, has sometimes the care of above 20,000 souls
incumbent on him.']

[Footnote 663: How nobly and successfully a domestic chaplain in a great
family might do his duty in the eighteenth century; the conduct of
Thomas Wilson, when he was domestic chaplain to the Earl of Derby, and
tutor to his son, is an instance.]

[Footnote 664: Bishop of Oxford's _Charge_, 1738.]

[Footnote 665: Secker's _Instructions given to Candidates for Orders_.]

[Footnote 666: Mr. Pattison's Essay in _Essays and Reviews_.]

[Footnote 667: _Lives of the Chancellors_, by Lord Campbell, vol. v.
chap. xxxviii. p. 186.]

[Footnote 668: _Anecdotes of the Life of R. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff_,
published by his Son, vol. i. p. 157.]

[Footnote 669: _Letters from Warburton to Hurd_, second ed. 1809, Letter
xlvi. July 1752.]

[Footnote 670: Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, in ten vols., 1835, Murray,
vol. v. p. 298. See also vol. iv. p. 92. 'Few bishops are now made for
their learning. To be a bishop a man must be learned in a learned age,
factious in a factious age, but always of eminence,' &c.]

[Footnote 671: See Bishop Newton's _Autobiography_, and Lord Mahon's

[Footnote 672: _Memoirs of William Whiston_, by himself, p. 275. See
also pp. 119 and 155, 156.]

[Footnote 673: 'A fact,' he adds, 'so apparent to Government, both civil
and ecclesiastical, that, they have found it necessary to provide
rewards and honours for such advances in learning and piety as may best
enable the clergy to serve the interests of the Church of Christ,' a
remark which we might have thought ironical did we not know the temper
of the times.--See Watson's _Life of Warburton_, 488.]

[Footnote 674: _Anecdotes of the Life of Bishop Watson_, i. 116. He
quotes also a remark of D'Alembert: 'The highest offices in Church and
State resemble a pyramid, whose top is accessible to only two sorts of
animals, eagles and reptiles.']

[Footnote 675: _Lives of the Chancellors_, vol. v. chap. clxi. p. 656.
Lord Chesterfield makes some bitter remarks on the higher clergy 'with
the most indefatigable industry and insatiable greediness, darkening in
clouds the levees of kings and ministers,' &c., quoted in Phillimore's
_History of England_, during the reign of George III. Phillimore himself
makes some very severe strictures on the sycophancy and greed of the
higher clergy.--See his _History, passim_.]

[Footnote 676: The Life gives us the impression that he was a firm
believer, that he strove to live a Christian life, that he was very
amiable, and that he was quite free from the paltry vice of jealousy at
another's good fortune.]

[Footnote 677: _Memoirs of Bishop Newton_, by himself.]

[Footnote 678: Bishop Watson was a decidedly able writer, and he never
allowed himself to be the tool of any party. He says of himself with
perfect, truth, 'I have hitherto followed and shall continue to follow
my own judgment in all public transactions.']

[Footnote 679: Raikes established the first of his Sunday schools in
1781, but it is certain that one was established before this by Hannah
Ball at High Wycombe in 1769, and it is probable that there were also
others. Mr. Buckle says they were established by Lindsay in or
immediately after 1765. (_History of Civilisation_, i. 302, note.)
However, to Raikes belongs the credit of bringing the institution
prominently before the public. It may be noticed that Raikes was a
decided Churchman. His son contradicts almost indignantly the notion
which became prevalent that he was a Dissenter. One of the rules of
Raikes's Gloucester Sunday school was that the scholars should attend
the cathedral service. There was a strong prejudice against Sunday
schools among some of the clergy, but it was combated by others. Paley,
in one of his charges, tried to disabuse his clergy of this prejudice,
and so did several other dignitaries. But Bishop Horsley, in his charge
at Rochester, made some severe remarks against Sunday schools. See _Life
of R. Hill_, p. 428. The evangelical clergy, of course, warmly took up
the Sunday school scheme. In this, as in many other cases, the Church
was responsible for the remedy as well as the abuse.]

[Footnote 680: Bishop Wilson made vigorous and successful efforts in the
Isle of Man to revive the system of catechising in church; and strongly
urged every 'rector, vicar, and curate to spend, if but one hour in
every week, in visiting his petty school, and see how the children are
taught to read, to say their catechism and their prayers,' &c.]

[Footnote 681: Blackstone, though endowed with many excellent qualities,
is said to have had a somewhat irritable temper, which, as he advanced
in years, was rendered worse by a nervous affection. Bentham says 'that
he seems to have had something about him which rendered breaches with
him not difficult.' Lawyers are so accustomed to criticise arguments
that they are apt to be somewhat severe judges of sermons. How many
clergymen of the present day would like to have their sermons judged by
the standard of a great lawyer of a somewhat irritable temperament?]

[Footnote 682: See vol. vii. 'Charge VII.' in Paley's _Works_ in seven

[Footnote 683: Similar complaints are uttered regarding 1737-8-9. H.
Walpole writes of 1751: 'The vices of the lower people were increased to
a degree of robbery and murder beyond example.'--_Memoirs of the Reign
of King George II._, vol. i. chap. ii. p. 44.]

[Footnote 684: _E.g._ Archbishop Wake, in his letter to Courayer in
1726, writes: 'Iniquity in practice, God knows, abounds, chiefly in the
two extremes, the highest and the lowest. The middle sort are serious
and religious.' See also _Robinson Crusoe_, chap. i.]

[Footnote 685: Lord Hervey's _Memoirs_, ii. 341, in reference to the
Bill to put all players under the direction of the Lord Chamberlain.]

[Footnote 686: See, _inter alia_, the description of a small squire of
the reign of George II. in Grose's _Olio_, 1792.]

[Footnote 687: Quoted in Andrews, 18th century.]

[Footnote 688: See chap. lxx. of Lord Mahon's _History_.]

[Footnote 689: Skeats's _History of the Free Churches of England_ p.

[Footnote 690: _Parliamentary History_, vol. xiv. p. 1389.]

[Footnote 691: In Bishop Fleetwood's _Charge at Ely_, August 7, 1710, no
less than three folio pages are filled with accounts of the abuse of the
clergy, and the way in which the clergy should meet it. Secker's,
Butler's, and Horsley's Charges all touch on the same subject.]

[Footnote 692: See the conclusion of Burnet's _History of his Own

[Footnote 693: Remarks on Collins's _Discourse on Freethinking_, by
Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, xxiii.]

[Footnote 694: Quoted in Mrs. Thomson's _Memoirs of Lady Sundon and the
Court and Times of George II._]

[Footnote 695: Smollett's _Continuation of Hume_, v. 375.]

[Footnote 696: Boswell's _Life_.]

[Footnote 697: Lord Mahon, chap. lxx.]

[Footnote 698: Bishop Butler, in his _Charge to the Clergy of Durham_ in
1751, complains very justly, 'It is cruel usage we often meet with, in
being censured for not doing what we cannot do, without, what we cannot
have, the concurrence of our censurers. Doubtless very much reproach
which now lights upon the clergy would be bound to fall elsewhere if due
allowance were made for things of this kind.']

[Footnote 699: Calamy's _Life and Times_, vol. ii. p. 531.]

[Footnote 700: Skeats's _History of the Free Churches_, pp. 248, 313.
'The strictness of Puritanism, without its strength or piety, was
beginning to reign among Dissenters.']

[Footnote 701: _Life of Archbishop Sharp_, by his Son, edited by T.
Newcome, p. 214.]

[Footnote 702: Id. p. 217.]

[Footnote 703: See _The History of the Present Parliament and
Convocation_, 1711; and Cardwell's _Synodalia_, vol. ii. for the years
1710, 1712, 1713, 1715.]

[Footnote 704: See Secker's _Charges, passim_.]

[Footnote 705: The circumstances in the Isle of Man were of course
exceptional. For specimens of the rigour with which good Bishop Wilson
maintained ecclesiastical discipline there see Stowell's _Life of
Wilson_, pp. 198, 199, &c.]

[Footnote 706: _Le Clergé de Quatre-vingt-neuf_, par J. Wallon, quoted
in the _Church Quarterly Review_ for October 1877, art. v., 'France in
the Eighteenth Century.']

[Footnote 707: W.M. Thackeray, _English Humorists of the Eighteenth

       *       *       *       *       *




The middle part of the eighteenth century presents a somewhat curious
spectacle to the student of Church history. From one point of view the
Church of England seemed to be signally successful; from another,
signally unsuccessful. Intellectually her work was a great triumph,
morally and spiritually it was a great failure. She passed not only
unscathed, but with greatly increased strength, through a serious
crisis. She crushed most effectually an attack which, if not really very
formidable or very systematic, was at any rate very noisy and very
violent; and her success was at least as much due to the strength of her
friends as to the weakness of her foes. So completely did she beat her
assailants out of the field that for some time they were obliged to make
their assaults under a masked battery in order to obtain a popular
hearing at all. It should never be forgotten that the period in which
the Church sank to her nadir in one sense was also the period in which
she almost reached her zenith in another sense. The intellectual giants
who flourished in the reigns of the first two Georges cleared the way
for that revival which is the subject of these pages. It was in
consequence of the successful results of their efforts that the ground
was opened to the heart-stirring preachers and disinterested workers who
gave practical effect to the truths which had been so ably vindicated.
It was unfortunate that there should ever have been any antagonism
between men who were really workers in the same great cause. Neither
could have done the other's part of the work. Warburton could have no
more moved the hearts of living masses to their inmost depths, as
Whitefield did, than Whitefield could have written the 'Divine
Legation.' Butler could no more have carried on the great crusade
against sin and Satan which Wesley did, than Wesley could have written
the 'Analogy.' But without such work as Wesley and Whitefield did,
Butler's and Warburton's would have been comparatively inefficacious;
and without such work as Butler and Warburton did, Wesley's and
Whitefield's work would have been, humanly speaking, impossible.

The truths of Christianity required not only to be defended, but to be
applied to the heart and life; and this was the special work of what has
been called, for want of a better term, 'the Evangelical school.' The
term is not altogether a satisfactory one, because it seems to imply
that this school alone held the distinctive doctrines of Christianity.
But this was by no means the case. All the great features of that system
which is summed up in the term 'the Gospel' may be plainly recognised in
the writings of those theologians who belonged to a different and in
some respects a violently antagonistic school of thought. The fall of
man, his redemption by Christ, his sanctification by the Holy Spirit,
his absolute need of God's grace both preventing and following
him--these are doctrines which an unprejudiced reader will find as
clearly enunciated in the writings of Waterland, and Butler, and
Warburton as by those who are called _par excellence_ Evangelical
writers. And yet it is perfectly true that there is a sense in which the
latter may fairly claim the epithet 'Evangelical' as peculiarly their
own; for they made what had sunk too generally into a mere barren theory
a living and fruitful reality. The truths which they brought into
prominence were not new truths, nor truths which were actually denied,
but they were truths which acquired under the vigorous preaching of the
revivalists a freshness and a vitality, and an influence over men's
practice, which they had to a great extent ceased to exercise. In this
sense the revival of which we are to treat may with perfect propriety be
termed the _Evangelical_ Revival. The epithet is more suitable than
either 'Methodist' or 'Puritan,' both of which are misleading. The term
'Methodist' does not, of course, in itself imply anything discreditable
or contemptuous; but it was given as a name of contempt, and was
accepted as such by those to whom it was first applied. Moreover, not
only the term, but also the system with which it has become identified
was repudiated by many--perhaps by the majority--of those who would be
included under the title of 'Evangelical.' It was not because they
feared the ridicule and contempt attaching to the term 'Methodist' that
so many disowned its application to themselves, but because they really
disapproved of many things which were supposed to be connoted by the
term. Their adversaries would persist in confounding them with those who
gloried in the title of 'Methodists,' but the line of demarcation is
really very distinct.

Still more misleading is the term 'Puritan.' The 'Evangelicalism' of the
eighteenth century was by no means simply a revival of the system
properly called Puritanism as it existed in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. There were, of course, certain leading features
which were common to the two schemes. We can recognise a sort of family
likeness in the strictness of life prescribed by both systems, in their
abhorrence of certain kinds of amusement, in their fondness for
Scriptural phraseology, and, above all, in the importance which they
both attached to the distinctive doctrines of Christianity. But the
points of difference between them were at least as marked as the points
of resemblance. In Puritanism, politics were inextricably intermixed
with theology; Evangelicalism stood quite aloof from politics. The
typical Puritan was gloomy and austere; the typical Evangelical was
bright and genial. The Puritan would not be kept _within_ the pale of
the National Church; the Evangelical would not be kept _out_ of it. The
Puritan was dissatisfied with our liturgy, our ceremonies, our
vestments, and our hierarchy; the Evangelical was not only perfectly
contented with every one of these things, but was ready to contend for
them all as heartily as the highest of High Churchmen. The Puritans
produced a very powerful body of theological literature; the
Evangelicals were more conspicuous as good men and stirring preachers
than as profound theologians. On the other hand, if Puritanism was the
more fruitful in theological literature, both devotional and
controversial, Evangelicalism was infinitely more fruitful in works of
piety and benevolence; there was hardly a single missionary or
philanthropic scheme of the day which was not either originated or
warmly taken up by the Evangelical party. The Puritans were frequently
in antagonism with 'the powers that be,' the Evangelicals never; no
amount of ill-treatment could put them out of love with our constitution
both in Church and State.

These points will be further illustrated in the course of this chapter;
they are touched upon here merely to show that neither 'Methodist' nor
'Puritan' would be an adequate description of the great revival whose
course we are now to follow; only it should be noted that in terming it
the 'Evangelical' revival we are applying to it an epithet which was not
applied until many years after its rise. When and by whom the term was
first used to describe the movement it is difficult to say. Towards the
close of the century it is not unusual to find among writers of
different views censures of those 'who have arrogated to themselves the
exclusive title of Evangelical,' as if there were something presumptuous
in the claim, and something uncharitable in the tacit assumption that
none but those so called were worthy of the designation; but it is very
unusual indeed to find the writers of the Evangelical school applying
the title to their own party; and when they do it is generally followed
by some apology, intimating that they only use it because it has become
usual in common parlance. There is not the slightest evidence to show
that the early Evangelicals claimed the title as their own in any spirit
of self-glorification.

Thus much of the name. Let us now turn to the thing itself. How did this
great movement, so fruitful in good to the whole community, first arise?

It is somewhat remarkable that, so far as the revival can be traced to
any one individual, the man to whom the credit belongs was never himself
an Evangelical. '_William Law_' (1686-1761) 'begot Methodism,' wrote
Bishop Warburton; and in one sense the statement was undoubtedly
true,[708] but what a curious paradox it suggests! A distinctly High
Churchman was the originator of what afterwards became the Low Church
party--a Nonjuror, of the most decidedly 'Orange' element in the Church;
a Quietist who scarcely ever quitted his retirement in an obscure
Northamptonshire village, of that party which, above all others, was
distinguished for its activity, bodily no less than spiritual, a
clergyman who rarely preached a sermon, of the party whose great forte
was preaching!

As Law had no further share in the Evangelical movement beyond writing
the 'Serious Call,' there is no need to dwell upon his singular career.
We may pass on at once from the master to one of his most appreciative
and distinguished disciples.

If Law was the most effective writer, _John Wesley_ (1703-91) was
unquestionably the most effective worker connected with the early phase
of the Evangelical revival. If Law gave the first impulse to the
movement, Wesley was the first and the ablest who turned it to practical
account. How he formed at Oxford a little band of High Church ascetics;
how he went forth to Georgia on an unsuccessful mission, and returned to
England a sadder and a wiser man; how he fell under the influence of the
Moravians; how his whole course and habits of mind were changed on one
eventful day in 1738; how for more than half a century he went about
doing good through evil report and good report; how he encountered with
undaunted courage opposition from all quarters from the Church which he
loved, and from the people whom he only wished to benefit; how he formed
societies, and organised them with marvellous skill; how he travelled
thousands of miles, and preached thousands of sermons throughout the
length and breadth of England, in Scotland, in Ireland, and in America;
how he became involved in controversies with his friends and
fellow-workers--is not all this and much more written in books which may
be in everybody's hands--in the books of Southey, of Tyerman, of Watson,
of Beecham, of Stevens, of Coke and Moore, of Isaac Taylor, of Julia
Wedgwood, of Urlin, and of many others? It need not, therefore, be
repeated here. Neither is it necessary to vindicate the character of
this great and good man from the imputations which were freely cast upon
him both by his contemporaries (and that not only by the adversaries,
but by many of the friends and promoters of the Evangelical movement),
and also by some of his later biographers. The saying of Mark Antony--

    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones--

has been reversed in the case of John Wesley. Posterity has fully
acquitted him of the charge of being actuated by a mere vulgar ambition,
of desiring to head a party, of an undue love of power. It has at last
owned that if ever a poor frail human being was actuated by pure and
disinterested motives, that man was John Wesley. Eight years before his
death he said, 'I have been reflecting on my past life; I have been
wandering up and down between fifty and sixty years, endeavouring in my
poor way to do a little good to my fellow-creatures.' And the more
closely his career has been analysed, the more plainly has the truth of
his own words been proved. His quarrel was solely with sin and Satan.
His master passion was, in his own often-repeated expression, the love
of God and the love of man for God's sake. The world has at length done
tardy justice to its benefactor. Indeed, the danger seems now to lie in
a different direction--not indeed, in over-estimating the character of
this remarkable man, but in making him a mere name to conjure with, a
mere peg to hang pet theories upon. The Churchman casts in the teeth of
the Dissenter John Wesley's unabated attachment to the Church; the
Dissenter casts in the teeth of the Churchman the bad treatment Wesley
received from the Church; and each can make out a very fair case for his
own side. But meanwhile the real John Wesley is apt to be presented to
us in a very one-sided fashion. Moreover, his character has suffered
from the partiality of injudicious friends quite as much as from the
unjust accusations of enemies. It is peculiarly cruel to represent him
as a faultless being, a sort of vapid angel. We can never take much
interest in such a character, because we feel quite sure that, if the
whole truth were before us, he would appear in a different light. John
Wesley's character is a singularly interesting one, interesting for this
very reason, that he was such a thorough man--full of human infirmities,
constantly falling into errors of judgment and inconsistencies, but
withal a noble specimen of humanity, a monument of the power of Divine
grace to mould the rough materials of which man is made into a polished
stone, meet to take its place in the fabric of the temple of the living

The best interpreter of John Wesley is John Wesley himself. He has left
us in his own writings a picture of himself, drawn by his own hand,
which is far more faithful than that which has been drawn by any other.

The whole family of the Wesleys, including the father, the mother, and
all the brothers and sisters without exception, was a very interesting
one. There are certain traits of character which seem to have been
common to them all. Strong, vigorous good sense, an earnest,
straightforward desire to do their duty, a decidedness in forming
opinions, and a plainness, not to say bluntness, in expressing them,
belong to all alike. The picture given us of the family at Epworth
Rectory is an illustration of the remark made in another chapter that
the wholesale censure of the whole body of the parochial clergy in the
early part of the eighteenth century has been far too sweeping and
severe. Here is an instance--and it is not spoken of as a unique, or
even an exceptional, instance--of a worthy clergyman who was, with his
whole family, living an exemplary life, and adorning the profession to
which he belonged. The influence of his early training, and especially
that of his mother, is traceable throughout the whole of Wesley's
career; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that Wesley's unflinching
attachment to the Church, his reluctance to speak ill of her
ministers,[709] and the displeasure which he constantly showed when he
observed any tendency on the part of his followers to separate from her
communion, may have been intensified by his recollections of that good
and useful parson's family in Lincolnshire in which he passed his youth.

The year 1729 is the date which Wesley himself gives of the rise of that
revival of religion in which he himself took so prominent a part. It is
somewhat curious that he places the commencement of the revival at a
date nine years earlier than that of his own conversion; but it must be
remembered that in his later years he took a somewhat different view of
the latter event from that which he held in his hot youth. He believed
that before 1738 he had faith in God as a servant; after that, as a son.
At any rate, we shall not be far wrong in regarding that little meeting
at Oxford of a few young men, called in derision the Holy Club, the
Sacramentarian Club, and finally the _Methodists_, as the germ of that
great movement now to be described. No doubt the views of its members
materially changed in the course of years; but the object of the later
movement was precisely the same as that of the little band from the very
first--viz. to promote the love of God and the love of man for God's
sake, to stem the torrent of vice and irreligion, and to fill the land
with a godly and useful population.

This, it is verily believed, was from first to last the master key to a
right understanding of John Wesley's life. Everything must give way to
this one great object. In subservience to this he was ready to sacrifice
many predilections, and thereby to lay himself open to the charge of
changeableness and inconsistency.

As an illustration let us take the somewhat complicated question of John
Wesley's Churchmanship. That he was most sincerely and heartily attached
to the Church of England is undeniable. In the language of one of his
most ardent but not undiscriminating admirers, 'he was a Church of
England man even in circumstantials; there was not a service or a
ceremony, a gesture or a habit, for which he had not an unfeigned
predilection.'[710] He was, in fact, a distinctly High Churchman, but a
High Churchman in a far nobler sense than that in which the term was
generally used in the eighteenth century. Indeed, in this latter sense
John Wesley hardly falls under the denomination at all. As a staunch
supporter of the British Constitution, both in Church and State, he was
no doubt in favour of the establishment of the National Church as an
essential part of that Constitution. But it was not this view of the
Church which was uppermost in his mind. On several occasions he spoke
and wrote of the Church as a national establishment in terms which would
have shocked the political High Churchmen of his day. He 'can find no
trace of a national Church in the New Testament;'--it is 'a mere
political institution;'[711] the establishment by Constantine was a
gigantic evil:' 'the King and the Parliament have no right to prescribe
to him what pastor he shall use;'[712] he does not care to discuss the
question as to whether all outward establishments are a Babel. But does
it follow from this and similar language that he taught, as the
historians of the Dissenters contend, the principles and language of
Dissent?[713] Very far from it. The fact is, John Wesley in his
conception of the Church was both before and behind his age. He would
have found abundance of sympathisers with his views in the seventeenth,
and abundance after the first thirty years of the nineteenth, century.
But in the eighteenth century they were quite out of date. Here and
there a man like Jones of Nayland or Bishop Horsley[714] might express
High Church views of the same kind as those of John Wesley, but they
were quite out of harmony with the general spirit of the times. Wesley's
idea of the Church was not like that of high and dry Churchmen of his
day; that Church which was always 'in danger' was not what he meant;
neither was it, like that of the later Evangelical school, the Church of
the Reformation period. He went back to far earlier times, and took for
his model in doctrine and worship the Primitive Church before its
divisions into East and West. Thus we find him recording with evident
satisfaction at Christmastide, 1774, 'During the twelve festival days we
had the Lord's Supper daily--_a little emblem of the Primitive
Church_.'[715] When he first appointed district visitors he looked with
great satisfaction upon the arrangement, because it reminded him of the
deaconesses of the Primitive Church. In the very act which tended most
of all to the separation of Wesley's followers from the Church he was
still led--or, as some will think, misled--by his desire to follow in
what he conceived to be the steps of the Primitive Church. His ideas of
worship are strictly in accordance with what would now be called High
Church usages. He would have no pews, but open benches alike for all; he
would have the men and the women separated, _as they were in the
Primitive Church_;[716] he would have a hearty congregational service.
When it was seasonable to sing praise to God, they were to do it with
the spirit and the understanding also; 'not in the miserable, scandalous
doggerel of Sternhold and Hopkins, but in psalms and hymns which are
both sense and poetry, such as would sooner provoke a critic to turn
Christian than a Christian to turn critic;' they were to sing 'not
lolling at their ease, or in the indecent posture of sitting, but all
standing before God, praising Him lustily and with a good courage;'
there was to be 'no repetition of words, no dwelling on disjointed
syllables.'[717] Wesley was much struck with the remarkable decorum with
which public worship was conducted by the Scotch Episcopal Church, which
has always been more inclined to High Church usages than her English
sister.[718] The Fasts and Festivals of the Church Wesley desired to
observe most scrupulously: every Friday was to be kept as a day of
abstinence; the very children at Kingswood school were, if healthy, to
fast every Friday till 3 P.M. All Saints' Day was his favourite
festival, and he made it his constant practice on that day to preach on
the Communion of Saints. He distinctly implies that he considers the
celebration of the Holy Communion an essential part of the public
service at least on every Lord's Day, and adduces this as a proof that
the service at his own meetings must necessarily be imperfect. From his
private memoranda, quoted by Mr. Urlin,[719] we find that he believed it
to be a duty to observe so far as he could the following rules:--(1) to
baptize by immersion; (2) to use the mixed chalice; (3) to pray for the
faithful departed; (4) to pray standing on the Sunday in Pentecost. He
thought it prudent (1) to observe the stations [Wednesday and Friday],
(2) to keep Lent and especially Holy Week, (3) to turn to the east at
the Creed. It is useless to speculate upon what might have been; but can
it be doubted that if John Wesley's lot had been cast in the nineteenth
instead of the eighteenth century, he would have found much to fascinate
him in another revival, which, like his own, began at Oxford?

But how was it that if John Wesley showed this strong appreciation of
the æsthetic and the symbolical in public worship, this desire to bring
everything to the model of the Primitive Church, he never impressed
these views upon his followers? How is it that so few traces of these
predilections are to be found in his printed sermons? John Wesley had so
immense an influence over his disciples that he could have led them to
almost anything. How was it that he infused into them nothing whatever
of that spirit which was in him?

The answer to these questions is to be found in the fact which, it may
be remembered, led to these remarks. There is but one clue to the right
understanding of Wesley's career. It is this: that his one great object
was to promote the love of God and the love of man for God's sake.
Everything must give way to this object of paramount importance. His
tastes led him in one direction, but it was a direction in which very
few could follow him. Not only was there absolutely nothing congenial to
this taste either inside or outside the Church in the eighteenth
century, but it would have been simply unintelligible. If he had
followed out this taste, he would have been isolated.

Moreover, it is fully admitted that Wesley was essentially a many-sided
man. Look at him from another point of view, and he stands in precisely
the same attitude in which his contemporaries and successors of the
Evangelical school stood--as the _homo unius libri_, referring
everything to Scripture, and to Scripture alone. There would be in his
mind no inconsistency whatever between the one position and the other;
but he felt he could do more practical good by simply standing upon
Scriptural ground, and therefore he was quite content to rest there.

It was precisely the same motive which led Wesley to the various
separations which, to his sorrow, he was obliged to make from those who
had been his fellow-workers. He has been accused of being a quarrelsome
man, a man with whom it was not easy to be on good terms. The accusation
is unjust. Never was a man more ready to forgive injuries, more ready to
own his failings, more firm to his friends, and more patient with his

Nevertheless it is an undoubted fact that he was frequently brought into
collision with men whom he would have been the first to own as God's
faithful servants--with William Law, with the Moravians, with Whitefield
and the Calvinists, and with several of the Evangelical parish
clergymen. It also cannot be denied that he showed some abruptness--nay,
rudeness--in his communications with some of these.

But in each and all of these cases the clue to his conduct is still the
same; his one desire was to do all the good he could to the souls of
men, and to that great object friends, united action, and even common
politeness must give way. To come to details. In 1738 he wrote an angry
letter, and in 1756 an angry pamphlet, to William Law. Both these
effusions were hasty and indiscreet; but, in spite of his indiscretion
and discourtesy, it is easy to trace both in the letter and the pamphlet
the one motive which actuated him. Law was far more than a match for
Wesley in any purely intellectual dispute. But Wesley's fault, whatever
it may have been, was a fault of the head, not of the heart. It is
thoroughly characteristic of the generous and forgiving nature of the
man that, in spite of their differences, Wesley constantly alluded to
Law in his sermons, and always in terms of the warmest commendation.

The same motive which led Wesley to dispute with Law actuated him in
his separation from the Moravians. In justice to that exemplary body it
must be remembered that they were not well represented in London when
Wesley split from them. The mischievous notion that it was contrary to
the Gospel for a man to search the Scriptures, to pray, to
communicate--in fact, to use any ordinances--before he had faith, that
it was his duty simply to sit still and wait till this was given him,
would, if it had gained ground, have been absolutely fatal to Wesley's
efforts. He could not even tacitly countenance those who held such
tenets without grievous hindrance to his work.[720] One is thankful to
learn that he resisted his besetting temptation, and did not send to the
Herrnhut brethren a rude letter which he had written,[721] and thankful
also to find that he did full justice to the good qualities of Count
Zinzendorf.[722] But as to his separation from the London Moravians,
Wesley could not have acted otherwise without seriously damaging the
cause which he had at heart. His dispute with Whitefield will come under
our notice in connexion with the Calvinistic controversy, which forms a
painfully conspicuous feature in the Evangelical movement. It is
sufficient in this place to remark that the Antinomianism which, as a
plain matter of fact, admitted even by the Calvinists themselves, did
result from the perversion of Calvinism, was, if possible, a more fatal
hindrance to Wesley's work than the Moravian stillness itself. This was
obviously the ground of Wesley's dislike of Calvinism,[723] but it did
not separate him from Calvinists; so far as a separation did ensue the
fault did not lie with Wesley.[724]

His misunderstanding with some of the Evangelical clergy of his day
arose from the same cause as that which led him into other disputes. An
overpowering sense of the paramount importance of the great work which
he had to do made him set aside everything which he considered to be an
obstacle to that work without the slightest hesitation. Now, much as
Wesley loved the Church of England, he never appreciated one of her most
marked features, the parochial system. Perhaps under any circumstances
such a system would have found little favour in the eyes of one of
Wesley's temperament. To a man impatient of immediate results the slowly
but surely working influence of a pastor resident in the midst of his
flock, preaching to them a silent sermon every day and almost every hour
by his example among them, would naturally seem flat, tame and
impalpable when compared with the more showy effects resulting from the
rousing preaching of the itinerant. Such a life as that of the parish
priest would have been to Wesley himself simply unbearable. He was of
opinion--surely a most erroneous opinion--that if he were confined to
one spot he should preach himself and his whole congregation to sleep in
a twelvemonth. He never estimated at its proper value the real, solid
work which others were doing in their respective parishes. He bitterly
regretted that Fletcher would persist in wasting his sweetness on the
desert air of Madeley. He had little faith in the permanency of the good
which the apostolic Walker was doing at Truro. Much as he esteemed Venn
of Huddersfield, he could not be content to leave the parish in his
hands. He expressed himself very strongly to Adam of Winteringham on the
futility of his work in his parish. He utterly rejected Walker's advice
that he should induce some of his itinerant preachers to be ordained and
to settle in country parishes. He thought that this would not only
narrow their sphere of usefulness, but also cripple their energies even
in that contracted sphere. Mistaken as we may believe him to have been
in these opinions, we cannot doubt his thorough sincerity. In the slight
collision into which he was necessarily brought with the Evangelical
clergy by acting upon these views he was actuated by no vulgar desire to
make himself a name by encroaching upon other men's labours, but solely
by the conviction that he must do the work of God in the best way he
could, no matter whom he might offend or alienate by so doing. Order and
regularity were good things in their way, but better do the work of God
irregularly than let it be half-done or undone in the regular way.[725]
He predicted that even the earnest parochial clergy of his day would
prove a mere rope of sand--a prophecy which subsequent events will
scarcely endorse.

Not that John Wesley ever desired to upset the parochial system. From
first to last he consistently maintained his position that his work was
not to supplant but to supplement the ordinary work of the Church. This
supplementary agency formed so important a factor in the Evangelical
revival, and its arrangement was so characteristic of John Wesley, that
a few words on the subject seem necessary. It would fill too much space
to describe in detail the constitution of the first Methodist societies.
It is now purposed to consider them simply in their relation to their
founder. The most superficial sketch of the life and character of John
Wesley would be imperfect if it did not touch upon this subject; for,
after all, it is as the founder, and organiser, and ruler of these
societies that John Wesley is best known. There were connected with the
Evangelical revival other writers as able, other preachers as effective,
other workers as indefatigable, as he was; but there were none who
displayed anything like the administrative talent that he did. From
first to last Wesley held over this large and ever-increasing agency an
absolute supremacy. His word was literally law, and that law extended
not only to strictly religious matters, but to the minutest details of
daily life. It is most amusing to read his letters to his itinerant
preachers, whom he addresses in the most familiar terms. 'Dear Tommy' is
told that he is never to sit up later than ten. In general he (Mr.
Wesley) desires him to go to bed about a quarter after nine.[726] 'Dear
Sammy' is reminded, 'You are called to obey _me_ as a son in the Gospel.
But who can prove that you are so called to obey any other person?'
Another helper is admonished, 'Scream no more, at the peril of your
soul. Speak with all your heart, but with a moderate voice. It is said
of our Lord, "He shall not cry"--literally, scream.' The helpers
generally are commanded 'not to affect the gentleman. You have no more
to do with this character than with that of a dancing-master.' And
again, 'Do not mend our rules, but keep them,' with much more to the
same effect. His preachers in Ireland are instructed how they are to
avoid falling into the dirty habits of the country and the most minute
and delicate rules about personal cleanliness are laid down for them.

The congregations are ruled in almost the same lordly fashion as the
preachers. Of a certain congregation at Norwich Wesley writes, 'I told
them in plain terms that they were the most ignorant, self-conceited,
self-willed, fickle, untractable, disorderly, disjointed society that I
knew in the three kingdoms. And God applied to their hearts, so that
many were profited, but I do not find that one was offended.'[727] At
one time he had an idea that tea was expensive and unwholesome, and his
people are commanded to abstain from the deleterious beverage, and so to
'keep from sickness and pay their debts.' 'Many,' he writes, 'tell me to
my face I can persuade this people to anything;' so he tried to persuade
them to this. In the same year (1746) he determines to physic them all.
'I thought,' he says, 'of a kind of desperate experiment. I will prepare
and give them physic myself.' This indefatigable man provided for their
minds as well as for their souls and bodies. He furnished them with a
'Christian library,' writing, abridging, and condensing many books
himself, and recommending and editing others; and few, probably, of the
early Methodists read anything else.

As to the Conference, Wesley clearly gave its members to understand that
his autocracy was to be in no way limited by their action. '_They_ did
not,' he writes, 'desire the meeting, but _I_ did, knowing that in the
multitude of counsellors there is safety. But,' he adds significantly,
'I sent for them to advise, not to govern me. Neither did I at any of
those times divest myself of any part of that power which the providence
of God cast upon me without any desire or design of mine. What is that
power? It is a power of admitting into and excluding from the societies
under my care; of choosing and removing stewards, of receiving or not
receiving helpers: of appointing them where, when, and how to help me,
and of desiring any of them to meet me when I see good.'[728] They never
dreamt of disobeying him. So great was the awe which he inspired that
when the Deed of Declaration was drawn up in 1784, and Wesley selected,
somewhat arbitrarily, one hundred out of one hundred and ninety-two
preachers to be members of the Conference, though several murmured and
thought it hard that preachers of old standing should be rejected, yet
when the time came none durst oppose him. 'Many,' writes one of the
malcontents, 'were averse to the deed, but had not the courage to avow
their sentiments in Conference. Mr. Wesley made a speech and invited all
who were of his mind to stand up. They all rose to a man.'[729]

It certainly was an extraordinary power for one man to possess; but in
its exercise there was not the slightest taint of selfishness, nor yet
the slightest trace that he loved power for power's sake. His own
account of its rise is perfectly sincere, and artless, and, it is
honestly believed, perfectly true. 'The power I have,' he writes, 'I
never sought; it was the unadvised, unexpected result of the work which
God was pleased to work by me. I therefore suffer it till I can find
some one to ease me of my burthen.' He used his power simply to promote
his one great object--to make his followers better men and better
citizens, happier in this life and thrice happier in the life to come.
If it was a despotism it was a singularly useful and benevolent
despotism, a despotism which was founded wholly and solely upon the
respect which his personal character commanded. Surely if this man had
been, as his ablest biographer represents him,[730] an ambitious man, he
would have used his power for some personal end. He would at least have
yielded to the evident desire of some of his followers and have founded
a separate sect, in which he might have held a place not much inferior
to that which Mahomet held among the faithful. But he spoke the truth
when he said, 'So far as I know myself, I have no more concern for the
reputation of Methodism than for the reputation of Prester John.'[731]
When he heard of accusations being brought against him of 'shackling
free-born Englishmen' and of 'doing no less than making himself a Pope,'
he defended his power with an artless simplicity which was very
characteristic of the man. 'If,' he said, 'you mean by arbitrary power a
power which I exercise singly, without any colleague therein, this is
certainly true; but I see no harm in it. Arbitrary in this sense is a
very harmless word. I bear this burden merely for your sakes.' It is a
defence which one could fancy an Eastern tyrant making for the most
rigorous of 'paternal governments.' But Wesley was no tyrant; he had no
selfish end in view; it was literally 'for their sakes' that he ruled as
he did; and since he was infinitely superior to the mass of his subjects
(one can use no weaker term) in point of education, learning, and good
judgment, it was to their advantage that he did so.

At any rate a Churchman may be pardoned for thinking this, for one
effect of his unbounded influence was to prevent his followers from
separating from the Church. His sentiments on this point were so
constantly and so emphatically expressed that the only difficulty
consists in selecting the most suitable specimens. Perhaps the best plan
will be to quote a few passages in chronological order, written at
different periods of his life, to show how unalterable his opinions were
on this point, however much he might alter them in others. At the very
first Conference--in 1744, only six years after his conversion--we find
him declaring (for of course the dicta of Conference were simply his own
dicta), 'We believe the body of our hearers will even after our death
remain in the Church, unless they are thrust out. They will either be
thrust out or leaven the Church.' A few years later, 'In visiting
classes ask everyone, "Do you go to church as often as you did?" Set the
example and immediately alter any plan that interfereth therewith. Are
we not unawares, by little and little, tending to a separation from the
Church? Oh, remove every tendency thereto with all diligence. Receive
the Sacrament at every opportunity. Warn all against niceness in
hearing, a great and prevailing evil; against calling our society a
Church or the Church; against calling our preachers ministers and our
houses meeting-houses: call them plain preaching-houses. Do not license
yourself till you are constrained, and then not as a Dissenter, but as a
Methodist preacher.' In 1766, 'We will not, we dare not, separate from
the Church, for the reasons given several years ago. We are not
seceders.... Some may say, "Our own service is public worship." Yes, in
a sense, but not such as to supersede the Church service. We never
designed it should! If it were designed to be instead of the Church
service it would be essentially defective, for it seldom has the four
grand parts of public prayer--deprecation, petition, intercession, and
thanksgiving. Neither is it, even on the Lord's Day, concluded with the
Lord's Supper. If the people put ours in the place of the Church
service, we _hurt_ them that stay with us and _ruin_ them that leave
us.' In 1768, 'We are, in truth, so far from being enemies to the Church
that we are rather bigots to it. I dare not, like Mr. Venn, leave the
parish church where I am, and go to an Independent meeting. I advise all
over whom I have any influence to keep to the Church.' In 1777, in the
remarkable sermon which he preached on laying the foundation of the City
Road Chapel, after having given a succinct but graphic account of the
rise and progress of Methodism, 'we,' he concludes, 'do not, will not,
form any separate sect, but from principle remain, what we have always
been, true members of the Church of England.'[732] In 1778, 'To speak
freely, I myself find more life in the Church prayers than in any formal
extempore prayers of Dissenters.' In 1780, 'Having had opportunity of
seeing several Churches abroad, and having deeply considered the several
sorts of Dissenters at home, I am fully convinced our own Church, with
all her blemishes, is nearer the Scriptural plan than any other Church
in Europe.' In 1783, 'In every possible way I have advised the
Methodists to keep to the Church. They that do this most prosper best in
their souls. I have observed it long. If ever the Methodists in general
leave the Church, I must leave them.' In 1786, 'Wherever there is any
Church service I do not approve of any appointment the same hour,
because I love the Church of England, and would assist, not oppose it,
all I can.' In 1788, 'Still, the more I reflect the more I am convinced
that the Methodists ought not to leave the Church. I judge that to lose
a thousand--yea, ten thousand--of our people would be a less evil than
this. "But many had much comfort in this." So they would in any _new
thing_. I believe Satan himself would give them comfort therein, for he
knows what the end must be. Our glory has hitherto been not to be a
separate body. "_Hoc Ithacus velit_."' And finally, within two years of
his death, in his striking sermon on the ministerial office, 'In God's
name stop!... Ye are a new phenomenon on the earth--a body of people
who, being of no sect or party, are friends to all parties, and
endeavour to forward all in heart-religion, in the knowledge and love of
God and man. Ye yourselves were at first called in the Church of
England; and though ye have and will have a thousand temptations to
leave it, and set up for yourselves, regard them not; be Church of
England men still; do not cast away the peculiar glory which God hath
put upon you and frustrate the design of Providence, the very end for
which God raised you up.'

But some years before John Wesley uttered these memorable words had he
not himself done the very thing which he deprecated? Consciously and
intentionally, No! a thousand times no; but virtually and as a matter of
fact we must reluctantly answer, Yes. Lord Mansfield's famous dictum,
'Ordination is separation,' is unanswerable. When, in 1784, John Wesley
ordained Coke and Ashbury to be 'superintendents,' and Whatcoat and
Vasey to be 'elders,' in America, he to all intents and purposes crossed
the Rubicon. His brother Charles regarded the act in that light and
bitterly regretted it. How a logical mind like John Wesley's could
regard it in any other it is difficult to conceive. But that he had in
all sincerity persuaded himself that there was no inconsistency in it
with his strong Churchmanship there can be no manner of doubt.

The true explanation of John Wesley's conduct in this matter may perhaps
be found in the intensely practical character of his mind. His work in
America seemed likely to come to a deadlock for want of ordained
ministers. Thus we come back to the old motive. Everything must be
sacrificed for the sake of his work. Some may think this was doing evil
that good might come; but no such notion ever entered into John Wesley's
head; his rectitude of purpose, if not the clearness of his judgment, is
as conspicuous in this as in the other acts of his life.

It should also be remembered (for it serves to explain this, as well as
many other apparent inconsistencies in his career) that Wesley attached
very little value to the mere holding of right opinions. Orthodoxy, he
thought, constituted but a very small part, if a part at all, of true
religion. 'What,' he asks, 'is faith? Not an opinion nor any number of
opinions, be they ever so true. A string of opinions is no more
Christian faith than a string of beads is Christian holiness.' Opinions
were 'feathers light as air, trifles not worth naming.' Controversy was
his abhorrence; he thought 'God made practical divinity necessary, but
the Devil controversial.' When he entered into controversy with Tucker
in 1742, 'I now, he wrote, 'tread an untried path with fear and
trembling--fear not of my adversary, but of myself.' Just twenty years
later he records with evident satisfaction that he has entirely lost his
taste for controversy and his readiness in disputing, and this he takes
to be a providential discharge from it. 'I am sick,' he writes on
another occasion, 'of opinions; I am weary to bear them: my soul loathes
this frothy food. Give me solid, substantial religion. Give me an
humble, gentle lover of God and man. Whosoever thus doeth the will of my
Father which is in Heaven, the same is brother, and sister, and mother.'
He was anxious to promote a union between all the Evangelical clergy,
but it must be on the condition that the points of difference between
them should not be discussed. He was quite ready to hand over his
opponents to Fletcher, or Sellon, or Olivers, or anyone whom he judged
strong enough to take them in hand. He prided himself on the fact that
Methodism required no agreement on disputed points of doctrine among its
members. 'Are you in earnest about your soul?' That was the one question
that must be answered in the affirmative. 'Is thine heart right as my
heart is with thy heart? If so, then give me thine hand.' Or, as he
elsewhere expresses it, 'The sum is, One thing I know: whereas I was
blind, now I see--an argument of which a peasant, a woman, a child, may
feel all the force.'[733]

This almost supercilious disregard of mere orthodoxy was all very well
in Wesley's days, but it would never have done in the earlier part of
the century; for it tacitly assumed that the main truths of Christianity
had been firmly established; and the assumption was justifiable. The
work of the apologists had prepared the way for the work of the
practical reformer. If the former had not done their work, the latter
could not have afforded to think so lightly as he did of sound doctrine.

Feeling thus that opinions were a matter of quite secondary
consideration, Wesley had no hesitation about modifying, or even totally
abandoning, opinions which he found to be practically injurious.[734] He
confessed, as we have seen, that he was quite wrong in his theory of the
Divine origin of Episcopacy, and in his estimate of his own state of
mind previous to his conversion in 1738. He very materially modified his
doctrine of Christian perfection when he found it was liable to
practical abuse, and appended notes to an edition of hymns in which that
doctrine was too unguardedly stated.[735] He confessed his error on the
subject of Christian assurance in a characteristically outspoken
fashion. 'When,' he wrote in old age, 'fifty years ago, my brother
Charles and I, in the simplicity of our hearts, taught the people that
unless they _knew_ their sins were forgiven they were under the wrath
and curse of God, I marvel they did not stone us. The Methodists, I
hope, know better now. We preach assurance, as we always did, as a
common privilege of the children of God, but we do not enforce it under
pain of damnation denounced on all who enjoy it not.' He thought it idle
to discuss the question of regeneration in baptism when it was obvious
that baptized persons had practically as much need as heathens to be
born again.[736] It was quite as much their fondness for controversy as
their rigid Calvinism which put him out of love with the Scotch and made
him feel that he could do no good among them.[737]

In accounting for Wesley's repugnance to religious controversy it should
not be forgotten that in the latter half of his life controversial
divinity had sunk to a low ebb, at least among those with whom he would
most naturally come into contact. A man of his logical mind, clear
common sense, and extensive reading could hardly fail to be disgusted
with much that passed for religious literature. He shrunk with a horror
which is almost amusing from the task of reviewing religious
publications in the 'Arminian Magazine.' 'I would not,' he said, 'read
all the religious books that are now published for the whole world.' He
protested against 'what were vulgarly called Gospel sermons.' 'The
term,' he says, 'has now become a mere cant word. I wish none of our
Society would use it. It has no determinate meaning. Let but a pert,
self-sufficient animal that has neither sense nor grace bawl out
something about Christ and His blood, or justification by faith, and his
hearers cry out, "What a fine Gospel sermon!"'[738]

In fact, Wesley in his later years was very much alienated from what was
called 'the religious world.' He had received some of his severest
wounds in the house of his friends. Not Warburton, nor Lavington, nor
Gibson had spoken and written such hard things against him as many of
the most decidedly Evangelical clergy. He clung to the poor and
unlettered, not, as it has been asserted, because he desired to be a
sort of Pope among them, but because he really felt that his work was
there less hampered by the disturbing influence of conflicting opinions,
which were barren of practical effects upon the life. As usual, he made
no secret whatever of his preference. A nobleman accustomed to flattery
on all sides must have been rather taken aback on the receipt of this
very outspoken rebuff from plain John Wesley: 'To speak the rough
truth, I do not desire any intercourse with any persons of quality in
England. They can do me no good, and I fear I can do none to them.'[739]
One can fancy the amazement of Lady Huntingdon, who exacted and received
no small amount of homage from her protégés, when she received a letter
from John Wesley so different from those which were usually addressed to
her. 'My Lady, for a considerable time I have had it in my mind to write
a few lines to your ladyship, though I cannot learn that your ladyship
has ever enquired whether I was living or dead. By the mercy of God I am
still alive and following the work to which He has called me, although
without any help, even in the most trying times, from those I might have
expected it from. Their voice seemed to be rather, _Down with him! down,
even to the ground!_ I mean (for I use no ceremony or circumlocution)
Mr. Madan, Haweis, Berridge, and (I am sorry to say) Whitefield.' Had it
been to an earl instead of a countess the letter would probably have
been rougher still; but John Wesley was a thorough gentleman in every
sense of the word, and could not insult a female--only if the female had
been plain Sarah Ryan instead of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, she
would have had more chance of being treated with deference; for Wesley
positively disliked the rich and noble. 'In most genteel religious
people,' he said, 'there is so strange a mixture that I have seldom much
confidence in them. But I love the poor; in many of them I find pure,
genuine grace, unmixed with paint, folly, and affectation.' And again,
'Tis well a few of the rich and noble are called. May God increase the
number. But I should rejoice, were it the will of God, if it were done
by the ministry of others. If I might choose, I would still, as
hitherto, preach the Gospel to the poor.' He had the lowest opinion both
of the intellectual and moral character of the higher classes. 'Oh! how
hard it is,' he once exclaimed, 'to be shallow enough for a polite
audience!' And on another occasion he records with some bitterness of a
rich congregation to which he had preached at Whitehaven, 'They all
behaved with as much decency as if they had been colliers.' 'I have
found,' he says again, 'some of the uneducated poor who have exquisite
taste and sentiment, and many, very many, of the rich who have scarcely
any at all.' He wrote to Fletcher, in what one must call an unprovoked
strain of rudeness, on the danger of his conversing with the 'genteel
Methodists.' Indeed, the leading members of the Evangelical school--Lady
Huntingdon, Sir Richard and Rowland Hill, Venn, Romaine, and
others--were, quite apart from their Calvinism, never cordially in
harmony with John Wesley. As years went on Wesley must have felt himself
more and more a lonely man so far as his equals were concerned, for in
point of breeding and culture he was fully the equal of the very best.
It must not be supposed that Wesley did not feel this isolation. There
is a sadness about the strain in which he wrote to Benson in 1770.
'Whatever I say, it will be all one. They will find fault because I say
it. There is implicit envy at my power (so called) and jealousy
therefrom.' Wesley was not demonstrative, but he was a man of strong
affections and acute feelings, and he felt his loneliness, and more so
than ever after the death of his brother Charles. There is a touching
story that a fortnight after the death of the latter Wesley was giving
out in chapel his dead brother's magnificent hymn,

    Come, O thou traveller unknown,

and when he came to the lines,

    My company before is gone,
      And I am left alone with thee,

the old man (then in his eighty-fourth year) burst into tears and hid
his face in his hands.

One feature in Wesley's character must be carefully noted by all who
would form a fair estimate of him. If it was a weakness, and one which
frequently led him into serious practical mistakes, it was at any rate
an amiable weakness--a fault which was very near akin to a virtue. A
guileless trustfulness of his fellow-men, who often proved very unworthy
of his confidence, and, akin to this, a credulity, a readiness to
believe the marvellous, tinged his whole career. 'My brother,' said
Charles Wesley, 'was, I think, born for the benefit of knaves.'[740] It
is in the light of this quality that we must interpret many important
events of his life. His relations with the other sex were notoriously
unfortunate; not a breath of scandal was ever uttered against him; and
the mere fact that it was not is a convincing proof, if any were needed,
of the spotless purity of his life; for it is difficult to conceive
conduct more injudicious than his was. The story of his relationship
with Sophia Causton, Grace Murray, Sarah Ryan, and last, but not least,
the widow Vazeille, his termagant wife, need not here be repeated. In
the case of any other man scandal would often have been busy; but
Wesley was above suspicion. His conduct was put down to the right
cause--viz. a perfect guilelessness and simplicity of nature. The same
tone of mind led him to take men as well as women too much at their own
estimates. He was quite ready to believe those who said that they had
attained the summit of Christian perfection,[741] though, with
characteristic humility, he never professed to have attained it himself.
He was far more ready than either his brother Charles or Whitefield to
see in the physical symptoms which attended the early movement of
Methodism the hand of God; but, in justice to him, it should be added
that he was no less ready than they were to check them when in any case
he was convinced of their imposture. The same spirit led him to
attribute to the immediate interposition of Providence events which
might have been more reasonably attributed to ordinary causes; this laid
him open to the merciless attacks of Bishops Lavington and Warburton.
The same spirit led him to the superstitious and objectionable practice
of having recourse to the 'Sortes Biblicæ,' by which folly he was more
than once misled against his own better judgment; the same spirit
tempted him to lend far too eager an ear to tales of witchcraft and

But, after all, these weaknesses detract but little from the greatness
and nothing from the goodness of John Wesley. He stands pre-eminent
among the worthies who originated and conducted the revival of practical
religion which took place in the last century. In particular points he
was surpassed by one or other of his fellow-workers. In preaching power
he was not equal to Whitefield; in saintliness of character he was
surpassed by Fletcher; in poetical talent he was inferior to his
brother; in solid learning he was, perhaps, not equal to his friend and
disciple Adam Clarke. But no one man combined _all_ these
characteristics in so remarkable a degree as John Wesley; and he
possessed others besides these which were all his own. He was a born
ruler of men; the powers which under different conditions would have
made him 'a heaven-born statesman' he dedicated to still nobler and
more useful purposes. Among the poor at least he was always appreciated
at his full worth. And one is thankful to find that towards the end of
his life his character began to be better understood and respected by
worthy men who could not entirely identify themselves with the
Evangelical movement. There is a pleasing story that Wesley met Bishop
Lowth at dinner in 1777, when the learned Bishop refused to sit above
Wesley at table, saying, 'Mr. Wesley, may I be found sitting at your
feet in another world.' When Wesley declined to take precedence the
Bishop asked him as a favour to sit above him, as he was deaf and
desired not to lose a sentence of Mr. Wesley's conversation. Wesley,
though, as we have seen, he had no partiality for the great, fully
appreciated this courtesy, and recorded in his journal, 'Dined with
Lowth, Bishop of London. His whole behaviour was worthy of a Christian
bishop--easy, affable, and courteous--and yet all his conversation spoke
the dignity which was suitable to his character.'[743] In 1782, at
Exeter, Wesley dined with the Bishop in his palace, five other clergy
being present.[744] In 1784, at Whitehaven, Wesley 'had all the Church
ministers to hear him, and most of the gentry of the town.'[745]

Still to the last Wesley had the mortification of seeing his work
occasionally thwarted by that Church which he loved so dearly. One of
the last letters which he wrote was a manly appeal to the Bishop of
Lincoln on the subject.

A few months later the noble old man was at rest from his labours. When
the clergyman who officiated at his funeral came to the words,
'Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take unto Himself the soul
of our dear _brother_ here departed,' he substituted the word 'father'
for 'brother,' and the vast multitude burst into tears. It remained for
the present generation to do justice to his memory by giving a place in
our Christian Walhalla among the great dead to one who was certainly
among the greatest of his day.[746]

The next great leader of the early Evangelical movement who claims our
attention is _George Whitefield_ (1714-1770). Whitefield, like Wesley,
appears from first to last to have been actuated by one pure and
disinterested motive--the desire to do as much good as he could in the
world, and to bring as many souls as possible into the Redeemer's
kingdom. But, except in this one grand point of resemblance, before
which all points of difference sink into insignificance, it would be
difficult to conceive two men whose characters and training were more
different than those of Wesley and Whitefield.[747] Instead of the calm
and cultured retirement of Epworth Rectory, Whitefield was brought up
amidst the vulgar bustle of a country town inn. His position was not
very much improved when he exchanged the drawer's apron at the 'Bell
Inn,' Gloucester, for the degrading badge of a servitor at Pembroke
College, Oxford. After two or three years' experience in this scarcely
less menial capacity than that which he had filled at home, he was at
once launched into the sea of life, and found himself, at the age of
twenty-two, with hardly any intellectual or moral discipline, without
having acquired any taste for study, without having ever had the benefit
of associating on anything like terms of equality with men of intellect
or refinement, suddenly elevated to a degree of notoriety which few have
attained. Scarcely one man in a thousand could have passed through such
a transformation without being spoiled. But Whitefield's was too noble a
spirit to be easily spoiled. Nature had given him a loving, generous,
unselfish disposition, and Divine grace had sanctified and elevated his
naturally amiable qualities and given him others which nature can never
bestow. He went forth into the world filled with one burning desire--the
desire of doing good to his fellow-men and of extending the kingdom of
his Divine Master.

It is needless here to repeat the story of the marvellous effects
produced by his preaching. Nothing like it had ever been seen in England
before. Ten thousand--twenty thousand--hearers hung breathless upon the
preacher's words. Rough colliers, who had been a terror to their
neighbourhood, wept until the tears made white gutters down their
cheeks--black as they came from the colliery--and, what is still more to
the purpose, changed their whole manner of life and became sober,
God-fearing citizens in consequence of what they heard; sceptical
philosophers listened respectfully, if not to much purpose, to one who
hardly knew what philosophy meant; fine gentlemen came to hear one who,
in the conventional sense of the term, had very little of the gentleman
about him; shrewd statesmen, who had a very keen appreciation of the
value of money, were induced by the orator to give first copper, then
silver, then gold, and then to borrow from their friends when they had
emptied their own pockets.

What was the secret of his fascination? His printed sermons which have
come down to us are certainly disappointing.[748] They are meagre
compositions enough, feeble in thought and badly expressed; and what is
known of Whitefield's mental powers would hardly lead us to expect them
to be anything else. But it is scarcely necessary to remark that to
judge of the effects of any address delivered by the way in which it
reads is misleading; and it should also be remembered that what would
sound to us mere truisms were new truths to the majority of those to
whom Whitefield preached. A man of simple, earnest, loving spirit,
utterly devoid of self-consciousness and filled with only one
thought--how best to recommend the religion which he loves--may produce
a great effect without much theological learning. Such a spirit
Whitefield had, if any man ever had. Moreover, if the first
qualification of an orator be action, the second action, and the third
action, Whitefield was undoubtedly an orator. A fine presence,
attractive features, and a magnificent voice which could make itself
heard at an almost incredible distance, and which he seems to have known
perfectly well how to modulate, all tended to heighten the effect of his
sermons. As to the matter of them, there was at least one point in which
Whitefield was not deficient. He had the descriptive power in a very
remarkable degree.

If it were not that the expression conveyed an idea of unreality--the
very last idea that should be associated with Whitefield's
preaching--one might say that he had a good eye for dramatic effect. On
a grassy knoll at Kingswood; in the midst of 'Vanity Fair' at
Basingstoke or Moorfields, where the very contrast of all the
surroundings would add impressiveness to the preacher's words; in Hyde
Park at midnight, in darkness which might be felt, when men's hearts
were panic-stricken at the prospect of the approaching earthquake, which
was to be the precursor of the end of the world; on Hampton Common,
surrounded by twelve thousand people, collected to see a man hung in
chains--the scenery would all lend effect to the great preacher's
utterances. Outdoor preaching was what he loved best. He felt 'cribbed,
cabined, and confined' within any walls. 'Mounts,' he said, 'are the
best pulpits, and the heavens the best sounding-boards.' 'I always find
I have most power when I speak in the open air--a proof to me that God
is pleased with this way of preaching.'[749] 'Every one hath his proper
gift. Field-preaching is my plan. In this I am carried as on eagle's
wings. God makes way for me everywhere.'[750]

In dwelling upon these secondary causes of Whitefield's success as a
preacher it is by no means intended to lose sight of the great First
Cause. God, who can make the weak things of this world to confound the
mighty, could and did work for the revival of religion by this weak
instrument. But God works through human agencies; and it is no
derogation to the power of His grace, but simply tracing out the laws by
which that grace works, when we note the human and natural agencies
which all contributed to lend a charm to Whitefield's preaching. The
difficulty of accounting for that charm is not so great as would at
first sight appear. Indeed, immeasurably superior as Wesley's printed
sermons are to Whitefield's in depth of thought, closeness of reasoning,
and purity of diction, it is more difficult to explain the _excitement_
which the older and far abler man produced than to explain that which
attended the younger man's oratory. For Wesley--if we may judge from his
printed sermons--carefully eschewed everything that would be called in
the present day 'sensational.' Plain, downright common sense, expressed
in admirably chosen but studiously simple language, formed the staple of
his preaching. One can quite well understand anyone being convinced and
edified by such discourses, but there is nothing in them which is
apparently calculated to produce the extraordinary excitement which, in
a second degree only to Whitefield, Wesley did in fact arouse.

Preaching was Whitefield's great work in life,--and his work was also
his pleasure. 'O that I could fly from pole to pole,' he exclaimed,
'preaching the everlasting Gospel.' When he is ill, he trusts that
preaching will soon cure him again. 'This,' he says, 'is my grand
Catholicon. O that I may drop and die in my blessed Master's work.' His
wish was almost literally fulfilled. When his strength was failing him,
when he was worn out before his time in his Master's work, he lamented
that he was 'reduced to the short allowance of one sermon a day, and
three on Sundays.'[751] He preached when he was literally a dying man.
His other work scarcely claims a passing notice in a short sketch like
the present, especially as his peculiar opinions and his relationship
with the Wesleys and others will again come under our notice in
connection with the Calvinistic controversy. With the exception of
letters to his friends and followers, and the inevitable journal (almost
every member of the Evangelical school in the last century kept a
journal), he wrote comparatively little; and what he did write,
certainly need not cause us to regret that he wrote no more. On one of
his voyages from America, Whitefield employed his leisure in abridging
and gospelising Law's 'Serious Call.' Happily the work does not appear
to have been finished; at any rate, it was not given to the world. Law's
great work would certainly bear 'gospelising,' but Whitefield was not
the man to do it. William Law improved by George Whitefield would be
something like William Shakspeare improved by Colley Gibber. But the
incident suggests the very different qualities which are required for
the preacher and the writer. What was the character of Law's preaching
we do not know, except from one sermon preached in his youth; but we may
safely assume that he could never have produced the effects which
Whitefield did.[752] On the other hand, one trembles at the very thought
of Whitefield meddling with Law's masterpiece, for he certainly could
not have touched it without spoiling it.

Whitefield's Orphan House in Georgia was his hobby; it was only one out
of a thousand instances of his benevolence; but his enthusiastic efforts
in behalf of it hardly form a part of the Evangelical revival, and
therefore need not be dwelt upon.

The individuality of _Charles Wesley_ (1708-1788), the sweet psalmist of
Methodism, is perhaps in some danger of being merged in that of his more
distinguished brother. And yet he had a very decided character of his
own; he would have been singularly unlike the Wesley family if he had
not. Charles Wesley was by no means the mere _fidus Achates_, or man
Friday, of his brother John. Quite apart from his poetry, the effects of
which upon the early Methodist movement it would be difficult to
exaggerate, he played a most important part in the revival. As a
preacher, he was almost as energetic as John; and before his marriage he
was almost as effective an itinerant. His elder brother always spoke of
the work which was being done as their joint work; 'my brother and I' is
the expression he constantly used in describing it.[753]

As a general rule, the two brothers acted in complete harmony; but
differences occurred sometimes, and, when they did, Charles Wesley
showed that he had a very decided will of his own; and he could
generally make it felt. For instance, in 1744, when the Wesleys were
most unreasonably suspected of inclining to Popery, and of favouring the
Pretender, John Wesley wrote an address to the king, 'in the name of the
Methodists;' but it was laid aside because Charles Wesley objected to
any act which would seem to constitute them a sect, or at least would
seem to allow that they were a body distinct from the National Church.
Again, from the first, Charles Wesley looked with great suspicion on the
bodily excitement which attended his brother's preaching, and it is more
than probable that he helped to modify John Wesley's opinions on this
subject. On the ordination question, Charles Wesley felt very strongly;
he never fell in with his brother's views, but vehemently disapproved of
his whole conduct in the matter. He would probably have interfered still
more actively, but for some years before the ordination question arose
he had almost ceased to itinerate, partly, Mr. Tyerman thinks, because
he was married, and partly because of the feeling in many societies, and
especially among many preachers, against the Church. In 1753, when John
Wesley was dangerously ill, Charles Wesley distinctly told the societies
that he neither could nor would stand in his brother's place, if it
pleased God to take him, for he had neither a body, nor a mind, nor
talents, nor grace for it. In 1779, he wrote to his brother in terms as
peremptory as John himself was wont to use, and such as few others would
have dared to employ in addressing the founder of Methodism. 'The
preachers,' he writes,[754] 'do not love the Church of England. When we
are gone, a separation is inevitable. Do you not wish to keep as many
good people in the Church as you can? Something might be done now to
save the remainder, if only you had resolution, and would stand by me as
firmly as I will stand by you. Consider what you are bound to do as a
clergyman, and what you do, do quickly.' It has been already stated that
Charles was, if possible, even more attached to the Church than John.
John, on his part, fully felt the need of his brother's help. In 1768,
he wrote to him, 'I am at my wits' end with regard to two things: the
Church and Christian perfection. Unless both you and I stand in the gap
in good earnest, the Methodists will drop them both. Talking will not
avail, we must _do_, or be borne away. "Age, vir esto! nervos intende
tuos."' On another occasion, John rescued his brother from a dangerous
tendency which he showed towards the stillness of the Moravians. He
wrote to him, 'The poison is in you, fair words have stolen away your
heart;' and made this characteristic entry in his journal:--'The
Philistines are upon thee, Samson; but the Lord is not departed from
thee; He shall strengthen thee yet again, and thou shalt be avenged for
the loss of thine eyes.'

There is an interesting letter from Whitefield to Charles Wesley, dated
December 22, 1752, from which it appears that there was a threatened
rupture between the two brothers, the cause of which we do not
know.[755] 'I have read and pondered your kind letter with a degree of
solemnity of spirit. What shall I say? Really I can scarce tell. The
connection between you and your brother hath been so close and
continued, and your attachment so necessary to him to keep up his
interest, that I could not willingly for the world do or say anything
that may separate such friends. I cannot help thinking that he is still
jealous of me and my proceedings; but I thank God I am quite easy about
it.'[756] The last sentence is characteristically injudicious, if
Whitefield desired, as undoubtedly he did, to heal the breach; but the
letter is valuable as showing that, in the opinion of Whitefield, who
must have known as much about the matter as anyone, the co-operation of
the two brothers was essential to their joint work.

Indeed, if for no other reason, Charles Wesley occupies a most important
place in the history of early Methodism, as forming the connecting link
between John Wesley and Whitefield. In October, 1749, he wrote, 'George
Whitefield and my brother and I are one; a threefold cord which shall no
more be broken;' but he does not add, as he might have done, that he
himself was the means by which the union was effected. The contrast
between Whitefield and John Wesley, in character, tastes, culture, &c.,
was so very great that, quite apart from their doctrinal differences,
there could probably never have been any real intimacy between them, had
there not been some common friend who had in his character some points
of contact with both. That common friend was Charles Wesley. Full of
sterling common sense, highly cultured and refined, possessed of strong
reasoning powers, and well read like his brother, he was impulsive,
demonstrative in his feelings, and very tenderhearted like Whitefield.
Whitefield never quite appreciated John Wesley, but Charles he loved
dearly, and so did John. As we have seen, the one solitary instance of
the strong man's breaking down was on the death of his brother. And
Charles Wesley was thoroughly worthy of every good man's love. His fame
(except as a poet) has been somewhat overshadowed by the still greater
renown of his brother, but he contributed his full share towards the
success of the Evangelical Revival.

If John Wesley was the great leader and organiser, Charles Wesley the
great poet, and George Whitefield the great preacher of Methodism, the
highest type of saintliness which it produced was unquestionably _John
Fletcher_ (1729-1785). Never, perhaps, since the rise of Christianity
has the mind which was in Christ Jesus been more faithfully copied than
it was in the Vicar of Madeley. To say that he was a good Christian is
saying too little. He was more than Christian, he was Christlike. It is
said that Voltaire, when challenged to produce a character as perfect as
that of Jesus Christ, at once mentioned Fletcher of Madeley; and if the
comparison between the God-man and any child of Adam were in any case
admissible, it would be difficult to find one with whom it could be
instituted with less appearance of blasphemy than this excellent man.
Fletcher was a Swiss by birth and education; and to the last he showed
traces of his foreign origin. But England can claim the credit of having
formed his spiritual character. Soon after his settlement in England as
tutor to the sons of Mr. Hill of Terne Hall, he became attracted by the
Methodist movement, which had then (1752) become a force in the country,
and in 1753 he was admitted into Holy Orders. The account of his
appointment to the living of Madeley presents a very unusual phenomenon
in the eighteenth century. His patron, Mr. Hill, offered him the living
of Dunham, 'where the population was small, the income good, and the
village situated in the midst of a fine sporting country.' These were no
recommendations in the eyes of Fletcher, and he declined the living on
the ground that the income was too large and the population too small.
Madeley had the advantage of having only half the income and double the
population of Dunham. On being asked whether he would accept Madeley if
the vicar of that parish would consent to exchange it for Dunham,
Fletcher gladly embraced the offer. As the Vicar of Madeley had
naturally no objection to so advantageous an exchange, Fletcher was
instituted to the cure of the large Shropshire village, in which he
spent a quarter of a century. There is no need to record his apostolical
labours in this humble sphere of duty. Madeley was a rough parish, full
of colliers; but there was also a sprinkling of resident gentry. Like
his friend John Wesley, Fletcher found more fruits of his work among the
poor than among the gentry. But none, whether rich or poor, could resist
the attractions of this saintly man. In 1772 he addressed to the
principal inhabitants of the Parish of Madeley 'An appeal to matter of
fact and common sense,' the dedication of which is so characteristic
that it is worth quoting in full. 'Gentlemen,' writes the vicar, 'you
are no less entitled to my private labours than the inferior class of my
parishioners. As you do not choose to partake with them of my evening
instructions, I take the liberty to present you with some of my morning
meditations. May these well-meant efforts of my pen be more acceptable
to you than those of my tongue! And may you carefully read in your
closets what you have perhaps inattentively heard in the church! I
appeal to the Searcher of hearts, that I had rather impart truth than
receive tithes. You kindly bestow the latter upon me; grant me the
satisfaction of seeing you receive favourably the former from,
gentlemen, your affectionate minister and obedient servant, J.

When Lady Huntingdon founded her college for the training of ministers
at Trevecca, she invited Fletcher to undertake a sort of general
superintendence over it. This Fletcher undertook without fee or
reward--not, of course, with the intention of residing there, for he had
no sympathy with the bad custom of non-residence which was only too
common in his day. He was simply to visit the college as frequently as
he could; 'and,' writes Dr. Benson, the first head-master, 'he was
received as an angel of God.' 'It is not possible,' he adds, 'for me to
describe the veneration in which we all held him. Like Elijah in the
schools of the Prophets, he was revered, he was loved, he was almost
adored. My heart kindles while I write. Here it was that I saw, shall I
say an angel in human flesh?--I should not far exceed the truth if I
said so'--and much more to the same effect. It was the same wherever
Fletcher went; the impression he made was extraordinary; language seems
to fail those who tried to describe it. 'I went,' said one who visited
him in an illness (he was always delicate), 'to see a man that had one
foot in the grave, but I found a man that had one foot in heaven.'[757]
'Sir,' said Mr. Venn to one who asked him his opinion of Fletcher, 'he
was a _luminary_--a luminary did I say?--he was a _sun_! I have known
all the great men for these fifty years, but none like him.' John Wesley
was of the same opinion; in Fletcher he saw realised in the highest
degree all that he meant by 'Christian Perfection.' For some time he
hesitated to write a description of this 'great man,' 'judging that only
an Apelles was proper to paint an Alexander;' but at length he published
his well-known sermon on the significant text, 'Mark the perfect man,'
&c. (Ps. xxxvii. 37), which he concluded with this striking testimony to
the unequalled character of his friend: 'I was intimately acquainted
with him for above thirty years; I conversed with him morning, noon, and
night without the least reserve, during a journey of many hundred miles;
and in all that time I never heard him speak one improper word, nor saw
him do an improper action. To conclude; many exemplary men have I known,
holy in heart and life, within fourscore years, but one equal to him I
have not known--one so inwardly and outwardly devoted to God. So
unblamable a character in every respect I have not found either in
Europe or America; and I scarce expect to find another such on this side
of eternity.' Fletcher, on his part, was one of the few parish clergymen
who to the end thoroughly appreciated John Wesley. He thought it
'shameful that no clergyman should join Wesley to keep in the Church the
work God had enabled him to carry on therein;' and he was half-inclined
to join him as his deacon, 'not,' he adds with genuine modesty, 'with
any view of presiding over the Methodists after you, but to ease you a
little in your old age, and to be in the way of receiving, perhaps
doing, more good.' Wesley was very anxious that Fletcher should be his
successor, and proposed it to him in a characteristic letter; but
Fletcher declined the office, and had he accepted, the plan could never
have been carried out, for the hale old man survived his younger friend
several years. The last few years of Fletcher's life were cheered by the
companionship of one to whom no higher praise can be awarded than to say
that she was worthy of being Fletcher's wife. Next to Susanna Wesley
herself, Mrs. Fletcher stands pre-eminent among the heroines of
Methodism. In 1785 the saint entered into his everlasting rest, dying in
harness at his beloved Madeley. His death-bed scene is too sacred to be
transferred to these pages.

Indeed, there is something almost unearthly about the whole of this
man's career. He is an object in some respects rather for admiration
than for imitation. He could do and say things which other men could not
without some sort of unreality. John Wesley, with his usual good sense,
warns his readers of this in reference to one particular habit, viz.
'the facility of raising useful observations from the most trifling
incidents.' 'In him,' he says, 'it partly resulted from nature, and was
partly a supernatural gift. But what was becoming and graceful in Mr.
Fletcher would be disgustful almost in any other.' An ordinary
Christian, for example, who, when he was having his likeness taken,
should exhort 'the limner, and all that were in the room, not only to
get the outlines drawn, but the colourings also of the image of Jesus on
their hearts;' who, 'when ordered to be let blood,' should, 'while his
blood was running into the cup, take occasion to expatiate on the
precious blood-shedding of the Lamb of God;' who should tell his cook
'to stir up the fire of divine love in her soul,' and intreat his
housemaid 'to sweep every corner in her heart;' who, when he received a
present of a new coat, should, in thanking the donor, draw a minute and
elaborate contrast between the broadcloth and the robe of Christ's
righteousness--would run the risk of making not only himself, but the
sacred subjects which he desired to recommend, ridiculous. Unfortunately
there were not a few, both in Fletcher's day and subsequently, who did
fall into this error, and, with the very best intentions, dragged the
most solemn truths through the dirt. Fletcher, besides being so
heavenly-minded that what would seem forced and strained in others
seemed perfectly natural in him, was also a man of cultivated
understanding and (with occasional exceptions) of refined and delicate
taste; but in this matter he was a dangerous model to follow. Who but
Fletcher, for instance, could, without savouring of irreverence or even
blasphemy, when offering some ordinary refreshment to his friends, have
accompanied it with the words, 'The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ,' &c.,
and 'The Blood of our Lord,' &c.? But extraordinary as was the
spiritual-mindedness of this man of God, he could, without an effort,
descend to earthly matters on occasion. One of the most beautiful traits
of his character was illustrated on one of these occasions. He had done
the Government good service by writing on the American Rebellion, and
Lord Dartmouth was commissioned to ask him whether any preferment would
be acceptable to him. 'I want nothing,' answered the simple-hearted
Christian, 'but more grace.' His love of children was another touching
characteristic of Fletcher. 'The birds of my fine wood,' he wrote to a
friend, 'have almost done singing; but I have met with a parcel of
children whose hearts seem turned towards singing the praises of God,
and we sing every day from four to five. Help us by your prayers.'

Having described the leader, the orator, the poet, and the saint of
Methodism, it still remains to say something about the patroness of the
movement. Methodism won its chief triumphs among the poor and lower
middle classes. The upper classes, though a revival of religion was
sorely needed among them, were not perceptibly affected. To promote this
desirable object, _Selina, Countess of Huntingdon_ (1707-1791),
sacrificed her time, her energies, her money, and her social reputation.

It is impossible to help respecting a lady whose whole life was devoted
to so noble an aim. In one sense she gave up more than any of the
promoters of Methodism had the opportunity of doing. For, in the first
place, she had more to give up; and, in the second, it required more
moral courage than the rest were called upon to exercise to run counter
to all the prejudices of the class to which she naturally belonged. Both
by birth and by marriage she was connected with some of the noblest
families in the kingdom, and, by general confession, religion was at a
very low ebb among the nobility in Lady Huntingdon's day. The prominent
part which she took in the Evangelical Revival exposed her to that
contempt and ridicule from her own order which are to many harder to
bear than actual persecution. To the credit, however, of the nobility,
it must be added that most of them learnt to respect Lady Huntingdon's
character and motives, though they could not be persuaded to embrace her
opinions. With a few exceptions, chiefly among her own sex, Lady
Huntingdon was not very successful in her attempts to affect, to any
practical purpose, the class to which she belonged; but she was
marvellously successful in persuading the most distinguished persons in
the intellectual as well as the social world to come and hear her
favourite preachers. No ball or masquerade brought together more
brilliant assemblies than those which met in her drawing-room at
Chelsea, or her chapel at Bath, or in the Tabernacle itself, to hear
Whitefield and others preach. To enumerate the company would be to
enumerate the most illustrious men and women of the day. The Earl of
Chatham, Lord North, the Earl of Sandwich, Bubb Doddington, George
Selwyn, Charles Townshend, Horace Walpole, Lord Camden, Lord
Northington, the Earl of Chesterfield, Viscount Bolingbroke, the Earl of
Bath, Frederick, Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cumberland, John, Lord
Hervey, the Duke of Bolton, the Duke of Grafton, Sarah, Duchess of
Marlborough, the Duchess of Buckingham, Lady Townshend, were at
different times among the hearers.[758] Horace Walpole tells us that in
1766 it was quite the rage at Bath among persons in high life to form
parties to hear the different preachers who 'supplied' the chapel. The
bishops themselves did not disdain to attend 'incognito;' curtained
seats were placed immediately inside the door, where the prelates were
smuggled in; and this was wittily called 'Nicodemus's corner.' The
Duchess of Buckingham accepted an invitation from Lady Huntingdon to
attend her chapel at Bath in the following words: 'I thank your ladyship
for the information concerning the Methodist preachers; their doctrines
are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and
disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level
all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told
you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the
earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder
that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with
high rank and good breeding. I shall be most happy to come and hear your
favourite preacher.'[759] Horace Walpole (who, however, is not always to
be trusted when he is writing on religious matters) wrote to Sir Horace
Mann, March 23, 1749: 'Methodism is more fashionable than anything but
brag; the women play very deep at both--as deep, it is much suspected,
as the Roman matrons did at the mysteries of Bona Dea. If gracious Anne
were alive she would make an admirable defendress of the new faith, and
would build fifty more churches for female proselytes.'[760] It is fair
to add, however, that some of the ablest among the hearers were the most
impressed. David Hume's opinion of Whitefield's preaching has already
been noticed. David Garrick[761] was certainly not disposed to ridicule
it. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Lord Bolingbroke's
sentiments expressed in a private letter to the Earl of Marchmont: 'I
hope you heard from me by myself, as well as of me by Mr. Whitefield.
This apostolical person preached some time ago at Lady Huntingdon's, and
I should have been curious to hear him. Nothing kept me from going but
an imagination that there was to be a select auditory. That saint, our
friend Chesterfield, was there, and I heard from him an extreme good
account of the sermon.'[762] Lord Bolingbroke afterwards did hear
Whitefield, and said to Lady Huntingdon: 'You may command my pen when
you will; it shall be drawn in your service. For, admitting the Bible
to be true, I shall have little apprehension of maintaining the
doctrines of predestination and grace against all your revilers.' We do
not hear that this new defender of the faith _did_ employ his pen in
Lady Huntingdon's service, and few perhaps will regret that he did not.
The extreme dislike of Lords Bolingbroke and Chesterfield for the
regular clergy, whom they would be glad to annoy in any way they could,
might have had something to do with their patronage of the 'new lights,'
as the Methodists were called. But this cannot be said of others. The
Earl of Bath, for instance, accompanied a donation of 50_l._ to Lady
Huntingdon for the Tabernacle at Bristol with the following remark:
'Mocked and reviled as Mr. Whitefield is (1749) by all ranks of society,
still I contend that the day will come when England will be just, and
own his greatness as a reformer, and his goodness as a minister of the
Most High God.'[763] Lord Chesterfield gave 20_l._ to the same object.

Lady Huntingdon was not content with enlisting the nobility in favour of
her cause. She made her way to the Court itself. She was scandalised by
the gaiety of Archbishop Cornwallis's household, and, after having
fruitlessly remonstrated with the primate, she laid her case before the
King and the Queen. She was not only successful in the immediate object
of her visit--the King, in consequence, writing a sharp letter to the
archbishop, desiring him to desist from his unseemly routs--but was told
by George III. that he was happy in having an opportunity of assuring
her ladyship of the very good opinion he had of her, and how very highly
he estimated her character, her zeal, and her abilities, which could not
be consecrated to a more noble purpose. He then referred to her
ministers, who, he understood, were very eloquent preachers. The bishops
were jealous of them; and the King related a conversation he had lately
had with a learned prelate. He had complained of the conduct of some of
her ladyship's students and ministers, who had created a sensation in
his diocese; and his Majesty replied, 'Make bishops of them--make
bishops of them.' 'That might be done,' replied the prelate; 'but,
please your Majesty, we cannot make a bishop of Lady Huntingdon.' The
Queen replied, 'It would be a lucky circumstance if you could, for she
puts you all to shame.' 'Well,' said the King, 'see if you cannot
imitate the zeal of these men.' His lordship made some reply which
displeased the King, who exclaimed with great animation, 'I wish there
was a Lady Huntingdon in every diocese in the kingdom!'[764]

We have as yet seen only one side of Lady Huntingdon's energy; she was
no less industrious in providing hearers for her preachers, than
preachers for her hearers.[765] She almost rivalled John Wesley himself
in the influence which she exercised over her preachers; and she was as
far removed as he was from any love of power for power's sake, although,
like him, she constantly had this accusation brought against her. The
extent of her power cannot be better stated than in the words of her
biographer: 'Her ladyship erected or possessed herself of chapels in
various parts of the kingdom, in which she appointed such persons to
officiate as ministers as she thought fit, revoking such appointments at
her pleasure. Congregations who worshipped here were called "Lady
Huntingdon's Connexion," and the ministers who officiated "ministers in
Lady Huntingdon's Connexion." Over the affairs of this Connexion Lady
Huntingdon exercised a _moral_ power to the time of her death; not only
appointing and removing the ministers who officiated, but appointing
laymen in each congregation to superintend its secular concerns, called
the "committee of management."'[766]

The first thing that obviously occurs to one in reference to this
position is, that it should more properly belong to a man than a woman.
Even in women of the strongest understanding and the deepest and widest
culture, there is generally a want of ballast which unfits them for such
a responsibility; and Lady Huntingdon was not a lady of a strong
understanding, and still less of a deep and wide culture. But she
possessed what was better still--a single eye to her Master's glory, a
truly humble mind, and genuine piety. The possession of these graces
prevented her from falling into more errors than she did. Still, it is
certainly somewhat beyond a woman's sphere to order Christian ministers
about thus: 'Now, Wren, I charge you to be faithful, and to deliver a
faithful message in all the congregations.' 'My lady,' said Wren, 'they
will not bear it.' She rejoined, 'I will stand by you.'[767] On another
occasion she happened to have two young ministers in her house, 'when it
occurred to her that one of them should preach. Notice was accordingly
sent round that on such an evening there would be preaching before the
door. At the appointed time a great many people had collected together,
which the young men, seeing, inquired what it meant. Her ladyship said,
"As I have two preachers in my house, one of you must preach to the
people." In reply, they said that they had never preached publicly, and
wished to be excused. Shipman was ready, Matthews diffident. Lady
Huntingdon, therefore, judged it best for Mr. Shipman to make the first
attempt. While he hesitated she put a Bible into his hand, insisting
upon his appearing before the people, and either telling them that he
was afraid to trust in God, or to do the best he could. On the servant's
opening the door, her ladyship thrust him out with her blessing, "The
Lord be with you--do the best you can."'[768] At Trevecca--a college
which she founded and supported solely at her own expense--her will was
law. 'Trevecca,' wrote John Wesley,[769] 'is much more to Lady
Huntingdon than Kingswood is to me. _I_ mixes with everything. It is
_my_ college, _my_ masters, _my_ students!' When the unhappy Calvinistic
controversy broke out in 1770, Lady Huntingdon proclaimed that whoever
did not wholly disavow the Minutes should quit her college; and she
fully acted up to her proclamation.[770] Fletcher's resignation was
accepted, and Benson, the able head-master, was removed. John Wesley
himself was no longer suffered to preach in any of her pulpits.

Her commands, however, were not always obeyed. Thus, for instance, we
find Berridge good-naturedly rallying her on a peremptory summons he had
received to 'supply' her chapel at Brighton. 'You threaten me, madam,
like a pope, not like a mother in Israel, when you declare roundly that
God will scourge me if I do not come; but I know your ladyship's good
meaning, and this menace was not despised. It made me slow in resolving.
Whilst I was looking towards the sea, partly drawn thither with the hope
of doing good, and partly driven by your _Vatican Bull_, I found nothing
but thorns in my way,' &c.[771] On a similar occasion the same good man
writes to her with that execrably bad taste for which he was even more
conspicuous than Whitefield: 'Jesus has been whispering to me of late
that I cannot keep myself nor the flock committed to me; but has not
hinted a word as yet that I do wrong in keeping to my fold. And my
instructions, you know, must come from the Lamb, not from the Lamb's
wife, though she is a tight woman.' John Wesley plainly told her that,
though he loved her well, it could not continue if it depended upon his
seeing with her eyes. Rowland Hill rebelled against her authority.

These, however, were exceptional cases. As a rule, Lady Huntingdon was
in far more danger of being spoiled by flattery than of being
discouraged by rebuffs. Poor Whitefield's painful adulation of his
patroness has been already alluded to; and it was but natural that the
students at her college, who owed their all to her, should, in
after-life, have been inclined to treat her with too great subservience.

One is thankful to find no traces of undue deference on the part of
those parochial clergymen who were made her chaplains, and who at
irregular intervals, when they could be spared from their own parishes,
supplied her chapels. But though these good men did not flatter her,
they felt and expressed the greatest respect for her character and
exertions, as did also the Methodists generally. Fletcher described an
interview with her in terms which sound rather overstrained, not to say
irreverent, to English ears; but allowance should be made for the
'effusion' in which foreigners are wont to indulge. 'Our conversation,'
he writes to Charles Wesley, 'was deep and full of the energy of faith.
As to me, I sat like Paul at the feet of Gamaliel; I passed three hours
with a modern prodigy--_a pious and humble countess_. I went with
trembling and in obedience to your orders; but I soon perceived a little
of what the disciples felt when Christ said to them, _It is I--be not
afraid._' John Wesley, in spite of his differences with her, owned that
'she was much devoted to God and had a thousand valuable and amiable
qualities.' Rowland Hill, when a young man, wrote in still stronger
terms: 'I am glad to hear the _Head_ is better. What zeal for God
perpetually attends her! Had I twenty bodies, I could like nineteen of
them to run about for her.'[772]

The good countess was not unworthy of all this esteem. In spite of her
little foibles, she was a thoroughly earnest Christian woman. Her
munificence was unbounded. 'She would give,' said Grimshaw, 'to the last
gown on her back.' She is said to have spent during her life more than
100,000_l._ in the service of religion.

Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, like John Wesley's societies, drifted away
rather than separated from the National Church. In consequence of some
litigation in the Consistorial Court of London about the Spa Fields
Chapel, it became necessary to define more precisely the 'status' of
Lady Huntingdon's places of worship. If they were still to be considered
as belonging to the Church of England, they were, of course, bound to
submit to the laws of the Church. In order to find shelter under the
Toleration Act, it was necessary to register them as Dissenting places
of worship. Thus Lady Huntingdon, much against her will, found herself a
Dissenter. She expressed her regret in that extraordinary English which
she was wont to write. 'All the other connexions seem to be at peace,
and I have ever found to belong to me while we were at ease in Zion. I
am to be cast out of the Church now, only for what I have been doing
these forty years--speaking and living for Jesus Christ; and if the days
of my captivity are now to be accomplished, those that turn me out and
so set me at liberty, may soon feel what it is, by sore distress
themselves for those hard services they have caused me.'[773] Still she
could not make up her mind to call herself and those in connexion with
her, Dissenters. She tried to find some middle term; it was not a
separation from the Church, but a 'secession;' which looks very like a
distinction without a difference. 'Our ministers must come,' writes her
ladyship in 1781, 'recommended by that neutrality between Church and
Dissent--secession;' and to the same effect in 1782: 'Mr. Wills's
secession from the Church (for which he is the most highly favoured of
all from the noble and disinterested motives that engaged his honest and
faithful conscience for the Lord's unlimited service) brings about an
ordination of such students as are alike disposed to labour in the place
and appointed for those congregations. The method of these appears the
best calculated for the comfort of the students and to serve the
congregations most usefully, and is contrived to prevent any bondage to
the people or minister. The objections to the Dissenters' plan are many,
and to the Church more; that secession means the neutrality between
both, and so materially offensive to neither.'[774]

One result of this 'secession' was the withdrawal from the Connexion of
those parochial clergymen who had given their gratuitous services to
Lady Huntingdon--Romaine, Venn, Townsend, and others; but they still
maintained the most cordial intimacy with the countess, and continued
occasionally to supply her chapels.

It must be admitted, in justice to the Church rulers of the day, that
the difficulties in the way of co-operation with Lady Huntingdon were by
no means slight. Her Churchmanship, like that of her friend Whitefield,
was not of the same marked type as that of John Wesley. It will be
remembered that John Wesley, in his sermon at the foundation of the City
Road Chapel in 1777--four years, be it observed, before Lady
Huntingdon's secession--described, in his own vigorous language, the
difference between the attitude of _his_ followers towards the Church,
and that of the followers of Lady Huntingdon and Mr. Whitefield. So far
as the two latter were concerned, he did not overstate the case. The
college at Trevecca could hardly be regarded in any other light than
that of a Dissenting Academy. Berridge saw this, and wrote to Lady
Huntingdon: 'However rusty or rickety the Dissenters may appear to you,
God hath His remnant among them; therefore lift not up your hand against
them for the Lord's sake nor yet for consistency's sake, because your
students are as real Dissenting preachers as any in the land, unless a
gown and band can make a clergyman. The bishops look on your students as
the worst kind of Dissenters; and manifest this by refusing that
ordination to your preachers which would be readily granted to other
teachers among the Dissenters.'[775] Berridge also thought that the
Wesleyans would not retain their position as Churchmen. In the very same
year (1777) in which Wesley gloried in the adhesion of his societies to
the Church, Berridge wrote to Lady Huntingdon: 'What will become of your
students at your decease? They are virtual Dissenters now, and will be
settled Dissenters then. And the same will happen to many, perhaps most,
of Mr. Wesley's preachers at his death. He rules like a real Alexander,
and is now stepping forth with a flaming torch; but we do not read in
history of two Alexanders succeeding each other.'[776]

But to return to Trevecca. The rules of the college specified that the
students after three years' residence might, if they desired, enter the
ministry either of the Church or any other Protestant denomination. Now,
as Trevecca was essentially a theological college, it is hardly possible
to conceive that the theology taught there could have been so colourless
as not to bias the students in favour either of the Church or of
Dissent; and as the Church, in spite of her laxity, still retained her
liturgy, creeds, and other forms, which were more dogmatic and precise
than those of any Dissenting body, such a training as that of Trevecca
would naturally result, as the Vicar of Everton predicted, in making the
students, to all intents and purposes, Dissenters. The only wonder is
that Lady Huntingdon's Connexion should have retained so strong an
attachment to the Church as they undoubtedly did, and that, not only
during her own lifetime, but after her death. 'You ask,' wrote Dr.
Haweis to one who desired information on this point,[777] 'of what
Church we profess ourselves? We desire to be esteemed as members of
Christ's Catholic and Apostolic Church, and essentially one with the
Church of England, of which we regard ourselves as living members....
The doctrines we subscribe (for we require subscription, and, what is
better, they are always truly preached by us) are those of the Church of
England in the literal and grammatical sense. Nor is the liturgy of the
Church of England performed more devoutly in any Church,' &c.

The five worthy Christians whose characters and careers have been
briefly sketched were the chief promoters of what may be termed the
Methodist, as distinguished from the Evangelical, movement, in the
technical sense of that epithet. There were many others who would be
worthy of a place in a larger history. Thomas Walsh, Wesley's most
honoured friend; Dr. Coke ('a second Walsh,' Wesley called him), who
sacrificed a good position and a considerable fortune entirely to the
Methodist cause; Mr. Perronet, the excellent Vicar of Shoreham, to whom
both the brothers Wesley had recourse in every important crisis, and who
was called by Charles Wesley 'the Archbishop of Methodism;' Sir John
Thorold, a pious Lincolnshire baronet; John Nelson, the worthy
stonemason of Birstal, who was pressed as a soldier simply because he
was a Methodist, and whose death John Wesley thus records in his
Journal: 'This day died John Nelson, and left a wig and half-a-crown--as
much as any unmarried minister ought to leave;' Sampson Stainforth, Mark
Bond, and John Haine, the Methodist soldiers who infused a spirit of
Methodism in the British Army; Howell Harris, the life and soul of Welsh
Methodism; Thomas Olivers, the converted reprobate, who rode one hundred
thousand miles on one horse in the cause of Methodism, and who was
considered by John Wesley as a strong enough man to be pitted against
the ablest champions of Calvinism; John Pawson, Alexander Mather and
other worthy men--of humble birth, it may be, and scanty acquirements,
but earnest, devoted Christians--would all deserve to be noticed in a
professed history of Methodism. In a brief sketch, like the present, all
that can be said of them is, 'Cum tales essent, utinam nostri fuissent.'


The Methodists met with a vast amount of opposition; but, after all,
there was a more formidable enemy to the progress of the Evangelical
revival than any from without. The good men who made so bold and
effectual a stand against vice and irreligion in the last century might
have been still more successful had they presented a united front to the
common foe; but, unfortunately, a spirit of discord within their ranks
wasted their strength and diverted them from work for which they were
admirably adapted to work for which they were by no means fitted.
Hitherto our attention has been mainly directed to the strength of the
movement. The pure lives and disinterested motives of the founders of
Methodism, their ceaseless energy, their fervent piety--in a word, their
love of God and their love of their neighbour for God's sake--these are
the points on which one loves to dwell; these are traits in their
characters which posterity has gratefully recognised, though scant
justice was done them by the men of their own generation. In their
quarrel with sin and Satan all good men will sympathise with them. It is
painful to turn from this to their quarrels among themselves; but these
latter occupy too large a space in their history to be lightly passed

It has frequently been remarked in these pages that the eighteenth
century, or at least the first half of it, was essentially an age of
controversy; but of all the controversies which distracted the Church
and nation that one which now comes under our consideration was the most
unprofitable and unsatisfactory in every way. The subject of it was that
old, old difficulty which has agitated men's minds from the beginning,
and will probably remain unsettled until the end of time--a difficulty
which is not confined to Christianity, nor even to Deism, but which
meets us quite apart from theology altogether. It is that which, in
theological language, is involved in the contest between Calvinism and
Arminianism; in philosophical, between free-will and necessity. 'The
reconciling,' wrote Lord Lyttelton, 'the prescience of God with the
free-will of man, Mr. Locke, after much thought on the subject, freely
confessed that he could not do, though he acknowledged both. And what
Mr. Locke could not do, in reasoning upon subjects of a metaphysical
nature, I am apt to think few men, if any, can hope to perform.'[778] It
would have been well if the Methodists had acted according to the spirit
of these wise words; but, unfortunately, they considered it necessary
not only to discuss the question, but to insist upon their own solution
of it in the most positive and dogmatic terms.

One would have thought that John Wesley, at any rate, considering his
expertness in logic, would have been aware of the utter hopelessness of
disputing upon such a point; but the key to that great man's conduct in
this, as in other matters, is to be found in the intensely practical
character of his mind, especially in matters of religion. He felt the
practical danger of Antinomianism, and, feeling this, he did not,
perhaps, quite do justice to all that might be said on the other side.
In point of fact, however, he shrank, especially in his later years,
from the controversy more than others did, who were far less competent
to manage it.

In other controversies which agitated the eighteenth century there is
some compensation for the unkindly feelings and unchristian and
extravagant language generated by the heat of dispute in the thought
that if they did not solve, they at any rate contributed something to
the solution of, pressing questions which clamoured for an answer. The
circumstances of the times required that the subjects should be
ventilated. Thus, for example, the relations between Church and State
were ill understood, and _some_ light, at any rate, was thrown upon them
by the tedious Bangorian controversy. The method in which God reveals
His will to man was a subject which circumstances rendered it necessary
to discuss. This subject was fairly sifted in the Deistical controversy.
The pains which were bestowed upon the Trinitarian controversy were not
thrown away. But it is difficult to see what fresh light was thrown upon
_any_ subject by the Calvinistic controversy. It left the question
exactly in the same position as it was in before. In studying the other
controversies, if the reader derives but little instruction or
edification on the main topic, he can hardly fail to gain some valuable
information on collateral subjects. But he may wade through the whole of
the Calvinistic controversy without gaining any valuable information on
any subject whatever. This is partly owing to the nature of the topic
discussed, but partly also to the difference between the mental calibre
of the disputants in this and the other controversies. We have at least
to thank the Deists and the Anti-Trinitarians for giving occasion for
the publication of some literary masterpieces. Through their means
English theology was enriched by the writings of Butler, Conybeare,
Warburton, Waterland, Sherlock, and Horsley. But the Calvinistic
controversy, from the beginning to the end, contributed not one single
work of permanent value to theology.

This is a sweeping statement, and requires to be justified. Let us,
then, pass on at once from general statements to details.

The controversy seems to have broken out during Whitefield's absence in
America (1739-1740). A correspondence arose between Wesley and
Whitefield on the subject of Calvinism and collateral questions, in
which the two good men seem to be constantly making laudable
determinations not to dispute--and as constantly breaking them. The gist
of this correspondence has been wittily summed up thus: 'Dear George, I
have read what you have written on the subject of predestination, and
God has taught me to see that you are wrong and that I am right. Yours
affectionately, J. Wesley.' And the reply: 'Dear John, I have read what
you have written on the subject of predestination, and God has taught me
that I am right and you are wrong. Yours affectionately, G. Whitefield.'

If the dispute between these good men was warm while the Atlantic
separated them, it was still warmer when they met. In 1741 Whitefield
returned to England, and a temporary alienation between him and Wesley
arose. Whitefield is said to have told his friend that they preached two
different Gospels, and to have avowed his intention to preach against
him whenever he preached at all. Then they turned the one to the right
hand and the other to the left. As in most disputes, there were, no
doubt, faults on both sides. Both were tempted to speak unadvisedly with
their lips, and, what was still worse, to write unadvisedly with their
pens. It has already been seen that John Wesley had the knack of both
saying and writing very cutting things. If Whitefield was rash and lost
his temper, Wesley was certainly irritating. But the details of the
unfortunate quarrel may be found in any history of Wesley or Whitefield.
It is a far pleasanter task to record that in course of time the breach
was entirely healed, though neither disputant receded one jot from his
opinions. No man was ever more ready to confess his faults, no man ever
had a larger heart or was actuated by a truer spirit of Christian
charity than George Whitefield. Never was there a man of a more
forgiving temper than John Wesley. 'Ten thousand times would I rather
have died than part with my old friends,' said Whitefield of the
Wesleys. 'Bigotry flies before him and cannot stand,' said John Wesley
of Whitefield. It was impossible that an alienation between two such
men, both of whom were only anxious to do one great work, should be

From 1749 the Calvinistic controversy lay comparatively at rest for some
years. The publication of Hervey's 'Dialogues between Theron and
Aspasio,' in 1755, with John Wesley's remarks upon them, and Hervey's
reply to the remarks, reawakened a temporary interest in the question,
but it was not till the year 1771 that the tempest broke out again with
more than its former force.

The occasion of the outburst was the publication of Wesley's 'Minutes of
the Conference of 1770.' Possibly John Wesley may have abstained for
some years, out of regard for Whitefield, from discussing in Conference
a subject which was calculated to disturb the re-established harmony
between him and his friend.[779] At any rate, the offending Minutes,
oddly enough, begin by referring to what had passed at the first
Conference, twenty-six years before. 'We said in 1744, We have leaned
too much towards Calvinism.' After a long abeyance the subject is taken
up at the point at which it stood more than a quarter of a century

The Minutes have often been quoted; but, for clearness' sake, it may be
well to quote them once more.

'We said in 1744, We have leaned too much towards Calvinism. Wherein--

'1. With regard to man's faithfulness, our Lord Himself taught us to use
the expression; and we ought never to be ashamed of it. We ought
steadily to assert, on His authority, that if a man is not "faithful in
the unrighteous mammon" God will not "give him the true riches."

'2. With regard to working for life, this also our Lord has expressly
commanded us. "Labour" ([Greek: Ergazesthe]--literally, "work") "for the
meat that endureth to everlasting life." And, in fact, every believer,
till he comes to glory, works for, as well as from, life.

'3. We have received it as a maxim that "a man can do nothing in order
to justification." Nothing can be more false. Whoever desires to find
favour with God should "cease to do evil and learn to do well." Whoever
repents should do "works meet for repentance." And if this is not in
order to find favour, what does he do them for?

'Review the whole affair.

'1. Who of us is now accepted of God?

'He that now believes in Christ, with a loving, obedient heart.

'2. But who among those that never heard of Christ?

'He that feareth God and worketh righteousness, according to the light
he has.

'3. Is this the same with "he that is sincere"?

'Nearly if not quite.

'4. Is not this salvation by works?

'Not by the merit of works, but by works as a condition.

'5. What have we, then, been disputing about for these thirty years?

'I am afraid about words.

'6. As to merit itself, of which we have been so dreadfully afraid, we
are rewarded according to our works--yea, because of our works.

'How does this differ from "for the sake of our works"? And how differs
this from _secundum merita operum_, "as our works deserve"? Can you
split this hair? I doubt I cannot.

'7. The grand objection to one of the preceding propositions is drawn
from matter of fact. God does in fact justify those who, by their own
confession, "neither feared God nor wrought righteousness." Is this an
exception to the general rule?

'It is a doubt if God makes any exception at all. But how are we sure
that the person in question never did fear God and work righteousness?
His own saying so is not proof; for we know how all that are convinced
of sin undervalue themselves in every respect.

'8. Does not talking of a justified or a sanctified state tend to
mislead men, almost naturally leading them to trust in what was done in
one moment? Whereas we are every hour and every moment pleasing or
displeasing to God, according to our works, according to the whole of
our inward tempers and our outward behaviour.'[780]

So great was the alarm and indignation caused by these Minutes that a
'circular printed letter' was, at the instigation of Lady Huntingdon,
sent round among the friends of the Evangelical movement, the purport of
which was as follows:--'Sir, whereas Mr. Wesley's Conference is to be
held at Bristol on Tuesday, August 6, next, it is proposed by Lady
Huntingdon and many other Christian friends (real Protestants) to have a
meeting at Bristol at the same time, of such principal persons, both
clergy and laity, who disapprove of the under-written Minutes; and, as
the same are thought injurious to the very fundamental principles of
Christianity, it is further proposed that they go in a body to the said
Conference, and insist upon a formal recantation of the said Minutes,
and, in case of a refusal, that they sign and publish their protest
against them. Your presence, sir, on this occasion is particularly
requested; but, if it should not suit your convenience to be there, it
is desired that you will transmit your sentiments on the subject to such
persons as you think proper to produce them. It is submitted to you
whether it would not be right, in the opposition to be made to such a
dreadful heresy, to recommend it to as many of your Christian friends,
as well of the Dissenters as of the Established Church, as you can
prevail on to be there, the cause being of so public a nature. I am,
&c., Walter Shirley.'

The first thing that naturally strikes one is, What business had Lady
Huntingdon and her friends to interfere with Mr. Wesley and his
Conference at all? But this obvious objection does not appear to have
been raised. It would seem that there was a sort of vague understanding
that the friends of the Evangelical movement, whether Calvinist or
Arminian, were in some sense answerable to one another for their
proceedings. The Calvinists evidently thought it not only permissible
but their bounden duty not merely to disavow but to condemn, and, if
possible, bring about the suppression of the obnoxious Minutes. Mr.
Shirley said publicly 'he termed peace in such a case a shameful
indolence, and silence no less than treachery.'[781] John Wesley did not
refuse to justify to the Calvinists what he had asserted. He wrote to
Lady Huntingdon in June 1771 (the Conference did not meet till August),
referring her to his 'Sermons on Salvation by Faith,' published in 1738,
and requesting that the 'Minutes of Conference might be interpreted by
the sermons referred to.' Lady Huntingdon felt her duty to be clear. She
wrote to Charles Wesley, declaring that the proper explanation of the
Minutes was 'Popery unmasked.' 'Thinking,' she added, 'that those ought
to be deemed Papists who did not disavow them, I readily complied with a
proposal of an open disavowal of them.'[782]

All this augured ill for the harmony of the impending Conference; but it
passed off far better than could possibly have been expected. Very few
of the Calvinists who were invited to attend responded to the appeal.
Christian feeling got the better of controversial bitterness on both
sides. John Wesley, with a noble candour, drew up a declaration, which
was signed by himself and fifty-three of his preachers, stating that,
'as the Minutes have been understood to favour justification by works,
we, the Rev. John Wesley and others, declare we had no such meaning, and
that we abhor the doctrine of justification by works as a most perilous
and abominable doctrine. As the Minutes are not sufficiently guarded in
the way they are expressed, we declare we have no trust but in the
merits of Christ for justification or salvation. And though no one is a
real Christian believer (and therefore cannot be saved) who doth not
good works when there is time and opportunity, yet our works have no
part in meriting or purchasing our justification from first to last, in
whole or in part.'[783] Lady Huntingdon and her relative Mr. Shirley
were not wanting, on their part, in Christian courtesy. 'As Christians,'
wrote Lady Huntingdon, 'we wish to retract what a more deliberate
consideration might have prevented, as we would as little wish to
defend even truth itself presumptuously as we would submit servilely to
deny it.' Mr. Shirley wrote to the same effect.

But, alas! the troubles were by no means at an end. Fletcher had written
a vindication of the Minutes, which Wesley published. Wesley has been
severely blamed for his inconsistency in acting thus, 'after having
publicly drawn up and signed a recantation [explanation?] of the
obnoxious principles contained in the Minutes.'[784] This censure might
seem to be justified by a letter which Fletcher wrote to Lady
Huntingdon. 'When,' he says, 'I took up my pen in vindication of Mr.
Wesley's sentiments, it never entered my heart that my doing so would
have separated me from those I love and esteem. Would to God I had never
done it! To your ladyship it has caused incalculable pain and
unhappiness, and my conscience hath often stung me with bitter and
heartcutting reproaches.'[785] But, on the other hand, Fletcher himself,
in a preface to his 'Second Check to Antinomianism,' entirely exonerated
Wesley from all blame in the matter, and practically proved his
approbation of his friend's conduct by continuing the controversy in his

The dogs of war were now let slip. In 1772 Sir Richard Hill and his
brother Rowland measured swords with Fletcher, and drew forth from him
his Third and Fourth Checks. In 1773 Sir R. Hill gave what he termed his
'Finishing Stroke;' Berridge, the eccentric Vicar of Everton, rushed
into the fray with his 'Christian World Unmasked;' and Toplady, the
ablest of all who wrote on the Calvinist side, published a pamphlet
under the suggestive title of 'More Work for John Wesley.' The next year
(1774) there was a sort of armistice between the combatants, their
attention being diverted from theological to political subjects, owing
to the troubles in America. But in 1775 Toplady again took the field,
publishing his 'Historic Proof of the Calvinism of the Church of
England.' Mr. Sellon, a clergyman, and Mr. Olivers, the manager of
Wesley's printing, appeared on the Arminian side. The very titles of
some of the works published sufficiently indicate their character.
'Farrago Double Distilled,' 'An Old Fox Tarred and Feathered,' 'Pope
John,' tell their own tale.

In fact, the kindest thing that could be done to the authors of this
bitter writing (who were really good men) would be to let it all be
buried in oblivion. Some of them lived to be ashamed of what they had
written. Rowland Hill, though he still retained his views as to the
doctrines he opposed, lamented in his maturer age that the controversy
had not been carried on in a different spirit.[786] Toplady, after he
had seen Olivers, wrote: 'To say the truth, I am glad I saw Mr. Olivers,
for he appears to be a person of stronger sense and better behaviour
than I had imagined.'[787] Fletcher (who had really the least cause of
any to regret what he had written), before leaving England for a visit
to his native country, invited all with whom he had been engaged in
controversy to see him, that, 'all doctrinal differences apart, he might
testify his sincere regret for having given them the least displeasure,'

It will be remembered that the Deistical controversy was conducted with
considerable acrimony on both sides; but the Deistical and
anti-Deistical literature is amenity itself when compared with the
bitterness and scurrility with which the Calvinistic controversy was
carried on. At the same time it would be a grievous error to conclude
that because the good men who took part in it forgot the rules of
Christian charity they were not under the power of Christian influences.
The very reverse was the case. It was the very earnestness of their
Christian convictions, and the intensity of their belief in the
directing agency of the Holy Spirit over Christian minds, which made
them write with a warmth which human infirmity turned into acrimony.
They all felt _de vitâ et sanguine agitur_; they all believed that they
were directed by the Spirit of God: consequently their opponents were
opponents not of them, the human instruments, but of that God who was
working by their means; in plain words, they were doing the work of the
Devil. Add to this a somewhat strait and one-sided course of reading,
and a very imperfect appreciation of the real difficulties of the
subject they were handling (for all, without exception, write with the
utmost confidence, as if they understood the whole matter thoroughly,
and nothing could possibly be written to any purpose on the other side),
and the paradox of truly Christian men using such truly unchristian
weapons will cease to puzzle us.

Two only of the writers in this badly managed controversy deserve any
special notice--viz., Fletcher on the Arminian and Toplady on the
Calvinist side.

Fletcher's 'Checks to Antinomianism' are still remembered by name (which
is more than can be said of most of the literature connected with this
controversy), and may, perhaps, still be read, and even regarded as an
authority by a few; but they are little known to the general reader, and
occupy no place whatever in theological literature. Perhaps they hardly
deserve to do so. Nevertheless, anything which such a man as Fletcher
wrote is worthy at least of respectful consideration, if for nothing
else, at any rate for the saintly character of the writer. He wrote like
a scholar and a gentleman, and, what is better than either, like a
Christian. Those who accuse him of having written bitterly against the
Calvinists cannot, one would imagine, have read his writings, but must
have taken at second hand the cruelly unjust representation of them
given by his opponents.[789] 'If ever,' wrote Southey, with perfect
truth, 'true Christian charity was manifested in polemical writing, it
was by Fletcher of Madeley.' There is but one passage[790] in which
Fletcher condescends to anything like personal scurrility, in spite of
the many grossly personal insults which were heaped upon him and his

This self-restraint is all the more laudable because Fletcher possessed
a rich vein of satirical humour, which he might have employed with
telling effect against his opponents.

He also showed an excellent knowledge of Scripture and great ingenuity
in explaining it on his own side. He was an adroit and skilful
disputant, and, considering that he was a foreigner, had a great mastery
over the English language.

What, in spite of these merits, makes the 'Checks' an unsatisfactory
book, is the want of a comprehensive grasp of general principles. In
common with all the writers on both sides of the question. Fletcher
shows a strange lack of philosophical modesty--a lack which is all the
stranger in him because personally he was conspicuous for extreme
modesty and thoroughly genuine humility. But there is no appearance,
either in Fletcher's writings or in those of any others who engaged in
the controversy, that they adequately realised the extreme difficulty of
the subject. Everything is stated with the utmost confidence, as if the
whole difficulty--which an archangel might have felt--was entirely
cleared away. If one compares Fletcher's writings on Calvinism with the
scattered notices of the subject in Waterland's works, the difference
between the two writers is apparent at once; there is a massiveness and
a breadth of culture about the older writer which contrasts painfully
with the thinness and narrowness of the younger. Or, if it be unfair to
compare Fletcher with an intellectual giant like Waterland, we may
compare his 'Checks' with Bishop Tomline's 'Refutation of Calvinism.'
Bishop Tomline is even more unfair to the Calvinists than Fletcher, but
he shows far greater maturity both of style and thought. All the three
writers took the same general view of the subject, though from widely
different standpoints. But Tomline is as much superior to Fletcher as he
is inferior to Waterland.

If Fletcher was pre-eminently the best writer in this controversy on the
Arminian side, it is no less obvious that the palm must be awarded to
Toplady on the Calvinist side. Before we say anything about Toplady's
writings, let it be remembered that his pen does not do justice to his
character. Toplady was personally a pious, worthy man, a diligent
pastor, beloved by and successful among his parishioners, and by no
means quarrelsome--except upon paper. He lived a blameless life,
principally in a small country village, and died at the early age of
thirty-eight. It is only fair to notice these facts, because his
controversial writings might convey a very different impression of the
character of the man.

Toplady is described by his biographer as 'the legitimate successor of
Hervey.'[791] There are certain points of resemblance between the two
men. Both were worthy parish priests, and the spheres of duty of both
lay in remote country villages; both died at a comparatively early age;
both were Calvinists; and both in the course of controversy came into
collision with John Wesley. But here the resemblance ends. To describe
Toplady as the legitimate successor of Hervey is to do injustice to
both. For, on the one hand, Toplady (though his writings were never so
popular) was a far abler and far more deeply read man than Hervey. There
was also a vein of true poetry in him, which his predecessor did not
possess. Hervey could never have written 'Rock of Ages.' On the other
hand, the gentle Hervey was quite incapable of writing the violent
abuse, the bitter personal scurrilities, which disgraced Toplady's pen.
A sad lack of Christian charity is conspicuous in all writers (except
Fletcher) in this ill-conducted controversy, but Toplady outherods

One word must be added. Although, considered as permanent contributions
to theological literature, the writings on either side are worthless,
yet the dispute was not without value in its immediate effects. It
taught the later Evangelical school to guard more carefully their
Calvinistic views against the perversions of Antinomianism. This we
shall see when we pass on, as we may now do, to review that system which
may be termed 'Evangelicalism' in distinction to the earlier Methodism.


    Largior hic campos æther et lumine vestit

It is with a real sense of relief that we pass out of the close air and
distracting hubbub of an unprofitable controversy into a fresher and
calmer atmosphere.

The Evangelical section of the English Church cannot, without
considerable qualification, be regarded as the outcome of the earlier
movement we have been hitherto considering. It is true that what we must
perforce call by the awkward names of 'Evangelicalism' and 'Methodism'
had many points in common--that they were constantly identified by the
common enemies of both--that they were both parts of what we have termed
in the widest sense of the term 'the Evangelical revival'--that they, in
fact, crossed and interlaced one another in so many ways that it is not
always easy to disentangle the one from the other--that there are
several names which one is in doubt whether to place on one side of the
line or the other. But still it would be a great mistake to confound the
two parties. There was a different tone of mind in the typical
representatives of each. They worked for the most part in different
spheres, and, though their doctrines may have accorded in the main,
there were many points, especially as regards Church order and
regularity, in which there was no cordial sympathy between them.

The difficulty, however, of disentangling Evangelicalism from Methodism
in the early phases of both confronts us at once when we begin to
consider the cases of individuals.

Among the first in date of the Evangelicals proper we must place _James
Hervey_ (1714-1758), the once popular author of 'Meditations and
Contemplations' and 'Theron and Aspasio.' But then Hervey was one of the
original Methodists. He was an undergraduate of Lincoln College at the
same time that John Wesley was Fellow, and soon came under the influence
of that powerful mind; and he kept up an intimacy with the founder of
Methodism long after he left college. Yet it is evidently more correct
to class Hervey among the Evangelicals than among the Methodists; for in
all the points of divergence between the two schools he sided with the
former. He was a distinct Calvinist;[792] he was always engaged in
parochial work, and he not only took no part in itinerant work, but
expressed his decided disapproval of those clergy who did so, venturing
even to remonstrate with his former Mentor on his irregularities.

There are few incidents in Hervey's short and uneventful life which
require notice. It was simply that of a good country parson. The
disinterestedness and disregard for wealth, which honourably
distinguished almost all the Methodist and Evangelical clergy, were
conspicuous features in Hervey's character. His father held two livings
near Northampton--Western Favell and Collington; but, though the joint
incomes only amounted to 180_l._ a year, and though the villages were
both of small population and not far apart, Hervey for some time
scrupled to be a pluralist; and it was only in order to provide for the
wants of an aged mother and a sister that he at length consented to hold
both livings. He solemnly devoted the whole produce of his literary
labours to the service of humanity, and, though his works were
remunerative beyond his most sanguine expectations, he punctually kept
his vow. He is said to have given no less than 700_l._ in seven years in
charity--in most cases concealing his name. Nothing more need be said
about his quiet, blameless, useful life.

It is as an author that James Hervey is best known to us. The popularity
which his writings long enjoyed presents to us a curious phenomenon.
Almost to this day old-fashioned libraries of divinity are not complete
without the 'Meditations' and 'Theron and Aspasio,' though probably they
are not often read in this age.[793] But by Hervey's contemporaries his
books were not only bought, but read and admired. They were translated
into almost every modern language. The fact that such works were
popular, not among the uneducated, but among those who called themselves
people of culture, almost justifies John Wesley's caustic exclamation,
'How hard it is to be superficial enough for a polite audience!'
Hervey's style can be described in no meaner terms than as the
extra-superfine style. It is prose run mad. Let the reader judge for
himself. Here is a specimen of his 'Meditations among the Tombs.' The
tomb of an infant suggests the following reflections: 'The peaceful
infant, staying only to wash away its native impurity in the layer of
regeneration, bid a speedy adieu to time and terrestrial things. What
did the little hasty sojourner find so forbidding and disgustful in our
upper world to occasion its precipitate exit?' The tomb of a young lady
calls forth the following morbid horrors:--'Instead of the sweet and
winning aspect, that wore perpetually an attractive smile, grins
horribly a naked, ghastly skull. The eye that outshone the diamond's
brilliancy, and glanced its lovely lightning into the most guarded
heart--alas! where is it? Where shall we find the rolling sparkler? How
are all its sprightly beams eclipsed!' The tongue, flesh, &c., are dwelt
upon in the same fashion.

It is hard to believe that this was really considered fine writing by
our ancestors, but the fact is indisputable. The 'Meditations' brought
in a clear gain of 700_l._ Dr. Blair, himself a model of taste in his
day, spoke in high terms of approbation of Hervey's writings. Boswell
records with evident astonishment that Dr. Johnson 'thought slightingly
of this admired book' (the 'Meditations'); 'he treated it with ridicule,
and parodied it in a "Meditation on a Pudding."'[794] Most modern
readers will be surprised that any sensible people could think otherwise
than Dr. Johnson did of such a farrago of highflown sentiment clothed in
the most turgid language.

It is a pity that Hervey could not learn to be less bombastic in his
style and less vapid in his sentiments, for, after all, he had an eye
for the sublime and beautiful both in the world around him and in the
heavens above his head--a faculty very rare in the age in which he
lived, and especially in the school to