Further Controversies 1845–1856
From the secession of Newman to that of Robert Wilberforce those whom W. J. Conybeare desribed as ‘the exaggerated type of High Churchmen’1 began to express practically the theological and spiritual emphases implicit in the teaching of the early Tractarians. Although Pusey remained in Oxford the Movement now had no major centre but instead many minor ones throughout the country. First of all there were parish churches or proprietary chapels, usually under aristocratic patronage, in which attempts were made by devoted priests to put into practice what they believed to be the true Catholic teaching – the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and holy days, the availability of the sacrament of penance (auricular confession), the use of choirs in surplices, the removal of pews and the instruction of and care for the poor. Examples of such churches are St Saviour’s, Leeds; St Barnabas, Pimlico; St Paul’s, Knightsbridge; the Margaret Street Chapel, London; St Peter and St Paul, Wantage, and St Peter’s, Plymouth. While the introduction of the new ritual caused little trouble in some parishes, in others it was claimed as the cause of dissension and riots.
Secondly, there was the creation of sisterhoods and convents.2 In 1844 Lord John Manners had founded a community of sisters who ran an orphanage near Regent’s Park in West London. Four years later W. J. Butler, Vicar of Wantage, formed a community in his parish to care for prostitutes and unmarried mothers. Also in 1848 Miss P. L. Sellon founded a community, with the blessing of Bishop Phillpotts, in Plymouth to work among the poor who lived near the dockyards. She excelled in her calling and greatly expanded the work. At East Grinstead in 1855 J. M. Neale founded the nunnery of St Margaret. Though much appreciated by the poor, sick and outcasts who benefited from their ministrations, the members of these communities, as well as their founders, were misunderstood and vilified within the Church. The vows of poverty, chastity and celibacy were particularly obnoxious to Victorian Protestants.
Thirdly, while there were no successful male communities in this period, there were significant foundations of schools for boys, who were to be educated in ‘Church Principles.’ The Woodard Schools at Lancing and elsewhere together with Radley College, founded by William Sewell, are important examples of these.3
A further type of centre for the propagation of Tractarian principles was the local Church Union. The English Church Union did not come into being until 1859 but before it there were local Unions of which those in London and Bristol were the largest.4 Their general purpose was both defence and attack – to promote with all speed the restoration of ‘Church Principles’ in the Church, to defend the Church from latitudinarianism and to ensure that the parish schools were retained as part of the cure of the parish priest.
Then the persons, activities and influence of prominent Tractarians were centres of attention. Such clergy as E. B. Pusey, R. I. Wilberforce, H. E. Manning, G. A. Denison, John Keble, J. M. Neale and William Butler of Wantage must be mentioned. Less well known but still important were such men as William Gresley, Prebendary of Lichfield, Robert Eden, incumbent of Leigh, Essex, and other parochial clergy. From the laity such names as Beresford Hope, who gave vast sums of money to the Movement, and W. E. Gladstone, who spoke on its behalf in Parliament, need to be mentioned.
Finally, as a means of conveying information and creating unity, there was the press. Between 1845 and 1856 the Morning Chronicle appeared daily, the English Churchman weekly and the Christian Remembrancer monthly (quarterly from 1848).5 The weekly Union, more extreme than any of the others, appeared only from 2 January, 1857 until June 1862 and so it falls outside the period covered by this study. Evangelicals believed that the Union ‘was designed for those advanced Tractarians who had outgrown the milk of the Guardian [a High Church paper] and the English Churchman and longed for strong meat, more highly seasoned with Catholic tradition’.6
The Tractarians were not always working and fighting alone. In the famous Gorham case and in the moves to revive Convocation they stood alongside moderate High Churchmen, who like them heartily believed in baptismal regeneration and the rights of the Church to speak authoritatively on matters of faith and practice. Then they also continued to co-operate with and often to influence High Churchmen on the committees of the Church Building Society, the National Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
But in this period the Tractarian Movement did have some serious setbacks. The final judgment of the Privy Council in the Gorham affair came as a shock to both High Churchmen and Tractarians. The secession of Henry Manning and Robert Wilberforce weakened the Movement and raised doubts for some of those who remained behind. However, in terms of the influence of the Movement, not only in England and Scotland, but also in the British colonies, and in terms of committed adherents, these years were years of growth.
The issues which the Tractarians raised to which other Churchmen responded were basically centred on the Church, her nature, authority, ministry and sacraments; questions concerning the rule of faith and justification remained in the background.
1. ISOLATED CONTROVERSIES, 1845–8
At the close of 1845 it appeared to S. C. Wilks that the progress of Tractarianism had not yet been checked:
Tractarianism, in its essence, we fear is scarcely checked among us. It is inflicting its ravages in our parishes and in invidious forms; it is working its way in schools, colleges and training establishments; it is poisoning the very fountains from which should flow the streams of life in missionary labours; and it has made gigantic efforts by means of the press to extend its baneful influence.7
However, at the end of 1847, in a final editorial note in the Churchman’s Monthly Review, which was ceasing publication, the editors wrote of ‘the apparent declension of that formidable party in the Church, against which at the outset, our efforts were most especially directed’. They went on:
A great change has taken place during the eight years of our existence. The leaders of the Tractarian party have taken that step which we ever declared they must one day take; namely, a departure from our Protestant Church. And their literature, formerly so flourishing, has departed with them. We say not that Tractarianism is dead; but at least its apparent and active vigour and energy is gone.
This was to misunderstand the situation. The vigour which had earlier gone into literary productions was now diverted into a greater variety of means of disseminating ‘Church Principles’.
Between 1845 and 1848 most Evangelical observers appear to have agreed with Wilks that the poison of Puseyism was being digested within the great Church societies – the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the National Society for Education. And they added that it was making an impact in parishes and in old and new educational establishments. In the pages of the Record fears had been expressed from as early as 5 December, 1842 concerning the acceptance by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel of candidates holding Tractarian views.8 On 1 June, 1846 the same paper carried discussions of the adoption of Tractarian teaching and practices by tutors in Codrington College, Barbados, Bishop’s College, Calcutta, and Cobourg College, Canada, while the Bishop of Toronto was frequently criticised for his espousal of Puseyism. Likewise the foundation of the new college named after St Augustine of Canterbury was criticised because of the ‘strong Tractarian leaven’ which distinguished ‘many of the men (e.g. A. J. B. Hope Esq.) who had exerted themselves in this affair’. The teacher-training institutions at Westminster, Battersea and Chelsea were also frequently assailed from 1845. It was declared that the purpose of the National Society, which ran the colleges, was ‘to send into our villages and hamlets, as well as into our mining and manufacturing districts, schoolmasters initiated into all the ecclesiastical millinery and ceremonies of Puseyism’.
Not surprisingly the foundation of the new Training School in the parish of Cheltenham was greeted with rejoicing. ‘We have long held’, declared the Record on 8 April, 1847, ‘that the foundation of new Training Schools on an enlarged scale was of paramount importance as it regards the permanent orthodoxy, security and spiritual prosperity of our beloved and venerated Church.’ But also a careful watch was kept on other establishments, the result being that Malborough College was declared to be leavened with Tractarianism and Robert Eden of Leigh was strongly rebuked for his attempts to crush the schools funded by Lady Olivia Sparrow in the parish in order that he might found new ones on Tractarian principles. These and other examples led to a call for an Evangelical Protestant Education Society, but that had to wait until 1853.
It has been noted that the amount of controversial literature decreased in this period. Even so, one author, William Gresley, seemed determined to incite the Evangelicals to wrath. In the decade after 1846 he was in controversy with at least four Evangelicals, one of whom was Close, sometimes called ‘the Pope of Cheltenham’.9 His battle with the latter began with his brief but pungent The Real Danger of the Church of England (1846). In this he celebrated the new school of churchmen who had asserted ‘Church Principles’ and declared that the Evangelical clergy posed a threat to the maintenance of these principles in the Church. His booklet went through six editions within a year and was noticed in all the Evangelical press. According to one critic Gresley’s aim was ‘to divert the attention of the public, and more especially the Church’s rulers from the secessions to Romanism which have lately occurred and are still occurring; and to get up an alarm in a totally different direction’.10 One of Gresley’s major assertions was that ‘the denial of baptismal regeneration is the leading doctrine not only of Dissenters from the Church, but of the Evangelical or Puritan party within it; and in this they have entirely departed from the doctrine of the reformers’. There was a mixture of truth and error in this claim. Gresley also accused the ‘Puritan clergy’ of resisting the restoration of the genuine services of the Church, making particular reference to the opposition of the Record and the Islington clergy in 1843 to the requests made by the Bishop of London in terms of the reading of the Liturgy. Furthermore, he accused Evangelicals of neglecting ‘Church societies’ such as SPCK and SPG and preferring to work through their own societies, the CP-AS and the CMS, thereby bringing danger to the unity of the Church. The Record, which had complained about the religious fiction of both Gresley and F. E. Paget in 1842, took Gresley’s accusations seriously and declared:
Such little manufacturers of little stories and books as Mr Gresley may continue their little operations in the Church in the time to come, or follow the objects of their admiration into Rome as circumstances may direct, and few would be able to say whether they were better placed here or there; but the men whom he has libelled and abused in this discreditable pamphlet are men of higher and nobler nature and their work, while a sure work for eternity is also a safe foundation amidst the mutations and perturbations of time.11
Close, a frequent correspondent in the columns of the Record, also wrote against Gresley in a hasty composition An Apology for the Evangelical Party, being a Reply to the Pamphlet of ... W. Gresley (1846). Not very convincing, it ended on the pessimistic note that ‘the moderate and considerate of the Evangelical clergy may gather from these pages of how little use it is to attempt to propitiate such a body as these ultra High-Church Anglicans.’ For Close, not only co-operation but also dialogue with Tractarians was now useless and in asserting this he spoke for many ‘Recordite’ Evangelicals.12
2. CONTROVERSY IN OXFORD, 1845–8
Though the dispersion of Tractarians meant that Oxford University was no longer the major focal point of the Movement the eyes of the country were, nevertheless, turned towards it on several occasions. The first of these was connected with the sermon preached by Pusey on 1 February, 1846 in Christ Church, some two years after his suspension. Always on the lookout for incipient Romanism, Golightly was at the centre of the efforts to ensure that Pusey affirmed a true Protestant faith before he actually preached the sermon. Earlier he had sent letters to the Morning Herald and Standard newspapers in which he pointed out Romanising tendencies in the Oxford and Cambridge Review and claimed that ‘Stonyhurst Jesuits’ were being intruded into Oxford.13 From Gainsborough Vicarage Bird wrote to tell Golightly, ‘I think you are entitled to the gratitude of the Church of England for protecting her children, especially her choice ones at the Universities, from the plague likely to be communicated by the Oxford and Cambridge Review.’ Later in the letter, after discussing the welcome appointment of Samuel Wilberforce as Bishop of Oxford, he expressed the view that one of his first episcopal duties should be the suspension of Pusey from preaching, just as Bishop Blomfield had suspended W. G. Ward earlier.14 Another correspondent, Archdeacon Browne, who had been involved in the stone altar case at the Round Church in Cambridge, referred to Pusey’s propagation of erroneous doctrine in various publications as nothing less than ‘flagrant and atrocious dishonesty’.15 As the date for the delivery of Pusey’s sermon approached, Golightly examined recent writings in the Tractarian press, articles and letters reputed to be by Pusey; he brought to the attention of Oxford colleagues and far flung correspondents four letters, which had appeared anonymously in the English Churchman on and after 2 October, 1845 and which appeared to defend the doctrines of purgatory and invocation of the saints.16 He also wrote and had printed for general circulation a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Symons, in which he requested that before Pusey preached his University sermon he should be required to affirm his belief in the teaching of the Thirty-Nine Articles, especially Article XXII (Of Purgatory).17 In encouragement Goode wrote from London to state that ‘Dr Pusey’s present position at the University of Oxford seems to me a standing scandal and therefore that the only question to my mind is how this case can best be taken up.’ He proceeded to express the view that to bring charges in the Vice-Chancellor’s court would be difficult since the articles in the English Churchman were anonymous.18 The Vice-Chancellor was likewise cautious and in a letter of 14 January, 1846, a copy of which was sent to Pusey, Golightly was politely told that nothing could be done before the preaching of the sermon, but if the sermon was judged to be heretical then the statutes of the University provided a remedy.19 So the sermon, based on John 20.21–3, was duly preached in Christ Church to an attentive congregation and when printed was entitled The Entire Absolution of the Penitent. Since the preacher was careful to keep to the teaching concerning absolution given in the Ordinal and in the Service for the Visitation of the Sick, it was impossible to delate him a second time. Even so, his critics were still persuaded that he taught erroneous doctrine.20
The second occasion when the national press showed great interest in the Tractarian question at Oxford was connected with the elections for Parliament in 1847. At the height of the contest a writer in the Guardian commented on 26 May, 1847: ‘It is the election of elections. The Member will be the elect of the elected.’ It was taken for granted that Sir Robert Inglis would be re-elected as one MP and so the contest was between those who stood hoping to gain the second seat. At first it appeared that the battle was between W. E. Gladstone and Edward Cardwell, nephew of the Principal of St Alban Hall. At this stage Evangelical Protestants were not happy for they saw little to choose between the two men, since, in the words of John Hill, both men had given ‘support for popery’ in their previous voting in Parliament.21 So when C. J. Round of Balliol, the Recorder of Colchester and late MP for North Essex, was proposed as a candidate the Record saw him as the champion of the Protestant cause and immediately called upon Oxford men to support him. On 17 May Hill attended a meeting at the lodgings of Dr C. A. Ogilvie, the first Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology; here it was resolved that Mr Round be proposed in Convocation as a candidate. Later Hill served on the committee which sought to gain support for Round. However, despite the hard work of Round’s Oxford and London committees he was not elected; Gladstone received 997 votes and Round 824. In this particular battle the Evangelicals lost but in that Inglis continued as MP, they could claim in him a sympathetic defender of their cause.
On the day before the meeting at Dr Ogilvie’s lodgings Hill had taken tea with Dr Shirley, now the Bishop of Sodor and Man, who had commenced his Bampton Lectures two days earlier. His topic was the supremacy of Scripture in matters of faith and conduct because he understood the unanimous choice of him by the Heads of Houses as ‘a decided act of the University against Tractarianism’.22 Regrettably due to illness and subsequent death he was never able to finish the series. The Bampton Lectures for 1848 were given by another Evangelical, Edward G. Marsh, a former Fellow of Oriel, and now incumbent of Aylesford, Kent. Working from the traditional doctrine of justification he expounded the way in which God’s children grow in holiness. These lectures were published as The Christian Doctrine of Sanctification (1848). It must be admitted that neither of these series made much impact either in Oxford or elsewhere. In fact the lecturers would probably have served the Church and Evangelical cause better had they addressed themselves to the doctrine of the Church.
3. THE GORHAM CASE AND ITS AFTERMATH, 1847–52
The Gorham controversy has often been described and its outlines are well known.23 Gorham was a decided Evangelical having studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the days of Simeon, and having been a curate at Clapham. Had he looked for an incumbency in any other English diocese than Exeter in 1847 he would probably have experienced no trouble at all, his name then going down into history as one of the six thousand Evangelical clergy in the Church of England. With Bishop Phillpotts, however, he came face to face with a decided High Churchman, who not only knew what he himself believed but who also claimed to know exactly what the Church should teach. The theological topic which brought the Bishop and his presbyter into open conflict and which then threatened to divide the Church of England was the doctrine of regeneration in infant baptism. This subject, intimately connected as it was with the words of the Service of Holy Baptism for Infants in the Prayer Book, had already been a cause of controversy between Evangelicals and High Churchmen in previous decades of the century. And after the publication of Pusey’s Tracts on Baptism in 1835 the topic had been constantly raised in pamphlets, tracts, sermons and magazines. The consistent Tractarian doctrine that spiritual regeneration always accompanies baptism led the Record to declare on 24 January, 1848 that ‘the prevailing error of the day in our Church is that of the spiritual regeneration of every infant in baptism’. Earlier, on 12 October, 1840, in an account of the Tractarian system of theology the same paper had claimed that the root of the system was baptismal regeneration.
Unlike the doctrines of Reserve or Sacramental Confession, the teaching that the implantation of divine life in the soul takes place whenever the sacrament is correctly administered was a doctrine in which the majority of High Churchmen agreed with the Tractarians. Among Evangelicals it was generally agreed that, while God could, and sometimes did, actually implant divine life in the soul of the baptised child, it was impossible to affirm, on the grounds of either Scripture or experience, that spiritual regeneration always takes place in baptism. If it did, personal conversion to God in later life would not be necessary and the openly sinful life of so many baptised as infants would be incapable of explanation.
As the two viewpoints collided first in the fight of the two gladiators in the West Country, and then throughout the kingdom, much dust was raised and in this dust were other controversial areas of doctrine and practice. Since the ritual troubles of 1844 Phillpotts had been seen by Evangelicals as a semi-Tractarian and his controversy with Gorham and the support he received from Pusey and the Tractarian press only served to confirm this.
Immediately after the lengthy examination of Gorham by the Bishop himself, which stretched from December 1847 to March 1848, Phillpotts sent a letter to his Archdeacon, which was printed in the English Churchman on 6 April, 1848. The letter was not explicitly related to the Gorham examination but contained the Bishop’s reaction to the clause concerning the Thirty-Nine Articles proposed for insertion in the Clergy Offences Bill, which was before Parliament. Phillpotts objected to the elevation of the Articles above the Book of Common Prayer as the supreme doctrinal standard of the Church. He would have been content with equal status for both. Drawing upon his detailed knowledge of English Church History Goode responded in A Defence of the Thirty-Nine Articles as the Legal and Canonical Test of Doctrine (1848). He denied that the proposed clause would ‘rob the Church of its most sacred and dearest principles’. Both men knew that the Articles did not explicitly teach baptismal regeneration. Phillpotts was not a man easily to be silenced and in his Charge of that summer he returned to the subject seeking to meet the arguments of Goode, who himself replied in A Vindication of ‘A Defence ...’. Because the supremacy of the Articles over both Prayer Book and Ordinal was so fundamental to Evangelical thinking, Goode, now editor of the Christian Observer, commissioned eight articles on ‘Clerical Subscription to the Articles’ which appeared between May and December 1849. It seemed clear to some Evangelicals (but not all) that since the Articles did not explicitly teach the regeneration of infants in baptism neither could the Prayer Book, even if the natural sense of the words of the Service appeared so to teach. In calling for support for Gorham the Record declared on 4 May, 1848 it was now time for action against the Bishop because for ‘too long has Dr Phillpotts been permitted to import the passions of a political pamphleteer and the domineering spirit of an intolerant Tractarian into the management of the see of Exeter’.
Meanwhile the Evangelical clergy of the Exeter diocese, led by John Hatchard, Vicar of St Andrew’s, Plymouth, and son of John Hatchard the publisher, openly challenged the Bishop over the orthodoxy of his domestic chaplain, William Maskell, who had been closely involved in examining Gorham.24 In a Visitation Sermon at Totnes in October 1848 Maskell had expressed his belief in the doctrines of auricular confession and priestly absolution, subjects on which he was later to challenge Pusey as he moved into the Church of Rome.25 Twenty-one clergy, led by Hatchard, protested about the sermon; letters from the clergy to the Bishop and the Bishop to the clergy appeared in the Plymouth Herald and were reprinted in the Christian Observer (published by Hatchads), being dated between 13 October and 20 November. Though they did not examine the baptismal issue they did help to charge the theological atmosphere in Exeter and in the Evangelical constituency and thus they added to the importance of the Gorham case. Phillpotts was now seen as the tool or the mouthpiece of the Tractarians.
Among the many publications which now began to appear on the doctrine of infant baptism, two may be noted. First, the published sermon of Professor James Scholefield, preached before Cambridge University on 25 November, 1849, and printed as Baptismal Regeneration as maintained by the Church of England (1849). Writing to Scholefield, who at this time was doing work as an editor for the Parker Society, Bishop Daniel Wilson stated that he thought ‘it far the most Scriptural view of our Church’s tenets on Infant Baptism which has yet appeared’.28 At this time Wilson had probably not seen the major treatise of William Goode, The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the case of Infants (1849).27 Both authors attempted to prove that the doctrine of the Church does not require clergy to believe that each and every infant who is baptised is necessarily regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Both Archbishops were in general agreement with this position and in the very month that the Dean of Arches gave his judgment that infants are always regenerated in baptism, the Archbishop of York issued a Charge proclaiming that the effects of infant baptism were open to a variety of interpretations, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, now J. B. Sumner, presented William Goode, the major opponent of Phillpotts, to the Rectory of All Hallows the Great in London.
Even with the support of Archbishops, Evangelicals rightly felt that the judgment of the Dean of Arches brought them into a crisis. The Christian Observer declared that ‘we believe no such crisis has occurred in our Church for at least two centuries’ after Goode had subjected the judgment of Sir H. J. Fust to a lengthy scrutiny. With others Goode believed that ‘new tenets of orthodoxy’ were being used by the Court and instead of plain statements of the Articles of Religion being quoted ‘inferential reasoning from certain non-dogmatical Formularies of the Church’ was being substítuted.28 From the Record came full support for Gorham and praise for Goode’s writings which were often quoted. It called upon Evangelicals to support the ‘Bramford-Speke Fund’ so that Gorham would not personally be burdened with all the legal expenses. Its columns were now filled with letters from leading Evangelicals bitterly criticising the judgment and from the pen of Edward Bickersteth came five long letters in December 1849 on the subject of the Prayer Book Services of Baptism. With the support of thousands of clergy and laity Gorham took his case to the highest court and to the relief of Evangelicals and Broad Churchmen the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council declared that Gorham’s doctrine was not contrary to the Church of England’s teaching. Naturally this was seen by the Record as an answer to fervent prayer. A massive exodus of Evangelicals from the ministerial ranks of the Church was avoided.
While the Evangelicals blessed God for the Gorham judgment the High Churchmen and Tractarians were shocked and humiliated and thus made gigantic efforts to have the decision reversed. In St Martin’s Hall, Long Acre, a massive protest meeting was held on 23 July and so many were in attendance that an overflow meeting was needed at the Freemasons’ Tavern. Richard Bagot, now Bishop of Bath and Wells and the only representative of the episcopate present, put to the meeting a protest which asserted the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, repudiated the findings of the Judicial Committee and petitioned the Queen and Bishops for the restoration of synodical government within the Church. Reporting the meeting the Record recalled the experience of ancient Israel and declared: ‘What was considered a propitious day for the great sacrifice to the Baal of Tractarianism having at length been found it was offered in a music hall in Long Acre.’29 Immediately after ‘The Day’, as Tractarians called 23 July, 1850, Manning drafted a Declaration touching the Royal Supremacy in Matters Ecclesiastical, which, with a Letter, signed by Manning, Wilberforce and Professor Mill, was distributed among the clergy for their signatures.30 The three Tractarians declared that ‘we do not and in conscience cannot acknowledge in the Crown the power recently exercised to hear and judge in appeal the internal state or merits of spiritual questions touching doctrine or discipline, the custody of which is committed to the Church alone by the law of Christ’. The Declaration attracted only 1,800 signatures and several printed criticisms from Evangelicals.
Hugh McNeile of Liverpool, who attempted to teach Bishop Phillpotts what was true Anglican doctrine concerning baptism,31 now corresponded with Wilberforce on the question of the meaning of the Royal Supremacy. He declared:
I look upon the Sovereign as the chief member of the Church, under Christ the Head; and I look upon any other member of the Church, lay or clerical, who denies or disputes the supreme authority of the Sovereign as refractory or rebellious. The Divine Head of the Church has given us His own Supreme Law to which our Sovereign, as well as ourselves, is bound to yield implicit obedience. This is our security and the only security the nature of the case admits of... The loud opponents of Erastianism are after all Erastians. Their sovereign is a majority liable to all the fluctuation of popular election. Ours is an individual ascending an hereditary throne and surrounded by the hallowed precedents of a Royal ancestry.32
A further correspondence between Manning and Goode revolved around the question whether the Articles and Canons of the Church taught the same doctrine of the Royal Supremacy as did the Statute Law. Manning answered in the negative claiming his conscience was bound only by Church Law and Goode answered in the affirmative claiming that historically it could be shown that the two sources of law gave a unanimous decision.33 Editorials in the Record represented the viewpoint of the Protestant laity who wanted Parliament to continue the plenary exercise of the old Royal Supremacy as the only way of preserving for the Church the truths and principles of the Reformation.34 In the pages of the Christian Guardian Henry Walter, an editor for the Parker Society and a frequent contributor to the Record’s columns, proceeded to criticise the Address to the Queen from some forty-five tutors at Oxford. In this Her Majesty was petitioned not to interfere through the Privy Council in ecclesiastical doctrine. Guided by Pusey these tutors had also sent protests to the parents of their scholars. Walter, who had written a history of England and was editing the works of William Tyndale, argued on historical grounds for the exercise of the Royal Supremacy in 1850 through Parliament, to which the monarch had yielded it.35
While Evangelicals rejoiced in the fact that secession had not been necessary there was nevertheless a widespread concern in their ranks about the maintenance of Protestantism in the national Church. Daniel Wilson the younger, spokesman for many London clergy and laity, published Our Protestant Faith in Danger (1850) which was an appeal to the Evangelical members of the Church in the times of crisis immediately following ‘The Day’ which Wilson had viewed with horror.36 This appeal was longer and more influential than a similar one from J. C. Miller of Birmingham entitled, ‘Subjection; No; not for an hour’. A Warning to Protestant Christians in behalf of the ‘Truth of the Gospel’ as now imperilled by the Romish doctrines ... of the Tractarian heresy (1850). Wilson described the crisis facing religious liberty in the following terms:
The question at issue is, whether the Church of our forefathers shall henceforth be the faithful depository of that pure Scriptural truth which is comprised in her recognised formularies, or whether she shall gradually be permitted to relapse into vain superstitions and unmeaning ceremonies, holding the name without the power and life of Christianity, submitting her conscience to the dogmatic teaching of assumed dictators of her faith, and thus preparing at no distant period to drop her distinctive appellation as a Reformed Church and to resume her ancient position as a vassal of the See of Rome.
Tractarianism, the cause of the crisis, he then examined in its historical development. It had gained ground because the Evangelical clergy, though numerous, had been involved in large parishes and active service for various societies, leaving little time for polemical theology. Since the bishops had failed to do their duty ‘the heresies which now threaten us might apparently have been nipped in the bud’. Commenting on the Gorham case he wrote:
I regard the baptismal controversy merely as one of the phenomena of the present critical position of our Church. It was the spark thrown among the combustibles which created a sudden explosion. It has not altered materially for better or worse the state of the Church. It has given a temporary check to the movement party, which has led them more distinctly to avow their ultimate designs. The cry of oppression and spiritual bondage which they now raise is simply the expression of disappointment and chagrin that a legal obex has for the present been placed against their further advance.
He called for unity and vigilance in the Evangelical ranks for he feared that a Convocation would in the future attempt to interpret the Articles and the Prayer Book in a Roman way. Thus ‘the Evangelical body must either arise to the emergency or they will be eventually excluded from the Church’. But the problem was how the Evangelicals should arise and on this not all the reviewers agreed with Wilson’s suggestíons.37
The section of Calvinistic Evangelicalism whose spokesmen controlled the Christian Guardian believed that the only way to prevent the débâcle of another Gorham case was to reform the Liturgy so that it could not be interpreted in anything but a Protestant sense. In an article entitled ‘The Duty of the Evangelical Party’, printed in October 1850 as protests for baptismal regeneration were still being heard, faithful Protestants were called upon as a body to follow Wilson and Miller and to protest and remove Tractarian abuses and blemishes from the Church. An urgent need, it was strongly argued, was to press also for the reform of the Liturgy and enlist Lord Ashley in the crusade: ‘The policy of attempting such a revision of our Book of Common Prayer as shall at once preserve its services from the profanation incident to their present necessarily indiscriminate administration, and the avoidance of cavil or offence to tender consciences from the use of ambiguous terms or declarations not positively supported by the plain statements of Holy Writ.’ Then began a series of articles, printed over the next two years, by John Jordan of Enstone, Oxfordshire, C. H. Davies of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire and one, who declared only his initials of ‘C.A.’,38 on liturgical and ritual reform, with occasional reference to administrative reform. Articles appeared providing new services for Baptism, Holy Communion, the Visitation of the Sick and the Burial of the Dead, and improvements for virtually all parts of the Prayer book and Ordinal were suggested. The magazine also reported with enthusiasm the foundation of ‘the Wycliffe Church Reform Association’ at a meeting on 28 May, 1851 at Freemasons’ Hall, London.
This group of churchmen, who were in sympathy with the Evangelical Alliance and believed Anglicans should be involved in it, were of course quite convinced that the Liturgy of 1662 did not speak with the clarity of the Thirty-Nine Articles on doctrinal points and thus there was a need, as they saw it, to complete the work of the Reformers of the sixteenth century. While they admired the efforts of the editor of the Christian Observer (J. W. Cunningham) and the former editor, William Goode, to make the whole Liturgy speak the language of the Articles, they believed that such men as Phillpotts had more than a grain of truth on their side in pleading that immediate baptismal regeneration is the obvious meaning of the Service of Holy Baptism for infants. This point of view is reflected in a review of a long tract by a rising star of the Evangelicals, J. C. Ryle, Vicar of Stradbroke, Suffolk, on Regeneration.39 Ryle followed Goode in arguing for ‘the hypothetical principle of the presence of faith and its promised result’ – ’the charitable supposition’ as it was called. Ryle’s position was criticised on the grounds that in a national Establishment it is impossible to secure the discipline to make sure that only converted Christians bring their children to baptism; and even if it were, it is impossible on biblical grounds to defend the thanksgiving prayer in the rite when God is thanked for regeneration which is now a reality. The reviewer, C. H. Davies, attempting to be positive, actually provided a prayer which he thought could replace the prayer in the rite.
On ‘The Day’ a call had been made for the restoration of synodical government to the Church in terms of the revival of the Convocations of York and Canterbury and this pressure was continued. It was also made by men who were not High Churchmen, Archdeacon Hare for example. In their ancient structure the Convocations were weighted in favour of the senior clergy with the lower clergy having little representation and the laity having no representation. While W. E. Gladstone looked hopefully for the eventual inclusion of a lay element, Pusey and Robert Wilberforce wanted only a clerical synod. The latter were convinced that the Catholicity of the Church could best be preserved if only clergy were admitted. Samuel Wilberforce disappointed Evangelicals by becoming the main protagonist in the House of Lords for the revival of Convocation.
Evangelicals opposed the revival of Convocation even as they had opposed the diocesan synod called by Phillpotts. The moderate Archdeacon of Middlesex, John Sinclair, published his Charge on the topic as Synodal Action in the Church unreasonable and perilous (1851). He examined and then rejected the various reasons given by High Churchmen for Convocation and argued that the Church already had many blessings and these could well be lost if a national clerical synod ruled over all. In similar fashion the Archdeacon of Chichester, James Garbett, argued in Diocesan Synods and Convocation (1852) that it was better to do without any synods and thereby preserve the Church from internal strife and disruption. Furthermore he believed that it was now impossible for the Church to move in this way without the consent and co-operation of the laity. A similar message came from C. S. Bird in his The Danger attending an immediate revival of Convocation (1852). J. W. Cunningham commented that ‘the great mass of the laity are decidedly opposed to the doings of a Convocation and will not tolerate the re-imposition of its yoke (as at present constituted) upon the neck of the Church’.40
After many sorties against those who would revive Convocation the Record of 8 November, 1852 summed up its arguments against the move as follows:
First, that a power of synodal or corporate action is inherent in every branch of the Church of Christ and that in certain cases of urgent necessity, or high practical utility, it might be incumbent on all faithful members of the English Church to resume it by some means or other. Secondly, that any synodal action at the present juncture, with our large openings for useful activity, and the state of parties within the Church, would lead to endless strife, with no counteracting benefit, and ought to be opposed by every lover of the Gospel and every friend of peace and practical Christianity. Thirdly, that if synodal action were desirable, the Convocation is quite disqualified for the work and this for four or five reasons. The laity have no voice at all which is a fatal defect and intrudes a Popish element into its composition the moment it assumes the representation of the whole Church. The Irish Church has also no voice in it. The parochial clergy, instead of three-fourths, their natural share, are little more than a fourth of the whole, and the two provinces have a distinct Convocation each framed in a different way. Fourthly, the Convocation is just as ill-qualified to be a constituent and legislative body. Our parishes and our dioceses are living features of the Church. The Convocation is both a dead and mis-shapen body ... And, lastly, even if the most unwise steps were taken of reviving Convocation, to revive it now at the last moment would have been an insult to common sense, and a direct fraud upon the great body of the Church, in favour of a faction of zealots who are either secret or open traitors to the cause of the Reformation and to the truth of the Gospel.
This was written before the Convocation of Canterbury had its brief sessions in November 1852, sessions which inaugurated the revival of the southern synod. The northern one did not resume until 1861.
The revival of Convocation shocked many of the Protestant laity and, led by Lord Shaftesbury (he had ceased to be Lord Ashley eighteen months earlier), the Protestant Defence Committee called a meeting at Freemasons’ Hall on 15 November. ‘We are here’, the noble Lord told the great crowd, ‘to say that we will not submit to any clerical Parliament that will make the laity of the Church and of these realms mere “hewers of wood and drawers of water” [Joshua 9.21] to a select knot of sacerdotal dignitaries.’41 A protest was also made against the growing practice of auricular confession. There followed further large meetings in English cities but they were not able to stop the process which had begun. Happily, their worst fears were never realised for there soon appeared the Church Congress and then the Church Assembly in which the laity had a voice. The protest over auricular confession continued in the following years reaching a peak in 1858 when there were many protest meetings throughout the country; but, again, the Protestant laity were not able to stop the growth of this practice in the English Church.
4. FROM THE PAPAL AGGRESSION TO 1856
As the initial effects of the Gorham Judgment were being assimilated by the Church the controversy between Evangelical and Tractarian was given a new twist by what has become known as the Papal Aggression, the establishment of thirteen Roman Catholic bishoprics in England and Wales, with an Archbishopric at Westminster. The Pope’s decision became widely known in mid-October 1850 and a series of protests and riots began as the endemic Protestant feeling of the country was stirred. On 5 December Shaftesbury was at the Freemasons’ Hall at the head of a large and influential gathering of the laity of the Church in order to protest and to send a petition to the Queen.42 According to the Record ‘the two chief features of the Meeting were the speech of the Noble Chairman and the deep, strong and unmistakable determination of the assembled multitude’.43 Earlier the same paper had printed the full text of the letter sent by the Prime Minister to the Bishop of Durham, fully agreeing with Lord Russell that Tractarianism had helped to pave the way for this act of papal arrogance.
As did other clergy, Goode addressed his parishioners on the subject in the gravest of terms and then with them sent an Address to the Queen expressing their disgust over the action of the Pope and noting the connection of the Aggression with Tractarianism:
We regret to be compelled to add our conviction that what has tended more than anything else to produce this act of Papal aggression has been the late rise of a Romanising party in the Church of England. Of those who have already seceded to the communion of the Church of Rome, we say nothing; but as it respects those who, while they remain in the ministry of the Church of England, are countenancing, directly or indirectly, doctrines and practices essentially Popish, and denying that supremacy of the Crown in spiritual matters which they have solemnly pledged themselves to uphold – or, what is worse, casting contempt on the exercise of it – we would humbly but earnestly represent to your Majesty the dangers that must ensue from such a state of things, not merely to the interests of the Church itself, but to the peace and welfare of the community; and respectfully entreat your Majesty to take such measures as may tend to preserve unimpaired the Protestant character of the Church of England and secure the faithfulness of its ministers to their engagements.44
If this is how the leading theologian of the Evangelicals was thinking it is easy to understand how others could be led to violence and riotous behaviour. Though not a storm in a tea-cup, the protests did eventually cease and the Roman Catholic hierarchy gradually became a part of the English religious scene. But in the meantime Evangelicals found it difficult to forgive the Tractarians for assisting, as they thought, the progress of the religion of ‘the Man of Sin’ in Protestant Britain. In January 1851 those who met in Islington Vicarage for the annual Clerical Meeting discussed the topic, ‘How may we most effectually promote a revival of spiritual religion in our own Church?’45 and soon afterwards their president, Daniel Wilson, published his A Revival of Spiritual Religion the only effectual remedy for the dangers which now threaten the Church of England (1851). He looked for a movement of the Holy Spirit such as that which had occurred through the preaching of George Whitefield, William Romaine and John Newton.46
In the parish of Islington was the Islington Protestant Institute, founded in 1846 as an interdenominational centre for the conversion of Irish immigrants and for the propagation of the Protestant Faith.47 Wilson, its first president, did not doubt that Presbyterian, Lutheran and Congregational ordinations made true ministers of Christ. Thus he and other Evangelicals had no theological problems to face concerning opening their pulpits to foreign pastors if this seemed the appropriate thing to do. In April 1851 the Protestant-Aid Society, whose chairman was the Marquis of Cholmondeley, had been in correspondence with Bishop Blomfield about the availability of churches for services in foreign languages and the latter had been very sympathetic to this need.48 The Great Exhibition, which opened in April 1851, brought many foreigners to Britain among whom was a group of pastors, including Dr Merle D’Aubigné. His inaugural lecture in the Protestant Academy in Geneva had dealt with Tractarianism and was made available in an English translation by the efforts of Edward Bickersteth under the title Geneva and Oxford (1843). So while no Evangelical would doubt the validity of D’Aubigné’s ordination, or that of his colleagues, every Tractarian who knew of him had to doubt it and view him merely as a layman.49 On 8 June, 1851 he preached at a public service in Woburn Chapel, London, after Richard Burgess, incumbent of Upper Chelsea, had read prayers. A critical report of this incident was printed in the Morning Chronicle of 11 June where it was pointed out that under the Act of Uniformity of 1662 D’Aubigné was liable to be prosecuted and put in jail for three months. The Swiss Professor immediately composed a reply to this report defending himself on what he believed were scriptural grounds in A Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom he counted as a personal friend.50 Commenting, the Record declared on 12 June that ‘the principle at issue in the whole affair is this: the Reformed Churches and the Church of England with them place Evangelical truth first and Church order in the second place. But Rome, and the Romanizers, make Episcopacy and the Apostolic Succession the test, the sole test of a true Church.’
Unfortunately more bitterness was to come. On the following Sunday D’Aubigné and a colleague preached again in Woburn and Portman Chapels. Hearing of this W. Upton Richards, priest in charge at the Margaret Street Chapel (whose services the Record had severely criticised), sent a letter of protest to the Bishop of London, pointing out that their preaching had been a violation of the law. Blomfield took the point and informed the ministers of the Chapels, Thomas Dale and Thomas Reeves, that they should explain to their foreign guests what was the law of England. Whether these men did do as the bishop requested is not clear but what is clear is that a certain W. R. F. Gawthorne, a friend of Upton Richards, wrote to Archbishop Sumner on 18 June and thereby caused much trouble. Instead of using his surname he wrote as Mr W. Francis, utilising his Christian names. Pretending to be an Evangelical, he claimed that he was offended by the actions of Upton Richards and Blomfield, and thereby played on the known respect which the Archbishop had for D’Aubigné. The Archbishop took the letter seriously and in all innocence replied. After explaining and defending the action of the bishop he went on to make what was to be regarded as a momentous assertion: ‘I hardly imagine that there are two Bishops on the Bench or one Clergyman in fifty throughout our Church, who would deny the validity of the orders of these pastors, solely on account of their wanting the imposition of Episcopal hands.’ This was as a red rag to a bull and Gawthorne immediately made the contents of the letter known to his Tractarian friends. Pamphlets appeared containing the correspondence; the matter was taken up by newspapers and magazines and the poor Archbishop was maligned in letters printed in the Morning Chronicle written by Beresford Hope. Happily the Evangelicals stood by the Archbishop, in strong but calm language in the Christian Observer and in powerful but less dignified language in the Record.51
The ‘Exeter Synod’ took place soon after the incidents involving the foreign pastors and it was not unexpected that those clergy in the diocese who supported Phillpotts should also be in sympathy with members of the London Church Union who had made complaints to Blomfield and Sumner. From these clergy came an Address to the Archbishop maintaining that the only valid ordinations are those by bishops in the apostolic succession. And from Archdeacon Edward Churton of Yorkshire came a letter published in the Guardian of 19 November, 1851 criticising the new Bishop of Manchester, James Prince Lee, for his declaration that the clergy of the Church of Scotland, though ordained by presbyters, are still true ministers of the Church of God and are so recognised by the canon law of England. (To understand the difference of opinion here it is necessary to recall that the order of bishops was removed from the Church in Scotland only in 1638 and that the canons of the Church of England dated from 1604.) Into the arena once more stepped William Goode to engage in a correspondence with Churton in the columns of the Guardian. He argued that the fifty-fifth canon of 1604 in requiring prayer for the Holy Catholic Church and especially ‘for the Churches in England, Scotland and Ireland’ did refer to the ‘Presbyterian’ Church of Scotland and not the Episcopalian Church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland of 1852 was the obvious historical continuance of the Church before 1638. Another person with whom Goode did battle at this juncture was Archdeacon Harington. The latter had provided what he believed to be a convincing ‘catena’ from Anglican divines on the question of the invalidity of non-episcopal orders but Goode’s response was that the ‘catena’ actually proved the opposite; ‘His nominal thesis of the Apostolical institution of Episcopacy they will no doubt support; but his real one of the indispensable necessity of Episcopacy to a valid ministry and a real Church they distinctly oppose.’52
Next Goode turned his eyes towards Exeter and addressed a pamphlet to Bishop Phillpotts. A year or so earlier he had defended his archbishop from what he termed the ‘groundless, unjustifiable and offensive’ accusations made against him by Phillpotts following the Gorham Judgment.53 Now in A Reply to the Bishop of Exeter’s Second Arraignment of his Metropolitan in his ‘Letter to the Archdeacon of Totnes’ (1852) he sought to prove on historical grounds that the Church of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did not doubt the validity of the orders of foreign Protestant Churches. He had to make this point because Phillpotts had supported his clergy who had sent the Address to the archbishop mentioned above. He proceeded to make the further point that to believe that only episcopal orders are valid is one thing; to prove that the Church of England makes this belief its official teaching is another. It seemed to be the case that both Phillpotts and the Tractarians confused their beliefs with the facts of the case.
The question of orders also lay behind some of the controversy surrounding the Jerusalem Bishopric. In 1846 the ordination and consecration of Samuel Gobat as the second Bishop of Jerusalem had not gone unchallenged by the vigilant Phillpotts and the Tractarian leaders, and had not gone without strong support from the Record.54 Throughout his episcopate Gobat’s activities were carefully watched or reported by his critics. As a result he was accused in High Church circles of seeking to proselytize from the Eastern Church, a serious offence for those who had a branch theory of the Church, but a good activity to those who, like a writer in the Record, spoke of the ‘apostate and idolatrous Greek Church’. Matters came to a head in 1853 when John Mason Neale, an admirer and student of the Eastern Churches, organized with the help of other Tractarians, a protest about Gobat’s alleged misdemeanours. This protest, bearing about one thousand signatures, was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, with copies being sent to the Eastern Patriarchs. Evangelicals of all shades of opinion rose to the defence of Gobat;55 and theirs was not an isolated voice for the four British archbishops (two English and two Irish) took the unusual step of issuing a joint letter to state that the Memorial to the Eastern Patriarchs did not emanate from the United Church of England and Ireland but from private individuals.56
Following these disagreements over the validity of orders and the true state of the Eastern Churches came controversy between 1853 and 1857 over the doctrine of the Eucharist. First of all there was the trial of Archdeacon Denison for alleged heretical views. Evangelicals, who were not impressed by his attempts to dominate the educational policy of the National Society, both initiated and pressed charges against him concerning the contents of sermons he had preached in the cathedral at Wells on the Eucharist. Secondly, from the pens of R. I. Wilberforce, E. B. Pusey and John Keble there came weighty publications expounding the developed Tractarian doctrine of the Holy Communion and, predictably, this exposition produced both a popular and a learned Evangelical response.
As the trial of Denison has been described by others there is no need here to repeat the details.57 Found guilty by the Diocesan Court of Bath and Wells of teaching doctrine contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England on the subject of the presence of Christ in the sacrament, he would have been deprived had not the judicial Committee of the Privy Council in February 1858 declared that the sentence was invalid because of a technical point. It is generally assumed that the Evangelical Alliance set the trial in motion but there is no evidence for this apart from the assertions of Denison and Liddon.58
In February 1856 one writer made the point that ‘Archdeacon Denison enjoys the unenviable distinction of having given more trouble with less benefit to a larger number of men, than perhaps any man in the kíngdom’.59 Why Evangelicals, and Goode in particular, felt so strongly about him is revealed in the following quotation from Goode’s book on the Eucharist.
In direct contradiction ... to the statement of our XXVIIIth Article that ‘the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith’, the Archdeacon maintains that it is received and eaten by the mouth; and in direct contradiction to the statement of the XXIXth Article that the wicked ‘eat not the Body of Christ’ ... he maintains that the wicked receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper as well as the faithful ... Now these two points formed the leading points of disagreement between our early Reformers and the Romanists in their disputes previous to the martyrdom of the former. These were two of the more important of those points of doctrine connected with the Eucharist, to oppose which Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley laid down their lives.60
The Protestant Alliance, founded in 1851 and led by Shaftesbury, and the Record also demanded that Denison’s ‘Roman’ doctrine be declared heretical. It is probably true, however, to state that the prosecution failed because the Evangelicals were not of one mind and did not always act together against Denison. Certainly all agreed that his doctrine was unsatisfactory, yet while Goode, Shaftesbury and Haldane were convinced that he was a heretic and that the courts should declare him to be so, Archbishop Sumner, sitting in the ‘hot seat’, and some moderate Evangelicals such as Professor Heurtley, became convinced that a long legal battle was inappropriate and so they tried to stop the legal proceedings. In the end the moral victory won by the prosecution was hailed by the Record as a sufficient indication of the error of Denison’s doctrine. From the High Church and Tractarian side there was relief that Denison had escaped punishment for his position and certainly his personality had not commanded universal approval in their ranks.61
Before Denison’s trial began Archdeacon Wilberforce published The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist (1853), and Pusey published The Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist (1853); during the trial Pusey defended the teaching of the earlier book with The Doctrine of the Real Presence as set forth in the Works of divines and others of the English Church since the Reformation (1855); and after the trial Keble published On Eucharistical Adoration (1857). Of these books the one by Wilberforce, following as it did his major study of the Incarnation, caused the greatest comment. The Christian Observer had carried a long review of The Doctrine of the Incarnation in 1850. The writer, C. S. Bird, accepted that since no major English divine had hitherto devoted a whole volume to this doctrine Wilberforce was to be credited with some praise for his learned effort. Yet Bird felt that the volume was ruined by the adoption of Newman’s doctrine of justification, by conceding the principle of doctrinal development, by adopting an exclusive doctrine of apostolic succession, by putting the Visible Church in the place of Christ and by cutting off from union with Christ pious non-Episcopalians. Three years later Bird reviewed the volume on the Eucharist and criticised it for teaching that the union of the Christian with Christ is effected primarily and continuously through the body, that is, by the eating of the bread and wine of the Holy Sacrament. He claimed that ‘to prevent rationalism he would extinguish reason. To escape from pride he would fly to formalism. To exalt the Church he would abase Christ.’ Furthermore he believed that in Wilberforce’s teaching the work of the Holy Spirit was superseded by that of the earthly priest so that ‘faith loses its proper object. The Church is thrust before Christ. The Heavenly Intercessor is less thought of than the earthly mediator. The priest’s performance is more regarded than God’s promises. Instead of resting on Divine Testimony faith is called to take the testimony of antiquity for its foundation.’62 For a balanced doctrine of the Eucharist Bird commended Bishop Edward Reynolds’ Meditations on the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1679, reprinted 1826).
To satisfy public demand Bird’s articles were printed in an expanded form as The Sacramental and Priestly System Examined (1854).63 In the preface to this book Bird argued that the theological system of Wilberforce, ‘the Coryphaeus of the Tractarians’, was ‘nothing less than the Philosophy of the Schoolmen which bewildered and subdued the intellect, and the Sacramental and Priestly System of the Medieval Ages which almost extinguished subjective and personal religion and reduced Christianity to a round of vicarious performances, equally deadening to the people and the performers’. With less sophistication an editorial in the Record on 22 September, 1852 declared that Wilberforce wished to introduce a daily Eucharist, understood as a propitiatory sacrifice, with the laity communicating in only one kind and at the great festivals. After the appearance of these books there was little or no surprise when it was announced that the Archdeacon had seceded from the Church of England in order to enter the Church of Rome.64
In order to do justice to the Victorian Evangelicals it is necessary to mention three other matters before concluding this chapter. These are the continuing Evangelical response to the High Church/Tractarian domination of the National Society and other educational bodies, to the growth of female religious communities and to the ritualism of certain parish churches.
First, the problem of ritualism. It was noted above that when the practice of auricular confession began in a parish the organised Protestant opinion soon spoke out against it. A good example is the activism of the Protestant Committee in Brighton, which, after protesting about the ritualism of Sackville College, where J. M. Neale was Warden, turned its attention to the alleged practice of auricular confession encouraged by Gresley, who had recently come to the town, and by A. D. Wagner of St Paul’s Church, where Gresley assisted.65 Supported both by the Record and the Brighton Gazette as well as by visits from Shaftesbury, M’Ghee and other itinerant lecturers of the Protestant Association, the Protestants of Brighton managed to publicise widely their case. Yet having done this they appear to have done little in practical terms to halt the practice of confession in Brighton and Sussex.
But auricular confession was only one part of the general phenomenon of ritualism which was now gradually becoming less unfamiliar in parish churches in England. Protestant spies, alarmed by this growth, visited such London churches as St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and St Barnabas, Pimlico, and then reported in the press what they had seen. In an editorial on the activities of Robert Liddell, the priest at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, the Record said on 28 April, 1851:
It is for the laity to stand up in defence of their Protestant faith and Protestant usages, and not to allow these to be thus tampered with under the pretext that they are of little moment. It was a matter of little moment in one sense whether the Red flag or the tri-coloured should be hoisted in France, but every statesman felt that this trivial difference involved the cause of good order and good government. So it is in regard to popery. Stone altars and crosses, shrouded chancels and sedilia and piscinae, and all the main millinery of Tractarian vestments are in themselves of no more importance than the pagan idol, which the apostle declares to be in itself nothing (1 Cor. 8). But all these mummeries, as well as all forms of idolatry, do in fact involve principles and doctrines of the highest importance to the welfare of the Church and the salvation of the people.
Later when Liddell was prosecuted by his churchwarden, Charles Westerton, the Record appealed for funds to assist him with the expenses. This was the first of the ritualist prosecutions and though the verdict went to the Protestants the sympathies of many Englishmen began, perhaps slowly at first, to move towards the ‘hardworking priests’ with the result that, though prosecutions were to increase, ritualism also was to increase as it assumed the mantle of the martyr’s cause.
For the Protestants there was a natural connection between ritualism in parishes and ritualism in religious communities. As early as 25 April, 1850 the Record, having in mind the support by Phillpotts and certain noble Lords, remarked that ‘monasticism in the Church of England is basking in its growth not only under the fervid heat of diocesan sunshine but also on the hot-bed of aristocratical and high sounding names’. The same paper gave a lot of editorial space, as well as inches in the letters columns, to reviews of the pamphlets which appeared attacking or defending Miss Sellon and her community in Plymouth. Underlying all criticisms was the basic theme that such religious communities were essentially papist institutions in principle and therefore condemned by the Word of God. In 1857 Evangelical Protestants claimed to be shocked by the serious charges brought against J. M. Neale and the Community of Sisters he founded at East Grinstead. The charges were brought by John Scobell, Evangelical incumbent of Southover and Prebendary of Chichester, whose daughter Emily Ann Elizabeth had joined the community without his permission. She was, however, in her late twenties when she made this decisive move and it was apparently based on rational thought. Part of her work involved nursing patients with scarlet fever and she caught the disease and died. This tragedy was widely reported and feelings were intensified so that there was a near riot at her funera1.66
Turning to the question of education it can perhaps be claimed that Protestant sentiments here were on a more rational basis than some of those surrounding the criticism of nunneries. For years Evangelicals had protested about the Tractarian principles evident in the teacher training institutions of the National Society and the efforts of ‘the pugnacious Archdeacon’ Denison from 1850 to 1852 to dominate the Committee of the Society did not help matters. A crisis came in June 1852 when the Committee arbitrarily rejected a petition asking for changes in policy and signed by about three thousand Evangelicals. Francis Close led others in resigning from the Society. On 26 May, 1853 the Record announced the formation of the Church of England Education Society:
We bless God that at length we see instituted a society which will prevent the education of the youth of this country from being committed into the hands of the National Education Society, with its Romanizing training schools at St Mark’s, Chelsea, and its continued efforts to reduce our country parishes under the influence of Tractarianism.
To found a new Education Society and a new teacher training college at Cheltenham was not enough: error in other institutions had still to be exposed. Thus the Record denounced the Tractarianism in the Woodard Schools at Shoreham and Hurstpierpoint in Sussex.67 And, though he had never been to the school but had only read a volume of Sewell’s sermons preached there, Close published High-Church Education Delusive and Dangerous: being an exposition of the system adopted by ... W. Sewell, Warden of St Peter’s College, Radley (1855).
Evangelicals were also concerned that the training of the clergy should not get into Tractarian hands. In practical terms this meant making every effort to maintain the Protestant character of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the new Colleges in London and Durham. Therefore when St Edmund Hall was lost to Evangelicalism with the forced resignation of E. A. Litton, the Vice-Principal, plans were set in motion to create a new Evangelical Hall, which was allowed by a new Oxford University Statute of 19 May, 1855. It was called Litton Hall and had the double aim of preserving Christian learning from both neologian and Tractarian principles.68 It existed only from 1856 to 1861 and never had more than eight students in any one year. Thus it made little impact on the very problems it was created to confront. Evangelicals were also active in opposition to the formation of diocesan theological colleges but here again their arguments were dependent on the universities, maintaining their Protestant heritage. Editorials in the Record expressed the same viewpoint as did the editor of the Christian Observer when he wrote:
Against another scheme held in high esteem by the same class of divines as are eager for ‘Convocation’ we must more distinctly raise our voice – we mean the establishment of Theological Colleges in our various dioceses. One grand objection to them is the, to us, immeasurable evil of substituting an exclusively clerical education for that of a more general and promiscuous character – a monkish for an University education. The insufficiency of the theological instruction hitherto supplied by the Universities is indisputable. But this may and now will be one of the first results of the new bills for University Reform. But the effects of Diocesan education would be to divide the clergy still more completely from the laity, to raise a barrier between the two bodies, and so, in the end, both to deteriorate the clergy and to estrange the laity and thus hasten the downfall of the Church of England.69
Here were excellent principles, but the practical situation was such that eventually Evangelicals felt the need to found colleges, connected wherever possible with the universities.70
The appearance of Goode’s The Nature of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist was one of the last serious Evangelical, theological responses to Tractarianism. Though it was followed by significant books from John Harrison and Nathaniel Dimock, the controversy between Tractarians and Evangelicals for the next four decades was primarily concerned with ritualism.71 Evangelicals looked confidently to litigation to stop it and it seemed at first that they were succeeding, but they made martyrs out of popular priests and the policy eventually failed. In other areas of church life they now had not only their own foreign and home missionary societies but also their own Church Extension Fund, Education Society and teacher training colleges. So they were able to go their own way in evangelism, missions and education without being over concerned about the work of other societies such as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
Notes: CHAPTER THREE
1. Conybeare, Essays, pp. 57 ff.
2. A. M. Allchin, The Silent Rebellion: Anglican Religious Communities, 1845–1900 (1958).
3. B. Heeney, Mission to the Middle Classes. The Woodard Schools, 1848–1891 (1969); and L. James, A Forgotten Genius. Sewell of St Columba’s and Radley, n.d.
4. Liddon, iii, pp. 278–80.
5. Beresford Hope had much influence in the religious policy of the Morning Chronicle. According to the Record, 8 March, 1852, the average sales of the MC dropped from 4,692 in 1845 to 2,915 in 1850.
6. R, 14 January, 1857. The proprieter of the Union was F. G. Lee for whom see H. R. T. Brandreth, Dr Lee of Lambeth (1851).
7. CO (1845), preface, p. iii. In April 1844 an article had appeared entitled ‘The National Society for Education and the Tractarians’, claiming that Tractarianism was strong in the training schools in London.
8. In 1843 long-standing Evangelical subscribers and supporters of the SPG, such men as Josiah Pratt and Edward Bickersteth, were attempting to get assurances from the Secretary of the SPG that Tractarian personnel would not be used as missionaries. J. and J. H. Pratt, Memoir of Josiah Pratt, pp. 360–8; T. R. Birks, Memoir of Edward Bickеrsteth, ii, pp. 223 ff.; R, 9 and 23 February, 2 March, 29 April, 4 May, 1843. In the ‘Reports of Association Secretaries, 1840–1848’ (CMS Archives, ref. H/H7 A1) there are many references to Tractarianism in parishes and some references to Tractarian support for the SPG. On the latter point see the boxes labelled CH 21 and 25 in the SPG archives; they deal with Tractarianism in the Society. Mr Brian Stanley kindly brought the latter to my attention.
9. The other three were Francis Wilson, incumbent of Armitage, author of No Peace with Tractarianism (1850); R. J. M’Ghee, the Irish Protestant activist, who challenged Gresley to a debate in Brighton on Auricular Confession to which Gresley responded in print with A Letter of Confession (1851); and E. B. Elliott, the commentator on the Apocalypse, who sent a letter to Gresley entitled The Delusion of the Tractarian Clergy as to the validity of their ministerial Orders (1856).
10. CMR (1846), p. 230.
11. R, 26 March, 1846.
12. The controversy between Gresley and Close continued with each man producing two more tracts. There are some provocative comments on the exchange in Oxford and Cambridge Review, xvii (December 1846), article 1.
13. The letters were reprinted in the Record on 6 and 17 November, 1845. Two of the contributors to the Review, George Rawlinson and S. J. Rigaud, both of Exeter College, wrote to Golightly denying any intention to Romanise. Lambeth MS 1809, ff. 3–6 and 31–4.
14. Lambeth MS 1804, f. 45.
15. Lambeth MS 1804, f. 108.
16. Of the four letters one related to the Stone Altar case, two to F. Oakley and the Court of Arches, and one to Newman. The last is reprinted in Browne, Annals of the Tractarian Movement (1861), pp. 120–4.
17. The original draft of this letter is in Lambeth MS 1809, f. 108.
18. Lambeth MS 1806, ff 110–12.
19. Lambeth MS 1809, f. 110. This is the original to which reference is made by Symons in his letter to Pusey printed in Liddon, iii, p. 56. The letters of Golightly to Symons and Symons to Golightly were printed in the first issue of the Guardian on 21 January, 1846.
20. See the review in CMR (1846), pp. 165–84.
21. ‘Diary’, Vol. 16, 17 May, 1847.
22. Hill, Letters ... of W. A. Shirley, pp. 426 ff. They were published as The Supremacy of Scripture (1848).
23. Chadwick, i, chap. 4; J. C. S. Nias, Gorham and the Bishop of Exeter (1951); G. C. B. Davies, Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter (1954); and Liddon, iii, pp. 201 ff.
24. For Hatchard see A. L. Humphreys, Piccadilly Bookmen. Memorials of the House of Hatchard (1893), and for Maskel1 see DNB.
25. Maskell, Letter to ... Dr Pusey on his receiving persons in Auricular Confession (1850).
26. Memoir of the late Rev. James Scholefield (1855), p. 186.
27. R. I. Wilberforce replied with The Doctrine of Holy Baptism (1849).
28. CO (1849), pp. 809–56.
29. R., 25 July, 1850.
30. Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, i, pp. 540–1.
31. McNeile, ‘Baptism doth Save’. A Letter to ... the Bishop of Exeter (1850).
32. The Royal Supremacy discussed in correspondence between Archdeacon Wilberforce and the Rev. Dr McNeile (1850), p. 27.
33. Goode, Reply to the Letter and Declaration respecting the Royal Supremacy (1850).
34. R, 16 September, 1850. See also 14 October and 14 November for letters of Manning, Wilberforce, Goode and McNeile.
35. CG (1851), pp. 23–8, 64–8 and 118-22. For Walter see DNB.
36. Two pamphlets appeared against Wilson’s, The Church of England in Danger: A Letter to the Vicar of Islington by one of his parishioners (1850), and William Scott, A Letter to the Rev Daniel Wilson (1850).
37. CG (1851), pp. 318 ff.; and R, 2 September, 1850.
38. C.A. is possibly the Rev A. Cooper of St Mark’s, Aud1ey St., London.
39. See further P. Toon and M. Smout, J. C. Ryle: Evangelical Bishop 1976), p. 36.
40. CO (1852), p. 767.
41. Hodder, Life of Shaftesbury, ii, p. 407.
42. This petition is described in the Record of 12 December, 1850 and is printed in Phillpotts, A Pastoral Letter (2nd ed., 1851), pp. 119–22.
43. R, 12 December, 1850.
44. W. Goode, Address delivered at a Public Meeting ... (1850), p. 16.
45. Hill, ‘Diary’, Vol. 18, 8 January, 1851 has a description of the meeting.
46. According to Dr J. E. Orr there was a revival in 1859–60 within the Church of England. Orr, The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain (1949) This is rightly challenged by B. E. Hardman, The Evangelical Party in the C. of E., 1855–1865, pp. 296 ff.
47. The Annual Reports of the Institute for 1847–58 are in the Islington Public Library.
48. R, 14 April, 1851 where the correspondence is printed.
49. On 11 March, 1846 the Guardian had called him ‘a fanatic partisan’ for Protestantism.
50. For a previous Letter of D'Aubigné to Sumner see R, 12 March, 1846.
51. For the correspondence see Browne, Annals of the Tractarian Movement, pp. 230 ff. For comments see CO (1851), pp. 730–2, and R, 8 September, 1851.
52. Goode, A Reply to Archdeacon Churton and Chancellor Harington (1852), p. 31.
53. Goode, A Letter to the Bishop of Exeter (1850), p. 2. In this he had shown that in 1833 Phillpotts had a friendly and sympathetic attitude to Dissenters.
54. R, 8, 11, 15 and 18 June, 1846; Guardian, 15 April and 10 June, 1846.
55. R, 19 and 22 September, 13, 17 and 20 October, 1853; CO (1853), pp. 843 ff.
56. For the text of the letter see Browne, op. cit., pp. 320–1.
57. Chadwick, i, pp. 491–5; and Hardman, op. cit., pp. 125–43.
58. G. A. Denison, Notes on My Life (1879), p. 222; and Liddon, iii, p. 427. The official magazine of the Evangelical Alliance, the monthly Evangelical Christendom, has no report of this supposed official action. The accusation probably arose because of the readiness of some Nonconformists to give money to support the prosecution of Denison. In fact, Archdeacon Henry Law, who was closely connected with the prosecution, later claimed that Goode was constantly urging Ditcher, the Evangelical neighbour of Denison, to continue with the legal proceedings – see Gloucestershire Chronicle (1885), p. 246.
59. CO (1853), p. 144.
60. Goode, The Nature of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist (1856), p. 3.
61. Guardian, 29 November, 1854, 20 August, 1856.
62. CO (1853), pp. 593–4.
63. At least two other Evangelical authors wrote against Wilberforce’s views. Robert Maguire (Rector of St Olave’s, Southwark), Transubstantiation a Tractarian Doctrine (1854), and James Taylor (Headmaster of the Free Grammar School, Wakefield, Yorkshire), An Appeal to the Archbishop of York on the uncoпdemned heresies of Archdeacon Wilbетforce ... (1854).
64. For the development of Wilberforce’s thinking see David Newsome, Parting of Friends (1966), pp. 370 ff.
65. R, 26 January, 12 and 23 February, 1852.
66. R, 4, 11 and 14 December, 1857. A. G. Lough, J. M. Neale (1975), pp. 106 ff.
67. R, 11 June, 1853. See further Heeney, Mission to the Middle Classes, pp. 78–81 and 184. For letters to Golightly from Sussex Protestant clergy about these schools see Lambeth MS 1806, ff 12–16 (from J. M. Grubb) and 1807, ff. 91–5 (from T. A. Holland).
68. R, 14 January, 1856. Prominent supporters included Shaftesbury, Isaac Taylor, Robert Bickersteth and Sir Culling Eardley. See Hardman, op. cit., pp. 157 ff
69. CO (1854), p. 650. R, 7 and 9 July, 1856. See also James Bateman, The Tractarian Tendency of Diocesan Theological Colleges (1853). Believing that the colleges at Wells and Chichester were under Tractarian control, Bateman opposed the scheme for a college at Lichfield.
70. See further F. W. B. Bullock, A History of Training for the Ministry ... 1800–1874 (St Leonards-on-Sea, 1955).
71. Chadwick, ii, pp. 308 ff. N. Dimock, The Doctrine of the Sacraments (1871); and J. Harrison, An Answer to Dr Pusey’s Challenge Respecting the Doctrine of the Real Presence (2 vols, 1871).
Part Two: Theological
Chapter Four: The Rule of Faith
In August 1844 Christopher Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster, visited the famous editor and publisher, Jacques Paul Migne, in his Imprimerie in Paris. When Migne spoke of the great help that his Patrologia Latina would be to the Church of Rome, Wordsworth ‘ventured to assure him that no one would welcome his publications with greater satisfaction than the Bishops and Clergy of England’, who were ‘as conversant with the works of the Fathers as their brethren in France’. Two weeks later he visited the publishers, Messrs Gaume, and was told that the principal market for their recent editions of Augustine, Chrysostom and Basil had been in England.1 An interest in the early Fathers runs throughout the history of the Church of England but at no period was the interest more intense than in the 1830s and 1840s. On the one side Tractarians claimed patristic support for the teaching they sent forth in sermons, tracts and books, and, on the other, patristic support was claimed by some who opposed Tractarian teaching. The task in this chapter is not to survey any aspects of the teaching of the Fathers but rather to examine how the use of their writings by Tractarians was challenged by Evangelicals in controversy over the place of Tradition in the Rule of Faith. By Tradition is intended the contents of the writings of the Fathers along with the Creeds and Canons of Councils and the ancient Liturgies.
It was noted in Chapter One that the Tractarian publications which especially caused the Evangelicals to believe that Tradition was being elevated to a position co-equal with Scripture were Keble’s Primitive Tradition (1836), Newman’s The Prophetical Office of the Church (1837) and Manning’s The Rule of Faith (1838). In a long appendix to the latter a short summary of the general position was provided:
1. All points of faith necessary to salvation must be proved by Holy Scripture.
2. All interpretations of Holy Scripture in matters of religious belief must be made in accordance with the faith of those on whose evidence we receive the written Word of God itself.
3. The faith of the primitive Church, on whose testimony we receive the Canon of Holy Scripture, is presented to us in the Creeds and universal consent of Christians. This consent is the basis of the Doctrinal Articles of the Church of England.
4. All primitive interpretations, prevalent though not universal, claim their several measures of deference from us, and we may not lightly contradict them.
5. Where we have no external evidence of primitive interpretation, we have no other rule than our own judgment, aided by the laws of criticism and unauthoritative exposition.
The principle behind these assertions was ‘that universal agreement with the Church of the apostolic ages is the surest test of agreement with the doctrine of the Apostles of Christ’. The ‘apostolic ages’ were the first five or six centuries of the Christian era.
Newman’s exposition of Tradition in his Prophetical Office, which followed his debate with the Abbé Jager, was more sophisticated than that of Manning, whose gifts were in clarity of exposition rather than creative development of ideas. Newman had come to distinguish between ‘Episcopal tradition’ and ‘Prophetical tradition’. He maintained this distinction while agreeing with Manning that ‘Scripture is interpreted by Tradition, Tradition is verified by Scripture’ and ‘Tradition teaches and Scripture proves’. He understood ‘Episcopal tradition’ as the transmission from bishop to bishop in each ancient see of the essentials of the Faith, the fundamental doctrines necessary for salvation. He explained ‘Prophetical tradition’ in terms of the general teaching of the Church passed on within the churches from one generation to the next: this teaching included the writings of theologians, liturgical practice and form, decrees of councils and ecclesiastical customs. It appears that Evangelicals did not seek to challenge this way of expounding Tradition although at least one author, as will be noted, did question Newman’s confidence in our knowledge of the contents of the ‘Episcopal tradition’.
There is a further dimension to the Tractarian doctrine of Tradition which needs to be noted and that is the admiration of the Disciplina Arcani (the Discipline of the Secret). Though Newman had expounded this practice in his book on the Arians it came most obviously before the public in Isaac Williams’ Tracts 80 and 87, which were entitled On Reserve in Communicating Religious Knowledge and were addressed specifically to the clergy. It was admitted by Tractarians primarily because they believed it to have been central to the way in which the teaching of Christian truths to pagans, catechumens and the baptised was conducted by the Early Church. Whether in fact it was as widespread and important as they supposed, or whether it represented a borrowing by the Church from the pagan mysteries, were not questions which the Tractarians publicly faced. The Discipline of the Secret with its stress on reverence and the mystical interpretation of Scripture was well suited to their understanding of piety and the authority of the Church and priesthood.
The major issues as seen by the Evangelicals may be put in the form of three questions: Where is Divine Revelation to be found? What is the value of Tradition? What are the limits and duties of private judgment? These will form the headings for three sections of this chapter. No account will be taken of the views on the development of dogma since this particular problem was raised in an acute form by Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), which belongs to his Roman Catholic period. Further, note was taken in Chapter Two of initial Evangelical reaction to Tractarian comments in this area.2
2. EVANGELICAL LITERATURE
The oldest writer to be used is G. S. Faber, the author of three books whose titles all began with the words ‘the primitive doctrine of’ – Election (1836), Justification (1837) and Regeneration (1840). This form of title reflected his belief that our understanding of the teaching of the New Testament is to be checked and confirmed by the testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries. He was described as ‘one, who, so far from being inclined to slight the force of alleged Catholic Tradition, verges rather to the extreme of paying too great deference to it’.3 His viewpoint was often misunderstood and opposed in the Evangelical press.
Using information and material supplied by Josiah Pratt, Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, had opposed the views of Keble as early as 1838 in his Charge; but he set out his views in greater detail in a printed sermon with appended notes entitled, The Sufficiency of Holy Scripture as the Rule of Faith (1841). He attacked the tendency (as he saw it) of the Tractarians to make Tradition a joint Rule of Faith: ‘By placing herself first, and pre-occupying the mind as the channel through which divine truth must flow Tradition in fact invalidates the inspiration of Holy Scripture and casts everything into her own mould.’
W. A. Shirley, Bishop of Sodor and Man, accepted the appointment of Bampton Lecturer since the invitation was the unanimous act of the Heads of Houses. Because of his busy life he came to the conclusion that ‘My Bible must be my subject – the supremacy of Scripture: and that same Bible, unlocked by prayer, must be in a great measure my Library’. Regrettably illness and subsequent death prevented his delivering the whole series but four of the lectures were printed as The Supremacy of Holy Scripture (1847).
The youngest author to be used is William Fitzgerald of Trinity College, Dublin, who became an editor for the Parker Society and later Bishop of Killaloe. He published Episcopacy, Tradition and the Sacraments, considered with reference to the Oxford Tracts (1839) and Holy Scripture the Ultimate Rule of Faith to a Christian Man (1842). The latter does not specifically mention the Tractarians but it is written in such a way as to defend the traditional Evangelical Protestant position of the sole authority of Scripture against both Tractarianism and Roman Catholicism. As the title indicates it was also a defence of the right of the individual Christian to read the Scriptures which were, argued Fitzgerald, perspicacious with reference to the essential message of salvation.
Without any doubt the most learned and elaborate reply to the Tractarian doctrine of Tradition came from the pen of William Goode. Taking over 1,200 pages The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice (1842, reprinted 1853) defended the position that Holy Scripture has been and is the sole, divine Rule of Faith and practice to the Church. Edward Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, from whom Newman had learned to look carefully at Tradition, especially at the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, appreciated Goode’s work calling it ‘a learned discussion’; and the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Gilbert, presented copies of it to the deacons whom he ordained.4 Evangelicals thought it struck a death-blow at Tractarianism. According to Goode the major question was ‘whether there is sufficient evidence of the divine origin of anything but Scripture to entitle it to authority over the conscience as a divine revelation?’ Put another way the question was ‘whether in the testimony of the Fathers there is to be found anything which either in form or in substance we are bound to receive as the Word of God delivered to the Church by the apostles and consequently forming part of our Divinely-revealed Rule of faith and duty’. He made the attempt to provide an accurate summary of the view of Newman, Keble and Pusey on the relation of Scripture and Tradition. They believed,
1. That consentient patristical tradition, or ‘catholic consent’ is an unwritten word of God, a divine informant in religion, and consequently entitled, as to its substance, to equal respect with the Holy Scriptures.
2. That such tradition is consequently a part of the divinely revealed rule of faith and practice.
3. That it is a necessary part of the divine rule of faith and practice, on account of the defectiveness of Scripture, for that, –
(1) Though it does not reveal to us any fundamental articles of faith and practice not noticed in Scripture, Holy Scripture containing, that is, giving hints or notices of, all the fundamental articles of faith and practice, it is yet a necessary part of the divine rule of faith and practice as the interpreter of Scripture, and as giving the full development of many points, some of which are fundamental, which are but imperfectly developed in Scripture; and
(2) It is an important part of that rule, as conveying to us various important divinely revealed doctrines and rules not contained in Scripture.
4. That it is a necessary part of the divine rule of faith and practice, because of the obscurity of Scripture even in some of the fundamental articles, which makes Scripture insufficient to teach us even the fundamentals of faith and practice.
5. That it is only by the testimony of patristical tradition that we are assured of the inspiration of Scripture, what books are canonical and the genuineness of what we receive as such.5
This position, Goode maintained, was virtually identical with that of the Roman Catholic Church. He then moved on to argue ‘that there are no writings extant entitled to the name of Apostolic Traditions but the Canonical Scriptures’ and ‘that patristical tradition is not a “practically infallible” witness of the oral teaching of the Apostles, nor receivable as a divine informant’. The general argument in the second volume was to establish the grounds on which Protestants assert that Scripture is the sole Word of God, and supremely authoritative in controversies of religion, in the ‘credenda’ of religion and over the individual conscience. Finally, the third volume contained a series of ‘catenae’ from the early Fathers and Anglican divines to show that they viewed Scripture as the sole and complete rule of faith and judge of controversies. This final volume was intended to beat the Tractarians at their own game by showing that the authors whom they quoted, often in brief snippets, did not in fact support the viewpoint for which they were being quoted.
If Goode’s was the most learned reply to the Tractarians, then Isaac Taylor’s treatise was the most daring and original. It appeared in instalments until the first volume (four parts) was completed in 1839 and the second (four parts) in 1842. A Supplement, whose purpose was to modify and extend the argument in the light of criticisms of the work, appeared in 1843.6 Both volumes were dedicated to Thomas Bewley Monsell, Archdeacon of Derry and father of the hymn writer, J. S. B. Monsell. Informed readers quickly realised that the general thesis of the work, if true, was a devastating argument against not only Tractarianism but also parts of the traditional Anglican appeal to the Fathers.7 In view of this, proportionately more space will be given here to a description of the contents of Ancient Christianity than has been given to any of the previous books.8
Convinced that the available ‘church histories scarcely lift a corner of the veil that hides from us the recesses of the ancient church’, Taylor decided that his task must be that of laying ‘open the real condition, moral, spiritual, and ecclesiastical, of the ancient church’ of the first six centuries.9 As a layman with access to the necessary literature, he had no secular interests at stake in ecclesiastical questions and so he thought himself better placed than clergymen, be they High Churchmen, ‘Political Churchmen’ or Evangelical Churchmen, to pursue this task.
Recognising that he had to confine himself to a specific yet central subject which ‘must be well adapted to the general purpose of bringing into view, vividly and distinctly, the general, and the specific merits and faults of the time in question’, he chose the practices of celibacy and virginity. He attempted to prove that they were found from early times in the Eastern, African and Western Churches and so came within the general application of the rule of Vincent of Lérins. It was his argument,
That the notions and practices connected with the doctrine of the superlative merit of religious celibacy, were at once the causes and the effects of errors in theology, of perverted moral sentiments, of superstitious usages, of hierarchical usurpations; and that they furnish us with a criterion for estimating the GENERAL VALUE OF ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY; and, in a word, afford reason enough for regarding, if not with jealousy, at least with extreme caution, any attempt to induce the modern church to imitate the ancient church.
He was convinced that the medieval practices of celibacy and virginity were no worse than, and could even have been an improvement on, the system of the age of the Council of Nicea. Furthermore, he showed that the teaching on celibacy within the ancient church was a perversion of the teaching on celibacy in the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 19.12).
Taylor held that for careful students of the New Testament the rapid corruption of the visible Church and the later rise of the Roman Papacy provided no surprise for they were implied in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles. To explain this Taylor expounded and illustrated certain parables of Jesus (the seed in the field, for example, in Matthew 13) and certain sayings of Jesus (in John 17 and Matthew 24.) with historical material. And, of course, he pointed out that the nature of the ‘Church’ and the ‘Gospel’ which the Tractarians were wanting to revive was that which the Lord had already condemned in his predictions concerning the visible Church.
We turn now to the second volume which, as Taylor told Monsell in the dedication, would also face the fact that ‘the question concerning antiquity is a question between the GOSPEL and the Superstition which so early supplanted it’. The first task which the author undertook was that of clarification, as his purpose had been misunderstood by some reviewers. He wrote:
The question IS NOT what ought to be said of Basil; or of Pope Gregory, or of Pope Hildebrand; but whether the SYSTEM which they severally promoted ... was such that we should do well in taking it as our model.
The question IS NOT whether a certain amount of delinquency, or corruption of manners – less or more, attached to this or that ancient community: – But, whether the church SYSTEM of the early ages embraced elements which contravened the spirit of the Christian institute – which were at variance with explicit apostolic injunctions, and which were of a tendency that, by the experience of many centuries, and in all climates, is proved to be unfavourable to morals, nay, productive of greatest evils.10
Then, following long quotations from the social history, De Gubernatione Dei, written by Salvian in the middle of the fifth century, he gave his own conclusion concerning the state of the Nicene Church.
That, while there were then to be found, here and there, MANY INDIVIDUALS, eminent for piety (according to the dark notions of the age) and who, for the most part, had fled into the wilderness, or had shut themselves up in monasteries, the mass of the christianised community – the accredited recipients of the sacraments, exhibited scarcely any indications of genuine spirituality; while the morals of those who crowded the churches ranged far below a mean level; and, in a word, that a degree of grossness, and of violence – a sensuality, a frivolity and a fierceness marked the social body (of all ranks) to which a parallel could now be found nowhere in protestant countries; and only in catholic countries where no protestant or biblical influence has ever been admitted.11
Having affirmed this he could not miss the opportunity to bring in Vincent of Lérins, a town where Salvian had also lived: ‘The ingenuous modern reader of the “Commonitorium” if uninformed of history imagines nothing else but that he is listening to a voice, echoing the blameless confession of a holy church. Yet around the very islet to which Vincent had retired, this catholic church was wallowing in pollutions at the sight of which heretical barbarians blushed.’
Having dealt with celibacy in the first volume he now turned to the examination of what he called ‘demonolatry’, by which he meant the adoption by the Church of forms of worship formerly used in paganism. He showed that this was so widespread as to qualify as semper, ubique et ab omnibus. Also he examined various miracles (e.g. the bleeding relics of St Euphemía) which were claimed for the fourth and fifth century Church in support of its system of faith and worship; he concluded that they were not authentic miracles and he provided ten reasons to support his conclusion. Then he summarised his findings:
1. That the veneration of relics, the invocation of the dead saints, the adorations and festival-worship carried on at celebrated shrines, and the custom of making pilgrimages to such shrines, were as prevalent in the Fourth, as in the following centuries; and that they constituted the prominent feature of the popular religion of the times.
2. That this system of worship was not merely winked at by the leading men of the church, but was zealously promoted by them, and received their warmest commendations; and was held in credit by a species of support on particular occasions which touches too nearly, their reputation for common honesty and piety.
3. That this worship was constantly and intimately connected with a system of professed miracles, which, if real, should compel our approval of the same worship; or at least must preclude our condemnation of it; or if spurious, must be held to mark broadly the church system of the fourth century with the deepest stains of fraud, idolatry and blasphemy.12
Thus the Church which the Tractarians admired was seriously infected with corruptions and errors.
All that was now left for Taylor to do in the final part of the second volume and in the supplement was to apply his findings to the Church of England. In short he was convinced that the English Reformers of the sixteenth century truly desired to reform the Church by the Word of God and that this central principle lies at the heart of the Articles, Homilies, Prayer Book and Ordinal. However, he did point out that in the sixteenth century there was a mistaken belief that the Church of the age of Cyprian of Carthage was pure; also, there was a readiness to use in the Homilies quotations from a ‘miscellaneous commonplace book’ of extracts from the Fathers, and thus certain Fathers were being quoted in support of doctrines which they did not teach or which they regarded as erroneous.13 So he suggested that when next the Formularies of the Church were revised the reliance on the Fathers should be removed from them. At least one Evangelical magazine took up this point and agreed with him.14
A modern scholar would probably argue that Taylor’s was a drastic apologetic and that he was too selective and overstated his case, even on his selected points. He read back into the language of the Fathers developments of belief to which their language afterwards lent itself but which it did not necessarily originally imply. Invocation of saints, for example, was not prevalent in the fourth century even though the first moves in that direction were being taken then. Concerning the Reformers and their use of the Fathers, Taylor again overstated his case. Cranmer and Jewel, who composed many of the Homilies, used the Fathers mainly to show that the teaching of Rome was late, not to establish their own teaching.
3. WHERE IS DIVINE REVELATION TO BE FOUND?
Both Tractarians and Evangelicals were agreed that the Holy Scriptures contained the inspired Word of God. They were at one in affirming that Divine Revelation is recorded in the Bible. The area of their disagreement lay outside Scripture in the area of a possible oral tradition from the Lord and His Apostles, which because of its inspired origin, should also be regarded as Divine Revelation. Evangelicals denied that there was such an available tradition and Tractarians affirmed its existence. Our concern now is to explicate the Evangelical response to this Tractarian affirmation.
(i) The Apostles’ Creed cannot be regarded as Divine Revelation
Newman had called the Apostles’ Creed ‘the formal symbol which the apostles adopted and bequeathed to the Church’ and ‘a collection of definite articles set apart from the first’; he claimed that ‘it is delineated and recognised in Scripture itself, where it is called the Hypotyposis, or “outline of sound words” ‘.15
Goode was convinced that Newman was wrong and reminded him that ‘an overwhelming majority of the learned divines of the last three centuries’ were against him. Quoting at length summaries of doctrine from Irenaeus and Tertullian, Goode showed that there was no set form of words left by the Apostles as the Christian Creed.16 He went on to prove that what is called ‘the Apostles’ Creed is merely the ancient Creed of the Church of Rome, and no more entitled to the name [“Apostles”] than any other of the ancient Creeds’, and ‘that two at least of the articles it now contains were not inserted in it before the fourth century’.17 Finally he argued that the Creeds of the primitive Church were derived from Scripture. To do this he examined the internal evidence of the Creeds found in the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Lucian the Martyr, Cyril of Jerusalem and Augustine. He was prepared to admit that ‘Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen appeal to the consentient teaching of the Churches founded by the Apostles agreeing with the Creeds they delivered, as an argument in favour of their truth’, and, he went on, ‘at that early period such testimony formed distinct and independent evidence of their truth of considerable weight’; however, ‘this fact does not militate against the assertion that those statements of the faith were drawn from Scripture’. In a further admission, he agreed that the ancient Creeds, being summaries of the chief articles of the faith, ‘were justly called by the Fathers the rule of faith’. Again, this fact did not affect the priority of the Scripture as the source of Creeds. With a claim of Manning particularly in mind, W. A. Shirley stated that,
It is ... important ... to protest against the logical fallacy which is contained in a phrase which has formed the staple of many arguments on this subject; namely, that ‘the substance of the Creed is older than Scripture’. The correct statement of this proposition would be that the substance of the Creed is older than the substance of Scripture, which every one may perceive is only true in the sense in which it becomes identical. The facts and doctrines contained in the Creed were doubtless taught before any part of the New Testament was written, because what is contained in the New Testament ... was first orally communicated; but there is no evidence that the Creed acquired a fixed or written form until long after the volume of inspiration was completed, written and published.18
In this general position the Evangelicals were in agreement.19
(ii) The supposed consentient testimony of the patristic literature does not contain Divine Revelation
To the proof of this point Goode devoted nearly three hundred pages, including quotations and references to both patristic literature and the writings of leading Anglican divines of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He fully recognised that the argument of his opponents was that ‘catholic consent in the whole primitive Church for several centuries in favour of any doctrine or interpretation of Scripture or other matter is a sure proof that it was derived from the apostles’. In other words, ‘consentíent patristical statements must have had a common origin in the teaching of the first preachers of Christianity’. His method of argument was to discredit this basic assumption and to show that the Rule of St Vincent (quod semper, ubique et ab omnibus) could not be used as the Tractarians were using it. First of all he attempted to show that it was impossible to know exactly what the whole Church (comprising all pastors and all the faithful) of the first three centuries had always and everywhere believed; there was just no way of finding out. Also it was quite impossible to ascertain what the pastors actually believed; the only summaries of the Faith that are extant for the first three centuries are the creeds of Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian.
Goode developed this line of argument by emphasising that the extant records of the Church of the first three centuries are totally inadequate to supply the information which the application of Vincent’s rule requires. In fact we do not possess the writings of more than about twenty authors for this period and they were produced, wrote Goode, ‘in reply, either to the heathen opponents of Christianity, or to heresies’ which in the nineteenth century ‘would be equally despised by all parties’ involved in the conflict in the Church of England. These few writings provide a very partial view of the Church and exist because the ruling party in the Church allowed them to be preserved. So Goode concluded on this particular point that:
It is impossible, then, to consider the remains we have of the ancient ecclesiastical authors, as beyond doubt exhibiting to us all the variations of doctrine that were to be found in the primitive Church; and therefore we could not regard even the consent of these writings, as representing the catholic consent of the whole Church. It is no aid to the cause of orthodoxy to put forth such a claim.20
Making use of Thomas James’s A Treatise of the Corruption of the Scripture and Fathers (1611) he proceeded to demonstrate that our view of antiquity is seriously affected by the ‘way in which the works of the Fathers have been mutilated and corrupted and works forged in their name’.
In the next long section Goode attempted to prove that ‘the witness of Patristical Tradition, even in the writings that have been preserved, is of a discordant kind, and that even in fundamental points’. He looked at such topics as the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the divinity and generation of the Son, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, the Nestorian, Eutychian and Pelagian errors, the millennium, the date of Easter, the re-baptism of heretics and the interpretation of Proverbs 8.22 in order to make good his contention. His conclusion was that ‘it is evident, then, that the notion that there is a consentient testimony to the doctrines of revelation, even among the authors that remain to us, is a mere dream of the imagination, and that, even as it respects the very highest points of faith’.21 Thus, while the theory of the Tractarians was that ‘catholic consent’ only can be relied upon, that which they ‘practically rely upon to prove this consent is often the dictum of half a dozen Fathers’.
Not content with having taken his argument so far, Goode continued to hammer nails into the coffin by insisting that ‘consent, even in the writings that remain to us, is not to be expected’ for the simple reason that consent must assume that the apostles left not only the Scriptures but also interpretations of them, with statements of doctrine as well, which would immediately negate all heresies that would arise in the Church at all times. The hypothesis of consent is an extremely improbable hypothesis, for all sound reason and historical testimony militate against it. Continuing, he argued that even if a small and partial consent can be ascertained, there is no proof that it came from the apostles. For, ‘it needs no proof’, he wrote, ‘that any corruptions of the faith suited to the natural feelings and prejudices of the human mind would be likely, at the very earliest period of the Church, to obtain extensive circulation, especially if they were supported by a few able and influential men’. A further point which Goode made (and in this Isaac Taylor fully agreed with him) was that the New Testament itself makes it clear that ‘from the very beginning there were many heresies, errors and false doctrines prevalent among the professed followers of Christ’ and that ‘such errors were maintained and propagated among those who formed what was called the Catholic Church’. He held that Jesus Christ had prophesied this in his parable of the wheat and tares growing together until the harvest. There was never a time when there was only ‘wheat’, and so again to find consent semper, ubique et ab omnibus was impossible.
Bishop Wilson argued at a more practical level. Since Protestants allowed the use of all means (creeds, catechisms, commentaries, etc.) in the understanding of the Scriptures, there was no need to exalt Tradition to a joint rule of faith. He admitted that it might appear to some who had not marked the bearings of the controversy ‘that there can be no great difference between all these [creeds, writings of Fathers etc.] being admitted as means of arriving at the sense of Scripture, and their being made a joint rule of faith’. But, for Wilson, the difference was immense:
The supreme authority of Holy Scripture is, next to Jesus Christ, the foundation-stone of the Gospel. To exalt Tradition to a share in it, is to make the witness to Holy Writ, the judge. It is to convert the keeper into the interpreter of the Bible. It is to substitute a gloss upon our heavenly Father’s will, for the original. It is to distil the doctrine of inspiration through the alembic of the Fathers. It is to put the word of man for the word of God.22
Further, he asserted that ‘Tradition, when exalted into a joint rule of faith, increases the difficulties in the sacred volume which it pretends to remove’ and brings in another Gospel.23
(iii) Divine Revelation is now only found in the Scriptures which are therefore the sole Rule of faith and practice for the Church and individuals
This assertion was, of course, the fundamental theme of all the authors whom we are considering. For them the Rule of Faith was simply the Holy Scriptures.
By ‘the Rule of faith’ we understand a testimony which shows us infallibly those doctrines which we are bound by our duty to God to receive; and one which has such evidences of its divine origin, as making it binding upon the consciences of all men; and of that Rule, therefore, nothing can form a part, which has no reasonable evidence of its being the word of God.
And if Holy Scripture is thus the sole infallible and authoritative Rule of faith, it follows, of course, that it is to its decision alone that we must appeal, as of absolute authority and infallible, in controversies concerning the faith; and hence it is justly called the sole infallible Judge of controversies of faith, as being that which alone gives an infallible testimony on the subject. That it cannot end controversies, forms no valid objection to this appellation, for no testimony on the subject, however clear and definitive, could do that; nothing in fact but a living judge who has power to silence every dissentient from his sentence.24
Before writing this Goode had argued for the divine origin of the books of the New Testament on lines familiar within Protestantism – the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit within the believer’s heart to their inspired character, the witness of the early Church to the Canon of the New Testament and the moral evidence of the books themselves.25 And the Hebrew Scriptures, forming the Christian Old Testament, were accepted on the authority of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Against Tractarian claims that the Scriptures need Tradition by way of complement or explanation, Goode claimed that ‘there is no such inadequacy in the Holy Scriptures, as it respects what are considered by our Church the fundamental articles of the faith’. Further he sought to show that
all the doctrines received by us as revelations from God, and therefore articles of faith, and all the rites held by us to be of divine institution, are delivered to us in the Holy Scriptures; so that there is no article of faith maintained by us, of which, or any part of which, our belief rests upon the testimony of Tradition, our belief in all such points resting wholly upon Scripture; and no rite received by us as of divine institution on any other than Scripture testimony.26
In expounding this latter contention, Goode dealt with a variety of rites and doctrines to show that some (e.g. infant baptism) were accepted by the Church of England because they were grounded in Scripture and confirmed by tradition, while others (e.g. purgatory) were rejected since they were grounded only in tradition.
Reverting to the essentials of Christianity, Goode proceeded to argue that ‘all the fundamental and essential points of faith and practice are clearly and plainly delivered in the Scriptures; and consequently that the Scriptures are well adapted and amply sufficient to teach men all such points’. The burden of his proof for this argument was the internal testimony of Scripture and the claims that it makes for itself as being ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect’ (2 Tim. 3.15–17). He moved on to argue that ‘however obscure ... any of the less fundamental doctrines or statements of Scripture may be considered to be, there is no plainer report of them than what we find there, that can come to us with any authority to bind the conscience to belief. They are as plainly delivered in the Scriptures as, to our knowledge, they are revealed.’ Finally he repeated the basic Protestant hermeneutical rule:
The best and only infallible expositor of Scripture is Scripture; or, in other words, that the best mode of judging of the sense of any passage is by a comparison of it with the testimony of Scripture in other parts; first, by comparing it with the context, with passages similarly worded, with such plain places of Scripture as can illustrate its meaning, and with all that is stated in Scripture respecting the subject treated of; and secondly, by considering it in connexion with the whole scheme of doctrine clearly revealed in Scripture.27
His second volume ended with a long quotation from the High Churchman, Bishop S. Horsley of St Asaph, to show that what he had been arguing was fully in accord with the teaching of the ‘standard divines’ of the Church of England.28
(iv) Many of the Fathers of the first five centuries expressly declared that divine Revelation is to be found only in the Scriptures
Since the Fathers did not face the particular questions concerning the source of revelation, which the Tractarians raised, but necessarily faced problems of their own times, to use them to disprove the claims of the Tractarians was not a simple matter. Goode was very conscious of this, but yet felt it necessary to provide ‘catenae’ from patristic literature in the five basic areas to which he had devoted his first two volumes: that is, whether catholic consent is a source of revelation, whether Scripture is the sole and complete Rule of faith, whether Scripture is the sole Rule of practice, whether Scripture is sufficiently clear to teach the faith and whether patristical tradition is the ground upon which belief in the inspiration of Scripture is to rest. His conclusions were stated briefly and undogmatically, for he believed that the long quotations from the Fathers needed little comment. He wrote:
The passages adduced from them [the Fathers] by our opponents and the Romanists fall far short of the statements required for the support of their views; for, however strongly the Fathers may appeal to the teaching of what they considered ‘the Church’ and her earlier divines, they never put such teaching as binding on the consciences of men.29
The teaching of the Fathers, Goode believed, was that only the revelation contained in Scripture could bind the consciences of men.
4. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF TRADITION?
Since the Evangelicals were involved in the exercise of denying the excessive claims on behalf of Tradition made by the Tractarians, it is possible, in a cursory reading of their writings, to gain the impression that they saw no value in the patristic literature – other than of merely an antiquarian interest. Such an impression would be a false one, for, intertwined with the criticism, we find positive assertions about the value of the writings of the Fathers, and of the Creeds. The general position adopted may be summarised in the statement that Tradition is a witness to facts, not an independent authority for faith and practice.
For example, Garbett argued that accepting the Canon of Scripture on the testimony of the early Church was right and not the same as accepting every doctrine or rite taught by any early Father:
Nor is there any contradiction in principle that we receive the Scriptures upon the testimony of the ancient Church, and yet reject, in other points, its authority over our faith ... For that general consent by which we are assured of the authenticity of the Scriptures, is, in itself and of itself, credible. All that it binds upon us is this – to accept whatever else shall be similarly attested to us, as the acts and sayings of the Apostles – to that it does unquestionably bind us, but no more.30
Isaac Taylor likewise affirmed that ‘we cannot but refer to, and avail ourselves of, the judgment and decision of the early church, concerning the canonicity of each portion of the New Testament’.31
Goode asserted that `the testimony of the early Fathers respecting facts and practices of which their senses were cognizant, is sufficient to assure us, that such facts and practices took place in their time in the Primitive Church’. And he continued by maintaining that ‘the usage of the Primitive Orthodox Church from the Apostolical times (as far as it can be ascertained) may justly be taken as a guide to show us, how rites and practices enjoined in Scripture are to be carried into effect; and also, to a certain extent, in its general rites and practices, that is, so far as to recommend them to our attention, and perhaps to justify modern Churches in following them, inasmuch as it is not probable, that, from the very first, the Orthodox Church should have adopted a superstitious or improper usage’. Developing this he argued that in such matters as the keeping of the Lord’s Day, the practice of infant baptism, the regular Eucharist and the threefold order of the ministry the value of tradition was to confirm what a careful study of Scripture reveals.32 In other areas where there is no specific Scriptural warrant – such as the sign of the cross in baptism – each National Church having the authority to decree what rites and ceremonies are to be in use may follow primitive practice as long as any such practice is not required as necessary to salvation.
Faber developed a point concerning the use of the Fathers which is found minimally in Garbett and Goode but, as we have noted, was rejected by Taylor.33 Faber was aware that as the eleventh Article of Religion refers to the Homily of Salvation for a fuller statement of the doctrine of justification, so the Homily itself appeals to the early Fathers for the confirmation of the same doctrine. Thus he claimed that
In this procedure, the wise writers of the Homily in question exemplify the sound Principle of the Church of England; the principle to wit: that Scripture is the sole Rule of Faith; but that, since no Rule can be practically used as a Rule until it be first interpreted and understood, we must, for the interpretation of this our Sole Rule, Scripture, resort, not to the wantonness of our own arbitrary dogmatism, but to the ascertained Concurrence of the Primitive Church from the beginning.34
He also made use of the Canon of 1571 which read: ‘Preachers shall especially take heed, that, in the course of their sermons, they never teach any thing to be religiously held and believed by the people, save what is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old or New Testament, and save what the Catholic Fathers and Ancient Bishops have collected out of that very Doctrine’.35 So he was convinced that the method used in his works on the primitive doctrines of election, justification and regeneration, as also on the apostolicity of trinitarianism, he was following the principle of the Anglican Church, which was, in his own words,
In the settlement of Articles of Faith on the authority of Scripture the only Rule, the PRINCIPLE of the Anglican Church is that of AN APPEAL TO THE RECORDED CONSENT OF PRIMITIVE ANTIQUITY FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
He believed that this consent could be found ‘either in the early Creeds, or in the early Apologies, or in the early Liturgies so far as they accord with the early Creeds or in the concurring statements and unanimous exposition of the early Fathers’.36 While the consent as he understood it led him to see ‘Protestant’ doctrine in the early Fathers, the same consent as the Tractarians understood it, led to a different conclusion, a fact not unnoticed by the Evangelicals.37 Though Goode never mentioned Faber’s writings in his three volumes it is clear that much of the argument used by Goode against the Tractarian reliance on the Vincentian Canon applies to the claims of Faber. If Isaac Taylor went too far in a negative direction then G. S. Faber went too far in a positive direction; they represent the two poles of the Evangelical position. Goode represented its central and balanced position.
Though Taylor and Faber held different views of the usefulness of patristic teaching they did agree in condemning the teaching on Reserve. In this condemnation they were joined by others, C. S. Bird, Hugh Stowell and George Townsend, for example. The doctrine of the Disciplina Arcani was not new to Faber who in 1828 was involved in a controversy with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Strasbourg, J. F. M. Trevern, who among other claims argued that the doctrine of transubstantiation was part of the Secret kept from pagans and others in the Early Churche.38 Further, in his Apostolicity of Trinitarianism (1832), he devoted a whole chapter to the way in which the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was kept in reserve in times of persecution by the churches.39 Thus in 1838 Faber was well prepared to examine Tract 80. While admitting that in times of persecution the Early Church kept back from pagans and possible catechumens certain central Christian doctrines, he insisted that there were no secrets of doctrine as far as the baptised membership was concerned. For the latter the whole counsel of God was there to be learned.40 Bird relied upon Newman's account of Reserve in the Arians and, following J. Daillé and Bishop Warburton, claimed that the Early Church had in this particular adopted the method of the pagan Mystery religions. He lamented the fact that the Fathers had not ‘a deeper and nobler faith’ and pointed out that if they had lived to see the fatal effects of their system in the hierarchy of the priesthood in Popery they would never have devised or adopted it.41
Taylor likewise believed that those Fathers who taught the doctrine of Reserve had learned it from pagan sources. But the strong point which he made was that in adopting this principle the Tractarians were doing what Jesus had condemned the Jewish doctors of the Law for doing – taking away the key of knowledge from the people (Luke 11.52). Thus he was happy to quote against Williams words of Pope Gregory from his Commentary on Job in which he urged the common people to know the contents of Holy Scripture which was as ‘an epistle of Almighty God to his creature’.42
Evangelicals did not disagree with all aspects of Tractarian teaching. Stowell wanted it to be known that ‘in so far as they insist upon a godly reverence in handling the things of God we entirely go along with them. Nothing is more unbecoming, irrational or repulsive than to trifle with what is sacred.’ Also that ‘their authors are right in demanding that the truth of God should not be denuded of the heavenly garments with which her Father hath robed her, and clad instead with the coarse texture wrought in the looms of earth.’ Yet, he went on, ‘where they argue in favour of keeping the distinguished truths of the Gospel in the shade and of not allowing the atonement of Christ to hold a very prominent place in ... preaching’ they are wrong. This insistence by Stowell (and the other Evangelicals made the same point) that the saving work of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of sinners had to be proclaimed loud and clear was necessary, they believed, because of the contention of Williams in Tract 80 that the doctrine of the Cross was to be taught gradually (and more profoundly than did Evangelicals) as the baptised lived more obediently to the will of God. ‘In their system’, he continued, ‘as that of Rome, it is clear that the reservation of the free grace of God through his Son is essential to the maintenance of that moral thraldom on the part of the people, and that sacerdotal power on the part of the clergy, which are too plainly the drift of the whole scheme.’43 Though these results might well have been seen had the doctrine of Reserve been introduced into the English Church, the motivation of Williams, Newman and Pusey was hardly to put people into a false subjection to the clergy.
Where the Evangelicals were on strong ground was in their insistence that whatever was appropriate in times of persecution in ancient times was not necessarily appropriate in modern times in a Christian country and in a Church whose public Liturgy openly declared the central truths of the Faith. Townsend made the point that if the doctrine of Reserve was adopted ‘our services must be re-constructed and our congregations classed, like large schools, according to their knowledge, talents, powers of expression and general proficiency. Pride of intellect would succeed to holiness of heart.’44
5. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT?
It was probably the horror of what Faber often called ‘insulated, uninformed and independent’ private judgment which was a factor in leading him to seek for greater certainty in interpreting the Scriptures from the testimony of the early Church. Certainly the danger is always present that once the Scriptures are freely available in the vernacular people will interpret according to their ‘whims and fancies’ and without reference to any proper hermeneutical principles. The Tractarians were very conscious of this danger and claimed to see its results in popular Protestantism. Therefore Newman argued that an individual Christian has the right to interpret the Scripture only in areas where the Church has not already given an authoritative interpretation.45 He wrote: ‘In matters of inferior moment both the Church and the individual have room to exercise their own powers.’ So by the right of private judgment he meant not that ‘all must, but that all may search Scripture and determine or prove their creed from it: that is, provided they are duly qualified’, and provided they subject their reason to the Tradition of the Church.46
Goode traced the origins of the doctrine of private judgment to the Reformation of the English Church in the sixteenth century.
With the doctrine of the Supremacy of Holy Scripture to the consciences of individuals, and the right of private judgment in contradistinction to ‘the authority of the Church’ she stands or falls. For, her Reformation was effected by comparatively a few individuals acting against the authority of the Church both of the East and West, and going back ... to the word of God, to draw from it the pure doctrine of the Gospel of Christ ... And that which alone enabled her to effect her Reformation was, the gracious providence of God inclining the Civil Power to aid a minority of the clergy and laity in re-establishing a Scriptural faith in the place of the corrupt system of Rome. The very ground, therefore, upon which our Church stands, is that of the right of private judgment.47
This was a rather large claim and would hardly be made by historians today. In fact the doctrine of private judgment was formulated as Protestants defended their view of Scripture against Roman Catholic critics, and thus the classic English statements of this doctrine appear in the controversial literature of the seventeenth century.48
Following the general position adopted in this controversial literature both Goode and Fitzgerald asserted both the right and duty of individuals to enquire into the truth of God by searching the Scriptures. ‘Upon the very same grounds upon which our opponents admit the right and duty of private judgment in determining between the various forms of religion existing in the world’, wrote Goode, ‘do we contend for the right and duty of private judgment in determining between the various meanings affixed by nominal Christians to the word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures.’49 Fitzgerald admitted that there was inherent in the Protestant position many pitfalls; yet, he claimed that
If it be allowed that the Scripture is sufficient when studied with care, humility and candor, to inform all, even the most simple, in all things absolutely necessary to be known, and to inform those of higher abilities and attainments, still (as before) supposing proper care, humility and candor in such other useful truths as God has seen fit to reveal – then all is granted that we contend for. Nor is it at all contrary to the supposition that Scripture is sufficient for this end, but rather perfectly consistent with that supposition that when men of meaner abilities endeavour to judge of things which they are not competent to judge of, or when men of greater abilities but of perverted minds, apply their abilities to the distortion of Scripture, or fail in diligence or moral qualifications, such persons should frame wrong interpretations of the writings of the apostles and evangelists, since, under the same circumstances, they would be sure to frame wrong interpretations of any other writings.50
So, narrowing the range of the perspicuity of Scripture, he held that ‘it was not God’s purpose to secure unity, either of opinion or practice, absolutely in his Church, but only conditionally; that is, to provide such means as, when properly used, should be sufficient to teach men all things necessary to salvation, and instruct them to differ in other matters without breach of charity, but not to prevent them from neglecting or misusing those means.’51 Apart from the basic obligations of diligent reading, humility and prayerfulness, the use of means – creeds, catechisms, commentaries, teachers and preachers in the churches – was encouraged. But in the last analysis the right and the duty of the individual to make up his own mind was acknowledged.
Within the first nineteen centuries of the Christian Church four different views of the relation of Scripture and Tradition emerged.52 According to the ‘coincidence view’ the teaching of Scripture and Tradition coincide, that is they are in essence identical; the best example of this would be the Church of the first century when the Apostles were alive and when their writings were beginning to be circulated. Later in the history of the Church a need was felt to supplement Scripture by teaching from Tradition and this is the ‘supplementary view’. Gnostics adopted this position in the second century and it was the commonly held view in Roman Catholicism from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The viewpoint adopted by the leading reformers of the sixteenth century may be termed the ‘ancillary view’. They regarded Tradition not as a normative interpretation of Scripture nor as a necessary addition to Scripture; rather it was a tool to assist the Church to understand Scripture. Finally there is the ‘unfolding view’ which was adopted by Newman as he left the Church of England and as he explained it in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845). In general this viewpoint works on the assumption that what is implicit in the New Testament or early Tradition is expanded and made explicit in the life and work of the Church over the centuries. If we are to put the Tractarians and Evangelicals into compartments then we have to say that the Tractarians adopted the ‘coincidence view’ and the Evangelicals the ‘ancillary view’. In asserting this it is of course recognised that within each view there was a certain breadth of interpretation, and it is realised that Evangelicals believed the Tractarians adopted the ‘supplementary view’.
It is now obvious that in terms of the extensive claims they made, Newman, Keble, Pusey and their colleagues were not sufficiently familiar either with the general position of Anglican divines or with patristic literature in general. Goode regarded the various ‘catenae’ from English divines which appeared in the Tracts for the Times and other publications as ‘one of the most extraordinary and painful features in the whole case’. Further,
the fact is, that almost the only witnesses to whom they could properly refer as at all supporting their system, are a few individuals, such as Brett, Hickes, Johnson and others, forming a small and extreme section of a small and extreme party in our Church, namely, the Non-jurors; and even among these it would be difficult to find one who agreed with their system as now developed.
The extracts from the works of Anglican divines were, for the most part, ‘general and loose and indefinite passages, whose meaning depends altogether upon the context, and which are applied by the Tractators in a sense which the views of the writers, gathered from their works as a whole, altogether repudiate’.53
Similarly Goode was convinced that their references to the early Fathers were ‘almost equally incorrect and fallacious’. On several occasions he referred to the ‘blunder’ which Newman made in the interpretation of the phrase, ‘evangelical tradition’, in a passage from Athanasius.54 This mistake showed ‘a want of acquaintance with the phraseology of the Fathers’; but Newman’s error was of minimal importance compared with the errors which appeared in the periodical publications of the Tractarians. These latter authors needed ‘to go to school on the subject on which they would fain be the teachers of others’.55 But why, it may be asked, had the Tracts and their ‘catenae’ seemed so convincing to many clergy. The answer, claimed Goode, was at least partly to be found in ‘the low state of ecclesiastical learning’ among the clergy in the early nineteenth century. They had no immediate means of checking the accuracy of the claims from the Tractarians.
The general accuracy of Goode’s understanding of the teaching of Anglican divines from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries has been shown by the studies of recent writers.56 Also that he was much nearer to the truth in his assessment of patristic literature than were the Tractarians has been demonstrated in recent studies.57 Further, the second generation of ‘Tractarians’ led by Bishop Gore narrowed considerably the range of their appeal to Tradition.58 Their commitment only to the Creeds, the threefold ministry and an efficacious sacramentalism was not only an attempt to come to terms with ‘modern knowledge’ but was also an admission that Newman, Keble and Pusey had claimed too much on the basis of Tradition. To claim all this for Goode is not necessarily to state that his position is viable today in a situation where the relation of Scripture and Tradition is very much in debate and being re-assessed; it is merely to say that he had the better of his opponents in the situation of the 1840s and 1850s.
We have remarked that the Tractarian position was modified in the late nineteenth century. It is also true to say that as a result of this controversy two tendencies already present in Evangelicalism were further developed. First, the prestige of the early Fathers as theological guides significantly dropped. At the academic level a few men, of whom C. P. Heurtley, the Lady Margaret Professor, is a notable example, produced important works on the Fathers, but at the parish level the Fathers were found not to be helpful, although, of course, the Creeds were recited and accepted.59 Secondly, the doctrine of private judgment was emphasised as being one of the three great principles of the Reformation; this historical mistake would not have been of great importance had both the right and the duties involved in reading and interpreting the Scriptures been given equal emphasis. As it was much was made of the right but little of the duties, that is the use of the means available to ascertain the true meaning of any passage (e.g. commentaries and lexicons).60
Notes: CHAPTER FOUR
1. C. Wordsworth, Miscellanies, Literary and Religious (1879), i, 1313- 76 and 82.
2. For some account of the Evangelical response to the Essay see P. Toon, ‘Newman's Essay on Development Revisited’, The Churchman, 89 (1975), pp. 47–57.
3. CO (1838), p. 263.
4. This information is taken from W. S. Bricknell, The Judgment of the Bishops upon Tractarian Theology (1845), p. 173. Tractarians did not share the high opinions of Hawkins and Gilbert. See the review in British Critic, xxxi (1842), pp. 98–104.
5. Goode, Divine Rule, i, 36–7.
6. The whole work was anonymous but the title page did state it was by ‘the author of Spiritual Despotism’ which itself was anonymous. However, reviewers announced that Taylor was the author and in his Four Lectures of Spiritual Christianity (1841), pp. 202–3 he admitted to being the author.
7. James Beaven, A Calm Exposure ... (1840), and W. J. Edge, An Earnest Appeal ... (1840) were critical replies; the reviewer in the Churchman’s Monthly Magazine was shocked by the Supplement of 1843 - CMM (1844), pp. 71–84, 129–42 and 259–73. In contrast, the reviewer in CMR (1842), pp. 506–33, and (1840), pp. 81–91 was full of praise.
8. Similar sentiments are found in his Introductory Essay to the Life of Martin Luther by G. Pfizer (translated by T. S. Williams, 1840). See the review of this book in CO (1840), pp. 498–510. Taylor, like Harnack, was fond of the young Luther’s theology (A. Harnack, Outlines of the History of Dogma, 1893, Bk. III, Chap. IV).
9. Taylor, Ancient Christianity, i, ‘Letter to T. B. Monsell’, p. viii. On p. 70 he named the historians as Mosheim, Milner and Neander.
10. Taylor, op. cit., ii, pp. 18–19.
11. Taylor, op. cit., ii, p. 75.
12. Ibid., p. 365.
13. The question as to whether the Reformers did use a book or books of quotations from the Fathers is interesting. See further P. Polman, L'élément historique dans 1a controverse religieuse du XVIe sièce (Gembloun, 1932).
14. CMR (1844), p. 81.
15. Newman, The Prophetical Office (1837), pp. 270, 296, 297.
16. Goode, op. cit., i, pp. 108–13. (Irenaeus, Adυesus Haereses, Bk. 1, c. 10 and Bk. III, c. 4; Tertullian, De Praescriptione haereticorum, c. 13; Adversus Praxeas, c. 2). Cf. Fitzgerald, Holy Scripture, pp. 86 ff. for similar comment.
17. Goode, op. cit., pp. 116–39. The articles were Christ’s descent into hell and the communion of saints. For a modern discussion of this problem see J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (1960).
18. Shirley, The Supremacy of Scripture (1847), p. 19. The quotation is from Manning, Rule of Faith (1838), p. 76.
19. e. g. Garbett, Christ as Prophet, Priest and King (1842), ii, pp. 78 ff.
20. Goode, op. cit., i, p. 193.
21. Ibid., p. 344.
22. Wilson, The Sufficiency of Holy Scripture (1841), p. 29.
23. Ibid., pp. 36 and 43. Similar points are made by Benson, Discourse upon Tradition (2nd ed., 1839), pp. 14–17. E.g. he wrote: ‘The word of God is comparatively small in extent and conveys its fulness of wisdom with a pregnant brevity which neither absorbs our whole time nor overloads the memory. The Fathers are voluminous, and it is admitted that it would require a whole life to read them in order to see how far they agree or differ’ (p. 16). Note also the comment of Garbett, op. cit., ii, p. 97: ‘the Fathers whose multitudinous works took the illustrious Ussher eighteen years to peruse and with which not more than half a dozen theologians at any one time can really have anything like a thorough acquaintance’.
24. Goode, op. cit., ii, p. 61.
25. For the Protestant background see H. D. McDonald, Ideas of Revelation. An Historical Study, 1700–1860 (1959), especially chapter 8.
26. Goode, op. cit., ii, p. 181.
27. Ibid., p. 457.
28. Horsley, Sermons (τ829), ii, PP- 373-5. I have been unable to determine the origin of the term `standard divines' but it appears to have been a term to describe leading bishops and theologians, mostly High Churchmen, who were neither Puritans nor Non -jurors and who were orthodox in the faith.
29. Goode, op. cit., iii, p. 314.
30. Garbett, op. cit., ii, p. 104.
31. Taylor, Ancient Christianity, i, p. 47.
32. Goode, op. cit., ii, pp. 202 ff. Garbett, op. cit., ii, p. 77 also mentioned these items, while Taylor, op. cit., i, p. 51 referred only to the Lord’s Day. Faber, Primitive Doctrine of Justification (2nd ed., 1838), pp. 359 ff., specifically mentions the Lord’s Day and infant baptism.
33. Garbett, op. cit., ii, pp. 74 ff. Goode, op. cit., i, p. 214 wrote: ‘I admit fully that our Church has ... sanctioned the principle, that nothing is to be admitted as a fundamental point of faith that has not some support in the patristical testimony of the first five or six centuries; a rule which (especially at the time when it was first made) was a prudent precaution against the novelties of enthusiasm and Popery.’
34. Faber, op. cit., p. 359.
35. The authority of this Canon was the source of discussion in the pages of the Christian Observer (1837), pp. 687–8, and (1838), pp. 43, 51 ff. and 121 ff.
36. Faber, op. cit., p. 365.
37. See, for example, Christian Examiner (Dublin, 1837), pp. 933 ff
38. Faber, The Difficulties of Romanism (1826); Trevern, Answer to the ‘Difficulties of Romanism’ (trans. by F. C. Husenbeth, 1828), pp. 130–80; Faber, The Testimony of Primitive Antiquity ... in reply to ‘An Answer ...’ (1828).
39. Faber, Apostolicity of Trinitarianism (1832), i, pp. 206 ff.
40. Faber, Primitive Doctrine of Justification (2nd ed., 1838), pp. 441 ff.
41. Bird, The Oxford Tract System considered with reference to ... Reserve (1838).
42. Taylor, op. cit., i, pp. 464 ff.
43. Stowell, Tractarianism Tested by Holy Scripture (1845), i, pp. 305–9.
44. Townsend, Sermons ... with Two Charges (1849), p. 454.
45. In Newman’s Prophetical Office of the Church (1837), chapters 5, 6 and 7 are on this topic and he also published an essay in the British Critic (1841) entitled ‘Private Judgment’.
46. The Prophetical Office, pp. 325 and 174.
47. Goode, op. cit., i, preface to second edition, p. xlii.
48. Goode himself (ii, pp. 121–4) quoted at length from a work by W. Clagett Of the Authority of Councils ... (1689). This was reprinted in Bishop Gibson’s Preservative against Popery, in which are several pieces on private judgment – e.g. by Kidder, Bishop of Bath and Wells.
49. Goode, op. cit., ii, p. 61.
50. Fitzgerald, Holy Scripture, pp. 168–9.
51. Ibid., p. 172; Wilson, op. cit., p. 21 has a similar argument. The Reformers believed that the perspicuity of Scripture extended rather wider than some of their nineteenth-century followers could allow. Divisions within Protestantism and controversy with Rome had narrowed the area in which the Scriptures were thought to be clear to all honest seekers after truth.
52. I rely here primarily on the articles by H. A. Oberman, ‘Quo Vadis? Tradition from Irenaeus to Humani Generis’, Scottish Journal of Theology, xvi (1963), pp. 225–55, and A. N. S. Lane, ‘Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey’, Vox Evangelica (ed. D. Guthrie), ix (1975), pp. 37–55.
53. Goode, op. cit., i, preface to the first edition, p. xx.
54. Goode took up this matter in i, pp. 72–5. In Lectures on the Prophetical Office, p. 388, Newman had taken the phrase ‘the evangelical tradition’ to mean ‘the tradition of the Church’ when in fact it meant the teaching o£ the gospels.
55. Goode, op. cit., i, preface to the first edition, p. xxii.
56. E.g. see S. L. Greenslade, ‘The Authority of Tradition of the Early Church in Early Anglican Thought’, and G. V. Bennett, ‘Patristic Tradition in Anglican Thought, 1660–1900’ in Oecumenica (1971/2) which is entitled Tradition im Luthertum and Anglikanismus.
57. E.g. see G. W. H. Lampe, ‘The Early Church’ in Scripture and Tradition Essays by F. W. Dillistone et al. (1955), pp. 21–52, and R. P. C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (1962).
58. See B. M. G. Reardon, From Coleridge to Gore (1971), chapter xiii, and the literature cited there.
59. J. C. Ryle wrote that ‘the Fathers appear to me greatly overrated as commentators and expositors’ in Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of St. John (1864), preface.
60. See Ryle’s chapter on ‘Private Judgment’ in his oft-reprinted Knots Untied, where duties are not mentioned. Yet in 1845 Hugh Stowell, Tractatianism tested by Holy Scripture, Sermon I did emphasise the duties.
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