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Full text of "[untitled] The Harvard Theological Review, (1916-01-01), pages 135-137"

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BOOK REVIEWS 135 

each of the two earliest-writing prophets, and to Isaiah, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel, and Deutero-Isaiah. The audience which the author hopes 
to reach is not the one composed of Old Testament critics, but of 
preachers and laymen who have many interests other than the study 
of the Hebrew Scriptures. The book is scientific without being tech- 
nical. It deals with the religion of the prophetic books rather than 
their criticism, without being homiletical. 

F. B. Blodgett. 
The General Seminary, New York. 



SPIRITUAL ReFORMEBS IN THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES 

Rufus M. Jones. The Macmillan Co. 1914. Pp. lii, 362. $3.00. 

This volume by Professor Jones of Haverf ord College is the fruit 
of his research into the life and influence of Jacob Boehme, and of 
his discovery that Boehme, instead of standing as a solitary figure, 
was in reality one of a widespread group of men who formed an 
important though largely forgotten undercurrent of the Reforma- 
tion. Professor Jones has given us fresh information about eight 
or ten of Boehme's forerunners; has discussed Boehme himself, and 
his influence in England; and has concluded his book with studies 
of a dozen Englishmen of the seventeenth century whom he con- 
siders as "interpreters of spiritual religion." Most of the men of 
whom he writes are but little known to the average reader; some of 
them he has drawn up from an oblivion which has long hidden them. 
The German forerunners of Boehme — for example, Hans Denck, 
Biinderlin, Entfelder, Weigel — have been hitherto not only practi- 
cally unknown to the English-speaking world but have been scarcely 
noted even in Germany. Professor Jones is primarily interested 
in these men as forerunners of Quakerism — "Quakers before Quak- 
erism" — and he has had no difficulty in showing that the Society 
of Friends is founded upon religious ideals which had long been 
current in Germany and England, and which waited but the moment 
of crystallization. But these men were, quite as truly, the forerun- 
ners of religious liberalism in general, and some of them are start- 
lingly modern in their point of view. Only a few of them are 
properly to be classed as Mystics, and Professor Jones has chosen a 
happy title in calling them Spiritual Reformers. 

The book opens with an admirable introduction on "What is 
Spiritual Religion?" — an introduction which many readers will 
find the most suggestive and helpful chapter in the book. The author 
has fully recognized the contribution to our knowledge of religion 



136 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

made by studies into racial origins and by psychology, but he points 
out that the content of religion is something much greater than 
the phenomena which science thus limits and describes. He clearly 
distinguishes between those types of mysticism which have grown 
artificial and flabby, and the deep religious faith and feeling, guided 
by breadth of vision and clear-sighted intelligence, which he terms 
"spiritual religion." For these "spiritual reformers," though well 
acquainted with mysticism, were at the same time Humanists. Most 
of them were university graduates. They were confident of the 
power of the human intellect, but they were profoundly distrustful 
of the ability of the dialectic of scholasticism to discern truth. They 
were in fact the religious radicals of their time, and when the earlier 
of them broke with the Reformation leaders it was because the lead- 
ers failed to carry the Reformation on to its logical conclusion. Their 
emphasis was laid upon the ethical aspect of religion, upon Christi- 
anity as a way of life rather than a system of dogma. Sacrament 
and ceremony they did not condemn, but rather came to think of 
it as unimportant. The church was for them not a mysterious and 
supernatural body, but "a Fellowship, a Society, a Family." Some 
of them, Hans Denck, for instance, held a doctrine of "the inward 
word" practically identical with the Quaker belief in "The Inner 
Light," and all of them believed in the continued revelations of the 
Divine to the waiting soul. Many of them were persecuted for their 
opinions; some suffered a martyr's death. Yet all they asked of 
the Reformation was no more than its legitimate fruit. "I am," 
writes Castellio in his appeal for toleration, "I am a poor little man, 
more than simple, humble and peaceable, with no desire for glory, 
only affirming what in my heart I believe; why cannot I live and say 
my honest word, and have your love?" 

When Professor Jones turns from the noble but pathetic story of 
these well-nigh forgotten men to discuss the influence of Boehme in 
England, we come among more familiar figures. He finds such 
strong traces of Boehme's influence in the writings of George Fox 
that it is difficult to believe that the founder of Quakerism was not 
directly indebted to the German mystic. Dr. John Everard of 
Clare College, Cambridge, was another Englishman whom he shows 
to have been profoundly influenced by Boehme's forerunners, 
Sebastian Franck and Sebastian Castellio. Through Everard's 
preaching the spiritual ideals of these earlier men were introduced 
into England. Professor Jones goes on to consider other Englishmen 
who come properly enough under the title of "spiritual reformers" 
but whose connection with Boehme and his German predecessors 



BOOK REVIEWS 137 

is far less close. Perhaps the most notable of these was Benja- 
min Whichcote, one of the first of the Cambridge Platonists or 
"Latitude Men." The volume concludes with a discussion of 
Thomas Traherne and "the spiritual poets of the 17th century" — 
admirable subjects for a sympathetic study, but not very close kin 
to the earlier men whom the author has considered. Indeed the 
chief criticism to be made of this very stimulating and enlightening 
volume is that the last third is too loose-jointed — that Professor 
Jones has been tempted to include some men who are hardly entitled 
to be called "spiritual reformers," interesting as they are as types 
of religious experience. But readers of this fascinating volume will 
be more inclined to count this a virtue than a fault. And they will 
be grateful to Professor Jones both for bringing to light these little- 
known forerunners of a larger faith, and, not less, for giving them his 
own wise and uplifting interpretation of the significance of "spiritual 
religion." 

Henet Wilder Foote. 
Harvard University. 

English Chukch Life from the Restoration to the Tractarian Move- 
ment. J. Wickham Legg. Longmans, Green, & Co. 1914. Pp. xx, 
428. $3.75. 

This is not a history; it is rather an encyclopaedia of ecclesiastical 
customs. The author says (p. vii) that the period under considera- 
tion has been uniformly denounced as a time of general decay in 
religion, when the clergy were desirous only of fees and preferment, 
when the laity neglected religious observances, and the spirit of 
piety was dead. The aim of the book is to controvert this opinion 
by calling the writers of the period to bear witness to the practice 
of piety and morality among the people. The author opens his 
argument by referring to the large number of books on religious 
topics published during this time; remarking that "booksellers do 
not risk their money on such publications unless there be a fair 
chance of a return." He then goes on to show that while it was a 
common custom to celebrate the Eucharist monthly, weekly cele- 
brations were frequent, and daily not unknown. He gives quota- 
tions describing the furniture of the churches, the ceremonies and 
vestments of worship, the use of discipline and public penance, 
confession, prayers for the dead, the invocation of saints and angels, 
an account of the attempts during the period for union with the 
Roman and Greek Churches and with the Protestants of the 
Continent.