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rivals only,[10] denounced as dry, unspiritual, formal, unevangelical,
self-righteous; teachers of mere morality at their best, allies and
servants of the world at their worst. In the party which at this time
had come to be looked upon popularly as best entitled to be the
_religious_ party, whether they were admired as Evangelicals, or abused
as Calvinists, or laughed at as the Saints, were inheritors not of
Anglican traditions, but of those which had grown up among the zealous
clergymen and laymen who had sympathised with the great Methodist
revival, and whose theology and life had been profoundly affected by it.
It was the second or third generation of those whose religious ideas had
been formed and governed by the influence of teachers like Hervey,
Romaine, Cecil, Venn, Fletcher, Newton, and Thomas Scott. The fathers of
the Evangelical school were men of naturally strong and vigorous
understandings, robust and rugged, and sometimes eccentric, but quite
able to cope with the controversialists, like Bishop Tomline, who
attacked them. These High Church controversialists were too half-hearted
and too shallow, and understood their own principles too imperfectly, to
be a match for antagonists who were in deadly earnest, and put them to
shame by their zeal and courage. But Newton and Romaine and the Milners
were too limited and narrow in their compass of ideas to found a
powerful theology. They undoubtedly often quickened conscience. But
their system was a one-sided and unnatural one, indeed in the hands of
some of its expounders threatening morality and soundness of
character.[11] It had none of the sweep which carried the justification
doctrines of Luther, or the systematic predestinarianism of Calvin, or
the "platform of discipline" of John Knox and the Puritans. It had to
deal with a society which laid stress on what was "reasonable," or
"polite," or "ingenious," or "genteel," and unconsciously it had come to
have respect to these requirements. The one thing by which its preachers
carried disciples with them was their undoubted and serious piety, and
their brave, though often fantastic and inconsistent, protest against
the world. They won consideration and belief by the mild persecution
which this protest brought on them - by being proscribed as enthusiasts
by comfortable dignitaries, and mocked as "Methodists" and "Saints" by
wits and worldlings. But the austere spirit of Newton and Thomas Scott
had, between 1820 and 1830, given way a good deal to the influence of
increasing popularity. The profession of Evangelical religion had been
made more than respectable by the adhesion of men of position and
weight. Preached in the pulpits of fashionable chapels, this religion
proved to be no more exacting than its "High and Dry" rival. It gave a
gentle stimulus to tempers which required to be excited by novelty. It
recommended itself by gifts of flowing words or high-pitched rhetoric to
those who expected _some_ demands to be made on them, so that these
demands were not too strict. Yet Evangelical religion had not been
unfruitful, especially in public results. It had led Howard and
Elizabeth Fry to assail the brutalities of the prisons. It had led
Clarkson and Wilberforce to overthrow the slave trade, and ultimately
slavery itself. It had created great Missionary Societies. It had given
motive and impetus to countless philanthropic schemes. What it failed in
was the education and development of character; and this was the result
of the increasing meagreness of its writing and preaching. There were
still Evangelical preachers of force and eloquence - Robert Hall, Edward
Irving, Chalmers, Jay of Bath - but they were not Churchmen. The circle
of themes dwelt on by this school in the Church was a contracted one,
and no one had found the way of enlarging it. It shrank, in its fear of
mere moralising, in its horror of the idea of merit or of the value of
good works, from coming into contact with the manifold realities of the
spirit of man: it never seemed to get beyond the "first beginnings" of
Christian teaching, the call to repent, the assurance of forgiveness: it
had nothing to say to the long and varied process of building up the new
life of truth and goodness: it was nervously afraid of departing from
the consecrated phrases of its school, and in the perpetual iteration of
them it lost hold of the meaning they may once have had. It too often
found its guarantee for faithfulness in jealous suspicions, and in
fierce bigotries, and at length it presented all the characteristics of
an exhausted teaching and a spent enthusiasm. Claiming to be exclusively
spiritual, fervent, unworldly, the sole announcer of the free grace of
God amid self-righteousness and sin, it had come, in fact, to be on very
easy terms with the world. Yet it kept its hold on numbers of
spiritually-minded persons, for in truth there seemed to be nothing
better for those who saw in the affections the main field of religion.
But even of these good men, the monotonous language sounded to all but
themselves inconceivably hollow and wearisome; and in the hands of the
average teachers of the school, the idea of religion was becoming poor
and thin and unreal.

But besides these two great parties, each of them claiming to represent
the authentic and unchanging mind of the Church, there were independent
thinkers who took their place with neither and criticised both. Paley
had still his disciples at Cambridge, or if not disciples, yet
representatives of his masculine but not very profound and reverent way
of thinking; and a critical school, represented by names afterwards
famous, Connop Thirlwall and Julius Hare, strongly influenced by German
speculation, both in theology and history, began to attract attention.
And at Cambridge was growing, slowly and out of sight, a mind and an
influence which were to be at once the counterpart and the rival of the
Oxford movement, its ally for a short moment, and then its earnest and
often bitter enemy. In spite of the dominant teaching identified with
the name of Mr. Simeon, Frederic Maurice, with John Sterling and other
members of the Apostles' Club, was feeling for something truer and
nobler than the conventionalities of the religious world.[12] In Oxford,
mostly in a different way, more dry, more dialectical, and, perhaps it
may be said, more sober, definite, and ambitious of clearness, the same
spirit was at work. There was a certain drift towards Dissent among the
warmer spirits. Under the leading of Whately, questions were asked about
what was supposed to be beyond dispute with both Churchmen and
Evangelicals. Current phrases, the keynotes of many a sermon, were
fearlessly taken to pieces. Men were challenged to examine the meaning
of their words. They were cautioned or ridiculed as the case might be,
on the score of "confusion of thought" and "inaccuracy of mind"; they
were convicted of great logical sins, _ignoratio elenchi,_ or
_undistributed middle terms;_ and bold theories began to make their
appearance about religious principles and teaching, which did not easily
accommodate themselves to popular conceptions. In very different ways
and degrees, Davison, Copleston, Whately, Hawkins, Milman, and not
least, a brilliant naturalised Spaniard who sowed the seeds of doubt
around him, Blanco White, had broken through a number of accepted
opinions, and had presented some startling ideas to men who had thought
that all religious questions lay between the orthodoxy of Lambeth and
the orthodoxy of Clapham and Islington. And thus the foundation was
laid, at least, at Oxford of what was then called the Liberal School of
Theology. Its theories and paradoxes, then commonly associated with the
"_Noetic_" character of one college, Oriel, were thought startling and
venturesome when discussed in steady-going common-rooms and country
parsonages; but they were still cautious and old-fashioned compared
with what was to come after them. The distance is indeed great between
those early disturbers of lecture-rooms and University pulpits, and
their successors.

While this was going on within the Church, there was a great movement of
thought going on in the country. It was the time when Bentham's
utilitarianism had at length made its way into prominence and
importance. It had gained a hold on a number of powerful minds in
society and political life. It was threatening to become the dominant
and popular philosophy. It began, in some ways beneficially, to affect
and even control legislation. It made desperate attempts to take
possession of the whole province of morals. It forced those who saw
through its mischief, who hated and feared it, to seek a reason, and a
solid and strong one, for the faith which was in them as to the reality
of conscience and the mysterious distinction between right and wrong.
And it entered into a close alliance with science, which was beginning
to assert its claims, since then risen so high, to a new and undefined
supremacy, not only in the general concerns of the world, but specially
in education. It was the day of Holland House. It was the time when a
Society of which Lord Brougham was the soul, and which comprised a great
number of important political and important scientific names, was
definitely formed for the _Diffusion of Useful Knowledge_. Their labours
are hardly remembered now in the great changes for which they paved the
way; but the Society was the means of getting written and of publishing
at a cheap rate a number of original and excellent books on science,
biography, and history. It was the time of the _Library of Useful
Knowledge,_ and its companion, the _Library of Entertaining Knowledge;_
of the _Penny Magazine,_ and its Church rival, the _Saturday Magazine,_
of the _Penny Cyclopaedia,_ and _Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia,_ and
_Murray's Family Library_: popular series, which contained much of the
work of the ablest men of the day, and which, though for the most part
superseded now, were full of interest then. Another creation of this
epoch, and an unmistakable indication of its tendencies, was the British
Association for the Advancement of Science, which met for the first time
at Oxford in June 1832, not without a good deal of jealousy and
misgiving, partly unreasonable, partly not unfounded, among men in whose
hearts the cause and fortunes of religion were supreme.

Thus the time was ripe for great collisions of principles and aims; for
the decomposition of elements which had been hitherto united; for
sifting them out of their old combinations, and regrouping them
according to their more natural affinities. It was a time for the
formation and development of unexpected novelties in teaching and
practical effort. There was a great historic Church party, imperfectly
conscious of its position and responsibilities;[13] there was an active
but declining pietistic school, resting on a feeble intellectual basis
and narrow and meagre interpretations of Scripture, and strong only in
its circle of philanthropic work; there was, confronting both, a rising
body of inquisitive and, in some ways, menacing thought. To men deeply
interested in religion, the ground seemed confused and treacherous.
There was room, and there was a call, for new effort; but to find the
resources for it, it seemed necessary to cut down deep below the level
of what even good men accepted as the adequate expression of
Christianity, and its fit application to the conditions of the
nineteenth century. It came to pass that there were men who had the
heart to make this attempt. As was said at starting, the actual movement
began in the conviction that a great and sudden danger to the Church was
at hand, and that an unusual effort must be made to meet it. But if the
occasion was in a measure accidental, there was nothing haphazard or
tentative in the line chosen to encounter the danger. From the first it
was deliberately and distinctly taken. The choice of it was the result
of convictions which had been forming before the occasion came which
called on them. The religious ideas which governed the minds of those
who led the movement had been traced, in outline at least, firmly and
without faltering.

The movement had its spring in the consciences and character of its
leaders. To these men religion really meant the most awful and most
seriously personal thing on earth. It had not only a theological basis;
it had still more deeply a moral one. What that basis was is shown in a
variety of indications of ethical temper and habits, before the
movement, in those who afterwards directed it. The _Christian Year_ was
published in 1827, and tells us distinctly by what kind of standard Mr.
Keble moulded his judgment and aims. What Mr. Keble's influence and
teaching did, in training an apt pupil to deep and severe views of truth
and duty, is to be seen in the records of purpose and self-discipline,
often so painful, but always so lofty and sincere, of Mr. Hurrell
Froude's journal. But these indications are most forcibly given in Mr.
Newman's earliest preaching. As tutor at Oriel, Mr. Newman had made what
efforts he could, sometimes disturbing to the authorities, to raise the
standard of conduct and feeling among his pupils. When he became a
parish priest, his preaching took a singularly practical and
plain-spoken character. The first sermon of the series, a typical
sermon, "Holiness necessary for future Blessedness," a sermon which has
made many readers grave when they laid it down, was written in 1826,
before he came to St. Mary's; and as he began he continued. No sermons,
except those which his great opposite, Dr. Arnold, was preaching at
Rugby, had appealed to conscience with such directness and force. A
passionate and sustained earnestness after a high moral rule, seriously
realised in conduct, is the dominant character of these sermons. They
showed the strong reaction against slackness of fibre in the religious
life; against the poverty, softness; restlessness, worldliness, the
blunted and impaired sense of truth, which reigned with little check in
the recognised fashions of professing Christianity; the want of depth
both of thought and feeling; the strange blindness to the real
sternness, nay the austerity, of the New Testament. Out of this ground
the movement grew. Even more than a theological reform, it was a protest
against the loose unreality of ordinary religious morality. In the first
stage of the movement, moral earnestness and enthusiasm gave its impulse
to theological interest and zeal.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] The suppression of the Irish bishoprics. Palmer, _Narrative_ (1883),
pp. 44, 101. Maurice, _Life_, i. 180.

[3] "The Church, as it now stands, no human power can save" (Arnold to
Tyler, June 1832. _Life,_ i. 326). "Nothing, as it seems to me, can 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 1833, i. 348). He afterwards thought
this exaggerated (_Life,_ i. 336). "The Church has been for one hundred
years without any 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 Government 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.

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

[5] Compare _Life of Whately_ (ed. 1866), i. 52, 68.

[6] Arnold to W. Smith, _Life_, i. 356-358; ii. 32.

[7] _Life_, i. 225 _sqq_.

[8] "I am vexed to find how much hopeless bigotry lingers in minds, οἶς
ἥκιστα ἕχρη" (Arnold to Whately, Sept. 1832. _Life,_ i. 331; ii. 3-7).

[9] St. Bartholomew's Day

[10] "The mere barren orthodoxy which, from all that I can hear, is
characteristic of Oxford." Maurice in 1829 (_Life,_ i. 103). In 1832 he
speaks of his "high endeavours to rouse Oxford from its lethargy having
so signally failed" (i. 143).

[11] Abbey and Overton, _English Church in the Eighteenth Century,_ ii.
180, 204.

[12] _V._ Maurice, _Life,_ i. 108-111; Trench's _Letters;_ Carlyle's
_Sterling_.

[13] "In what concerns the Established Church, the House of Commons
seems to feel no other principle than that of vulgar policy. The old
High Church race is worn out." Alex. Knox (June 1816), i. 54.


CHAPTER II

THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVEMENT - JOHN KEBLE


Long before the Oxford movement was thought of, or had any definite
shape, a number of its characteristic principles and ideas had taken
strong hold of the mind of a man of great ability and great seriousness,
who, after a brilliant career at Oxford as student and tutor, had
exchanged the University for a humble country cure. John Keble, by some
years the senior, but the college friend and intimate of Arnold, was the
son of a Gloucestershire country clergyman of strong character and
considerable scholarship. He taught and educated his two sons at home,
and then sent them to Oxford, where both of them made their mark, and
the elder, John, a mere boy when he first appeared at his college,
Corpus, carried off almost everything that the University could give in
the way of distinction. He won a double first; he won the Latin and
English Essays in the same year; and he won what was the still greater
honour of an Oriel Fellowship. His honours were borne with meekness and
simplicity; to his attainments he joined a temper of singular sweetness
and modesty, capable at the same time, when necessary, of austere
strength and strictness of principle. He had become one of the most
distinguished men in Oxford, when about the year 1823 he felt himself
bound to give himself more exclusively to the work of a clergyman, and
left Oxford to be his father's curate. There was nothing very unusual in
his way of life, or singular and showy in his work as a clergyman; he
went in and out among the poor, he was not averse to society, he
preached plain, unpretending, earnest sermons; he kept up his literary
interests. But he was a deeply convinced Churchman, finding his standard
and pattern of doctrine and devotion in the sober earnestness and
dignity of the Prayer Book, and looking with great and intelligent
dislike at the teaching and practical working of the more popular system
which, under the name of Evangelical Christianity, was aspiring to
dominate religious opinion, and which, often combining some of the most
questionable features of Methodism and Calvinism, denounced with fierce
intolerance everything that deviated from its formulas and watchwords.
And as his loyalty to the Church of England was profound and intense,
all who had shared her fortunes, good or bad, or who professed to serve
her, had a place in his affections; and any policy which threatened to
injure or oppress her, and any principles which were hostile to her
influence and teaching, roused his indignation and resistance. He was a
strong Tory, and by conviction and religious temper a thorough High
Churchman.

But there was nothing in him to foreshadow the leader in a bold and
wide-reaching movement. He was absolutely without ambition. He hated
show and mistrusted excitement. The thought of preferment was steadily
put aside both from temper and definite principle. He had no popular
aptitudes, and was very suspicious of them. He had no care for the
possession of influence; he had deliberately chosen the _fallentis
semita vitae,_ and to be what his father had been, a faithful and
contented country parson, was all that he desired. But idleness was not
in his nature. Born a poet, steeped in all that is noblest and tenderest
and most beautiful in Greek and Roman literature, with the keenest
sympathy with that new school of poetry which, with Wordsworth as its
representative, was searching out the deeper relations between nature
and the human soul, he found in poetical composition a vent and relief
for feelings stirred by the marvels of glory and of awfulness, and by
the sorrows and blessings, amid which human life is passed. But his
poetry was for a long time only for himself and his intimate friends;
his indulgence in poetical composition was partly playful, and it was
not till after much hesitation on his own part and also on theirs, and
with a contemptuous undervaluing of his work, which continued to the end
of his life, that the anonymous little book of poems was published which
has since become familiar wherever English is read, as the _Christian
year_. His serious interests were public ones. Though living in the
shade, he followed with anxiety and increasing disquiet the changes
which went on so rapidly and so formidably, during the end of the first
quarter of this century, in opinion and in the possession of political
power. It became more and more plain that great changes were at hand,
though not so plain what they would be. It seemed likely that power
would come into the hands of men and parties hostile to the Church in
their principles, and ready to use to its prejudice the advantages which
its position as an establishment gave them; and the anticipation grew in
Keble's mind, that in the struggles which seemed likely, not only for
the legal rights but for the faith of the Church, the Church might have
both to claim more, and to suffer more, at the hands of Government. Yet
though these thoughts filled his mind, and strong things were said in
the intercourse with friends about what was going on about them, no
definite course of action had been even contemplated when Keble went
into the country in 1823. There was nothing to distinguish him from
numbers of able clergymen all over England, who were looking on with
interest, with anxiety, often with indignation, at what was going on.
Mr. Keble had not many friends and was no party chief. He was a
brilliant university scholar overlaying the plain, unworldly country
parson; an old-fashioned English Churchman, with great veneration for
the Church and its bishops, and a great dislike of Rome, Dissent, and
Methodism, but with a quick heart; with a frank, gay humility of soul,
with great contempt of appearances, great enjoyment of nature, great
unselfishness, strict and severe principles of morals and duty.

What was it that turned him by degrees into so prominent and so
influential a person? It was the result of the action of his convictions
and ideas, and still more of his character, on the energetic and
fearless mind of a pupil and disciple, Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude
was Keble's pupil at Oriel, and when Keble left Oriel for his curacy at
the beginning of the Long Vacation of 1823, he took Froude with him to
read for his degree. He took with him ultimately two other pupils,
Robert Wilberforce and Isaac Williams of Trinity. One of them, Isaac
Williams, has left some reminiscences of the time, and of the terms on
which the young men were with their tutor, then one of the most famous
men at Oxford. They were on terms of the utmost freedom. "Master is the
greatest boy of them all," was the judgment of the rustic who was
gardener, groom, and parish clerk to Mr. Keble. Froude's was a keen
logical mind, not easily satisfied, contemptuous of compromises and
evasions, and disposed on occasion to be mischievous and aggressive; and
with Keble, as with anybody else, he was ready to dispute and try every
form of dialectical experiment. But he was open to higher influences
than those of logic, and in Keble he saw what subdued and won him to
boundless veneration and affection. Keble won the love of the whole
little society; but in Froude he had gained a disciple who was to be the
mouthpiece and champion of his ideas, and who was to react on himself
and carry him forward to larger enterprises and bolder resolutions than
by himself he would have thought of. Froude took in from Keble all he
had to communicate - principles, convictions, moral rules and standards
of life, hopes, fears, antipathies. And his keenly-tempered intellect,
and his determination and high courage, gave a point and an impulse of
their own to Keble's views and purposes. As things came to look darker,
and dangers seemed more serious to the Church, its faith or its rights,



Online LibraryR.W. ChurchThe Oxford Movement Twelve Years, 1833-1845 → online text (page 2 of 26)