R. W. (Richard William) Church.

The Oxford movement : twelve years, 1833-1845 online

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somrrisiE dean of st. Paul's, and fbux)w ok oriel college, oxford





First Edition (Demy Svo) printed March 1891

Second Edition April 1891 ; reprinted April 1891

Third Edition (Globe Zvo) January 1892 ; reprinted July 1892, 1897, 1900

1904, 1909, 1922



The revision of these papers was a task to which the
late Dean of St. Paul's gave all the work he could
during the last months of his life. At the time of his
death, fourteen of the papers had, so far as can be
judged, received the form in which he wished them to
be published ; and these, of course, are printed here
exactly as he left them. One more he had all but
prepared for publication ; the last four were mainly in
the condition in which, six years ago, he had them
privately put into type, for the convenience of his own
further work upon them, and for the reading of two or
three intimate friends. Those into whose care his
work has now come have tried, with the help of his
pencilled notes, to bring these four papers as nearly as
they can into the form which they believe he would
have had them take. But it has seemed better to
leave unaltered a sentence here and there to which
he might have given a more perfect shape, rather
than to run the risk of swerving from the thought
which was in his mind.


It is possible that the Dean would have made con-
siderable changes in the preface which is here printed ;
for only that which seems the first draft of it has been
found. But even thus it serves to show his wish and
purpose for the work he had in hand ; and it has
therefore been thought best to publish it. Leave has
been obtained to add here some fragments from a
letter which, three years ago, he wrote to Lord Acton
about these papers :

" If I ever publish them, I must say distinctly
what I want to do, which is, not to pretend to write
a history of the movement, or to account for it or
adequately to judge it and put it in its due place
in relation to the religious and philosophical history
of the time, but simply to preserve a contemporary
memorial of what seems to me to have been a true
and noble effort which passed before my eyes, a short
scene of religious earnestness and aspiration, with all
that was in it of self-devotion, affectionateness, and
high and refined and varied character, displayed under
circumstances which are scarcely intelligible to men
of the present time; so enormous have been the
changes in what was assumed and acted upon, and
thought practicable and reasonable, ' fifty years since.'
For their time and opportunities, the men of the move-
ment, with all their imperfect equipment and their
mistakes, still seem to me the salt of their generation.
... I wish to leave behind- me a record that one who
lived with them, and lived long beyond most of them,
believed in the reality of their goodness and height of


character, and still looks back with deepest reverence
to those forgotten men as the companions to whose
teaching and example he owes an infinite debt, and
not he only, but religious society in England of all

Jaimary 31^/, 1891.


The following pages relate to that stage in the Church
revival of this century which is familiarly known as
the Oxford Movement, or, to use its nickname, the
Tractarian Movement Various side influences and
conditions affected it at its beginning and in its course;
but the impelling and governing force was, throughout
the years with which these pages are concerned, at
Oxford. It was naturally and justly associated with
Oxford, from which it received some of its most
marked characteristics. Oxford men started it and
guided it. At Oxford were raised its first hopes, and
Oxford was the scene of its first successes. At Oxford
were its deep disappointments, and its apparently fatal
defeat And it won and lost, as a champion of English
theology and religion, a man of genius, whose name is
among the illustrious names of his age, a name which
will always be connected with modern Oxford, and is
likely to be long remembered wherever the English
language is studied.

We are sometimes told that enough has been


written about the Oxford Movement, and that the
world is rather tired of the subject. A good deal has
certainly been both said and written about it, and
more is probably still to come ; and it is true that
other interests, more immediate or more attractive,
have thrown into the background what is severed
from us by the interval of half a century. Still that
movement had a good deal to do with what is going
on in everyday life among us now ; and feelings both
of hostility to it, and of sympathy with it, are still
lively and keen among those to whom religion is a
serious subject, and even among some who are neutral
in the questions which it raised, but who find in it
a study of thought and character. I myself doubt
whether the interest of it is so exhausted as is some-
times assumed. If it is, these pages will soon find
their appropriate resting-place. But I venture to
present them, because, though a good many judgments
upon the movement have been put forth, they have
come mostly from those who have been more or less
avowedly opposed to it.'^ The men of most account
among those who were attracted by it and represented
it have, with one illustrious exception, passed away.
A survivor of the generation which it stirred so deeply
may not have much that is new to tell about it. He
may not be able to affect much the judgment which
will finally be accepted about it. But the fact is not

1 It is hardly necessary to say that these and the following
words were written before Dr. Newman's death, and the publication
of his letters.


unimportant, that a number of able and earnest men,
men who both intellectually and morally would have
been counted at the moment as part of the promise

' of the coming time, were fascinated and absorbed by
it. It turned and governed their lives, lifting them
out of custom and convention to efforts after some-
thing higher, something worthier of what they were.
It seemed worth while to exhibit the course of the
movement as it looked to these men — as it seemed to
them vnewed from the inside. My excuse for adding
to so much that has been already written is, that I was
familiar with many of the chief actors in the move-
ment. And I do not like that the remembrance of
friends and associates, men of singular purity of life
and purpose, who raised the tone of living round them,
and by their example, if not by their ideas, recalled
both Oxford and the Church to a truer sense of their
responsibilities, should, because no one would take
the trouble to put things on record, "pass away like a

The following pages were, for the most part, written,
and put into printed shape, in 1884 and 1885. Since
they were written, books have appeared, some of them

* important ones, going over most of the same ground ;
while yet more volumes may be expected. We have
had ingenious theories of the genesis of the move-
ment, and the filiation of its ideas. Attempts have
been made to alter the proportions of the scene and
the several parts played upon it, and to reduce the
common estimate of the weight and influence of some


of the most prominent personages. The point of view
of those who have thus written is not mine, and they
tell their story (with a full right so to do) as I tell
mine. But I do not purpose to compare and adjust
our respective accounts — to attack theirs, or to defend
my own. I have not gone through their books to find
statements to except to, or to qualify. The task
would be a tiresome and unprofitable one. I under-
stand their point of view, though I do not accept it.
I do not doubt their good faith, and I hope that they
will allow mine.




The Church in the Reform Days . . i


The Beginning of the Movement — John

Keble 23

Richard Hurrell Froude . . . - 34


Mr. Newman's Early Friends — Isaac

Williams 65

Charles Marriott 79




The Oxford Tracts 92

The Tractarians 127


Subscription at Matriculation and Admis-
sion OF Dissenters . . . .146

Dr. Hampden 159

Growth of the Movement, i 835-1 840 . 177

The Roman Question 201

Changes 218




The Authorities and the MoveiMent . 24^

No. 90 266

After No. 90 , 296


The Three Defeats : Isaac Williams,

Macmullen, Pusey . .312

\V. G. Ward 336


The Idkai. 01 \ Christian Church . 360

Tin. Catastrophe 385




What is called the Oxford or Tractarian movement
began, without doubt, in a vigorous effort for the
immediate defence of the Church against serious
dangers, arising from the violent and threatening
temper of the days of the Reform Bill. It was one
of several and widely differing efforts. Viewed super-
ficially it had its origin in the accident of an urgent
necessity.^ The Church was really at the moment
imperilled amid the crude revolutionary projects of
the Reform epoch ; ^ and something bolder and more

^ The suppression of the Irish bishoprics. Palmer, Narrative
(1883), pp. 44, 10 1. Maurice, Life^ i. 180.

' •' 'Fhe Church, as it now stands, no human power can save "
(Arnold to Tyler, June 1832. Life, i. 326). "Nothing, as it
seems to meigcan save the Church but an union with the Dissenters ;
now they are leagued with the antichristian party, and no merely
internal reforms will satisfy them " (Arnold to Whately, January
'833. >• 348). He afterwards thought this exaggerated {Life, i.
336). "The Church has been for one hundred years without any


effective than the ordinary apologies for the Church
was the call of the hour. The official leaders of the
Church were almost stunned and bewildered by the
fierce outbreak of popular hostility. The answers put
forth on its behalf to the clamour for extensive and
even destructive change were the work of men sur-
prised in a moment of security. They scarcely recog-
nised the difference between what was indefensible
and what must be fought for to the death ; they
mistook subordinate or unimportant points for the
key of their position : in their compromises or in their
resistance they wanted the guidance of clear and
adequate principles, and they were vacillating and
ineffective. But stronger and far-seeing minds per-
ceived the need of a broad and intelligible basis on
which to maintain the cause of the Church. For the
air was full of new ideas ; the temper of the time was
bold and enterprising. It was felt by men who looked
forward, that to hold their own they must have some-
thing more to show than custom or alleged expediency
— they must sound the depths of their own convictions,
and not be afraid to assert the claims of these con-
government, and in such a stormy season it will not go on much
longer without a rudder" (Whately to Bp. Copleston, July 1832.
Life, i. 167). " If such an arrangement of the Executive Govern-
ment is completed, it will be a difficult, but great and glorious
feat for your Lordship's ministry to preserve the establishment from
utter overthrow" (Whately to Lord Grey, May 1832. Life, i.
156). It is remarkable that Dean Stanley should have been
satisfied with ascribing to the movement an "origin entirely
political," and should have seen a proof of this "thoroughly
political origin " in Newman's observing the date of Mr. Keble's
sermon "National Apostasy" as the birthday of the movement.
Edin, Rev. April 1880, pp. 309, 310.


victions on men's reason and imagination as well as on
their associations and feelings. The same dangers and
necessities acted differently on different minds; but
among those who were awakened by them to the
presence of a great crisis were the first movers in
what came to be known as the Tractarian movement.
The stir around them, the perils which seemed to
threaten, were a call to them to examine afresh the
meaning of their familiar words and professions.

For the Church, as it had been in the quiet days
of the eighteenth century, was scarcely adapted to
the needs of more stirring times. The idea of clerical
life had certainly sunk, both in fact and in the popular
estimate of it. The disproportion between the pur-
poses for which the Church with its ministry was
founded and the actual tone of feeling among those
responsible for its service had become too great.
Men were afraid of principles; the one thing they
most shrank from was the suspicion of enthusiasm.
Bishop Lavington wrote a book to hold up to scorn
the enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists ; and what
would have seemed reasonable and natural in matters
of religion and worship in the age of Cranmer, in the
age of Hooker, in the age of Andrewes, or in the
age of Ken, seemed extravagant in the age which
reflected the spirit of Tillotson and Seeker, and even
Porteus. The typical clergyman in English pictures
of the manners of the day, in the Vicar of Wakefield^
in Miss Austen's novels, in Crabbe's Parish Register^
is represented, often quite unsuspiciously, as a kindly



and respectable person, but certainly not alive to the
greatness of his calling. He was often much, very
much, to the society round him. When communica-
tion was so difficult and infrequent, he filled a place in
the country life of England which no one else could
fill. He was often the patriarch of his parish, its ruler,
its doctor, its lawyer, its magistrate, as well as its
teacher, before whom vice trembled and rebellion
dared not show itself. The idea of the priest was not
quite forgotten ; but there was much — much even of
what was good and useful — to obscure it. The
beauty of the English Church in this time was its
family life of purity and simplicity ; its blot was quiet
worldliness. It has sometimes been the fashion in
later days of strife and disquiet to regret that un-
pretending estimate of clerical duty and those easy-
going days ; as it has sometimes been the fashion to
regret the pomp and dignity with which well-born
or scholarly bishops, furnished with ample leisure and
splendid revenues, presided in unapproachable state
over their clergy and held their own among the great
county families. Most things have a side for which
something can be said; and we may truthfully and
thankfully recall that among the clergy of those days
there were not a few but many instances, not only of
gentle manners, and warm benevolence, and cultivated
intelligence, but of simple piety and holy life.^ But
the fortunes of the Church are not safe in the hands

^ Readers of Wordsworth will remember the account of Mr. R.
Walker (Notes to the " River Duddon ").


of a clergy, of which a great pari take their obligations
easily. It was slumbering and sleeping when the
visitation of days of change and trouble came upon it.
Against this state of things the Oxford movement
was a determined revolt ; but, as has been said, it was
not the only one, nor the first. A profound discontent
at the state of religion in England had taken pos-
session of many powerful and serious minds in the
generation which was rising into manhood at the close
of the first quarter of the century ; and others besides
the leaders of the movement were feeling their way
to firmer ground. Other writers of very different
principles, and with different objects, had become alive,
among other things, to the importance of true ideas
about the Church, impatient at the ignorance and
shallowness of the current views of it, and alarmed at
the dangers which menaced it. Two Oxford teachers
who commanded much attention by their force and
boldness — Dr. Whately and Dr. Arnold — had de-
veloped their theories about the nature, constitution,
and functions of the Church. They were dissatisfied
with the general stagnation of religious opinion, on
this as on other subjects. They agreed in resenting
the unintelligent shortsightedness which relegated such
a matter to a third or fourth rank in the scale of
religious teaching. They agreed also in seizing the
spiritual aspect of the Church, and in raising the idea
of it above the level of the poor and worldly con-
ceptions on the assumption of which questions relating
to it were popularly discussed. But in their funda


mental principles they were far apart. I assume, on
the authority of Cardinal Newman, what was widely
believed in Oxford, and never apparently denied, that
the volume entitled Letters of an Episcopalian,^ 1826,
was, in some sense at least, the work of Dr. Whately.
In it is sketched forth the conception of an organised
body, introduced into the world by Christ Himself,
endowed with definite spiritual powers and with no
other, and, whether connected with the State or not,
having an independent existence and inalienable
claims, with its own objects and laws, with its own
moral standard and spirit and character. From this
book Cardinal Newman tells us that he learnt his
theory of the Church, though it was, after all, but
the theory received from the first appearance of Chris-
tian history ; and he records also the deep impression
which it made on others. Dr. Arnold's view was a
much simpler one. He divided the world into Chris-
tians and non-Christians : Christians w^ere all who
professed to believe in Christ as a Divine Person and
to worship Him, ^ and the brotherhood, the "Societas"
of Christians, was all that was meant by "the Church"
in the New Testament. It mattered, of course, to
the conscience of each Christian what he had made
up his mind to believe, but to no one else. Church
organisation was, according to circumstances, partly
inevitable or expedient, partly mischievous, but in no
case of divine authority. Teaching, ministering the

* Compare Life of Whately (ed. 1866), i. 52, 68.
' Arnold to W, Smith, Life, i, 356-358 ; ii. 32.


word, was a thing of divine appointment, but not so
the mode of exercising it, either as to person^ forms,
or methods. Sacraments there were, signs and pledges
of divine love and help, in every action of life, in every
sight of nature, and eminently two most touching ones,
recommended to Christians by the Redeemer Him-
self; but except as a matter of mere order, one man
might deal with these as lawfully as another. Church
history there was, fruitful in interest, instruction, and
warning ; for it was the record of the long struggle of
the true idea of the Church against the false, and of
the fatal disappearance of the true before the forces
of blindness and wickedness.^ Dr. Arnold's was a
passionate attempt to place the true idea in the light.
Of the difficulties of his theory he made light account.
There was the vivid central truth which glowed
through his soul and quickened all his thoughts. He
became its champion and militant apostle. These
doctrines, combined with his strong political liberalism,
made the Midlands hot for Dr. Arnold. But he liked
the fighting, as he thought, against the narrow and
frightened orthodoxy round him. Aind he was in the
thick of this fighting when another set of ideas about
the Church — the ideas on which alone it seemed to a
number of earnest and anxious minds that the cause
of the Church could be maintained — the ideas which
were the beginning of the Oxford movement, crossed
his path. It was the old orthodox tradition of the
Church, with fresh life put into it, which he flattered

^ Life, i. 225 sqq.


himself l^iat he had so triumphantly demolished.
This intrusion of a despised rival to his own teaching
about the Church — teaching in which he believed
with deep and fervent conviction — profoundly irritated
him ; all the more that it came from men who had
been among his friends, and who, he thought, should
have known better.^

But neither Dr. Whately's nor Dr. Arnold's attempts
to put the old subject of the Church in a new light
gained much hold on the public mind. One was too
abstract ; the other too unhistorical and revolutionary.
Both in Oxford and in the country were men whose
hearts burned within them for something less specu-
lative and vague, something more reverent and less
individual, more in sympathy with the inherited spirit
of the Church. It did not need much searching to
find in the facts and history of the Church ample
evidence of principles distinct and inspiring, which,
however long latent, or overlaid by superficial accre-
tions, were as well fitted as they ever were to animate
its defenders in the struggle with the unfriendly
opinion of the day. They could not open their
Prayer - Books, and think of what they read there,
without seeing that on the face of it the Church
claimed to be something very different from what it
was assumed to be in the current controversies of the
time, very different from a mere institution of the

' " I am vexed to find how much hopeless bigotry lingers in
minds, ory T^KLara ^XPV ' (Arnold to Whately, Sept. 1832, Lt/e,

'• 331 ; »• 3-7).


State, from a vague collection of Christian professions,
from one form or denomination of religion among
many, distinguished by larger privileges and larger
revenues. They could not help seeing that it claimed
an origin not short of the Apostles of Christ, and
took for granted that it was to speak and teach with
their authority and that of their Master. These were
theological commonplaces ; but now, tlie pressure of
events and of competing ideas made them to be felt
as real and momentous truths. Amid the confusions
and inconsistencies of the semi-political controversy *
on Church reform, and on the defects and rights of
the Church, which was going on in Parliament, in
the press, and in pamphlets, the deeper thoughts of
those who were interested in its fortunes were turned
to what was intrinsic and characteristic in its con-
stitution : and while these thoughts in some instances
only issued in theorj- and argument, in others they
led to practical resolves to act upon them and enforce

At the end of the first quarter of the century, say
about 1825-30, two characteristic forms of Church
of England Christianity were popularly recognised.
One inherited the traditions of a learned and sober
Anglicanism, claiming as the authorities for its theology
the great line of English divines from Hooker to
Waterland, finding its patterns of devotion in Bishop
Wilson, Bishop Home, and the "Whole Duty of
Man," but not forgetful of Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor,
and Ken, — preaching, without passion or excitement,


scholarlike, careful, wise, often vigorously reasoned
discourses on the capital points of faith and morals,
and exhibiting in its adherents, who were many and
important, all the varieties of a great and far-descended
school, which claimed for itself rightful possession of the
ground which it held. There was nothing effeminate
about it, as there was nothing fanatical ; there was
nothing extreme or foolish about it ; it was a manly
school, distrustful of high- wrought feelings and pro-
fessions, cultivating self-command and shy of display,
and setting up as its mark, in contrast to what seemed
to it sentimental weakness, a reasonable and serious
idea of duty. The divinity which it propounded,
though it rested on learning, was rather that of strong
common sense than of the schools of erudition. Its
better members were highly cultivated, benevolent
men, intolerant of irregularities both of doctrine and
life, whose lives were governed by an unostentatious
but solid and unfaltering piety, ready to burst forth
on occasion into fervid devotion. Its worse members
were jobbers and hunters after preferment, pluralists

Online LibraryR. W. (Richard William) ChurchThe Oxford movement : twelve years, 1833-1845 → online text (page 1 of 27)