THE ENGLISH CHURCH IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
CHARLES J. ABBEY Rector of Checkendon: Formerly Fellow of University College, Oxford
JOHN H. OVERTON Canon of Lincoln and Rector of Epworth
Revised and Abridged New Edition
Longmans, Green, and Co. London, New York, and Bombay
THE SECOND EDITION
Although this edition has been shortened to about half the length of the original one, it is essentially the same work. The reduction has been effected, partly by the omission of some whole chapters, partly by excisions. The chapters omitted are those upon the Jacobites, the Essayists, Church Cries, and Sacred Poetry—subjects which have only a more or less incidental bearing on the Church history of the period. The passages excised are, for the most part, quotations, discursive reflections, explanatory notes, occasional repetitions, and, speaking generally, whatever could be removed without injury to the general purpose of the narrative. There has been no attempt at abridgment in any other form.
The authors are indebted to their reviewers for many kind remarks and much careful criticism. They have endeavoured to correct all errors which have been thus pointed out to them.
As the nature of this work has sometimes been a little misapprehended, it should be added that its authors at no time intended it to be a regular history. When they first mapped out their respective shares in the joint undertaking, their design had been to write a number of short essays relating to many different features in the religion and Church history of England in the Eighteenth Century. This general purpose was adhered to; and it was only after much deliberation that the word 'Chapters' was substituted for 'Essays.' There was, however, one important modification. Fewer subjects were, in the issue, specifically discussed, but these more in detail; while some questions—such, for instance, as that of the Church in the Colonies—were scarcely touched upon. Hence a certain disproportion of treatment, which a general introductory chapter could but partially remedy.
THE FIRST EDITION
Some years have elapsed since the authors of this work first entertained the idea of writing upon certain aspects of religious life and thought in the Eighteenth Century. If the ground is no longer so unoccupied as it was then, it appears to them that there is still abundant room for the book which they now lay before the public. Their main subject is expressly the English Church, and they write as English Churchmen, taking, however, no narrower basis than that of the National Church itself.
They desire to be responsible each for his own opinions only, and therefore the initials of the writer are attached to each chapter he has written.
Revived interest in the religious life of the eighteenth century, 1 Lowered tone prevalent during a great part of the period, 2 Loss of strength in the Puritan and Nonjuring ejections, 3 Absorbing speculations connected with the Deistical controversy, 4 Development of the ground principles of the Reformation, 5 Fruits of the Deistical controversy, 6 Its relation to the Methodist and Evangelical revivals, 7 Impetus to Protestant feeling in the Revolution of 1689, 8 Projects of Church comprehension, 8 Methodism and the Church, 9 The French Revolution, 10 Passive Obedience and Divine Right, 10 Jacobitism, 11 Loss of the Nonjuring type of High Churchmen, 12 Toleration, 13 Church and State, 15 Respect for the Church, 16 Early part of the century richest in incident, 17 Religious societies, 17 The Sacheverell trial, 18 Convocation, 19 The later Nonjurors, 19 The Essayists, 20 Hoadly and the Bangorian controversy, 21 The Methodist and Evangelical movements, 21 Evidence writers, 22 Results of the Evidential theology, 23 Revival of practical activity at the end of the century, 24 The Episcopate, 24 General condition of religion and morality, 25 Clergy and people, 25
ROBERT NELSON: HIS FRIENDS AND CHURCH PRINCIPLES.
Contrast with the coarser forms of High Churchmanship in that age, 26 Robert Nelson: general sketch of his life and doings, 27 His Nonjuring friends, 31 Ken, 31 Bancroft and Frampton, 32 Kettlewell, 33 Dodwell, 34 Hickes, 36 Lee, 38 Brokesby, Jeremy Collier, &c., 39 Exclusiveness among many Nonjurors, 39 His friends in the National Church, 40 Bull, 40 Beveridge, 42 Sharp, 44 Smalridge, 46 Grabe, 47 Bray, 48 Oglethorpe, Mapletoft, &c., 49 R. Nelson a High Churchman of wide sympathies, 50 Deterioration of the later type of eighteenth century Anglicanism, 51 Harm done to the English Church from the Nonjuring secession, 51 Coincidence at that time of political and theological parties, 52 Passive obedience as 'a doctrine of the Cross', 53 Decline of the doctrine, 55 Loyalty, 56 The State prayers, 57 Temporary difficulties and permanent principles, 58 Nonjuring Church principles scarcely separable from those of most High Churchmen of that age in the National Church, 60 Nonjuror usages, 61 Nonjuror Protestantism, 63 Isolated position of the Nonjurors, 64 Communications with the Eastern Church, 65 General type of the Nonjuring theology and type of piety, 68 Important function of this party in a Church, 73 Religious promise of the early years of the century, 74 Disappointment in the main of these hopes, 75
Points at issue in the Deistical controversy, 75-6 Deists not properly a sect, 76 Some negative tenets of the Deists, 77 Excitement caused by the subject of Deism, 78 Toland's 'Christianity not mysterious', 79 Shaftesbury's 'Characteristics', 80-2 His protest against the Utilitarian view of Christianity, 81 Collins's 'Discourse of Freethinking', 82-3 Bentley's 'Remarks' on Collins', 83-4 Collins's 'Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion', 84-5 Woolston's 'Six Discourses on the Miracles', 85 Sherlock's 'Tryal of the Witnesses', 86 Annet's 'Resurrection of Jesus Considered', 86 Tindal's 'Christianity as old as the Creation', 86-7 Conybeare's 'Defence of Revealed Religion', 87 Tindal the chief exponent of Deism, 88 Morgan's 'Moral Philosopher', 89 Chubbs's works, 90-1 'Christianity not founded on argument', 92-3 Bolingbroke's 'Philosophical Works', 93-6 Butler's 'Analogy', 96-7 Warburton's 'Divine Legation of Moses', 97-8 Berkeley's 'Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher', 98-9 Leland's 'View of the Deistical Writers', 100-1 Pope's 'Essay on Man', 101-2 John Locke's relation to Deism, 102-5 Effects of the Deistical controversy, 106-8 Collapse of Deism, 108 Want of sympathy with the Deists, 110 Their unpopularity, 111
(1.) CHARACTER AND INFLUENCE OF ARCHBISHOP TILLOTSON'S THEOLOGY.
Use of the term 'Latitudinarian', 112 In the eighteenth century, 113 Archbishop Tillotson:— His close relationship with the eighteenth century, 115 His immense repute as a writer and divine, 115 Vehemence of the attack upon his opinions, 117 His representative character, 118 His appeal to reason in all religious questions, 119 On spiritual influence, 119 On Christian evidences, 119 On involuntary error, 120 On private judgment, its rights and limitations, 121 Liberty of thought and 'Freethinking' in Tillotson's and the succeeding age, 125 Tillotson on 'mysteries', 127 On the doctrine of the Trinity, 129 On Christ's redemption, 130 Theory of accommodation, 131 The future state, 133 Inadequate insistance on distinctive Christian doctrine, 140 Religion and ethics, 141 Goodness and happiness, 142 Prudential religion, 143 General type of Tillotson's latitudinarianism, 145
(2.) CHURCH COMPREHENSION AND CHURCH REFORMERS.
Comprehension in the English Church, 147 Attitude towards Rome in eighteenth century, 148 Strength of Protestant feeling, 148 Exceptional interest in the Gallican Church, 149 Archbishop Wake and the Sorbonne divines, 149 Alienation unmixed with interest in the middle of the eighteenth century, 152 The exiled French clergy, 154 The reformed churches abroad:— Relationship with them a practical question of great interest since James II.'s time, 155 Alternation of feeling on the subject since the Reformation, 156 The Protestant cause at the opening of the eighteenth century, 158 The English Liturgy and Prussian Lutherans, 160 Subsidence of interest in foreign Protestantism, 163 Nonconformists at home:— Strong feeling in favour of a national unity in Church matters, 164 Feeling at one time in favour of comprehension, both among Churchmen and Nonconformists, 166 General view of the Comprehension Bills, 169 The opportunity transitory, 174 Church comprehension in the early part of the eighteenth century confessedly hopeless, 175 Partial revival of the idea in the middle of the century, 177 Comprehension of Methodists, 180 Occasional conformity:— A simple question complicated by the Test Act, 183 The Occasional Conformity Bill, 184 Occasional conformity, apart from the test, a 'healing custom', 185 But by some strongly condemned, 186 Important position it might have held in the system of the National Church, 187 Revision of Church formularies; subscription:— Distaste for any ecclesiastical changes, 188 The 'Free and Candid Disquisitions', 189 Subscription to the Articles, 190 Arian subscription, 193 Proposed revision of Church formularies, 195 Isolation of the English Church at the end of the last century, 195 The period unfitted to entertain and carry out ideas of Church development, 196
THE TRINITARIAN CONTROVERSY.
Importance of the question at issue, 197 Four different views on the subject, 198 Bull's 'Defensio Fidei Nicaenae', 199 Sherlock, Wallis, and South on the Trinity, 200 Charles Leslie on Socinianism, 201-2 William Whiston on the Trinity, 202-4 Samuel Clarke the reviver of modern Arianism, 204 Opponents of Clarke, 205 Waterland on the Trinity, 205-13 Excellences of Waterland's writings, 213 Convocation and Dr. Clarke, 214 Arianism among Dissenters, 215 Arianism lapses into Socinianism.—Faustus Socinus, 215 Modern Socinianism, 216 Isaac Watts on the Trinity, 217-9 Blackburne's 'Confessional', 219 Jones of Nayland on the Trinity, 219-20 Priestley on the Trinity, 220 Horsley's replies to Priestley, 220-4 Unitarians and Trinitarians (nomenclature), 225 Deism and Unitarianism, 226
Meaning of 'Enthusiasm' as generally dreaded in the eighteenth century, 226 A vague term, but important in the history of the period, 227 As entering into most theological questions then under discussion, 229 Cambridge Platonists: Cudworth, Henry More, 230 Influence of Locke's philosophy, 234 Warburton's 'Doctrine of Grace', 237 Sympathy with the reasonable rather than the spiritual side of religion, 237 Absence of Mysticism in the last century, on any conspicuous scale, 238 Mysticism found its chief vent in Quakerism 240 Quakerism in eighteenth century 241 Its strength, its decline, its claim to attention, 244 French Mysticism in England. The 'French Prophets', 246 Fenelon, Bourignon, and Guyon, 249 German Mysticism in England. Behmen, 251 William Law, 253 His active part in theological controversy, 254 Effects of Mysticism on his theology, 255 His breadth of sympathy and appreciation of all spiritual excellence, 257 Position of, in the Deist controversy, 259 Views on the Atonement, 259 On the Christian evidences, 260 Controversy with Mandeville on the foundations of moral virtue, 261 His speculation on the future state, 261 On Enthusiasm, 263 His imitator in verse, John Byrom, 264 The Moravians, 265 Wesley's early intimacy with W. Law and with the Moravians, 266 Lavington and others on the enthusiasm of Methodists, 269 Points of resemblance and difference between Methodism and the Mystic revivals, 271 Bearing of Berkeley's philosophy on the Mystic theology, 274 William Blake, 275 Dean Graves on enthusiasm, 276 Samuel Coleridge, 277
Fair prospect at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 279 Contrast between promise and performance, 279 Shortcomings of the Church exaggerated on many sides, 280 General causes of the low tone of the Church:— (1) Her outward prosperity, 280 (2) Influence and policy of Sir R. Walpole, 281 (3) The controversies of her own and previous generations, 282 (4) Political complications, 282 (5) Want of synodal action, 282-4 Pluralities and non-residence, 284-6 Neglect of parochial duties, 286-7 Clerical poverty, 287-9 Clerical dependents, 289 Abuse of Church patronage, 290-2 Evidence in the autobiography of Bishop T. Newton, 292-3 " " " Bishop Watson, 293-6 " " " Bishop Hurd, 296-7 Clergy too much mixed up with politics, 297-8 Want of parochial machinery, 298-300 Sermons of period too sweepingly censured, 300 But marked by a morbid dread of extremes, 301 Political sermons, 302 Low state of morals, 303 Clergy superior to their contemporaries, 301 The nation passed through a crisis in the eighteenth century, 306 A period of transition in the Church, 307 Torpor extended to all forms of Christianity, 308 Decay of Church discipline, 309-310 England better than her neighbours, 311 Good influences in the later part of the century, 311-2
THE EVANGELICAL REVIVAL.
(1.) THE METHODIST MOVEMENT.
Strength and weakness of the Church in the middle of the eighteenth century, 313 Propriety of the term 'Evangelical Revival', 314 Contrast between Puritans and Evangelicals, 315 William Law, 316 John Wesley, 316-336 George Whitefield, 337-340 Charles Wesley, 340-3 Fletcher of Madeley, 343-6 Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 347-354 Other Methodist worthies, 355
(2.) THE CALVINISTIC CONTROVERSY.
Feebleness and unprofitableness of the controversy, 356 The disputes between Wesley and Whitefield, 357-8 Minutes of the Conference of 1770, 358-360 The 'Circular printed Letter', 360 Conference of 1771, 361 Controversy breaks out afresh in 1772, 362 Fletcher's checks to Antinomianism, 363-5 Toplady's writings, 365
(3.) THE EVANGELISTS.
James Hervey, 366-370 Grimshaw of Haworth, 370-1 Berridge of Everton, 371-2 William Romaine, 372-4 Henry Venn, 374-7 Evangelicalism and Methodism contemporaneous, 377-8 John Newton, 378-381 William Cowper, 381-3 Thomas Scott, 384-8 Richard Cecil, 388 Joseph Milner, 388-392 Isaac Milner, 392-3 Robinson of Leicester, 393-4 Bishop Porteus, 394 'The Clapham Sect', 394 John and Henry Thornton, 395 William Wilberforce, 395-8 Lords Dartmouth and Teignmouth, 398 Dr. Johnson, 398-9 Hannah More, 399-402 Strength and weakness of the Evangelical leaders, 402-3
CHURCH FABRICS AND SERVICES.
The 'Georgian Age', 403 General sameness in the externals of worship, 404 Church architecture, 405 Vandalisms, 407 Whitewash, 408 Repairs of churches, 409 Church naves; relics of mediaeval usage, 411 Pews and galleries, 411 Other adjuncts of eighteenth century churches, 414 Chancels and their ornaments, 416 Paintings in churches, 419 Stained glass, 423 Church bells, 425 Churchyards, 427 Church building, 428 Daily services, 429 Wednesday and Friday services; Saints' days; Lent; Passion Week; Christmas Day, &c., 432 Wakes; Perambulations, 436 State services, 437 Church attendance, 439 Irreverence in church, 441 Variety of ceremonial, 444 The vestment rubric; copes, 445 The surplice; hood; scarf, &c., 446 Clerical costume, 447 Postures of worship; Responses, &c., 449 Liturgical uniformity, 451 Division of services, 452 The Eucharist; Sacramental usages, 453 Parish clerks, 456 Organs; church music, 458 Cathedrals, 459 The 'bidding' and the 'pulpit' prayer, 461 Preaching, 463 Lecturers, 466 Funeral sermons, 468 Baptism, 468 Catechising, 469 Confirmation, 470 Marriage, 471 Funerals, 471 Church discipline; excommunication; penance, 472 Sunday observance, 474 Conclusion, 475
APPENDIX: List of Authorities, 477
THE ENGLISH CHURCH
The claim which the intellectual and religious life of England in the eighteenth century has upon our interest has been much more generally acknowledged of late years than was the case heretofore. There had been, for the most part, a disposition to pass it over somewhat slightly, as though the whole period were a prosaic and uninteresting one. Every generation is apt to depreciate the age which has so long preceded it as to have no direct bearing on present modes of life, but is yet not sufficiently distant as to have emerged into the full dignity of history. Besides, it cannot be denied that the records of the eighteenth century are, with two or three striking exceptions, not of a kind to stir the imagination. It was not a pictorial age; neither was it one of ardent feeling or energetic movement. Its special merits were not very obvious, and its prevailing faults had nothing dazzling in them, nothing that could be in any way called splendid; on the contrary, in its weaker points there was a distinctly ignoble element. The mainsprings of the religious, as well as of the political, life of the country were relaxed. In both one and the other the high feeling of faith was enervated; and this deficiency was sensibly felt in a lowering of general tone, both in the domain of intellect and in that of practice. The spirit of feudalism and of the old chivalry had all but departed, but had left a vacuum which was not yet supplied. As for loyalty, the half-hearted feeling of necessity or expedience, which for more than half the century was the main support of the German dynasty, was something different not in degree only, but in kind, from that which had upheld the throne in time past. Jacobitism, on the other hand, was not strong enough to be more than a faction; and the Republican party, who had once been equal to the Royalists in fervour of enthusiasm, and superior to them in intensity of purpose, were now wholly extinct. The country increased rapidly in strength and in material prosperity; its growth was uninterrupted; its resources continued to develop; its political constitution gained in power and consolidation. But there was a deficiency of disinterested principle. There was an open field for the operation of such sordid motives and debasing tactics as those which disgraced Walpole's lengthened administration.
In the following chapters there will be only too frequent occasion to refer to a somewhat corresponding state of things in the religious life of the country. For two full centuries the land had laboured under the throes of the Reformation. Even when William III. died, it could scarcely be said that England had decisively settled the form which her National Church should take. The 'Church in danger' cries of Queen Anne's reign, and the bitter war of pamphlets, were outward indications that suspense was not yet completely over, and that both friends and enemies felt they had still occasion to calculate the chances alike of Presbyterianism and of the Papacy. But when George I. ascended the throne in peace, it was at last generally realised that the 'Settlement' of which so much had been spoken was now effectually attained. Church and State were so far secured from change, that their defenders might rest from anxiety. It was not a wholesome rest that followed. Long-standing disputes and the old familiar controversies were almost lulled to silence, but in their place a sluggish calm rapidly spread over the Church, not only over the established National Church, but over it and also over every community of Nonconformists. It is remarkable how closely the beginning of the season of spiritual lassitude corresponds with the accession of the first George. The country had never altogether recovered from the reaction of lax indifference into which it had fallen after the Restoration. Nevertheless, a good deal had occurred since that time to keep the minds of Churchmen, as well as of politicians, awake and active: and a good deal had been done to stem the tide of immorality which had then broken over the kingdom. The Church of England was certainly not asleep either in the time of the Seven Bishops, when James II. was King, or under its Whig rulers at the end of the century. And in Queen Anne's time, amid all the virulence of hostile Church parties, there was a healthy stream of life which made itself very visible in the numerous religious associations which sprang up everywhere in the great towns. It might seem as if there were a certain heaviness in the English mind, which requires some outward stimulus to keep alive its zeal. For so soon as the press of danger ceased, and party strifes abated, with the accession of the House of Brunswick, Christianity began forthwith to slumber. The trumpet of Wesley and Whitefield was needed before that unseemly slumber could again be broken.
It will not, however, be forgotten that twice in successive generations the Church of England had been deprived, through misfortune or through folly, of some of her best men. She had suffered on either hand. By the ejection of 1602, through a too stringent enforcement of the new Act of Uniformity, she had lost the services of some of the most devoted of her Puritan sons, men whose views were in many cases no way distinguishable from those which had been held without rebuke by some of the most honoured bishops of Elizabeth's time. By the ejection of 1689, through what was surely a needless strain upon their allegiance, many high-minded men of a different order of thought were driven, if not from her communion, at all events from her ministrations. It was a juncture when the Church could ill afford to be weakened by the defection of some of the most earnest and disinterested upholders of the Primitive and Catholic, as contrasted with the more directly Protestant elements of her Constitution. This twofold drain upon her strength could scarcely have failed to impair the robust vitality which was soon to be so greatly needed to combat the early beginnings of the dead resistance of spiritual lethargy.
But this listlessness in most branches of practical religion must partly be attributed to a cause which gives the history of religious thought in the eighteenth century its principal importance. In proportion as the Church Constitution approached its final settlement, and as the controversies, which from the beginning of the Reformation had been unceasingly under dispute, gradually wore themselves out, new questions came forward, far more profound and fundamental, and far more important in their speculative and practical bearings, than those which had attracted so much notice and stirred so much excitement during the two preceding centuries. The existence of God was scarcely called into question by the boldest doubters; or such doubts, if they found place at all, were expressed only under the most covert implications. But, short of this, all the mysteries of religion were scrutinized; all the deep and hidden things of faith were brought in question, and submitted to the test of reason. Is there such a thing as a revelation from God to men of Himself and of His will? If so, what is its nature, its purposes, its limits? What are the attributes of God? What is the meaning of life? What is man's hereafter? Does a divine spirit work in man? and if it does, what are its operations, and how are they distinguishable? What is spirit? and what is matter? What does faith rest upon? What is to be said of inspiration, and authority, and the essential attributes of a church? These, and other questions of the most essential religious importance, as the nature and signification of the doctrines of the Trinity, of the Incarnation of Christ, of Redemption, of Atonement, discussions as to the relations between faith and morals, and on the old, inevitable enigmas of necessity and liberty, all more or less entered into that mixed whirl of earnest inquiry and flippant scepticism which is summed up under the general name of the Deistic Controversy. For it is not hard to see how intimately the secondary controversies of the time were connected with that main and central one, which not only engrossed so much attention on the part of theologians and students, but became a subject of too general conversation in every coffee-house and place of public resort.
In mental, as well as in physical science, it seems to be a law that force cannot be expended in one direction without some corresponding relaxation of it in another. And thus the disproportionate energies which were diverted to the intellectual side of religion were exercised at some cost to its practical part. Bishops were writing in their libraries, when otherwise they might have been travelling round their dioceses. Men were pondering over abstract questions of faith and morality, who else might have been engaged in planning or carrying out plans for the more active propagation of the faith, or a more general improvement in popular morals. The defenders of Christianity were searching out evidences, and battling with deistical objections, while they slackened in their fight against the more palpable assaults of the world and the flesh. Pulpits sounded with theological arguments where admonitions were urgently needed. Above all, reason was called to decide upon questions before which man's reason stands impotent; and imagination and emotion, those great auxiliaries to all deep religious feeling, were bid to stand rebuked in her presence, as hinderers of the rational faculty, and upstart pretenders to rights which were not theirs. 'Enthusiasm' was frowned down, and no small part of the light and fire of religion fell with it.
Yet an age in which great questions were handled by great men could not be either an unfruitful or an uninteresting one. It might be unfruitful, in the sense of reaping no great harvest of results; and it might be uninteresting, in respect of not having much to show upon the surface, and exhibiting no great variety of active life. But much good fruit for the future was being developed and matured; and no one, who cares to see how the present grows out of the past, will readily allow that the religious thought and the religious action of the eighteenth century are deficient in interest to our times. Our debt is greater than many are inclined to acknowledge. People see clearly that the Church of that age was, in many respects, in an undoubtedly unsatisfactory condition, sleepy and full of abuses, and are sometimes apt to think that the Evangelical revival (the expression being used in its widest sense) was the one redeeming feature of it. And as in theological and ecclesiastical thought, in philosophy, in art, in poetry, the general tendency has been reactionary, the students and writers of the eighteenth century have in many respects scarcely received their due share of appreciation. Moreover, negative results make little display. There is not much to show for the earnest toil that has very likely been spent in arriving at them; and a great deal of the intellectual labour of the last century was of this kind. Reason had been more completely emancipated at the Reformation than it was at first at all aware of. Men who were engaged in battling against certain definite abuses, and certain specified errors, scarcely discovered at first, nor indeed for long afterwards, that they were in reality contending also for principles which would affect for the future the whole groundwork of religious conviction. They were not yet in a position to see that henceforward authority could take only a secondary place, and that they were installing in its room either reason or a more subtle spiritual faculty superior even to reason in the perception of spiritual things. It was not until near the end of the seventeenth century that the mind began to awaken to a full perception of the freedom it had won—a freedom far more complete in principle than was as yet allowed in practice. In the eighteenth century this fundamental postulate of the Reformation became for the first time a prominent, and, to many minds, an absorbing subject of inquiry. For the first time it was no longer disguised from sight by the incidental interest of its side issues. The assertors of the supremacy of reason were at first arrogantly, or even insolently, self-confident, as those who were secure of carrying all before them. Gradually, the wiser of them began to feel that their ambition must be largely moderated, and that they must be content with far more negative results than they had at first imagined. The question came to be, what is reason unable to do? What are its limits? and how is it to be supplemented? An immensity of learning, and of arguments good and bad, was lavished on either side in the controversy between the deists and the orthodox. In the end, it may perhaps be said that two axioms were established, which may sound in our own day like commonplaces, but which were certainly very insufficiently realised when the controversy began. It was seen on the one hand that reason was free, and that on the other it was encompassed by limitations against which it strives in vain. The Deists lost the day. Their objections to revelation fell through; and Christianity rose again, strengthened rather than weakened by their attack. Yet they had not laboured in vain, if success may be measured, not by the gaining of an immediate purpose, but by solid good effected, however contrary in kind to the object proposed. So far as a man works with a single-hearted desire to win truth, he should rejoice if his very errors are made, in the hands of an overruling Providence, instrumental in establishing truth. Christianity in England had arrived in the eighteenth century at one of those periods of revision when it has become absolutely necessary to examine the foundations of its teaching, at any risk of temporary disturbance to the faith of individuals. The advantage ultimately gained was twofold. It was not only that the vital doctrines of Christian faith had been scrutinised both by friends and enemies, and were felt to have stood the proof. But also defenders of received doctrine learnt, almost insensibly, very much from its opponents. They became aware—or if not they, at all events their successors became aware—that orthodoxy must, in some respects, modify the stringency of its conclusions; that there was need, in other instances, of disentangling Christian verities from the scholastic refinements which had gradually grown up around them; and that there were many questions which might safely be left open to debate without in any way impairing the real defences of Christianity. A sixteenth or seventeenth-century theologian regarded most religious questions from a standing point widely different in general character from that of his equal in piety and learning in the eighteenth century. The circumstances and tone of thought which gave rise to the Deistic and its attendant controversies mark with tolerable definiteness the chief period of transition.
The Evangelical revival, both that which is chiefly connected with the name of the Wesleys and of Whitefield, and that which was carried on more exclusively within the Church of England, closely corresponded in many of its details to what had often occurred before in the history of the Christian Church. But it had also a special connection with the controversies which preceded it. When minds had become tranquillised through the subsidence of discussions which had threatened to overthrow their faith, they were the more prepared to listen with attention and respect to the stirring calls of the Evangelical preacher. The very sense of weariness, now that long controversy had at last come to its termination, tended to give a more entirely practical form to the new religious movement. And although many of its leaders were men who had not come to their prime till the Deistical controversy was almost over, and who would probably have viewed the strife, if it had still been raging, with scarcely any other feeling than one of alarmed concern, this was at all events not the case with John Wesley. There are tolerably clear signs that it had materially modified the character of his opinions. The train of thought which produced the younger Dodwell's 'Christianity not Founded upon Argument'—a book of which people scarcely knew, when it appeared, whether it was a serious blow to the Deist cause, or a formidable assistance to it—considerably influenced Wesley's mind, as it also did that of William Law and his followers. He entirely repudiated the mysticism which at one time had begun to attract him; but, like the German pietists, who were in some sense the religious complement of Rationalism, he never ceased to be comparatively indifferent to orthodoxy, so long as the man had the witness of the Spirit proving itself in works of faith. In whatever age of the Church Wesley had lived, he would have been no doubt an active agent in the holy work of evangelisation. But opposed as he was to prevailing influences, he was yet a man of his time. We can hardly fancy the John Wesley whom we know living in any other century than his own. Spending the most plastic, perhaps also the most reflective period of his life in a chief centre of theological activity, he was not unimpressed by the storm of argument which was at that time going on around him. It was uncongenial to his temper, but it did not fail to leave upon him its lasting mark.
The Deistical and other theological controversies of the earlier half of the century, and the Wesleyan and Evangelical revival in its latter half, are quite sufficient in themselves to make the Church history of the period exceedingly important. They are beyond doubt its principal and leading events. But there was much more besides in the religious life of the country that is well worthy of note. The Revolution which had so lately preceded the opening of the century, and the far more pregnant and eventful Revolution which convulsed Europe at its close, had both of them many bearings, though of course in very different ways, upon the development of religious and ecclesiastical thought in this country. One of the first and principal effects of the change of dynasty in 1688 had been to give an immense impetus to Protestant feeling. This was something altogether different in kind from the Puritanism which had entered so largely into all the earlier history of that century. It was hardly a theological movement; neither was it one that bore primarily and directly upon personal religion. It was, so to say, a strategical movement of self defence. The aggression of James II. upon the Constitution had not excited half the anger and alarm which had been caused by his attempts to reintroduce Popery. And now that the exiled King had found a refuge in the court of the monarch who was not only regarded as the hereditary enemy of England, but was recognised throughout Europe as the great champion of the Roman Catholic cause, religion, pride, interest, and fear combined to make all parties in England stand by their common Protestantism. Not only was England prime leader in the struggle against Papal dominion; but Churchmen of all views, the great bulk of the Nonconformists, and all the reformed Churches abroad, agreed in thinking of the English Church as the chief bulwark of the Protestant interest.
Projects of comprehension had ended in failure before the eighteenth century opened. But they were still fresh in memory, and men who had taken great interest in them were still living, and holding places of honour. For years to come there were many who greatly regretted that the scheme of 1689 had not been carried out, and whose minds constantly recurred to the possibility of another opportunity coming about in their time. Such ideas, though they scarcely took any practical form, cannot be left out of account in the Church history of the period. In the midst of all that strife of parties which characterised Queen Anne's reign, a longing desire for Church unity was by no means absent. Only these aspirations had taken by this time a somewhat altered form. The history of the English Constitution has ever been marked by alternations, in which Conservatism and attachment to established authority have sometimes been altogether predominant, at other times a resolute, even passionate contention for the security and increase of liberty. In Queen Anne's reign a reaction of the former kind set in, not indeed by any means universal, but sufficient to contrast very strongly with the period which had preceded it. One of the symptoms of it was a very decided current of popular feeling in favour of the Church. People began to think it possible, or even probable, that with the existing generation of Dissenters English Nonconformity would so nearly end, as to be no longer a power that would have to be taken into any practical account. Concession, therefore, to the scruples of 'weak brethren' seemed to be no longer needful; and if alterations were not really called for, evidently they would be only useless and unsettling. In this reign, therefore, aspirations after unity chiefly took the form of friendly overtures between Church dignitaries in England and the Lutheran and other reformed communities abroad, as also with such leaders of the Gallican party as were inclined, if possible, to throw off the Papal supremacy and to effect at the same time certain religious and ecclesiastical reforms. Throughout the middle of the century there was not so much any craving for unity as what bore some outward resemblance to it, an indolent love of mere tranquillity. The correspondence, however, that passed between Doddridge and some of the bishops, and the interest excited by the 'Free and Candid Disquisitions,' showed that ideas of Church comprehension were not yet forgotten. About this date, another cause, in addition to the quieta non movere principle, interfered to the hindrance of any such proposals. Persons who entertained Arian and other heterodox opinions upon the doctrine of the Trinity were an active and increasing party; and there was fear lest any attempt to enlarge the borders of the Church should only, or chiefly, result in their procuring some modifications of the Liturgy in their favour. Later in the century, the general question revived in immediate interest under a new form. It was no longer asked, how shall we win to our national communion those who have hitherto declined to recognise its authority? The great ecclesiastical question of the day—if only it could have been taken in hand with sufficient earnestness—was rather this: how shall we keep among us in true Church fellowship this great body of religiously minded men and women who, by the mouth of their principal leader, profess real attachment to the Church of England, and yet want a liberty and freedom from rule which we know not how to give? No doubt it was a difficulty—more difficult than may at first appear—to incorporate the activities of Methodism into the general system of the National Church. Only it is very certain that obstacles which might have been overcome were not generally grappled with in the spirit, or with the seriousness of purpose, which the crisis deserved. Meanwhile, at the close of the period, when this question had scarcely been finally decided, the Revolution broke out in France. In the terror of that convulsion, when Christianity itself was for the first time deposed in France, and none knew how widely the outbreak would extend, or what would be the bound of such insurrection against laws human and divine, the unity of a common Christianity could not fail to be felt more strongly than any lesser causes of disunion. There was a kindness and sympathy of feeling manifested towards the banished French clergy, which was something almost new in the history of Protestantism. The same cause contributed to promote the good understanding which at this time subsisted between a considerable section of Churchmen and Dissenters. Possibly some practical efforts might have been set on foot towards healing religious divisions, if the open war waged against Christianity had long been in suspense. As it was, other feelings came in, which tended rather to widen than to diminish the breach between men of strong and earnest opinions on different sides. In some men of warm religious feeling the Revolution excited a fervent spirit of Radicalism. However much they deplored the excesses and horrors which had taken place in France, they did not cease to contemplate with passionate hope the tumultuous upheaval of all old institutions, trusting that out of the ruins of the past a new and better future would derive its birth. The great majority of Englishmen, on the other hand, startled and terrified with what they saw, became fixed in a resolute determination that they would endure no sort of tampering with the English Constitution in Church or State. Whatever changes might be made for better or for worse, they would in any case have no change now. Conservatism became in their eyes a sort of religious principle from which they could not deviate without peril of treason to their faith. This was an exceedingly common feeling; among none more so than with that general bulk of steady sober-minded people of the middle classes without whose consent changes, in which they would feel strongly interested, could never be carried out. The extreme end of the last century was not a time when Church legislation, for however excellent an object, was likely to be carried out, or even thought of.
To return to the beginning of the period under review. 'Divine right,' 'Passive obedience,' 'Non-resistance,' are phrases which long ago have lost life, and which sound over the gulf of time like faint and shadowy echoes of controversies which belong to an already distant past. Even in the middle of the century it must have been difficult to realise the vehemence with which the semi-religious, semi-political, doctrines contained in those terms had been disputed and maintained in the generation preceding. Yet round those doctrines, in defence or in opposition, some of the best and most honourable principles of human nature used to be gathered—a high-minded love of liberty on the one hand, a no less lofty spirit of self-sacrifice and loyalty on the other.
The open or half-concealed Jacobitism which, for many years after the Revolution, prevailed in perhaps the majority of eighteenth-century parsonages could scarcely fail of influencing the English Church at large, both in its general action, and in its relation to the State. This influence was in many respects a very mischievous one. In country parishes, and still more so in the universities, it fostered an unquiet political spirit which was prejudicial both to steady pastoral work and to the advancement of sound learning. It also greatly disturbed the internal unity of the Church, and that in a manner peculiarly prejudicial to its well-being. Strong doctrinal and ecclesiastical differences within a Church may do much more good in stirring a wholesome spirit of emulation, and in keeping thought alive and preventing a Church from narrowing into a sect, than they do harm by creating a spirit of division. But the semi-political element which infused its bitterness into Church parties during the first half of the eighteenth century, had no such merit. It did nothing to promote either practical activity or theological inquiry. Under its influence High and Broad Church were too often not so much rival schools of religious thought, and representatives of different tones of religious feeling, as rival factions. King William's bishops—a set of men who, on the whole, did very high honour to his selection—were regarded by a number of the clergy with suspicion and aversion, as his pledged supporters both in political and ecclesiastical matters, no less ready to upset the established order of the Church than they had been to change the ancient succession of the throne. These, in their turn, scarcely cared to conceal, if not their scorn, at all events their supreme mistrust, for men who seemed in their eyes like bigoted disturbers of a Constitution in which the country had every reason to rejoice.
More than this, Jacobitism brought the National Church into peril of downright schism. There was already a nucleus for it. If the Nonjuring separation had been nothing more than the secession of a number of High Churchmen—some of them conspicuous for their piety and learning, and almost all worthy of respect as disinterested men who had strong convictions and stood by them—the loss of such men would, even so, have been a serious matter. But the evil did not end there. Although the Nonjurors, especially after the return of Nelson and others into the lay communion of the Established Church, were often spoken of with contempt as an insignificant body, an important Jacobite success might at any time have vastly swelled their number. A great many clergymen and leading country families had simply acquiesced in the rule of William as king de facto, and would have transferred their allegiance without a scruple if there had seemed a strong likelihood that James or the Pretender would win the crown back again. In this case the Nonjuring communion, which always proudly insisted that it alone was the true old Church of England, might have received an immense accession of adherents. It would not by any means have based its distinctive character upon mere Jacobite principles. It would have claimed to be peculiarly representative of the Catholic claims of the English Church, while Whigs and Low Churchmen would have been more than ever convertible terms. As it was, High Churchism among country squires took a different turn. But if the Stuart cause had become once more a promising one, and had associated itself, in its relations towards the Church, with the opinions and ritual to which the Nonjurors were no less attached than Laud and his followers were in Charles I.'s day, it is easy to guess that such distinctive usages might soon be welcomed with enthusiasm by Jacobites, if for no other reason, yet as hallowed symbols of a party. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Church parties had been already strained and most unhappily embittered by political dissensions; under the circumstances supposed, division might readily have been aggravated into hopeless schism. But Jacobitism declined; and a less, but still a serious evil to the Church ensued. Jacobitism and the Papacy had become in most people's minds closely connected ideas. Hence the opinions upon Church matters prevalent among Nonjurors and their ecclesiastical sympathisers in the Established Church became also unpopular, and tainted with an unmerited suspicion of leaning towards Rome. This was no gain to the Church of the Georgian era. Quite independently of any bias which a person may feel towards this or that shade of opinion upon debated questions, it may be asserted with perfect confidence that the Church of that period would decidedly have gained by an increase of life and earnestness in any one section of its members. A colourless indifferentism was the pest of the age. Some movement in the too still waters was sorely needed. A few Ritualists, as they would now be called, in the metropolitan churches, zealous and active men, would have stimulated within the Church a certain interest and excitement which, whether it were friendly or hostile, would have been almost certainly beneficial. But, in the middle of the century, High Churchmen of this type would scarcely be found, except in Nonjuror 'conventicles,' and among the oppressed Episcopalians of Scotland.
The public relations of civil society towards religion attracted in the eighteenth century—especially in the earlier part of it—very universal attention. Of the various questions that come under this head, there was none of such practical and immediate importance as that which was concerned with the toleration of religious differences. The Toleration Act had been carried amid general approval. There had been little enthusiasm about it, but also very little opposition. Though it fell far short of what would now be understood by tolerance, it was fully up to the level of the times. It fairly expressed what was thoroughly the case; that the spirit of intolerance had very much decreased, and that a feeling in favour of religious liberty was decidedly gaining ground. Meanwhile, in King William's reign, and still more so in that of his successor, there was a very strongly marked contention and perplexity of feeling as to what was really meant by toleration, and where its limits were to be fixed. Everybody professed to be in favour of it, so long as it was interpreted according to his own rule. The principle was granted, but there were few who had any clear idea as to the grounds upon which they granted it, and still fewer who did not think it was a principle to be carefully fenced round with limitations. The Act of Toleration had been itself based in great measure upon mere temporary considerations, there being a very strong wish to consolidate the Protestant interest against Papal aggression. Its benefits were strictly confined to the orthodox Protestant dissenters; and even they were left under many oppressive disabilities. A great principle had been conceded, and a great injustice materially abated. Henceforth English Dissenters, whose teachers had duly attested their allegiance, and duly subscribed to the thirty-six doctrinal articles of the Church of England, might attend their certified place of worship without molestation from vexatious penal laws. It was bare toleration, accorded to certain favoured bodies; and there for a long time it ended. Two wide-reaching limitations of the principle of tolerance intervened to close the gate against other Nonconformists than these. Open heresy could not be permitted, nor any worship that was adjudged to be distinctly prejudicial to the interests of the State. No word could yet be spoken, without risk of heavy penalty, against the received doctrine of the Trinity. Nonjurors and Scotch Episcopalians could only meet by stealth in private houses. As for Romanists, so far from their condition being in any way mitigated, their yoke was made the harder, and they might complain, with Rehoboam's subjects, that they were no longer chastised with whips, but with scorpions. William's reign was marked by a long list of new penal laws directed against them. There were many who quoted with great approval the advice (published in 1690, and republished in 1716) of 'a good patriot, guided by a prophetic spirit.' His 'short and easy method' was, to 'expel the whole sect from the British dominions,' and, laying aside 'the feminine weakness' of an unchristian toleration, 'once for all, to clear the land of these monsters, and force them to transplant themselves.' Much in the same way there were many good people who would have very much liked to adopt violent physical measures against 'freethinkers' and 'atheists.' Steele in the 'Tatler,' Budgell in the 'Spectator,' and Bishop Berkeley in the 'Guardian,' all express a curious mixture of satisfaction and regret that such opinions could not be summarily punished, if not by the severest penalties of the law, at the very least by the cudgel and the horsepond. Whiston seems to have thought it possible that heterodox opinions upon the mystery of the Trinity might even yet, under certain contingencies, bring a man into peril of his life. In a noticeable passage of his memoirs, written perhaps in a moment of depression, he speaks of learning the prayer of Polycarp, 'if it should be my lot to die a martyr.' The early part of the eighteenth century abounds in indications that amid a great deal of superficial talk about the excellence of toleration the older spirit of persecution was quite alive, ready, if circumstances favoured it, to burst forth again, not perhaps with firebrand and sword, but with the no less familiar weapons of confiscations and imprisonment. Toleration was not only very imperfectly understood, even by those who most lauded it, but it was often loudly vaunted by men whose lives and opinions were very far from recommending it. In an age notorious for laxity and profaneness, it was only too obvious that great professions of tolerance were in very many cases only the fair-sounding disguise of flippant scepticism or shallow indifference. The number of such instances made some excuse for those who so misunderstood the Christian liberalism of such men as Locke and Lord Somers, as to charge it with irreligion or even atheism.
Nevertheless the growth of toleration was one of the most conspicuous marks of the eighteenth century. If one were to judge only from the slowness of legislation in this respect, and the grudging reluctance with which it conceded to Nonconformists the first scanty instalments of complete civil freedom, or from the words and conduct of a considerable number of the clergy, or from certain fierce outbursts of mob riot against Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Jews, it might be argued that if toleration did indeed advance, it was but at tortoise speed. In reality, the advance was very great. Mosheim, writing before the middle of the century, spoke of the 'unbounded liberty' of religious thought which existed in England. Perhaps the expression was somewhat exaggerated. But in what previous age could it have been used at all without evident absurdity? Dark as was the general view which Doddridge, in his sermon on the Lisbon Earthquake, took of the sins and corruption of the age, freedom from religious oppression he considered to be the one most redeeming feature of it. The stern intolerant spirit, which for ages past had prompted multitudes, even of the kindest and most humane of men, to regard religious error as more mischievous than crime, was not to be altogether rooted out in the course of a generation or two. But all the most influential and characteristic thought of the eighteenth century set full against it. In this one respect, the virtues and vices of the day made, it might almost be said, common cause. It might be hard to say whether its carelessness and indifference had most to do with the general growth of toleration, or its practical common sense, its professed veneration for sound reason, its love of sincerity. It is more remarkable that there was so much toleration in the last century, than that there was also so much intolerance.
A crowd of writers, of every variety of opinion, had something to write or say on the subject of Church establishments. But until the time of Priestley few ever disputed the advantages derivable from a National Church. Many would have warmly agreed with Hoadly that 'an establishment which did not allow of toleration would be a blight and a lethargy.' So long as this was conceded, scarcely any one wished that the ancient union of Church and State should be dissolved. With rare exceptions, even Nonconformists did not wish it. However much fault they might find with the existing constitution of the Church, however much they might inveigh against what they considered to be its errors, however much they might point to the abuses which deformed it, and to the uncharitable spirit of some of its clergy, they by no means desired its downfall. Probably, it is not too much to say that to some extent they were even proud of it, as the chief bulwark in Europe of the reformed faith. The Presbyterians at the beginning of the century, a declining, but still a strong body, were almost Churchmen in their support of the national communion. Doddridge, towards the middle of the century, was a hearty advocate of religious establishments. Even Watts, a more decided Dissenter than he, in a poem written in the earlier part of Queen Anne's reign, spoke as if he would be thoroughly content to see a National Church working side by side with voluntary bodies, each labouring in the way most fitted to its spirit in the common cause of religion. Mrs. Barbauld, towards the end of the century, expressed the same thought; and a great number of the more intelligent and moderate Dissenters would have agreed in it. On the general question, we are told that about the time of the Revolution of 1688 there was scarcely one Dissenter in a hundred who did not think the State was bound to use its authority in the interests of the religion of the people. Half the last century had passed before any considerable number of them had begun to think differently. John Wesley is sometimes quoted as unfavourable to the connection of Church and State. Doubtless he did not greatly value it, and perhaps he may have used some expressions which, taken by themselves, might seem in some degree to warrant the inference just mentioned. But the love and loyalty which, all his life through, he bore towards the English Church was certainly connected not only with a high estimation of its doctrines and modes of worship, but with respect for it as the acknowledged Church of the realm. The Evangelical party in the Church were, without exception, thorough Church and State men. John Newton's 'Apologia' was, in particular, a very vigorous defence of Church establishments. During the earlier stages of the French Revolution—a period when unaccustomed thoughts of radical changes in society became very attractive to some ardent minds in every class—the party among the Dissenters who would have welcomed disestablishment received the accession of a few cultivated Churchmen. But Samuel Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth found reason afterwards wholly to change their views in this, as in many other respects. Furthermore, the increased radicalism of the few was more than counterbalanced by the intensified conservatism of the many. The glowing sentences in which Edmund Burke dwelt upon religion as the basis of civil society, and proclaimed the purpose of Englishmen, that, instead of quarrelling 'with establishments as some do, who have made a philosophy and a religion of their hostility to such institutions, they would cleave closely to them,' found an echo in the minds of the vast majority of his countrymen. This had been the general feeling throughout the century. With all its faults—and in many respects its condition was by no means satisfactory—the Church of England had never ceased to be popular. Sometimes it met with contumely, often with neglect; occasionally its alleged faults and shortcomings were sharply criticised, and people never ceased to relish a jest at the expense of its ministers. But they were not the least inclined to subvert an institution which had not only rooted itself into the national habits, but was felt to be the mainstay throughout the country of religion and morals. Although too often deficient in the power of evoking and sustaining the more fervent emotions of piety, it was representative to the great bulk of society of most of their aspirations towards a higher life, most of their realisations of spiritual things. It was sleepy, but it was not corrupt; it was genuine in its kind, so that the good it did was received without distrust. Nor could anyone deny that throughout the country it did an immense deal of quiet but not unrecognised good. There were few places where the general level would not have been lower without it. It had fought a good battle against Rome, and against the Deists; and the hold which, since the middle of the century, had been gained in it by the Evangelical revival proved it not incapable of kindling with a zeal which some had begun to think was foreign to its nature. The Church, therefore, as a great national institution, was perfectly safe. Circumstances had no doubt forced a good deal of attention to its relation with the State. But these discussions had few direct practical bearings. Hence the theoretical and abstract character which they wear in the writings of Warburton and others.
In casting a general glance over the history of the English Church in the eighteenth century, it will be at once seen that there is a greater variety of incident in its earlier years than in any subsequent portion of the period. There were controversies with Rome, with Dissenters, with Nonjurors, with Arians, and above all, with Deists. There was correspondence and negotiation with the French and Swiss Reformed Churches, with German Lutherans, with French Gallicans. Schemes of comprehension, though no longer likely to be carried out, were discussed with strong feeling on either side. There was much to be said about occasional conformity, about toleration, about the relation between Church and State. There was the exciting subject of 'danger to the Church' from Rome, or from Presbyterianism, or from treason within. For there was vehement party feeling and hot discussion in ecclesiastical matters. Some looked upon the Low or Broad Church bishops as the most distinguished ornaments of the English Church; others thought that if they had their way, they would break down all the barriers of the Church, and speedily bring it to ruin. With some, High Churchmen were the only orthodox representatives of the English Church; in the eyes of others they were firebrands, Jacobites, if not Jesuits, in disguise, a greater danger to the ecclesiastical establishment than any peril from without. No doubt party feeling ran mischievously high. There was much bigotry, and much virulence. Such times, however, were more favourable to religious activity than the dull and heavy stormless days that followed. In the earlier part of the eighteenth century there were very many men worthy to be spoken of with the utmost honour, both in the High and Low Church parties. A great deal of active Christian work was set on foot about this time. Thus the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was founded, and gathered round the table of its committee-room men of very different opinions, but all filled with the same earnest desire to promote God's glory, and to make an earnest effort to stem the irreligion of the times. From its infancy, this society did a vast deal to promote the object for which it had been established. The sister Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts attested the rise of missionary activity. Societies for the suppression of vice, and for the reformation of public manners, sprang up in most of the large towns, and displayed a great, some thought an excessive, zeal in bringing to the bar of justice offenders against morality. Numerous associations were formed—on much the same model as that adopted in later years by the founders of the Methodist movement—of men who banded to further their mutual edification, and a more devotional life, through a constant religious observance of the ordinances and services of the Church. In many cases they made arrangements to provide public daily prayers where before there had been none, or to keep them up when otherwise they would have fallen through. Parochial libraries were organised in many parts of the kingdom, sometimes to provide religious and sound moral literature for general public use, more often to give the poorer clergy increased facilities for theological study. A most beneficent work was set on foot in the foundation of Charity Schools. During the five years which elapsed between the forming of the Christian Knowledge Society in 1699, and the first assemblage of the Metropolitan Charity School children in 1704, fifty-four schools had started in and about London alone; and their good work went on increasing. The new Churches—fifty in intention, twelve in fact—built in London and Westminster by public grant were another proof of the desire to administer to spiritual needs. Nor should mention be omitted of the provision made by Queen Anne's Bounty for the augmentation of poor livings, many of which had become miserably depauperised. By this liberal act the Queen gave up to Church uses the first fruits and tenths, which before the Reformation had been levied on the English clergy by the Pope, but from Henry VIII.'s time had swelled the income of the Crown.
The Sacheverell 'phrensy,' and the circumstances which led to the prorogation of Convocation, are less satisfactory incidents in the Church history of Queen Anne's reign. In either case we find ourselves in the very midst of that semi-ecclesiastical, semi-political strife, which is so especially jarring upon the mind, when brought into connection with the true interests of religion. In either case there is an uncomfortable feeling of being in a mob. There is little greater edification in the crowd of excited clergymen who collected in the Jerusalem Chamber, than in the medley throng which huzzaed round Westminster Hall and behind the wheels of Sacheverell's chariot. The Lower House of Convocation evidently contained a great many men who had been returned as proctors for the clergy, not so much for the higher qualifications of learning, piety, and prudence, as for the active part they took in Church politics. There were some excellent men in it, and plenty of a kind of zeal; but the general temper of the House was prejudiced, intemperate, and inquisitorial. The Whig bishops, on the other hand, in the Upper House were impatient of opposition, and often inconsiderate and ungracious to the lower clergy. Such, for example, were just the conditions which brought out the worse and disguised the more excellent traits of Burnet's character. It is not much to be wondered at, that many people who were very well affected to the Church thought it no great evil, but perhaps rather a good thing, that Convocation should be permanently suspended. Reason and common sense demand that a great Church should have some sort of deliberative assembly. If it were no longer what it ought to be, and the reason for this were not merely temporary, a remedy should have been found in reform, not in compelled silence. But even in the midst of the factions which disturbed its peace and hindered its usefulness, Convocation had by no means wholly neglected to deliberate on practical matters of direct religious concern. And unless its condition had been indeed degenerate, there can be little doubt that it would have materially assisted to keep up that healthy current of thought which the stagnation of Church spirit in the Georgian age so sorely needed. The history, therefore, of Convocation in Queen Anne's reign, turbulent as it was, had considerable interest of its own. So also the Sacheverell riots (for they deserve no more honourable name) have much historical value as an index of feeling. Ignorance and party faction, and a variety of such other unworthy components, entered largely into them. Yet after every abatement has been made, they showed a strength of popular attachment to the Church which is very noteworthy. The undisputed hold it had gained upon the masses ought to have been a great power for good, and it has been shown that there was about this time a good deal of genuine activity stirring in the English Church. Unhappily, those signs of activity in it decreased, instead of being enlarged and deepened. In whatever other respects during the years that followed it fulfilled some portion of its mission, it certainly lost, through its own want of energy, a great part of the influence it had enjoyed at this earlier date.
The first twenty years of the period include also a principal part of the history of the Nonjurors. Later in the century, they had entirely drifted away from any direct association with the Established Church. Their numbers had dwindled; and as there seemed to be no longer any tangible reason for their continued schism, sympathy with them had also faded away. There are some interesting incidents in their later history, but these are more nearly related to the annals of the Episcopal Church of Scotland than to our own. Step by step in the earlier years of the century the ties which linked them with the English Church were broken. First came the death of the venerable bishops, Ken and Frampton; then the return to the established communion of Nelson, and Dodwell, and other moderate Nonjurors; then the wilful perpetuation of the schism by the consecration of bishops; then the division into two parties of those who adopted the Communion Book of Edward VI., with its distinctive usages, and those who were opposed to any change. All this took place before 1718. By that time the schism was complete.
One more characteristic feature of the early part of the century must be mentioned. The essayists belong not only to the social history of the period, but also to that of the Church. Few preachers were so effective from their pulpits as were Addison and his fellow-contributors in the pages of the 'Spectator' and other kindred serials. It was not only in those Saturday papers which were specially devoted to graver musings that they served the cause of religion and morality. They were true sons of the Church; and if they did not go far below the surface, nor profess to do more as a rule than satirise follies and censure venial forms of vice, their tone was ever that of Christian moralists. They did no scanty service as mediators, so to say, between religion and the world. This phase of literature lived on later into the century, but it became duller and less popular. It never again was what it had been in Addison's time, and never regained more than a small fraction of the social power which it had then commanded.
After Queen Anne's reign, the main interest of English Church history rests for a time on the religious thought of the age rather than on its practice. The controversy with the Deists (which lasted for several years longer with unabated force), and that in which Waterland and Clarke were the principal figures, are discussed separately in this work. But our readers are spared the once famous Bangorian controversy. Its tedious complications are almost a by-word to those who are at all acquainted with the Church history of the period. Some of the subjects with which it dealt have ceased to be disputed questions, or no longer attract much interest. Above all, its course was clouded and confused by verbal misunderstandings, arising in part, perhaps, from the occasional prolixity of Hoadly's style, but chiefly from the distorting influence of strong prejudices.
It is unquestionable that Hoadly's influence upon his generation was great. Some, looking upon the defects of the period that followed, have thought of that influence as distinctly injurious. They have considered that it strongly conduced to a negligent belief and indifference to the specific doctrines of Christian faith, making men careless of truth, so long as they thought themselves to be sincere; also that it loosened the hold of the Church on the people by impairing respect for authority, and by tending to reduce all varieties of Christian faith to one equal level. It is a charge which has some foundation. The religious characteristics of the age, whatever they were, were independent in the main of anything the Whig bishop did or wrote. Still, he was one of those representative men who give form and substance to a great deal of floating thought. He caught the ear of the public, and engrossed an attention which was certainly very remarkable. In this character as a leader of religious thought he was deficient in some very essential points. He was too much of a controversialist, and his tone was too political. There was more light than heat in what he wrote. So long as it was principally a question of right reason, of sincerity, or of justice, he deserved much praise, and did much good. In all the qualities which give fire, energy, enthusiasm, he was wanting. The form in which his religion was cast might suit some natures, but was too cold and dispassionate for general use. It fell in only too well with the prevailing tendencies of the times. It might promote, under favouring circumstances, a kind of piety which could be genuine, reflective, and deeply impressed by many of the divine attributes, but which, in most cases, would need to be largely reinforced by other properties not so easily to be found in Hoadly's writings—tenderness, imagination, sympathy, practical activity, spiritual intensity.
The rise and advance of Methodism, and its relationship with the English Church, is a subject of very great interest, and one that has occupied the attention of many writers. In these papers it has been chiefly discussed as one of the two principal branches of the general Evangelical movement.
Treatises on the evidences of Christianity constitute a principal part of the theological literature of the eighteenth century. No systematic record of the religious history of that period could omit a careful survey of what was said and thought on a topic which absorbed so great an amount of interest. But if the subject is not entered into at length, a writer upon it can do little more than repeat what has already been concisely and comprehensively told in Mr. Pattison's well-known essay. The authors, therefore, of this work have felt that they might be dispensed from devoting to it a separate chapter. Many incidental remarks, however, which have a direct bearing upon the search into evidences will be found scattered here and there in the course of this work. The controversy with the Deists necessitated a perpetual reference to the grounds upon which belief is based both in the Christian revelation, and in those fundamental truths of natural religion upon which arguers on either side were agreed. A great deal also, which in the eighteenth century was proscribed under the name of 'enthusiasm' was nothing else in reality than an appeal of the soul of man to the evidence of God's spirit within him to facts which cannot be grasped by any mere intellectual power. By the greater part of the writers of that period all reference to an inward light of spiritual discernment was regarded with utter distrust as an illusion and a snare. From the beginning to the end of the century, theological thought was mainly concentrated on the effort to make use of reason—God's plain and universal gift to man—as the one divinely appointed instrument for the discovery or investigation of all truth. The examination of evidences, although closely connected with the Deistical controversy, was nevertheless independent of it. Horror of fanaticism, distrust of authority, an increasing neglect of the earlier history of Christianity, the comparative cessation of minor disputes, and the greater emancipation of reason through the recent Act of Toleration, all combined to encourage it. Besides this, physical science was making great strides. The revolution of ideas effected by Newton's great discovery made a strangely wide gap between seventeenth and eighteenth century modes of thinking and speaking on many points connected with the material universe. It was felt more or less clearly by most thinking men that the relations of theology to the things of outward sense needed readjustment. Newton himself, like his contemporaries, Boyle, Flamsteed, and Halley, was a thoroughly religious man, and his general faith as a Christian was confirmed rather than weakened by his perception of the vast laws which had become disclosed to him. On many others the first effect was different. Either they were impressed with exorbitant ideas of the majesty of that faculty of reasoning which could thus transcend the bounds of all earthly space, or else the sense of a higher spiritual life was overpowered by the revelation of uniform physical laws operating through a seeming infinite expanse of material existence. The one cause tended to create a notion that unassisted reason was sufficient for all human needs; the other developed a frequent bias to materialism. Both alike rendered it imperative to earnest minds that felt competent to the task to inquire what reason had to say about the nature of our spiritual life, and the principles and religious motives which chiefly govern it. Difficulties arising out of man's position as a part of universal nature had scarcely been felt before. Nor even in the last century did they assume the proportions they have since attained. But they deserve to be largely taken into account in any review of the evidence writers of that period. Not to speak of Derham's 'Physico-Theology' and other works of that class, neither Berkeley, Butler, nor Paley—three great names—can be properly understood without reference to the greatly increased attention which was being given to the physical sciences. Berkeley's suggestive philosophy was distinctly based upon an earnest wish to release the essence of all theology from an embarrassing dependence upon the outward world of sense. Butler's 'Analogy'—by far the greatest theological work of the century—aims throughout at creating a strong sense of the unity and harmony which subsists between the operations of God's providence in the material world of nature, and in that inner spiritual world which finds its chiefmost exposition in Revelation. Paley's 'Natural Theology,' though not the most valuable, is by no means the least interesting of his works, and was intended by him to stand in the same relation to natural, as his 'Evidences' to revealed religion.
The evidence writers did a great work, not lightly to be disparaged. The results of their labours were not of a kind to be very perceptible on the surface, and are therefore particularly liable to be under-estimated. There was neither show nor excitement in the gradual process by which Christianity regained throughout the country the confidence which for a time had been most evidently shaken. Proofs and evidences had been often dinned into careless ears without much visible effect, and often before weary listeners, to whom the great bulk of what they heard was unintelligible and profitless. Very often in the hands of well-intentioned, but uninstructed and narrow-minded men, fallacious or thoroughly inconclusive arguments had been confidently used, to the detriment rather than to the advantage of the cause they had at heart. But at the very least, a certain acquiescence in the 'reasonableness of Christianity,' and a respect for its teaching, had been secured which could hardly be said to have been generally the case about the time when Bishop Butler began to write. Meanwhile the revived ardour of religion which had sprung up among Methodists and Evangelicals, and which at the end of the century was stirring, in different forms but with the same spirit, in the hearts of some of the most cultivated and intellectual of our countrymen, was a greater practical witness to the living power of Christianity than all other evidences.
In quite the early part of the period with which these chapters deal there was, as we have seen, a considerable amount of active and hopeful work in the Church of England. The same may be said of its closing years. The Evangelical movement had done good even in quarters where it had been looked upon with disfavour. A better care for the religious education of the masses, an increased attention to Church missions, the foundation of new religious societies, greater parochial activity, improvement in the style of sermons, a disposition on the part of Parliament to reform some glaring Church abuses—all showed that a stir and movement had begun, which might be slow to make any great advance, but which was at all events promising for the future. Agitation against slavery had been in great part a result of quickened Christian feeling, and, in a still greater degree, a promoting cause of it. And when the French Revolution broke out, it quickly appeared how resolutely bent the vast majority of the people were to hold all the more firmly to their Christianity and their Church. Some of the influences which in the early part of the century had done so much to counteract the religious promise of the time, were no longer, or no longer in the same degree, actively at work. There was cause, therefore, for confident hope that the good work which had begun might go on increasing. How far this was the case, and what agencies contributed to hinder or advance religious life in the Church of England and elsewhere, belongs to the history of a time yet nearer to our own.
Bishops, both as fathers of the Church and as holding high places, and living therefore in the presence of the public, cannot, without grave injury not to themselves only, but to the body over which they preside, suffer their names to be in any way mixed up with the cabals of self-interest and faction. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Episcopal bench numbered among its occupants many men, both of High and Low Church views, who were distinctly eminent for piety, activity, and learning. And throughout the century there were always some bishops who were thoroughly worthy of their high post. But towards the middle of it, and on to its very close, there was an undoubted lowering in the general tone of the Episcopal order. Average men, who had succeeded in making themselves agreeable at Court, or who had shown that they could be of political service to the administration of the time, too often received a mitre for their reward. Amid the general relaxation of principle which by the universal confession of all contemporary writers had pervaded society, even worthy and good men seem to have condescended at times to a discreditable fulsomeness of manner, and to an immoderate thirst for preferments. There were many scandals in the Church which greatly needed reform, but none which were so keenly watched, or which did so much to lower its reputation, as unworthy acts of subserviency on the part of certain bishops. The evil belonged to the individuals and to the period, not by any means to the system of a National Church. Yet those who disapproved of that system found no illustration more practically effective to illustrate their argument.
Throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, almost all writers who had occasion to speak of the general condition of society joined in one wail of lament over the irreligion and immorality that they saw around them. This complaint was far too universal to mean little more than a general, and somewhat conventional tirade upon the widespread corruption of human nature. The only doubt is whether it might not in some measure have arisen out of a keener perception, on the part of the more cultivated and thoughtful portion of society, of brutal habits which in coarser ages had been passed over with far less comment. Perhaps also greater liberty of thought and speech caused irreligion to take a more avowed and visible form. Yet even if the severe judgment passed by contemporary writers upon the spiritual and moral condition of their age may be fairly qualified by some such considerations, it must certainly be allowed that religion and morality were, generally speaking, at a lower ebb than they have been at many other periods. For this the National Church must take a full share, but not more than a full share, of responsibility. The causes which elevate or depress the general tone of society have a corresponding influence, in kind if not in degree, upon the whole body of the clergy. Church history, throughout its whole course, shows very clearly that although the average level of their spiritual and moral life has always been, except, possibly, in certain very exceptional times, higher in some degree than that of the people over which they are set as pastors, yet that this level ordinarily rises or sinks with the general condition of Christianity in the Church and country at large. If, for instance, a corrupt state of politics have lowered the standard of public virtue, and have widely introduced into society the unblushing avowal of self-seeking motives, which in better times would be everywhere reprobated, the edge of principle is likely to become somewhat blunted even where it might be least expected. In the last century unworthy acts were sometimes done by men who were universally held in high honour and esteem, which would most certainly not have been thought of by those same persons if they had lived in our own day. The national clergy, taken as they are from the general mass of educated society, are sure to share very largely both in the merits and defects of the class from which they come. Except under some strong impulse, they are not likely, as a body, to assume a very much higher tone, or a very much greater degree of spiritual activity, than that which they had been accustomed to in all their earlier years. It was so with the clergy of the eighteenth century. Their general morality and propriety was never impeached, and their lives were for the most part formed on a higher standard than that of most of the people among whom they dwelt. But they were (speaking again generally) not nearly active enough; the spiritual inertness which clung over the face of the country prevailed also among them. Although, therefore, the Church retained the respect and to a certain extent the affection of the people, it fell evidently short in the Divine work entrusted to it.