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I 



THE THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS 

OF OXFORD AND THEIR 

MOVEMENTS 

JOHN WYCLIFFE JOHN WESLEY 
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 



THE MACMILXAN CX)MPANY 
mw vmoc • BonoN • Chicago • dallas 

ATIAICTA - 1AM F K AMOICO 

MAOilLLAN & CO., LmmD 

LOMDOM • BOMIAV • CALCUTTA 



THE liACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 



THE THREE RELIGIOUS 

LEADERS OF OXFORD AND 

THEIR MOVEMENTS 



JOHN WYCLIFFE JOHN WESLEY 
JOHN HENJIY 5fEWMAN 



BT 

S. PARKES CADMAN 



TStfo Hotfc 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1916 

All rigkU rM€r94d 



I 




THE NEW yci-iK 
PUBLIC LIBRARv 

7tH01 1 

TlUOl N ^.■ Mj^ .„ ,_, 
■•5 1913 ; 



CopTBtaoT, 191ft, 

bt the magmillan company. 



Set up and electrotyped. PuUished March, 1916. 



> • • 
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.1. 8. CaHhtng Oo. — Berwiok di Smith Co. 
Norwood, Maat., U.S.A. 



ICo 

WALTER COUTANT HUMSTONE 

OF BROOKLYN 

ni TOKEN OF GRATITUDE FOB TKARS ILLUMINATKD 

BT HIS MAKT ACTS OF WISE AND 

TENDER FRIENDSHIP 

THIS BOOK 

IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED 






• * • ' • 






• • • * 
• • • • 



• * « 

• a- • 
- • • » 






• t 



• • • 



• •••:! ! 



• • • 



PREFACE 

This book wm aoggested by a oourse of lectures delivered 
under the auspices of The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and 
Sciences during the Lenten season of 1918. It has since 
been revised with some care, and would have been issued 
earlier but for the pressure of pastoral and public duties. 
It deals with three great Englishmen, great Christians, 
great Churchmen, and loyal sons of Oxford, who, as it seems 
to me, are the foremost leaders in religious life and activ- 
ity that University has yet given to the world. Many 
prophets, priests, and kings have been nourished within 
her borders, but none who in significance and contribution 
to the general welfare compare with Wycliffe, the real 
originator of European Protestantism; Wesley, the Angli- 
can priest who became the founder of Methodism and one 
of the makers of modem England and of English-speaking 
nations ; Newman, the spiritual genius of his century who 
re-interpreted Catholicism, both Anglican and Roman. 

Hence I have named the volume ^^ The Three Religious 
Leaders of Oxford and their Movements," a title which 
appears to be vindicated by the facts so far as I have 
been able to ascertain them. It will probably be said 
that I omit some of these and misconstrue others. This 
is more than likely, and if it be so, I must be held 
wholly responsible. I can only plead in extenuation that 
I have tried to be as disinterested and as just as my stand- 
point and the information at my disposal would permit, 
and that throughout I have sincerely intended to give an 
impetus to that fraternal spirit which leads to a more 



viii PREFACE 

complete apprehension of divine truth. I shall be amply 
rewarded if those who have any sympathy with the men 
and the movements I have attempted to portray, whether 
Roman Catholics or Protestants, are drawn more closely 
together in the bonds of a common faith and fellowship. 

My thanks are due and are here respectfully extended 
to the Reverend Doctor Herbert B. Workman, Principal 
of Westminster College, London, who used his unsurpassed 
knowledge of Wycliffe and of Wesley to correct the first 
eight chapters ; to my colleague at Central Church, the 
Reverend David Loinaz, for his constant research in the 
subjects discussed; to my friends, the Reverend Doctor 
W. L. Watkinson, formerly Editor of The London Quarterly 
Review^ the Reverend John L. Self ord, rector of the Roman 
Catholic Church of the Nativity, Brooklyn, and the Rev- 
erend Doctor Joseph Dunn Burrell, pastor of the Classon 
Avenue Presbyterian Church, in the same borough, for 
the loan of valuable volumes and documents ; to Professor 
Edgar A. Hall, of Adelphi College, and the Reverend 
Charles Waugh for their fruitful suggestions and verifi- 
cation of quotations ; and to the Reverend Oscar L. Joseph 
for his scholarly assistance and preparation of the Index. 

The reader is asked to remember that the lectures were 
given before an audience composed of different religious 
denominations, and this circumstance rendered necessary 
explanations and details which otherwise might seem 
superfluous. 

& PARKES CABMAN. 

Gbhtral Cohoeboational Chukch, 

Brookltv, Nbw York Cxtt. 

September the flnt, 1916. 



PROLOGUE 



Among many other benefits for which ffistory hath been honoured, 
in this one it triumpheth over all human knowledge, that it hath given 
us life in our understanding, since by it the world itself had life and 
beginning, even to this day : yea, it hath triumphed over Time, which 
besides it nothing but Eternity hath triumphed over. For it hath 
carried our knowledge over the vast and devouring space of so many 
thousands of years and given so fair and piercing eyes to our mind, that 
we plainly behold living now, as if we had lived then, that great world, 
magni Dei sapiens opus — 'The wise world,' saith Hermes, 'of a great 
God' — as it was then, when but new to itself. By it, I say, it is that 
we live in the very time when it was created ; we behold how it was 
governed ; how it was covered with water and again re-peopled ; how 
kings and kingdoms have flourished and fallen, and for what virtue and 
piety God made prosperous, and for what vice and deformity He made 
wretched, both the one and the other. And it is not the least debt 
which we owe unto History, that it hath made us acquainted with our 
dead ancestors, and out of the depth and darkness of the E^arth deliv- 
ered us their memory and fame. In a word, we may gather out of 
History a policy no less wise than eternal, by the comparison and appli- 
cation of other men's aforepassed miseries with our own like errors and 
ill-deservings. — From the Preface: Hirtory ; lU Rights and Dignity. 

Sib Walter Raleigh. 



PROLOGUE 

The study of history cannot give mathematical certainty ; 
yet, right^ pursued, it should instill the serious and reverent 
temper which lessens the danger of partisan blindness. A 
sense of the largeness and complexity of the experiences of 
the past is an aid to the recovery of their vital phases. The 
more deeply these experiences are pondered, the more com- 
pletely they are stripped of the accidental and non-essential, 
the more clearly manifest becomes their fundamental rela- 
tion to the process of human development. 

Such considerations are always of value, but never more 
90 than in the period before us. For during the medie- 
val epoch Churdi and State were intimately related, and 
those who would gain a just apprehension of the era must 
endeavor to attain the state of that practised observer 

"... whose even-balanced soul. 

From first youth tested up to extreme old age, 
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild, 

Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole." 

Again, throughout the Middle Ages the limitation of man's 
power over his environment is everywhere strikingly ap- 
parent. Of means of expression for aspiration and ideal 
there was no lack, but any practical realization was 
obstructed by the difficulties and complications imposed 
by circumstances. How philosophical theories influenced 
statesmanship and politics, how their seeming triumphs 
so often ended in disaster, and what qualities either in them 
or in their advocates clothed them with influence and insured 



Xli THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

permanent benefits, solidifying government and peojde, 
the career of WycliflFe may perhaps serve to illustrate; 
for the Reformer embodied much of the genius of medieval 
England. The attempt to reproduce the life of the period 
is materially hampered, however, by the obscurity of per- 
spective in which many lines of action and the chief per- 
sonalities of the age are alike enveloped. The original 
authorities upon whom historians must rely for informa- 
tion were, as a rule, advocates of some particular cause. 
They knew little or nothing about reducing vexed questions 
of the time to definite limits, nor did they study them in 
the light of their initiatory circumstances. Swayed by con- 
temporary views, they seldom subordinated their partisan 
proclivities to fairness of statement, and their work bears 
the impress of the passions rather than of the intellect. 
Private opinion or special sympathy biased their judgments, 
and the chroniclers sought in their records to vindicate poli- 
cies and individuals agreeable to their peculiar persuasions. 
Where one group could find nothing but the beneficial, 
another perceived the portents of grave disaster. Even 
the best among them did not recognize the superiority, as a 
historical method, of dose observation over empty argu- 
ment. Their writings ranged from the grotesquely imagina- 
tive, credulous of physical prodigies and disdainful of facts, 
to vapid and colorless recitals without pith or meaning. 
Evidences of predetermination were rife in the widely difiFer- 
ing estimates of pontiffs, princes, prelates, and scholastics 
whose careers were woven into the tangle of current contro- 
versies. And the well-poised, many-sided historian who 
might have bequeathed to us a detached and comprehen^ve 
survey of the ecclesiastical events around which medieval 
civilization centered, and from which modem ideas were 
projected, was then scarcely a possibility. Eminent scholars, 
however, such as Freeman, Stubbs, Creighton, Seeley, and 
Lord Acton, have recovered the gains of long past centuries 
and have enabled us to understand medieval men and affairs, 



PROLOGUE xiii 

Dot only when they were swayed by unusual circumstances, 
but also by those common sentiments which influence all 
ages alike. The process has dwarfed some heroes and 
robbed some events of a spurious greatness, but the dis- 
illusionment was as necessary as it wa^ wise. 

Ranke's axiom, which he himself exemplified, '' simply 
to find out how things occurred,'' requires far more than the 
perusal of ancient manuscripts. The knowledge of the main 
lines of history; of the motives at the root of steadfast 
national purposes; of constantly interfering factors of in- 
fluence; and a vivid realization of the continuity of the 
historical process, and of the shaping power of vigorous per- 
sonality, are prime requisites for the successful interpreta- 
tion of the past. Our gratitude is due to the historians who 
have conformed to these principles; they recall the Greek 
adage that truth is the fellow-citizen of the gods. 

It was a notable achievement to bridge the gulf made by 
the Renaissance between the Medieval and the Modem era. 
The faith and laws, the ideals and practices, the conceits 
and fancies of our remoter progenitors still appear strange 
and perplexing to the unaccustomed eye. But the trained 
and patient interpretation of the nineteenth centiuy scholar 
has brought them nearer to us, moralized the entire method 
of research, and taught us to moderate alike our denuncia- 
tion and our eulogy. The occupants of that era confronted 
obstacles too great for their resources to surmount. The 
influx of a larger, freer life had seriously weakened many 
venerable customs and institutions, and while these slowly 
succumbed the reconstruction of the social fabric was de- 
layed by treachery, violence, and war. Yet even in this 
disdainful passage of the irresistible tide, preparatory to 
impending change, the primal elements of himian progress 
were not submerged. Amid the chaos, the pretensions of 
the aristocracy and the delusions of the proletariat were 
checked; clericalism measured itself against the rapacity 
and pride of kings and barons; municipalities arose, en- 



XXV THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

riched by the growth of trade, the magnates of which some- 
times thwarted the rulers they lavishly entertained, and 
for whose campaigns they were financially responsible. 
Guilds of artisans and tradesfolk, unified by mutual interest 
and external opposition, flourished in the chief cities of 
Europe. VWien clerics were recalcitrant, or where mer- 
chants and workmen did not preponderate, their respective 
organizations still served as counteracting forces, and their 
union was a factor monarchs and lords were compelled to 
respect. Feudalism reluctantly yielded to the social im- 
pact, while the disguise of chivalry availed it less and less. 
Slaves became freemen, freemen became biu*ghers, biu*ghers 
acquired a firmer hold on the sources of national revenue and 
the control of the State. Education was no longer a clerical 
monopoly, .and the few learned laymen who had then secured 
recognition were pioneers of that distribution of knowledge 
whidi eventually characterized Humanism. Justice be- 
tween man and 'man was not simply exact conformity to 
preexbtent and obligatory law. Legal relations were sifted 
in the light of advancing intelligence. That vague, uncodi- 
fied borderland which is now called social justice, as distin- 
guished from the statutes of the realm, was sufficiently 
defined for the periodical introduction of laws which in- 
corporated some of its claims and validated certain personal 
and property rights. The baneful dogma which assumed a 
natural servitude for the vast majority became politically 
inexpedient among the bold insurgents who threatened 
Richard the Second's reign. Foreign intercourse disturbed 
the insularity of England ; the Crusades brought the West 
face to face with the Elast, and men began to be aware of the 
breadth and splendor of the world. The nationalism which 
arose after the defeat of the Holy Roman Empire by the 
Papacy vanquished in its turn the schemes of the latter for 
a consolidated Christendom. No countiy gave a more 
generous reception to the new consciousness of the integrity 
of the State than did England. Her geographical situation 



PROLOGUE XV 

and the temper of her people had always separated her from 
the currents of continental opinion, and, while this was a 
loss in some respects, in most it proved a decided gain. The 
stages in hmnan evolution are seldom noted until they 
stand out in the bold rdief of a crisis. Their occurrence in 
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was registered, and 
thrir changes accomplished, through such intermediaries 
as St. Francis, Innocent III, Grosseteste, Edward I, Wydiffe, 
snd other great personalities, who focused and intensified 
the tendencies of their day. 

These observations also apply to the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries. John Wesley expressed the spiritual 
aspirations and transformed the character of his age more 
profoundly and permanently than did any other contempo- 
rary Englishman. Even the younger Pitt, who defeated 
Napoleon the Great, and added India to the British Empire, 
is now seen to have been inferior in lasting influence to the 
apostolic evangelist who revived the consciousness of a 
redeeming God. Newman quickened a sense of ecclesiastical 
imiversalism which his insular countrymen had deemed 
obsolete. He linked Anglican to continental Christianity. 
This achievement has largely determined for the past sixty 
years the conceptions of the Establishment concerning its 
ministerial and sacramental efficiency, its forms of worship, 
and its relations with other Conmiunions. The reader will 
expand for himself the consequences following such major 
events as the American Revolution, the French Revolution, 
the growth in politics and in morals of those plain and fun- 
damental principles which a series of tragical experiences 
discovered to be the basis of just government. The ever- 
increasing conviction that sovereignty must reside with the 
people gave rise to the American Republic, regenerated 
France, democratized the British nation and its colonies, 
and still strives for an intelligent formulation in other coun- 
tries of mankind. Nor were these later centuries deprived 
of publicists whose passion for leadership was an energetic 



xvi THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

activity both for good and evil. The interregnums between 
Walpole and Gladstone, Bolingbroke and Russell ; between 
Louis XIV and Napoleon the Great, or Washington and 
Webster, filled as they are with prominent personalities and 
achievements, can be surveyed to-day with a more impartial 
eye. Few, if any, of these monarchs and statesmen escaped 
'' the contagion of the world's slow stain." At the same time 
they were in closest fellowship with the erring millions they 
led in peace and war. And if some among them sacrificed 
principle to power and ambition, ever and anon others ap- 
peared who redeemed the credit of the race and showed what 
oould be effected by untranmieled character and service. 



CONTENTS 



BOOK I 

JOHN WYCLIFFE AND LATER 
MEDIEVALISM 

I. Heralds of Reform • 

n. Sources of Wtcuffianism . 
HL The Quarrel with the Papacy 
IV. Princes akd People 

Epilogue and Bibliography 



PAOB 

3 

47 

81 

125 

165 



BOOK II 

JOHN WESLEY AND THE EIGHTEENTH 

CENTURY 

V. Ancestry and Training 175 

VI. Bareness and Dawn 213 

VII- Conflict and Victory 259 

VIIL Consolidation and Expansion 311 

Epilogue. Important Dates. Bibuography . . 365 

BOOK III 

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN AND THE OXFORD 
MOVEMENT OF 1833-1845 



DL The Nineteenth Century Renaissance . 
X« Newman's Development and Personality 
XI. Tractarianism and its Results 
Epilogue and Bibliography 



Index 



387 
433 
505 
572 

591 



xvU 



BOOK I 
JOHN WYCLIFFB 

AMD 

LATER liiEDIEVALISM 



Give me a spirit that on this life's rough sea 
Loves t' have his sails filled with a lusty wind, 
Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack. 
And his rapt ship run on her side so low 
That she drinks water, and her keel plows air. 

, Geoboe CHiLPMAN : Tragedy cf Charles, 

Duke cf Byron. Act III, Sc. I. 



2 



CHAPTER I 
HERALDS OF REFORM 



Hkaven doth with us as we with torches do. 

Not light them f(»r ourselves; for if our virtues 

Did not go forth of us, 't w&e all alike 

As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd 

But to fine issues, nor nature never lends 

The smallest scruple of h^ excellence 

But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines 

Herself the glory of a creditor, 

Both thanks and use. 

Shakespeare : Measure for Measure, Act I, Sc. L 



CHAPTER I 

HERALDB OF BEFOBM 

Wydiffe's place in history — His protest against religious and pdit- 
icid oppression — Sketch of devdopment of Andean resistance to 
Papal daims — ^debrand — His conc^tion of a theocracy — Rdap 
tions with William the Conqueror — Controversy regarding lay inves- 
titure — Henry II and Becket — Constitutions of Clarendon — Becket's 
influence on his countrymen — King John — His quarrd with Innocent 
in — Papal interdict on England — John's excommunication and hb 
abject surrender — Great Charter — Grosseteste — His resistance to 
Innocent IV — Henry de Bracton — Simon de Montf ort — Edward I 

— Hb conflict with Boniface VIU — The devdopment of English 
nationalism under his rule — Contrast betweoi 13th and 14th cen- 
turies — Period of Wydiffe's birth one of general decadence — Birth- 
place of the Reformer — Early years — Entrance at Oxford — Early 
histofy of Oxford — Origin of the Univo^ty — Medieval meaning of 
the tarns "Vmv&dty" and "College" — Founding of English college 
system — Vf titer de Merton — William de Wykeham — Physical 
characteristics of Medieval Oxford — Conditions of living — Beneficent 
influence of College Founders — Obscurity of Wydiffe's Oxford life — 
The "Nations" — Resources of Medieval students — Laical spirit of 
the Colleges — Their freedom from dass-distinctions — Wycliffe as the 
Master of Bailiol — Election to benefices — Obtains degree in theology 

— His position as a scholar. 



The paramount interest of Wydiffe's work as a reformer 
centers in his courageous stand for religious and political 
freedom during the quarrel between the English government 
and the Papacy. This recurrent conflict had its sordid and 
repulsive phases, which were relieved by the devotion of the 
few who, concentrating their energies on the prindples in- 
volved, gave the dispute a moral significance, and largely 

5 



6 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

determined the outcome. A brief r&mn6 of the points at 
issue in this protracted strife b in place here. 

The origin of the struggle is traceable to the extravagant 
claims of the Holy See and the characteristically independent 
spirit of the Anglican Church. This age-long rivalry explains 
the powerful yet ineflfective protest of Wydiffe, and also the 
later revolt under Henry VIII, which, unjustified as it was in 
some respects, met a national demand and culminated in 
an English Reformation. The degree of liberty enjoyed 
from the beginning by the English hierarchy should not be 
exaggerated, for there was a connection with the Papacy 
which served distinct purposes and was neither feebly nor 
thoughtlessly established. Nothing is gained by trying to 
prove that the relationship never existed, any more than by 
dbregarding the substantial reasons for its severance. 

Hildebrand, who gave a definite enunciation to the Papal 
claims, was elevated to the throne of St. Peter in 1073 and 
assumed the title of Gregory VII. As an ecclesiastic he was 
at once philosophical and practical, large-minded enough to 
conceive or revive far-reaching policies, and possessed of a 
penetrative knowledge of mankind and a prophetic under- 
standing of the spirit of his age. The purity of his personal 
life, the strength of his character, and the force of his will 
cooperated with his zeal for service to make him a bom leader 
of men. Before his lofty vision arose the stupendous ideal 
of a theocratic State, embracing the entire world, over which, 
as God's Vicegerent, he asserted his sovereignty. Civil or 
religious rulers might not question the prerogatives of his 
office, since they were conferred by the Deity Himself, to 
Whom alone the Pontiff was responsible. Far from being 
content to leave these august designs in the realm of remote 
theory, Hildebrand strove to make them actual, and to bring 
them into closest touch with those days of violent disruption 
and constant change. No man could have been selected as 
the Vicar of Christ who was better fitted by nature and cir- 
cumstances to act for the cause with which his name b asso- 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 7 

dated. Sagacious and aident, he knew how to conform to 
the immemorial traditions of the Papacy, and also how to 
stamp upon its fabric and diplomacy the impress of his com- 
manding nature. Although he failed in certain directions, 
he nevertheless succeeded in investing the Holy See with a 
spiritual influence which overawed and yet in a measure 
cemented the continental nationalities. He accomplished 
by the subtle suggestions and definite claims of sacerdotal 
authority a task which armed hosts would have found im- 
possible. But the defects latent in HUdebrand's statecraft 
began to appear even during his own administration, and 
increased in after times. He could not induce England to 
bow to Us spiritual autocracy : then as now she was sheltered 
by that splendid isolation which has always guarded her 
from continental ecdesiastidsm. The inherent sense of 
freedom which the Anglo-Saxon people cherished survived 
even the Norman Conquest and prevented the feudal system 
from taking deep root on English soil. 

Hildebrand Imew that Englishmen would not willingly 
permit the imposition upon them of any ^stem, however 
impressive in its scope and purpose, which jeopardized their 
national autonomy ; and in the hope of counteracting this 
sentiment he had advised his predecessor, Alexander H, to 
bestow his blessing upon the expedition of the Duke of 
Normandy in 1066. The desires of the two ecclesiastics were 
frustrated by the Conqueror himself, who so quickly ab- 
sorbed the leaven of his new realm that when the three 
legates were despatched from Rome by the Pope to demand 
homage from the king for his new island dominion, they met 
with the severe rebuflf, — "Homage to thee I have not 
diosen, nor do I choose to do. I never made a promise to 
that effect, nor do I find that it was ever performed by my 
predecessors to thine." The Norman bishops who were 
appointed to English sees were careful to adopt their mon- 
arch's policy. The Primates of Canterbury and York had 
always been supreme in their archiepiscopates, and there 



8 THREE RBLIOIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

were no indications in the tenor of previous Papal decrees or 
edicts that the Pope claimed the right of overlordship. 
Thus sustained by precedent, the civil power, both before 
and after the Conquest, retained certain rights in England 
which it did not possess in Grermany. It should be added, 
however, that the Anglican Church was far from being 
locally independent, and that no one was more anxious than 
the Conqueror to bring it into touch with continental 
Catholicism. 

HUdebrand resorted to other measures: in 1075 a bull 
was issued denying to the laity the right of investiture 
for churches ; three years later investitures were pronounced 
invalid when thus bestowed, and the penalty of excommuni- 
cation was passed upon those disobeying the edict. Lay 
investitiu^ originated when bishops and abbots became 
temporal lords and bestowed upon laymen extensive church 
properties in return for military service. Ecclesiastical 
office was then held to be of the natiu^ of a fief for which 
homage was due to the king. If a Chapter's choice of its 
bishop or abbot was displeasing to the monarch, he could 
refuse to ratify the election, whereupon during the interval 
the income of the benefice reverted to the Crown. William 
Ruf us, the unscrupulous son and successor of the Conqueror, 
was a notorious transgressor in this respect. He kept the 
see of Canterbury vacant four years that he might appro- 
priate its emoluments. In a fit of remorse, due to his fear 
of death, he nominated to the Primacy the saintly and 
learned Anselm, abbot of Bee in Normandy, a thinker, a 
sensitive pietist of the character which Englishmen seldom 
appreciate sympathetically, but one who, to quote the phrase 
of Ronsard, ''had traveled far on the green path that leads 
men into remembrance." Upon the king's recovery from 
sickness his compimction vanished, and he resumed an open 
and shameless barter of spiritual dignities. Anselm's gentle 
and sincere natiu^ was not devoid of sterner qualities : he 
opposed the despotism of Rufus, and defended not only the 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 9 

clerical ord^, but also the imperiled rights of the subject. 
Finding it unsafe to remain in residence, the Archbishop 
^>pealed in person to Pope Urban II. It was during his 
absence from Canterbury that the prelate, who was pre- 
dominantly the quiet scholar, found leisure to write his 
odebrated treatise, 'Xur Deus Homo." After the death 
of Rufus, he refused to do homage to Henry I, or receive 
investiture at his hands. Pope Paschal II sanctioned the 
Primate's action, and eventually a compromise was efiFected. 
After the vexed reign of Stephen, during which the armies 
of the bishops fought against those of the king, the next 
open breach with the Papacy occurred under Henry II. 
The clergy now demanded trial in their own courts, which, 
in accordance with the unwise legislation enacted at the 
Conquest, were separated from the regular jurisdiction. The 
flagrant partiality of the clerical judiciary, its frequent mis- 
carriages of justice, and the number and influence of those 
tonsured miscreants who were thus exempt from the common 
law, constituted a grave menace to peace aud order by making 
the sacerdotal office a haven for criminals. The higher 
dergy surrounded themselves with retinues of armed re- 
tainers, among whom were warrior priests and not a few of 
the baser sort. In the ranks of the lower clergy were 
numerous rascab who had escaped punishment for offenses of 
which they were palpably guilty. While the controversy 
was at its height Henry bestowed the archbishopric upon his 
chancellor, Thomas k Becket, succinctly described by Wil- 
liam of Newburgh as one "burning with zeal for justice, 
but whether altogether according to wisdom, God knows." 
Becket at once became the champion of the extreme clerical 
party, and his sturdy. resistance of Henry's efforts to subdue 
it strained their friendship to the breaking point. In 
January, 1164, a Great Coimcil was convened at Clarendon, 
near Salisbury, to reduce the friction between Church and 
State. The resolutions then framed, and subsequently 
placed upon the statute-book, were termed the "Constitu- 



10 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

tions of Clarendon." They provided that accused clerics, 
when condemned and degraded by their own courts, should 
be transferred to the King's court to receive sentence; to 
which Becket properly objected that this would be trying a 
man twice for the same offense. Civil cases involving 
their members were to be adjusted before the ordinary 
tribunak. The clergy were forbidden to leave the country 
without the monardi's consent, neither could appeals be 
taken to Rome without the royal license. The agreement 
concerning investitiu^, under the terms of which the Pope 
allowed bishops and abbots to do homage to the king for 
their temporal properties, was confirmed. After repeated 
quibblings and equivocations Becket gave a reluctant assent 
to these changes, and then, speedily repentant, refused to 
affix his official seal. Pope Alexander III encouraged the 
Archbishop's refractory attitude, and Becket fled to France 
in November, 1164, to escape Henry's anger. There he 
remained six years in exile. Upon his return to Canterbury 
the townsfolk went in procession to meet him outside the 
city, and escorted him in triumph to his church. 

The jubilations were scarcely ended before the smoulder- 
ing fires broke out again, only to be quenched by the as- 
sassination of the fearless prelate in one of the chapels of the 
Cathedral. The crime excited universal horror and execra- 
tion : the four knights whose ferocious daring in the king's 
service prompted the miuxier had absolutely ruined their 
master's projects. Henry quailed before the storm of in- 
dignation which swept over Europe; he submitted to the 
Papal decrees, annulled the Constitutions of Clarendon, 
and made an open expiation in his dolorous pilgrimage to 
Becket's tomb. The popular admiration which had followed 
Becket during his later life was due to his courageous deter- 
mination and steadfast zeal for what he held to be justice 
against king and barons. Nothing could have enhanced 
that admiration more than the manner of his ending. No 
Englishman of the Middle Ages made so indelible an im- 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 11 

pression on his countrymen as did Thomas of Canterbury. 
It bas been well said that if Anselm was a saint whose supe- 
riority to ordinary motives made him a statesman, Becket 
was a statesman whose political audacity was transformed 
by the popular imagination into sainthood. 

n 

A deeper humiliation awaited the Crown in the reign 
of the second Henry's son John, whose folly and wickedness 
plunged the nation into turbulence and dishonor. After 
the death of Archbishop Hubert Walter, which occurred on 
July 12, 1205, a dispute arose between the king and the 
Chapter of the see in reference to Walter's successor. The 
younger monks met in haste before the deceased Primate 
was buried, and without applying for the royal warrant 
elected their sub-prior Reginald. They even went so far 
as to install him, and then secretly dispatched him to Rome 
to obtain the Papal confirmation. During his passage 
through Flanders, Reginald violated the confidence of his 
brethren by publicly announcing himself as the Archbishop- 
elect. In the ensuing tumult the king nominated John de 
Grey, Bishop of Norwich, the bishops and the older monks of 
the Chapter acquiescing, and a second deputation at once 
set out for the Vatican to push the claims of the king's 
candidate. 

The Pontiff, Innocent III, was a consummate administra- 
tor, in coimsel wary, in fidelity to hb oflBce impregnable, and 
an imflinching advocate of absolutism as enunciated by 
Hildebrand. "Regal dignity," said Innocent, "should be 
but a reflection of the Papal authority and entirely sub- 
ordinate to it." He was not prone to deceive himself, and 
he was not liable to be deceived by others. His fame has 
been clouded by the contention that he originated the 
Inquisition, and it is beyond question that he gave impetus 
to the extirpation of heresy by physical violence, deeming 



12 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

it high treason against Heaven. The Livonians and the 
Albigenses felt the weight of his hand; the continental 
rulers bent before his inflexible sway, and he was more than 
a match for the irresolute and demoralized John. 

During the week before Christmas, 1206, the rivals for 
the archbishopric were heard at the Papal court, where the 
king's duplicity precipitated his defeat. While openly 
protesting that the PontifiF's decision would be acceptable 
to all, he attempted to bribe the officials of the Curia, and 
enjoined the monks whom he had commissioned to elect 
no one but Grey. The futility of such double dealing was 
demonstrated in this negotiation with the astute Innocent, 
who could neither be cajoled nor affrighted by it. The 
election of R^inald was quashed as informal, that of Bishop 
de Grey was pronounced iU^al on the ground that it occurred 
while the appeal was pending ; ^ and Cardinal Stephen 
Langton, an Englishman by birth, and the first scholar in 
the foremost university of Eiut)pe, was named by Innocent 
for the see. The representatives of the Chapter concurred, 
regardless of their secret pact with John, and accordingly 
Langton was chosen. It is beyond reasonable doubt that 
Innocent was aware of the treachery of the English monarch, 
and he seems to have been sincerely solicitous that the throne 
of Augustine should be filled by a man of Langton's worth 
and caliber. He proceeded cautiously and declined to 
complete the election by consecrating Langton until the king 
had given his approval This John emphatically refused to 
bestow, and, notwithstanding his previous professions of 
admiration for the Archbishop, he now complained that he 
did not even know the obscure person who was being thrust 
upon him. At this unblushing prevarication, the Pope took 
the initiative and consecrated his nominee, whereupon the 
fury of the reckless king fell upon the monks who had dared 
to disobey his mandate. Innocent countered his assaults 

1 Bishop William Stubbs : "Historical Introduction to the Rolls Series** ; 
pp. 467-468. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 13 

with an impressive manifestation of the Papal authority 
whidi recalled that made by Hildebrand at Canossa. In 
the si»ing of 12089the realm was suddenly deprived of its 
religious instruction and ministry, and those holy offices 
of faith and consolation which were believed necessary to 
eternal salvation were simultaneously withdrawn. This 
stupendous s^itence, a formidable but also self-destruo- 
tive weapon of the medieval Church, filled the heart of the 
nation with grief and dismay. What effect it had on the 
king can only be conjectured ; at any rate he offered Lang- 
ton the royalties of his see and gave him permission to visit 
England. But overtures for peace were at an end by the 
time the Archbishop arrived at Dover; the bishops fled 
the country, the parochial clergy were outlawed from their 
charges, and the monasteries and nunneries were brought 
to the verge of starvation. The Papal interdict prevailed 
until 1212, and John took advantage of the general distress 
by api»opriating ecclesiastical benefices and funds to his 
own use. Finally the Pope excommunicated him, and 
when he retaliated with renewed defiances and plunderings. 
Innocent declared his deposition from the throne. Con- 
temporary accounts of the calamitous struggle assert that a 
prophecy of Peter of Wakefield played upon the king's su- 
perstitions and ended his resistance. However that may have 
been, it suddenly collapsed, and on May 15, 1213, he made an 
abject and total surrender in which he ceded the kingdoms of 
England and Ireland in perpetuity to Innocent and his 
successors, agreeing to hold them in fief from the Pope at 
an annual tribute of one thousand marks. By this act 
John endeavored to enlist the Holy See against the baronage, 
which was restive beneath the consequences of his misrule. 
Innocent insisted upon a guarantee of good behavior from 
the king, and in the final adjustment many significant 
constitutional changes were effected. But the people re- 
fused to place their confidence in a monarch who had 
dissipated every resource of loyalty and respect, and when 



14 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the barons brought him to bay at Runnymede they compelled 
him to sign the Great Charter, which was the chief token 
and instrmnent of the growing national consciousness. 

The shortcomings and disasters of John's malignant 
policy stimulated England's resolution to avoid such 
contingencies in the future. For although the prelates and 
lords acted in the place of the people, they did so in a rep- 
resentative capacity and to a certain extent with their 
consent and allegiance. The Charter long remained valu- 
able for what it promised rather than for what it actually 
performed ; since those who drafted and signed it were either 
unable or unwilling to enforce its articles. Yet its presence 
in the political life and history of the realm was a gain 
which neglect obscured but could not destroy. After eighty 
years of comparatively inoperative existence, one of the 
greatest epochs, the thirteenth century, which produced 
Dante, St. Francis, St. Louis, and the first Ekiward, witnessed 
its vitalization under the prince last named, a king as faith- 
ful as John was perfidious. Its provisions were incorporated 
into the principles of his government, promoting that har- 
mony and justice which were its steadfast bulwark. 

The reign of John brought about the consummation of 
Papal supremacy in England, the kingdom being formally 
annexed as a province of the spiritual empire, whose capital 
was the Vatican and whose disposer was the Pope. Reform 
within the Church was impossible so long as it was con- 
trolled by the Curia, and Englishmen composed themselves 
to make the best of a situation to which they were far from 
being reconciled. The Charter with which Stephen Lang- 
ton had been largely identified made no mention of Papal 
suzerainty. The implicit alliance between the throne and 
the clergy was severed for a long period, and notwithstand- 
ing the backset due to John's reprehensible conduct, in- 
dependency reasserted itself, not only in secular affairs 
but also in the more personal and religious life of the 
nation. 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 15 

III 

It was a tribute to the UDquestioned heroism and pie- 
toresqueness of Becket's life that Stephen Langton should 
have been proud to reckon him among the fathers of 
En^ish lib«iy. Both Archbishops resented foreign in- 
tervention, and when Matthew Paris sought to make 
lAngton a national saint he based his biography on the 
model of Thomas, maintaining that the two were representa- 
tives of the kingdom of England. Langton's importance 
is further shown by the fact that he was the connecting 
link between Becket and Ekimund Rich and Robert Grosse- 
teste. Rich was far removed, however, in the mildness 
and simplicity of his temper from the haughty and im- 
perious Becket. The Saint of Abingdon was better fitted 
f(Nr the cloister than for the archiepiscopal throne, and, 
whfle his writings were full of spiritual insight and charm, 
he was incapable of accurate estimate or vigorous action in 
reference to men and affairs. Although as Archbishop he 
was unable to arrest the laxity and intrigue of the day, the 
afiFection of his intimate friends led to his canonization 
within seven years from his death.* 

Robert Grosseteste, Chancellor^ of Oxford University, 
and afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, equaled Becket in firmness 
and surpassed him in wisdom. His vast diocese included 
the present sees of Lincoln, Peterborough, Oxford, and part 
of Ely, and his administration affords an outstanding proof 
of human capacity, not only with respect to the conduct 
of the business of his bishopric but also to its manifold re- 
lations with the Roman Curia and the Church at large. 
Wycliffe, chary of his praise, gave it to Grosseteste without 

1 W. H. Hutton: "The EngUflh Saints" ; p. 266. 

'The reader should not identify the university chancellorship of that 
period with the office of the same name at the present time. As Bishop of 
linooln in which diocese Oxford was, Grosseteste was of course the eccle- 
■astical head of the University ; the title of * Chancellor' would not be given 
to him, however, but to his representative at Oxford. 



16 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OP OXFORD 

stint. The versatility of his gifts and the extent of their 
exercise made him the most al^rt and universal intelligence 
in Britain. Among many appellations applied to him which 
indicated the admiration and love of his contemporaries 
were "The Loird Robert," "Robert of Lmcohi/' "Lin- 
colniensis/' "St. Robert," and "that great derk Grosse- 
teste." Roger Bacon averred he was the only man living 
who was in possession of all sciences, and had his warning 
been heeded, the University might have been diverted from 
its profitless plowing of the sands of later Scholasticism. 
He composed French verse, was well informed in law and 
medicine, and wrote with authority upon a wide range of 
subjects. His knowledge of Hebrew has been disputed; 
but the translations from his Greek manuscripts made by 
John of Basingstoke and Nicholas the Greek are not ques- 
tioned, and show that Grosseteste was proficient in this 
language. None could deny his large and varied learning, 
his surpassing intellectual capacities, his consecration to 
duty, or his inmiense working powers. These endowments 
and attainments were evinced in his supremacy as a bishop, a 
theologian, and a preacher. He strove to harmonize the 
respective truths of natural and revealed realities, and urged 
his pupils and clergy to study physical science in addition 
to the sacred literatures in their original tongues. The 
vibrant energies he imparted thrilled his diocese and were 
felt throughout the land. But the crowning proof of his 
superiority was the fact that his intellectual and moral 
growth continued to the last. Every year found him more 
necessary to Church and State than before. So deserved 
was his reputation for determining the essence of vexed ques- 
tions that those who were divided on many other matters 
were a unit in their reliance upon his arbitration. For his 
exposition and defense of public rights, for his fearless pro- 
tests against foreign tyrannies, whether temporal or clerical, 
for his disinterested patriotism, he was venerated by his 
countrymen. His occasional indiscretions, which were due 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 17 

to defects of temperament and incurred merited rebuke, 
were not sufficiently grave to mar his work or limit his adapta- 
bility and usefulness ; and an acquaintance with his achieve- 
ments is indispensable for those who would understand the 
religious development of his age in the direction of freedom 
and of self-control. 

Previously to 1247, Grosseteste had either favored or 
submitted to the ecclesiastical claims for which Becket 
died. This policy cannot be rightly judged by those for 
whom the Holy See is a standing conspiracy against the 
liberties of mankind or by those for whom it is always and 
everywhere an infallible organization for the regeneration 
and moral control of the world. An unprejudiced criticism 
will recognize even more clearly than the plenitude of 
partisan erudition that the weight of testimony is against 
these extreme opinions. Rome's authority, although far 
from perfect or desirable in every case, was not actuated 
solely by selfish motives, nor was it always inimical to the 
welfare of medieval society. Mr. Frederic Harrison's trib- 
ute to Innocent III is applicable to other Pontiffs: ''His 
eighteen years of rule from 1198 to 1216 were one long 
effort, for the moment successful, and in part deserving 
success, to enforce on the kings and peoples of Europe a 
higher morality, respect for the spiritual mission of the 
Church, and a sense of their common civilization. We feel 
that he is a truly great man with a noble cause." ^ The 
Papacy's better side will appear again in these pages; 
nevertheless, when the supremacy it claimed came into 
conflict with the spirit of awakened nationalism, it encoun- 
tered an opposition so formidable that it was driven 
to the devious courses of an intriguing diplomacy which 
it has since pursued. Without debating whether Hil- 
debrand or Wycliffe was correct in his interpretation of 
the Divine presence in human affairs, we may agree to 
so much as this: that where absolutism once reigned it 

> "The Meaning of Hiatory" ; p. 150. 



18 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OP OXFORD 

reigns no longer, and that the decentralization of its former 
powers is the present result of an extended and arduous 
experience. 

When in 1250 the Crown and the Papacy again cooperated 
for the subjugation of the English clergy, Grosseteste 
condemned the alliance, and even contemplated resigning 
his see. But his love for the Church prevailed, and he 
continued his labors in extirpating abuses and promoting 
reforms. His loyalty to Rome never recovered from the 
shock it then sustained, and he openly denoimced the 
financial expedients which Innocent IV adopted to defray 
the cost of his campaign against the Emperor. It was this 
Pontiff who demanded of Grosseteste a prebend at Lincoln 
for his nephew, Frederick De Lavagna, an Italian who could 
not speak English. The Bishop's famous reply, later known 
as the Sharp Epistle, is a valuable document for the 
study of the tendency of Anglicanism at this period.^ He 
said, " It will be known to yoiu* wisdom that I am ready to 
obey apostolical commands with filial affection and with 
all devotion and reverence, but to those things which are 
opposed to apostolical conunands, I in my zeal for the 
honor of my parent, am also opposed. By apostolical 
comjnands are meant those which are agreeable to the 
teachings of the Apostles and of Christ Himself, the Lord 
and Master of the Apostles, whose type and representation 
is specially borne in the ecclesiastical hierarchy by the Pope. 
The letter above mentioned is not consonant with apostolical 
sanctity, but utterly at variance and discord with it." 
Innocent was so enraged by this bold unprecedented censure 
from one whom he regarded as a renegade, that his Cardinals 
had difficulty in dissuading him from pronouncing excom- 
munication upon the most beloved bishop in Europe. The 
members of the Curia, notwithstanding the fact that 

* The Sharp Epistle was not written to Pope Innocent, but to Master 
Innocent, the Papal Legate in England, a fact which alters the whole drift 
of the document. 



JOHN WYCLIPPE 19 

Grosseteste had blamed them for the oppressions he de- 
nounced, participated in the veneration freely offered to the 
aged and saintly churchman of spotless integrity, and 
besought Innocent to let him end in peace. His enemies 
had not long to wait; on October 9, 1253, he passed to a 
well-earned rest. "The Church," said the dying man, 
"will not be free from her Egyptian bondage except at the 
point of the blood-stained sword." His valiant affirmation 
of the apostolic rule against those who sought to degrade 
it had ended in a seeming failure which saddened his last 
hours. Actually it played a considerable part in destroying 
the evil she mourned, and went far to fulfill Adam Marsh's 
enthusiastic prediction that "it should, by the aid of God, 
benefit all ages to come." 

The ideas and aims of Grosseteste were further developed 
in the writings of his friend Henry de Bracton, the well- 
known authority on English conmion law, who in his cele- 
brated work carefully defined the always sensitive relations 
between Church and State. He treated clerical claims to 
patronage as an unwarrantable interference destructive of 
the regularity and equity of the civil power and administra- 
tion. Decidedly national in temper and reasonable in state- 
ment, Bracton's argument was an additional example of 
the nature of the opposition to Papal supremacy. 

Another friend and junior contemporary of the Bishop 
of Lincoln was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, the 
leading member of the oligarchic party during the Barons' 
War. He was regarded by the populace^ as a saint and 
martyr and was eulogized as such by the Scottish chronicler 
of Melrose, whose comparison between him and Simon 
Peter, the prince of the Apostles, was probably traceable 
to the monk's animosity against Edward I, for whose 
career that of de Montfort served as a heroical but tragic 
prelude. His father, Simon de Montfort the elder, was 
noted for a crusade of persecution against the Albigenses. 

iSee Wright's ^'Political Songs of the Middle Ages" in the Rolls Series. 



20 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OP OXFORD 

The son, bom in France about the year 1200, succeeded to 
the earldom of Leicester in 1231, and his marriage in 1238 
allied him with the royal family. Jealousies and intrigues on 
the part of many of the nobility caused a breach between 
him and the king, and for a time drove him out of England. 
On his return and r)econciliation with Henry in 1241, however, 
the barons, who had hitherto r^arded him as a foreign 
interloper, joined him in his opposition to monarchical 
misrule. In a song which conmiemorated his victory at 
Lewes in the year before his death the Earl was hailed as the 
deliverer of the Church and the avenger of her wrongs, while 
the king's responsibility for his own acts and his liability 
to correction were also proclaimed. This was a partisan 
tribute, but the fact that Simon became famous among Eng- 
lish patriots and was a hearty supporter of Grosseteste's 
ecclesiastical reforms is established by his action in signing 
the protest of 1246 against the exactions of Rome. He was 
a practised warrior, a man of ascetical temperament and 
religious spirit, who championed the lower clergy and the 
conmionalty, sought to abolish arbitrary procedure, and to 
promote government upon laws framed by the representa- 
tives of the people. In 1264 Henry the Third's hostility 
to these changes provoked a rebellion which issued in the 
battle of Lewes, when Simon vanquished and captured the 
king and his sons, Prince Edward and Richard of Cornwall. 
He utilized his advantage to establish a triumvirate of 
which he was the head, and the Council which he summoned 
in 1265 succeeded to some extent in controlling public 
a£fairs. This legislative body may be looked upon as the 
germ of the modem British Parliament, and, notwith- 
standing repressions and retroactions, since Simon's day 
England's government has never lacked a constantly 
increasing element of popular representation. When the 
natural reaction set in he was accused of having designs 
upon the throne, and Edward, the young heir apparent, 
marched against him with an army which Simon himself 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 21 

• had trained in military strategy. ''By the arm of St 
James!'' he exclaimed, with a touch of soldierly pride, as 
he watched the advance of the royalist forces at Evesham 
on August 4, 1265, ''they come on in wise fashion, but it was 
from me they learned it." He knew that the die was cast 
against him, and, commending his soul to God, feU fighting 
to the last. 

The prince who redeemed the credit of his House in war 
renounced its favorite policy when the victory was won. 
Edward I discarded for the time being the Papal alliance 
upon which his Plantagenet predecessors had relied, and 
showed himself capable of appropriating the best ideas of 
his age. Far from abolishing representative assemblies, 
he saw in them the means of securing the stability of his 
tlirone and the welfare of his subjects. These objects he 
made his own, despite the embarrassments of his position, 
the exigencies of national defense, and the necessary re- 
construction which followed the dbtractions of civil con- 
flict. He chose in word and deed to be king of England, 
and the choice brought him honor and renown. His wise 
and zealous maintenance of law and order have earned for 
him the title of the Justinian of the Empire. He made 
that resistance to Papal interference with the affairs of the 
realm which was a salient characteristic of its best statesmen 
and rulers. In 1297 he gave his confirmation to the Charter, 
which had previously been neglected or openly violated, 
and its articles were applied with a firmness of faith and 
an intellectual lucidity that caused his reign to become a 
fountain of justice and equity, the currents of which continue 
their course into the present age. Boniface VIII tried out 
the issue when in 1296 he promulgated the bull "Clericis 
Laicos" * which forbade the taxation of ecclesiastics except 
by consent of the Holy See. Edward promptly retaliated 
by depriving the clergy of legal protection, arguing that if 

iPor a tranalation of the ^ull "Clericis Laicos," see E. F. Henderaon: 
"Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages." (Bohn) pp. 432-434. 



22 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

they would not contribute to the national exchequer they 
could not expect to share the benefits of the commonwealth. 
The clergy themselves were in sympathy with this position, 
and Boniface temporarily gave way only to reassert his 
authority in the case of Edward's relations to the throne 
of Scotland. The reply of the English Parliament to the 
Pope's letter indicated the extent to which the nation re- 
sented ecclesiastical supervision of its civil matters; it 
annoimced that the monarchs were not, and never had been, 
answerable for their political acts to any judge but their 
conscience and their people. Thus, at last, under Edward's 
directing hand, England converted into stepping-stones the 
obstacles placed in the path of her progress, and before the 
end of his reign became a imited nation. Although the 
king was harsh and domineering, he cherished a warm affec- 
tion for his subjects, who responded in kind. He revived 
and applied the useful measures he f oimd in abeyance with 
a sense of honor and of fairness and an earnest desire to ad- 
vance every legitimate interest. In this he succeeded, and 
his unique place in the history of England is attributable 
to that success. He reduced and incorporated Wales ; and, 
had he lived and succeeded in the conquest and settlement 
of Scotland and Ireland, the three kingdoms might have 
escaped centuries of turmoil and misery. But the racial 
barriers between the peoples were too strong to be shattered 
even by his terrific impact and it was left for after ages to 
complete his designs of consolidation and expansion. He was 
fortunate in that he escaped the toils of the French wars, 
which enmeshed the administration of his grandson, the third 
Edward. He created a national parliament, a national 
system of justice and of taxation, and a national army. The 
years from 1272 to 1290 were more fruitful in historic leg- 
islation than any other period of English history before the 
nineteenth centiuy, and for these laws Edward supplied the 
initiative. He was in truth a great monarch, second to 
none in the long array of those who have occupied the throne 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 23 

of the kingdom wherein he stimulated the development 
of that constitutional procedure and respect for precedent 
which have made modem Britain an example of practical 
wisdom and justice among the governments of mankind. 

The disastrous career of Edward II terminated in the 
tragedy of his assassination at Berkeley Castle on September 
21, 1327. His name is associated with famine, conspiracy, 
tumult, civil war, and the decisive English defeat at Bannock- 
bum. Yet the Court which surrounded this weak, self- 
willed and frivolous monarch was a solidly organized insti- 
tution, with traditions and resources of government that 
enabled it to direct every department of the State. Pro- 
fessor Tout argues with considerable force against the 
popular estimate of the second Edward's reign, and attrib- 
utes its earlier failure to the policy of his father, which 
was on the verge of collapse at the moment of the great 
king's death.^ The reasons for this statement are given in 
some detail and afford room for thought. On the surface, 
however, there was a wide and sobering contrast between 
the two reigns which indicated the change then sweeping 
over Christendom. 

IV 

The new spirit arose with the transfer of the Papal 
seat to Avignon in 1309, an event which destroyed the 
absolutism Hildebrand had elaborated, and which his 
successors, with the possible exception of Innocent III, 
were unable to maintain. The thirteenth century had 
been one of buoyancy, enthusiasm, and promise, rich 
in the number and character of its leaders, and mem- 
orable for their achievements in religion, philosophy, 
statesmanship, and art. Pulsating with conscious mental 
vigor, animated by high hopes and rejoicing in widened 
horizons of experience and reflection, rulers and peoples 

1 *'The Place of the ReigD of Edward II in English History" 



24 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

received with gladness the stimulus of the mission of the 
friars to European Christianity. The colloquial speech and 
homespun wit of the Franciscans rescued the faith from an 
esoteric seclusion and commimicated its joys and inspira- 
tions to the daily life of the multitude. In England they 
were more learned than the Dominicans, who hardly counted 
there, though they exercised a profoimd influence in con- 
tinental Europe. Many schools and universities were then 
founded, in addition to those already existing, and a keen 
zest for the conquests of the mind was everywhere mani- 
fested. But the golden epoch passed into eclipse with 
dramatic suddenness; a strange apathy fell upon these 
short-lived energies; a fatal prosperity divorced the friars 
from their self-abnegation and from the plain folk, and 
diverted their zeal into material and selfish channels. It 
should be added, however, that during the Black Death in 
1348,^ they showed by their devoted service that an un- 
paralleled calamity could recall them to the spiritual signifi- 
cance of their order. Nor were they responsible for the 
moral fatigue which was a universal distemper, paralyzing 
individual and collective efforts for betterment. Humanity 
in general was daunted by the melancholy retreat of cour- 
age and optimism, and refused any longer to follow the 
path over which shone " the high white star of truth." What 
had seemed to men the dawn of a new day proved to be a 
false light, as evanescent as the pale radiance which gleams 
across the northern skies. 

In this gloomy environment of negation and disappoint- 
ment, due to eidiaustion rather than design, John Wydiffe 
appeared as one bom out of due time. The exact place and 
date of the Reformer's birth are uncertain. The antiquary 
Leland states that he "drew his origin" from Wydiffe-on- 
Tees, a locality celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in " Rokeby," 
and in another passage he says, ''John Wydiffe, HereticoSy 

1 The year 1349 is usually given as the date of the Blaok Death, thou^ U 
actually began in 1348. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 26 

was bom at Ipreswel, a small village a good mile off from 
Richmont." Neither is there now, nor was there ever, a 
place of this name in the vicinity of Richmond. The mis- 
take is due to a misprint in Heame's printed copy of Leland's 
" Itinerary." IpsweU, the modem name for Ipreswel, is at 
least ten miles from Richmond, which even Leland could 
hardly call a good mile, and the reference shows that he is 
recording gossip. There can be little doubt that Wycliffe 
was bom at Wycliffe-on-Tees, where the tomb of his father 
Roger, the lord of the manor, may still be seen. The year 
1320 is the earliest that can be assigned for his birth,^ and 
he may have been bom several years later. The differences 
need not detain the narrative : it is at least certain that he 
was a Yorkshireman, and possessed the independence and 
resolution native to that province. Little enough b known 
concerning the earlier stages of his career and some of its 
subsequent periods are equally vague. The last decade of 
his life is, however, an exception, for there his processes as 
a thinker and a theologian can be traced with much greater 
certainty than elsewhere, owing to the clearness and full- 
ness of our knowledge of the closing phase. But centuries 
of neglect have obscured the external conditions of the man 
to whom Shirley refers as a ''dim image which looks down 
like the portrait of the first of a long line of kings, without 
personality or expression."* 

It is perhaps useless to speculate upon the circumstances 
and influences which shaped his formative period, although 
they are not without considerable interest. He received 
the impressions of a static community, whose lonely exist- 
ence was undisturbed by the echoes of the city's crowded 
ways. This seclusion had compensations: it afforded him 
opportunity for the cultivation of sterling worth, candor, 

1 According to the genealogical tree in Whitaker's ''Richmondshire," 
Roger Wycliffe and his wife Catherine were married in 1319. The eldest 
son would seem to have been William Wycliffe, who, however, was dead 
before 1362. 

*H. B. Workman: **The Dawn of the Reformation" ; Vol. I, p. 107. 



26 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and integrity ; virtues which, as a rule, are better inculcated 
in rustic retreats than in the centers of population. The 
yeomanry of the Yorkshire Ridings have retained under all 
changes certain refreshing qualities, a goodly heritage from 
their progenitors. Their provincial speech, energy, deter- 
mination, prudence, courage, and hatred of any form of 
injustice stamp them as a peculiar people, whose temper 
has never been disposed to indulge the arrogance of 
caste. A better passport to their favor is that assertive in- 
dividualism which, however distasteful to the assumptions 
of arbitrary rank, and even injurious in some directions, 
has hitherto been the sustaining source of democracy. In 
this respect Wycliffe was a true son of the North, blunt and 
incisive in address, with an unconscious equality of manner, 
and a passionate sympathy for the unfortunate and the poor 
which inspired his disconcerting fierceness of attack upon 
their oppressors. That such an advocate of the cause of 
the proletariat in religion and in politics should have emerged 
from the remotest dales of a shire, at that period rude and 
unvisited, is another of the many vouchers for the debt the 
race owes the wilderness and its chUdren. 

Living as he did in so retired a spot, Wycliflfe's early 
instruction was probably received from the village priest, 
who usually dwelt with the manorial family and taught 
the rudiments of Latin, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, and 
geometry. The conjecture that he was educated at a 
monasteiy school cannot be substantiated, since these in- 
stitutions no longer opened their doors to outsiders. Nor 
is there any evidence that he attended one of the schoob 
maintained by collegiate churches, by chantry priests, and 
by the guilds of various towns. 

Lechler surmises that he was fourteen or possibly sixteen 
years old when he entered Oxford. That some students 
were no older is evident from the comment of Richard 
Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh, who complained that 
many youths under foiurteen years of age were already con- 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 27 

members of the University. Lechler's reckoning is 
based upon 1320 as the year of Wycliffe's birth, but if 
this date is too early, the surmise is incorrect. It is highly 
[Nrobable that he was still in his nonage when he began 
the southward journey along the great Roman road which 
ran from the Cheviot Hills to London and passed near his 
father's house. He would not lack for company : students. 
Eke other wayfarers, banded together for mutual protection 
againist lusty rogues and outlaws who infested the high- 
waySy and sometimes robbed them of their baggage and 
oitrance fees even in sight of their destination. After 
ten days of more or less excitement and peril, the intrenched 
and walled fourteenth century town, vTith its encircling waters 
and noAssive Norman keep commanding the approaches 
which converged from the surrounding hills, would be in full 
view. 



Oxford is situated in the middle reaches of the Thames 
valley, and shares that beautiful pastoral scenery for which 
the river is noted from Richmond to Sonning Bridge. The 
ruins of its ancient fortifications remain to show its 
former strategical importance, and its venerable appear- 
ance is enhanced by the gray fronts of halls and colleges 
along "the High" and other thoroughfares. But the 
thriving borough did not arise, as many have imagined, in 
response to the needs of the colleges; the place enjoyed 
five hundred years of municipal and commercial prominence 
before any student was seen in its streets. Equally erroneous 
are the popular beliefs regarding the beginnings of the 
University itself. That the great seat of learning had its 
inception in one of the schools established by Alfred the 
Great is only another of the many legends which historical 
research has compelled antiquaries to relinquish. Nor 
did the fame of churches and monasteries of Oxford have 
anything to do with the origin of those schoob which were 



28 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

afterwards merged into the University. It is far nearer 
the truth to say that Oxford's classical reputation was an 
outgrowth of its geographical location and civic strength. 
The earliest mention on which reliance can be placed refers 
to the nunnery foimded by St. Frideswide during the turmoil 
of the eighth century, on or near the site of t}ie present 
Cathedral. A brief entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 
912 states that Edward the Elder, the successor of Alfred, 
''took possession of London and Qxenford and of all the lands 
which owed obedience thereto." ^ The ravages of the Danish 
wars afterwards fell heavily upon the town, which was then 
a frontier fortress of the Mercian and West Saxon kingdoms, 
and involved it in burning and destruction. The citizens 
repaired the mischief wrought by fire and siege in 979, 10Q2, 
and 1010, and subsequently Oxford continued to be a 
theater of national gatherings. 

The security of tenure which followed the Norman Con- 
quest promoted the town's growth and trade, and trans- 
formed the architecture of its religious and public buildings. 
In 1074 the collegiate church of St. Greorge arose within the 
recently constructed castle; the priory, afterwards called 
the Abbey of Austin Canons, was erected in the next cen- 
tury ; the palace of Beaumont was built by Henry I in the 
fields to the north. The church of the monastery of St. 
Frideswide, which at the Reformation became the Cathedral 
of the new diocese, dates from the same period, and these 
indefatigable masons also renovated the existing parish 
churches. One of the wealthiest of English Jewries was 
planted in the center of the town : a settlement having its 
own religion, language, dress, laws, customs, and conunerce, 
independent of local authorities and subject only to the 
Crown. There is no doubt that Oxford's general progress 
was promoted by the financial loans of wealthy Hebrews, 
and that indirectly its academic methods felt the influence 
of their rabbis, whose volumes aided the first researches of 

1 James Parker: "TheEarly History of Oxford"; p. 116. 



JOHN WYCUPFB 29 

physical scientists and gave Roger Bacon access to the older 
world of material inquiry.^ 

While it is not our immediate purpose to deal at length 
with the interesting details of those educational facilities 
which were mainly due to the faith and energy of the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they should receive 
the consideration commensurate with their importance. 
Their larger beginnings have been ascribed to a migra- 
tion of scholars from Paris, which took place about the 
year 1169. Such migrations were perfectly congruous with 
the nomadic habits of medieval clerks, and those universities 
in Northern Europe which did not arise in connection with 
some prominent collegiate church were the offspring of a 
similar exodus. The history of the University of Paris has 
emerged from the uncritical period when the foundation 
was attributed to Charles the Great, although his fame as 
a foimder is still celebrated thoughout the colleges of France 
by an annual festival named in his honor.' What the 
Emperor actually did was to establish collegiate schools in 
the municipalities of his dominions/ and of these the ''Ecole 
du Parvis Notre Dame'' eventuaUy won a high reputation, 
siupassing its rivals at Chartres and Laon. With the 
widening of intellectual activity the curriculiun broadened, 
while the growth of culture and the decay of monasticism 
increased the demand for new sources of education and for 
the better training of the secular clergy. Diuing the 
eleventh century learned theologians taught there and also 
at the adjacent school of St. Genevieve, among them being 
Gerbert, afterward Pope Sylvester II, Fulbert, and Be- 
ranger of Tours. But to the brilliant pupil of William of 
Champeaux, Abailard, and to the successors he trained, 

1 John Richard Green : "Oxford Studies" ; p. 9. 

* This new lord of the world was not a Frenchman, but a German, a fact 
which the French appellation Charlemagne has frequently obscured. 

* He designed to have collegiate churches in which the clergy should live 
together with one of their number, called the Chancellor, responsible for 
education. Hence arose the title of Chancellor in universities. 



30 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

men who ''grew straight m the strength of his spirit/' 
Paris owed her academic prestige, and the natural evolution 
of the University out of her schools. Abailard, at that time 
a layman, commenced a school of his own near to that of 
St. Genevieve, where not less than five thousand scholars 
are said to have attended his lectures.^ His youth and 
genius, illimitable lore, and audacity were assets of a magnetic 
personality which drew to itself many future dignitaries of 
the Church, including a pontiff, nineteen cardinals, and fifty 
bishops ; within a short period after his death the University 
became the Mecca of European students, scholars, and doc- 
tors.' Again, Abailard's prominence fifty years after the 
death of Anselm, the greatest of monastic teachers, showed 
that higher education had escaped the control of the regular 
clergy, and that their essential selfishness was gradually 
driving it to seek other leaders. Moreover, the conflict 
between the claims of reason and those of faith, which was 
always imminent, was precipitated by the fears of the clergy 
that in his efforts to unify all knowledge Abailard would 
minimize the importance of theology. He finally became 
a Benedictine in 1119, but this did not save him from con- 
demnation by the Church. 

In 1201 Philip Augustus, who reigned from 1180 to 1223, 
and was in many respects the reincarnation of the far-seeing 
spirit of Charles the Great, gave the schools exemption from 
civil jurisdiction. Masters and scholars were placed under 
the control of ecclesiastical tribimals. In 1212, when the 
Chancellor, as the Bishop's representative, sought to compel 
all masters to take an oath of obedience to himself, Innocent 
III interposed, defeated the scheme of the local hierarchy 
to control the schools, and forbade the oath. During the 

> Medieval statistics should be received warily. Wycliffe, for instance, 
states that there were thirty thousand scholars at Oxford, when its popula- 
tion was not quite five thousand. 

* The Isle de Cit6 never was the center of University life ; St. Genevieve 
was the place where the University grew, and became the rival of the School 
of Notre Dame. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 31 

carnival of 1229 a riot arose in a Paris tavern, like unto 
the quarrel which began the "Great Slaughter'' at Oxford 
in 1354, whereupon the police of the provost savagely sup- 
pressed the students, leaving several of their number dead. 
The masters demanded redress for the outrage, and, failing 
to obtain it, dissolved the University for six years and re- 
tired with their scholars to Oxford, Cambridge, and Angers. 
Eventually Gr^^ry IX exercised his good offices, the court 
and the municipal authorities promptly assisted him, and 
in 1231 the University returned to Paris, confirmed in its 
former charter and with the grant of additional exemptions. 
It was finally incorporated by St. Louis, who succeeded to 
the throne in 1226. 

Among the distinguished foreigners who visited or studied 
at Paris were John of Salisbury, St. Thomas Aquinas, Roger 
Bacon, Raymond Lully, and Stephen Langton. Dante is 
reputed to have attended lectures there in 1309, Petrarch 
boasted of the crown the University proffered him, and, as 
late as the sixteenth century, Tasso came to the schools of 
France, Normandy, Picardy, and Grennany, situated in the 
Rue du Pouarre. At the center of the city stood then, as 
it now stands, Notre Dame, the spiritual citadel of the 
capital. The Sainte Chapelle, inclosed by the ancient palace 
of the kings, arose hard by, the most definite, delicate, and 
graceful monument of French Grothic architectiu'e. The area 
extending from the south bank of the Seine up Mont St. 
Genevieve had been surrendered to the expanding schools. 
From the hill of the patron saint its buildings, gardens, 
and open spaces sloped steeply down past the ruined resi- 
dence of the Roman emperors to the river and the Isle de la 
Citg. 

At the height of its power and throughout the Middle 
Ages, this place was the intellectual center of Christendom, 
as Rome was its political and ecclesiastical metropolis. The 
University practically dictated the theology of the Church, 
and even the Popes were careful about controversy with 



32 THRBE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the doctors of Paris concerning dogmatic statemoits. It 
was more completely cosmopolitan than any modem seat 
of learning; scholars from all parts of Europe repaired 
there for instruction from its gifted teachers, and, since 
those who came could, and doubtless did, return in great 
numbers to their respective homes, there is no difficulty in 
accepting the statement that a body of English students 
left Paris and built up a studium at Oxford when recalled 
by their- monarch, Henry II, during his dispute with the 
French king. Again, the presence in Oxford of such teachers 
as the legist Vacarius, Thibaut d'Estampes, and Robert 
Pullein, which anticipated this incursion, had served to 
raise the city's reputation. Vacarius visited it during the 
reign of Stephen: he lectured there in 1149, and prepared 
a compendium in nine books of the Digest and Code of 
Justinian. When the king ordered him to desist from 
lecturing, Vacarius is said to have been rewarded with a 
prebend in the church of secular canons at Southwell.^ 

Beyond the events narrated, the causes which operated 
to make the already ancient town the seat of the second 
university in Europe are far from obvious. For some time 
after the exodus from Paris it was naturally overshadowed 
by that seat of learning of which it was the offspring, and 
which played a noble part in European civilization. Yet 
forty years after the time of Vacarius, Oxford's scholastic 
standing was well won; at the opening of the thirteenth 
century she was supreme in her own country, and had also 
obtained the recognition of older continental foundations. 

The medieval meaning of such terms as university and col- 
lege should not be confused with their modem connotation. 
The Latin word universitasy from which the English deriva- 
tion comes, originally denoted any collective body, regarded 
as such. When employed in a strictly educational sense it 

> The name of VaoariuB does not appear in Le Neve's *' Fasti/* the index 
of which has been examined by the author at the British Museum. This 
would cast doubt on the preferment of Vacarius to the prebend. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 33 

was supplemented by an additional phrase, the current ex- 
pression being, ''Universitas magistrorum et scholarium.'' 
In late fourteenth century usage the term university was 
defined as a community of teachers and scholars whose 
corporate existence had secured the consent and approval 
of either or both civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The 
term ttudium and later stadium generaie^ denoting a center 
of instruction open to all, was the more customary designa- 
tion of these communities. The studium generale slowly 
evolved into the imiversitas at such well-known places 
as Paris, Bologna, and Oxford, and in the case of the two 
former cities the change was confirmed by Papal bulls, issued 
in the reign of Nicholas IV. The word college was simply 
the (dd Latin collegium, which signified any organized guild, 
religious, educational, industrial, or political, applied in 
course of time to secular priests living in conunon, and after- 
wards to those residences at Oxford where secular students 
did likewise. 

The distinctive features of the English college system 
are foimd in the final form of the Statutes of Merton bearing 
the date 1274 and the seals of the first Edward. The orig- 
inal code, which perpetuates the name of the ecclesiastical 
statesman, Walter de Merton, Chancellor of England, was 
drawn up ten years earlier, in 1264, and was itself the result 
of previous schemes for the maintenance of indigent scholars 
at Maiden in Surrey. The generous endowments provided 
by Merton were employed for the benefit of twenty students 
and two or three priests for whom a hall was to be set apart 
at Oxford, or elsewhere, if such a lodging was procurable 
at a more flourishing seat of learning. This design was 
afterwards expanded, rules of collegiate discipline were 
enacted, and eventually Oxford became the permanent home 
of these students. The intellectual freedom of the college 
marked a departure from the monastic idea, prevented it 
from being a nursery for the advocates of Papal supremacy, 
and enabled it to train a succession of graduates who rendered 



34 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

efficient service to Church and State. These measuresy as 
bold in their innovation as they were beneficial and far 
reaching, became the sources of a normal policy of adminis- 
tration mider which colleges superseded monasteries and halls 
as the residences of students and strongholds of discipline. 
It was apparent that they could not realize such aims 
without buildings which should be a nucleus for the 
accumulation of the best traditions of the past and of 
worthy purposes for the future. In this undertaking 
Merton's efforts were seconded by the foundation of New 
College in 1379, under the patronage of William de Wyke- 
ham, Bishop of Winchester. The last of the great episcopal 
architects of the Middle Ages, Wykeham, was perhaps more 
renowned for his structures than for his statesmanship. 
He adorned the bare Norman interior of his cathedral 
with the Perpendicular style, and the school he established 
in the former capital city shares with Eton the honor of 
being a college in the true sense of the word. But his rank 
as the second founder of the college system is determined 
by the grandeur and regularity of the noble quadrangle 
and still nobler chapel which were the most dignified and 
beautiful of their kind Oxford had yet seen. That which 
Merton had accomplished in the statutory regulations 
of the colleges, Wykeham furthered by their architectural 
dignity and domestic comfort as compared with the older 
hostels.' 

VI 

In any attempt to recall the Oxford of Saxon, Norman, 
and later eras, the modem city must be dismissed from the 
mind. There was little in the outward aspect of its humble 
genesis and slow development, retarded by violent periods 
of war, riot, and pestilence, to suggest those mystical en- 
chantments which owe much to the hand of Time. The 
bewitching vision, steeped in sentiment, of graceful towers, 

> O. C. Brodrick : "History of the Uziivenity of Oxford" ; pp. 32-33. 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 36 

quiet doistersy embowered gardens, immemorial elms, and 
lawns of living green. 



Where a thousand gray stones smile and sigh, 
A th o usand rusUing trees/' 



is very largely the growth of later days. When Wycliffe 
entered the place he plunged into a bewildering maze of 
mean, filthy streets, lined with dingy hovels and crowded 
with a jostling, brawling throng of townsmen, priests, 
scholars, and vagrants. Within the houses the floors and 
halls were strewn with rushes, beneath which accumulated 
refuse decayed, the windows were unglazed, the chambers 
airless and pestiferous, the atmosphere reeked with foul 
odors. Single rooms served for the common purposes of 
cooking, dining, visiting, and sleeping. Sanitation was 
unknown, and frequently dirt was regarded as a sign of 
sanctity. Even the homes of the better classes were not 
exempt from tliese conditions ; and the churches and church- 
yards were indescribably noisome. Courts and lanes, in 
which darkness prevailed, were knee deep with feculent 
matter and rendered dangerous by open cesspools. The 
recurring pestilences which decimated Europe can be imder- 
stood when it is remembered that these barbarous habits 
were characteristic of continental and English towns. The 
wonder is, not that so many died, but rather that so many 
escaped death. Yet, notwithstanding the toleration of such 
evils, there was in Oxford, as in many other municipalities 
of the later Middle Ages, a sense of civic virtue and of social 
obligation which eventually established better conditions. 
In the meantime, religious duty, though vaguely con- 
ceived in many practical directions, was the source of 
genuine corporate life and unity. Master and man, teacher 
and student, trader and artisan, knew how to think and act 
together because they were held in the bonds of a catholic 
faith. The thhteenth century was distinguished by the 
founding of University, Balliol, and Merton Colleges; the 



36 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

fourteenth^ by that of Oriel, Exeter, QueenSy and New 
Colleges. Thus Oxford's high water mark in architecture 
and other material provisions for education was attained in 
an era when the country at large was devastated by plagues 
and insurrections. 

We have already noted the dissimilarity between the 
intelligent energy and design of the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries and the comparative confusion and barren- 
ness of the age of Wycliflfe. For nearly two hundred years 
the uniform depression of the Middle Ages had been broken 
by an interval, the enthusiasms and aspirations of which 
were too generous to be permanent. The revulsion which 
followed sprang from an utter weariness of soul, accentuated 
by bitter disappointments, painful uncertainties, and wide- 
spread distrust. Men were not willfully disobedient ; they 
were sorely spent, and unable any longer to realize the vision 
which disappears when it is neglected. Such enervation 
is still the human fate : the cycles of day and night persist, 
and though the one is not so welcome, it is as natural as the 
other. Yet we are not at liberty to suppose that every 
good cause was wrecked or forsaken. The edifices and 
endowments which are now not only a national but practi- 
cally a world-wide heritage were, in part, the products of 
the period many historians have imsparingly denounced. 
They cannot be dissociated from their authors, who, if 
the buildings are a guide, well knew that they were deal- 
ing with the fortunes of an enduring institution. They 
may have foreseen that these structures would help to con- 
vey to future generations the changes, the conflicts, the 
questionings, the reactions, and the advances which have 
been experienced in the past six hundred years. The sway 
of such personalities as Walter de Merton and William of 
Wykeham is still felt within Oxford's precincts, and all 
its founders share in the honor, the gladness, the suffering, 
and the achievement of the life of scholarship. Some deeds 
these men did are best buried with their bones, but their 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 37 

toil for the first University of the English-speaking nations 
should be gratefully remembered, not only there, but also 
here in the New World, of whose mission they were the 
forerunners. It was wrought when inmiense impediments 
had to be overcome, in an age of sparse and ignorant pop- 
ulations cursed by poverty and superstition. And the 
greatest glory of these men and of their buildings was not 
in stone nor gold, but in that essential spirituality, that 
stem watchfulness, that meritorious sympathy, that approval 
or condenmation, of which John Ruskin speaks, and which 
is felt, if anywhere, in such places as Oxford, whose walls 
have so long been ''washed by the passing waves of 
humanity/' 

VII 

Hie absence of personal references in the writings of 
Wycliffe compels us to glean our ideas of his university life 
from the academic conditions of the period. As a northern 
man he would probably find his way to Balliol College, and 
the belief long held that in 1356 he was a fellow of Merton, 
together with the fact that his name was enrolled among the 
conmioners of Queens, is best explained by the contem- 
porary presence in Oxford of two other John Wyeliflfes 
with whom he has been confused. Workman states that one 
of these was an almonry boy at Queens;^ the second a 
portionist at Merton.^ 

Balliol was foimded between the years 1263 and 1268' 
by John Balliol of Barnard Castle, Yorkshire, the father of 
the nobleman to whom Eldward I assigned the crown of 
Scotland and whom he afterwards deposed in 1292. The 
northern and southern "nations," whose feud disturbed 
for centuries the order of the place, had their headquarters 

> Almonry boy : one who in return for elementary instruction served in 
the chapel choir or rendered other services. He was generally lodged under 
the care of the Almoner. 

* Portionist : A scholar supported on the foundation of the college. 

* The most assured date ia shortly before June, 1266, when a hall was 



38 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

at Balliol and Merton respectively, and the lines were so 
sharply drawn that from 1334 onward Merton refused to 
admit northern scholars into its society. Minor rivalries 
inflamed the quarrel, which influenced academic action, 
and especially the election of the Chancellor, whose assist- 
ants were known as the northern and southern proctors. 
The frequent fights and riotous behavior of these and other 
factions led in 1274 to the adoption of the ''Concordia," 
the precise articles of which read like those of a treaty of 
peace between hostile powers rather than an act of uni- 
versity legislation. But they did not prevent the disturb- 
ances against which they were enacted: a fierce uproar 
in 1297 and a brutal affray of the student clans in 1319 
evidenced the militant lawlessness of such groups. The 
"Great Slaughter" of 1354, although a town and gown affair, 
gave further proof of the anarchical conditions which then 
prevailed. The scholars were herded together in miserable 
chambers and lecture rooms, where care and comfort were 
unknown; college governance was still very primitive, 
while that of the University had scarcely begun. The 
frank and intimate relations which afterwards became the 
cohesive bond of varying classes were then all but impossible 
by reason of the existing provincialism and poverty. The 
latter state obliged medieval students to obtain manual 
labor for support, and at intervals they even took to the road 
and begged for a pittance. 

The resources of knowledge were few and unsatisfactory ; 
museums and libraries which are now at the service of all 
were then beyond the wildest dreams. Wycliffe and his 
fellow clerks pored over the faded characters of worn manu- 
scripts in chambers deprived of the sun by day, and in a 
nightly darkness faintly relieved by fiickering oil lamps or 
rushlights. The nature and extent of their learning were 

founded for sixteen poor students. John Balliol died two jrears later » in 
1268, and the College received its greatest aid from his wife, Dervorgilla, 
whose benefactions date from 1284, when Balliol first obtained a house of 
its own. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 39 

amaziiig; their industry probably surpassed that of any 
later scholars. They lived a separated life, avoiding the 
ordinaiy recreations and athletic exercises of the youth of 
England, with no outdoor pursuits or pastimes to vary 
their arduous study. Yet its tasks were illuminated by the 
ambitions which burned within them the more steadily be- 
cause of their privations. Regardless of the din and revelry 
of drunken roysterers in alley and lane, the best of these 
men plodded steadily onward, memorizing or copying mys- 
terious phraseologies which are now meaningless, but were 
then accepted and conned as primary truths that might at 
any turn in their pursuit reveal a universal law prevailing 
throughout the whole realm of knowledge. Those who were 
able to endure the necessary exertion of body and mind 
knew the joy of the strong; their intellectual capacities 
became firm and flexible, and, had these students enjoyed 
the advantages of the scientific method, they would have 
demonstrated their superiority over successors who have 
been more fortunate in their environment, but not in native 
or acqtdred ability. It ill becomes their heirs to mock at 
efforts which, though wrongly directed, still merit the 
recognition due to heroic striving. 

That men of the type of Wycliffe sometimes fell short 
of the goal is nothing against them, since they accom- 
plished all that was possible in the nature of their studies. 
Meanwhile, their failure cleared the ground for the New 
Learning of the next century. Only as the theories they 
painfully evolved proved worthless, could thinkers be 
made to understand that their system was insufficient, 
and thus be set free to pursue more correct methods of 
mvestigation. In this way they helped to transfer the 
center of gravity from deduction to induction, from dog- 
matic assumption to experiment and hypothesis. The 
progress of human affairs owes something to these indirect 
courses, in which steadfast men strove to attain truth 
by means of conceptions which, although in themselves 



40 THREE REUOIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

imperfect, eventually pointed to the substance of which 
they were the shadow. 

Again, the monastic influence at Oxford had steadily 
waned from the days of Edmund Rich, whose beautiful and 
pathetic story heightened the religious temper of the Uni- 
versity, but could not check its tendency toward secular 
inquiry. Where monasticism as a spiritual ideal separated 
itself from the world, it frequently fell a victim to the forces 
it despised ; on the other hand, where it linked itself with 
other systems it invariably lost its professed sanctity. In 
its purest form it was averse to unhampered development in 
any direction save that of mystical speculation, and when 
the laity asserted their title to a place in the sun of assured 
knowledge, the gradual emancipation of learning from cleri- 
cal tutelage was unavoidable. These causes explain the 
fact that the monastic colleges are of minor importance 
in the history of education. The monks never heartily 
applied themselves to the scholastic philosophy, and the 
older monastic orders did not produce a single first class 
theologian from St. Bernard's time to the closing days of 
medievalism. The coming of the friars gave a fresh impetus 
to clericalism, and the Benedictines^ strove to remedy the 
shortcomings of their order by sending a few selected 
members to the University.^ But they could not repress 
the laical spirit in the colleges which grew apace under the 
sheltering protection of the Church. Their general contact 
with an ampler existence began in the latter half of the twelfth 
century, and despite the contraction of the syllabus in the 
direction of dialectics, before the close of Edward the Third's 

1 As a matter of fact there never waa any monastic control of education 
at Oxford » nor did the monasteries make any effort to set up foundations 
there until the Chapter General of the Benedictines held at Abingdon in 
1289, which imposed a levy of two pence in the mark to build a hall. In 
1284 temporary provision was made for the Benedictines in a house on Stock- 
well Street. The first real monastic college was Gloucester Hall, built in 1291. 

* These were few indeed. Christ Church monastery at Canterbury rarely 
found that it could maintain more than four students at Christ Church, 
Oxford, and the total number of monks at the University was alwa3rB small. 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 41 

ragn th^ had become suflSdently national to justify the 
description of their secular aims contained in the third book 
of Gower's "Vox Clamantis." This temper fostered con- 
ceptions which questioned those accepted dogmas that had 
hitherto been the staple themes of instruction. Nor can 
there be any doubt that it influenced Wycliffe, the bent of 
whose mind harmonized with its aggressiveness. 

It was not as a semi-ecclesiastical corporation, but as a 
center of religious vitality and positive thinking that the 
Oxford he knew contributed to the shaping of character 
both in men and in the times. It had been said of Paris 
that whatever was read and taught there was sooner or 
later read and taught in Oxford. But, with the rupture of 
the once close intimacy of the two institutions, this sub- 
serviency had ceased, and the younger no longer shone 
in a borrowed light. She boasted doctors of her own, 
whose daring and versatility outdistanced those of the older 
and more conservative body at Paris.* Wycliffe's rela- 
tions to these thinkers and the subjects they discussed can 
be set forth later ; meanwhile it should be noted that some 
of them were in latent opposition to the orthodox systems of 
the Middle Ages. Their feudal presumptions depended on 
the segregation of human groups, and necessarily decreased 
when arbitrary distinctions of blood and birth lost ground. 
Their alignments had hitherto been determined by the 
accidents of temporal boundaries and by the paramountcy 
of those material forces which are generally recognized as 
subversive of the social order. Against this condition as a 
whole the European schools were at once a protest and to 
some extent a remedy.- The students who frequented them 
were known as the "nations,*' and the universities earned 
the credit of creating and welding together the most liberal 
and international of fraternities. Notwithstanding their 
internal bickerings and jealousies they shared a classical 

I H. Raahdail : ''UniversitieB of Europe in the Middle Ages" ; Vol. II, 
pp. 519-520. 



42 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

language which, however badly construed and spoken, was 
at least freed from the strife of variant tongues. Intellec- 
tual kinships throve apace, the doctrines of celebrated 
masters were diffused in widely separated communities, and 
leavened the fear and dislike which had rendered every 
foreigner suspect.^ 

Chaucer's familiar lines indicate the good impression 
which the best type of student made on the people at large : 

" A Clerk ther was of Oxeoford also, 
That iin-to logik hadde longe y-go. 
As lene was his hors as is a rake, 
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake; 
But loked holwe, and thereto soberly. 
Pul thredbar was his overest courtepy; 
For he had geten him yet no benefyce, 
Ne was so worldly for to have offyce. 
For him was lever have at his beddes heed 
Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed, 
Of Aristotle and his philosophye, 
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrye. 
But al be that he was a philosophre, 
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; 
But al that he might of his freendes hente, 
On bokes and on leminge he it spente. 
And bisily gan for the soules preye 
Of hem that yaf him wher-with to scol^re. 
Of studie took he most cure and most hede, 
Noght o word spak he more than was nede, 
And that was seyd in forme and reverence, 
And short and quik, and ful of hy sentence. 
Souninge in moral vertu was his speche. 
And gladly wolde he leme, and gladly teche." * 

His impretentious appearance, mute evidence of the 
hardships of a life devoted to knowledge and to the memories 
of pious founders, not only disarmed prejudice, but com- 
mended him to public esteem and confidence. Monks and 

1 The " nations*' at Paris were fourfold: those of France, Picardy, Nor- 
mandy, and En^and. The English '* nation " included the Scotch and Ger- 
mans. At Oxford there were but two nations, the Australa and the Boreals. 

» Prof. W. W. Skeat's edition. 



JOHN WYCUFPB 43 

friars no longer secured the donations of the great and 
wealthy for their religious houses. Instead, these gifts 
were bestowed upon the secular clergy, who were rapidly 
formulating an ethical and political system deriving its 
principles elsewhere than from the Church, and setting up 
a rival authority not yet clearly defined, but nevertheless 
sedulously maintained. In summary, it can be said that in 
an age of change and doubt, when human life was deprived 
of the light of a former faith, the gloom was pierced at inters 
vab by the radiance which streamed from the collies. 



VIII 

We obtain a glimpse of Wycliflfe at Oxford between the 
years 1356 and 1360, when he was elected Master of Balliol, 
an office not then by any means so considerable as now, but 
for which he could hardly have become a candidate had he 
not been a fellow of that institution. In 1361 he relin- 
quished it for the college living of Fillingham in Lincoln- 
shire; in the same year "John de Wyclif of the diocese of 
York, M. A. " petitioned the Roman Curia for his designation 
to a prebend, canonry, and dignity at York, "notwith- 
standing that he holds the church at Fillingham." The 
prayer was answered, though not as Wycliffe desired, and 
on November 24th, 1369, he received the prebend of Aust 
in the collegiate church of Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol.* 
It is probable that Wycliflfe occupied this benefice ; and the 
latest investigations show that the connection of his name 
with the Wardenship of Canterbury Hall, although deemed 
erroneous by some, has substantial evidence in its favor. 
The Hall was planned to shelter both seculars and monks, 
an intention frustrated by their endless wranglings from 

^ There was nothing unusual in this preferment on the part of the Pope ; 
it was really a medieval equivalent of the modern fellowship, and was 
granted to such masters as were selected by the Pontiff from the lists which 
the universities submitted. 



44 THREE REUOIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

1365 to 1371. Small importance, however, is attached to 
Wydiffe's association here, save that in after years his 
enemies attributed his attacks upon the religious orders 
to the severe treatment he was then supposed to have re- 
ceived from Archbishop Langham. The diocesan roisters 
of Lincoln state that in 1368 Bbhop Buckingham granted 
Wydiffe two years' leave of absence from his church in 
order that he might devote himself to the study of letters 
at the University. About this time he exchanged his living 
at Fillingham for the rectorate of LudgershaU, in Bucking- 
hamshire, which brought him within sixteen miles of Oxford. 
In 1372, after sixteen years of incessant preparation, he 
obtained the coveted degree in divinity which gave him the 
right to lecture on theology, and in the following year the 
Pope conferred upon his "dilectissimus filius" a canonry 
of Lincoln, while allowing him to retain the prebend he 
already held at Aust. 

From these fragmentary records, some of which are far 
from explicit, two facts distinctly emerge. The first is that 
he was a pluralist and an absentee rector, accepting and 
practising the customs he afterwards denounced ; the second, 
that his return to Oxford was utilized for the further enrich- 
ment of his learning. His controversy with the Papal 
authority had not yet arisen, and the mistaken assertion 
that he published his " Determinatio Qusedam de Dominio'^ 
in 1366 as a protest against the tribute levied by Urban V, 
is without admissible support. This work contained only 
hints of his doctrine of "lordship,'* and was not written until 
at least seven years after the Pope's levy. During the 
interval before the storm, wind and tide were with him, no 
untoward circumstances sapped his strength or diverted 
his attention from that philosophy in which, as Knighton 
avers, "he was second to none: in the training of the 
schools without a rival." Arundel, the relentless foe of 
the Lollards, bore testimony to the purity of his personal 
life, acknowledging to Thorpe that "Wydifife was a great 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 46 

clerk, and many men held him a perfect liver." Some of his 
lectures have been preserved in an unrevised notebook 
where the display of their range and erudition is only equaled 
by their complete mastery of the Holy Scriptures.^ 

His endowments shed a departing gleam upon the philo- 
sophical system of which he was the last exponent, and 
from the fascinations of which he never freed himself. In 
the perspective of history he stands forth as one of the 
dominant figures in ''a mighty and astonishing style of 
scholarship which, doubtless from the absence of the proper 
social conditions, will never be seen again." ^ It has already 
been affirmed that in the fourteenth century Oxford's 
philosophers surpassed those of any European university, 
and that in increasing numbers they were not cloistered but 
secular clergy. Certainly at no earlier time could the 
seculars have claimed three such doctors as Thomas Brad- 
wardine, Richard Fitzralph, and John Wydiffe. The 
Reformer's political employments and controversies were 
not without detrimental effects, but they came late in life, 
when the gaze of friends and foes alike was fixed upon his 
formidable power of advocacy. The massive intellect of the 
man, his strong personality, his gift of lucid and weighty 
utterance, immediately brought his colleagues in the Uni- 
versity under the spell of his influence, and eventually won 
him preferment in the Church and an international reputa- 
tion. 

> H. B. Workman : '* The Dawn of the Reformation " ; Vol. I» pp. 1 13-1 14. 

> John Flake: "Darwinism and Other Easaya"; p. 250. 



CHAPTER II 
SOURCES OF WYCUFFIANISM 



47 



'When religion and the interest of the soul are the subjects of de- 
bate, the sparks of human energy are kindled as by a charm, and spread 
with the rapidity of an electric fluid. Opinions work upon actions, 
and actions react upon opinions; the defense of truth or error stirs 
up the moral powers, and leads men on to deeds of vigor, and the 
effects of active zeal reflect upon the opinions and systems of men, and 
raise them to those heights of speculative and logical abstraction, 
which are the wonder of beholders and the engima of future genera- 
tions. 

Life of St. Oermanitt, 



48 



CHAPTER II 

SOUBCES OF WTCLIFFIANISIf 

Wydiffe's literary aasodatioiis with Oxford — His rdation to Scho- 
lastidsm — The Scholastic method — Its rise and progress — Nomi- 
nalism and Realism — The teaching of Aquinas — Duns Scotus and 
his absolutist doctrines — Reaction in ^^^lliam of Ockham — "Defen- 
sor Pads" of Marsiglio — Difference between English and Continen- 
tal Scholasticism — Wydiffe and the Nominalist controversfy — His 
modified Realism — His attitude towards theological problems — 
Thomas Bradwardine — Wydiffe's criticism of Bradwardme — Trea- 
tises on "Divine Dominion" and "Civil Lordship" — Wydiffe the 
last great Schoolman — His alliance with John of Gaunt — Confer- 
ence of Bruges — Wydiffe's Hterary activity. 



At this time Wydiffe had achieved the desire of his 
heart; his associations with Oxford were destined to be 
prolonged and memorable, and from there his prolific pen 
gave forth those larger works on philosophy and theology 
which are now seldom read. Many of his pamphlets and 
treatises on papal claims and imposts, the political status 
of the clergy, indulgences, and other contentious issues 
were also written at the University. His friendship with 
its teachers and doctors was a welcome aid and a protection 
in his hours of loneliness and danger. And when in his 
declining years its leaders forsook him, their desertion 
was a severe blow to his propaganda. In the interval, if 
the practical affairs of the nation were benefited by his 
diversified yet systematized knowledge, those which related 
to religious and clerical questions were quite as fortunate. 
His utterances and writings were very unequal in merit, 
B 49 



50 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

but the best of them were not mere tw*gid rhetoric pro- 
fusely poured out; they crystallized around an axiomatic 
and intrepid reasoning which was the imperative working 
principle in many of his intellectual and literary efforts. His 
premises may not be ours ; indeed, we may think them often 
obscure or incomplete, and at times unwarranted. Yet it 
is patent that some were carefully chosen, and while in the 
absence of the inductive method the matter of his argument 
was frequently at fault, its form was usually correct. In 
brief, Wycliffe was a Schoolman, whose strength and weak- 
ness were alike due to an inherited system which should 
be explained in order that his merits as a thinker may be 
appreciated. 

Scholasticism was an able and praiseworthy attempt to 
reconcile the dogmas of faith with the dictates of reason, 
and thus formulate an inclusive system on the presup- 
position that the creed of the Church was the one reality 
capable of rationalization. As the product of Christian 
intellectualism, it acted under the Aristotelian method, 
and was governed by the fundamental assumption that all 
phenomena must be understood from and towiurd theology. 
The early Fathers had bequeathed to their successors a 
well-articulated and comprehensive theological dogma, 
and also the philosophical apparatus which determined 
and shaped its content. When the Schoolmen realized the 
nature of the bequest they endeavored to recover the spirit 
of inquiry which lay behind its results, and consequently 
the Church entered, almost automatically, upon a period 
of stress and strain similar to those she had previously 
experienced. Now, however, additional factors intervened 
and intensified the situation. The organization and growth 
of the Papacy reinforced the predicates of authority, catho- 
licity, dogmatism, and the predominance of spiritual claims, 
while the imperial influence of St. Augustine was widely 
diffused in contemporary theology. 

The Scholastic system can be surveyed in two nearly 



JOHN WYCUPPB 51 

equal divisions of the period extending from the ninth to the 
end of the fifteenth century. The first of these divisions, 
which tenninated with the twelfth century, was represented 
by Erigena/ Roscellinus, Anselm, William of Champeaux 
and his pupil Abailard; the second, by Albertus Magnus, 
Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. 
The science of these scholars, in so far as that term is appli- 
cable, dealt almost exclusively with divinity. Yet theirs 
was an age of reason as well as of faith, and no part of their 
work could be canceled without a shock to the continuity 
of progress. It is easy for the disciples of later intellectual- 
ism to say that their pursuit of truth was a mockery, since 
they started upon the joiuney carrying their convictions 
with them, or that they fabricated absurd and ridiculous 
problems and then proceeded to demonstrate their validity 
or invalidity. The Schoolmen do not deserve these gibes; 
they keenly felt the spiritual experiences on which they 
discoursed, and craved an adequate defense for them. 
Careless criticism of their action has been displaced by 
the weighty judgment of Hamack, that their system "gives 
practical proof of eagerness in thinking and exhibits an 
energy in subjecting all that is real and valuable to thought 
to which we can find, perhaps, no parallel in any other 
age." * If their philosophy was not an eflFective means for 
enriching knowledge, it was a method for the training of the 
mtellect which strengthened the reasoning powers and pre- 
pared them for penetrative and comprehensive work. In 
these respects the metaphysic of the Middle Ages is closely 
related to that of later experimental schools ; its mission was 
to expand and invigorate the hmnan mind until the bound- 
less fields of the natural sciences were opened to research. 

* Erigena was really of the spiritual tradition of the Christian Mystics 
ftDd intellectually a Neo-Platonist, rather than a typical Scholastic. He 
may be regarded as a connecting link between these schools and the more 
pronounced Scholasticism which predominated from the eleventh to the 
fourteenth centuries. 

« " History of Dogma " ; Vol. VI. p. 26. 



52 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

The two camps of Realists and Nominalists furnished the 
material for scholastic discussion. The Introduction to the 
"Isagoge" of Porphyry, the Neo-Platomst, anticipated the 
differences which afterwards separated them. ''Next con- 
cerning genera and species the question indeed whether they 
have a substantial existence, or whether they consist in bare 
intellectual concepts only, or whether if they have a sub- 
stantial existence they are corporeal or incorporeal, and 
whether they are inseparable from the insensible properties 
of things, or are only in these properties and subsisting 
about them, I shall forbear to determine, for a question of 
this kind is very deep." The majority of his readers will 
undoubtedly cheerfully acquiesce in this decision. 

The Realists contended that reality belonged only to 
imiversal conceptions, and that particulars of any kind were 
merely mental conveniences. For example, the term 
"house" did not denote the thing itself, but only the im- 
material idea. This reasoning was also applied to man, 
for whom reality consisted in the humanity shared with 
all men and not in a distinct ego. Individuality was entirely 
dependent upon its participation in the general essence of 
the species. Everything in heaven and on earth was pri- 
marily of one substance with the all-comprehending Universal 
Being. The germs of the Pantheism of Spinoza can be de- 
tected here, and also those of later forms of Idealism. The 
Nominalists maintained that universals were merely terms, 
and that reality had no meaning apart from the individual 
and the particular; intellectual conceptions and universal 
relations being purely mental processes without any actual 
existence. These unqualified assertions were sufficiently 
damaging to orthodoxy to alarm its supporters. Their 
instincts revolted against a doctrine of which, as Dr. Rash- 
dall comments, the skeptical sensationalism of Hume and 
the crudest forms of later materialism were but illogical 
attenuations. Yet, while Nominalism did not secure any 
permanent hold upon the accepted theology of the Church, 



JOHN WTCLIFFE 53 

its insisteiioe that the particular and the individual were the 
only realities paved the way for the inductive method in 
physical investigation. 

II 

Realism received its greatest exposition and defense 
from St. Thomas Aquinas, an Italian of rank and the School- 
man par excellence, who lived from 1227 to 1274. The 
pupil of Albertus Magnus in the Dominican school at 
Cologne, in 1245 he followed bis master to Paris, where he 
graduated in theology, after which he returned to Cologne 
to become assistant to Albertus. Aquinas surpassed all 
other teachers as the embodied essence of Scholasticism 
and the most admirable example of the spirit and doctrine 
of the medieval Church.^ His ''Siunma Theologise" is 
an unequaled effort, in which the mysteries of the Christian 
faith and the certitudes of the human reason are defined as 
the two sources of knowledge. While they are distinct in 
themselves, revelation has the indisputable priority, since, 
as the fountain of absolute truth, it manifests the life of 
Deity, and its sovereign precepts are the causes and not the' 
results of that manifestation. Both faith and reason 
must be received as they are given, in their completeness 
and unity, with no part advanced at the expense of the 
rest. The Holy Scriptures and Church tradition being 
the appointed channels of Divine verity, the student should 
know the doctrines of the Bible and the interpretations of 
the Fathers, together with the decisions of the Councils 
thereupon. 

Reason, as Aquinas conceived it, was infinitely more than 
the product of any single brain. It was the presiding and 
inspiring attribute of the collective human mind, which 
hitherto had found its freest vent in the meditations of 
Plato and the methods of Aristotle. The life of reason did 
not remain in a state of disintegration and confinement to 

> H. B. Workman: "The Dawn of the Reformation*' ; Vol. I, p. 132. 



54 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

separate points, but resulted in the fonnation of a common 
intellectual harmony. Both revelation and reason were 
under the direction of the living and creating energies of 
the Eternal Being. They shared one origin and one goal, 
and their offspring in theology or philosophy presented 
that compatibility which was one of the main tenets of 
Scholasticism and, indeed, practically monopolized its 
argument. The prepared and diligent seeker might himself 
become a vehicle for their communications, and thus, in 
his tiun, add to the definite gains which benefited history 
and society. But he was admonished that they contained 
a superior knowledge forever beyond the grasp of man, 
who was compensated by a secondary knowledge to which 
he could attain. The truths within human reach were but 
the foothills of an inaccessible height where Grod reserved 
the pattern of His omniscient will. Toward that lofty 
region revelation and reason converged, and there found 
their perfect reconciliation. While Aquinas regarded 
Christian theology as the sum and crown of all inquiry, 
he included the Greek philosophers in his spacious survey 
and was influenced by Averroes and Avicenna, the Saracenic 
interpreters of Aristotle. For he held that far from being 
explicable by natural processes, as these are usually under- 
stood, the generalizations of non-Christian thinkers were 
traceable to the authority of those sacred writings which 
really controlled every intellectual movement, and their 
teachings were specified by him as the axioms of an all 
pervasive spiritual life. His superb learning was evinced 
in the "Catena Aurea," where, under the form of a 
commentary on the Gospels, he gave a succinct summary 
of the traditional views concerning them. His more direct 
exposition of the Psalms, the prophecies of Jeremiah and 
Isaiah, and the Epistles, was equally clear and concise. 
From these studies he turned to the Greek thinkers, suprem- 
acy among whom he accorded to Aristotle, whose dialectic 
suited the complexion of his own mind. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 66 

Indeed, it can be said that the philosophy of St. Thomas 
is Aristotle Christianized, and that the doctors for whom 
he was the spokesman looked on nature and man through 
the medium of the Stagirite's formulae. Principal Fairbaim 
remarks that ** if churches always canonized their benefactors, 
Aristotle would long ago have been at the head of the Roman 
Calendar. There were many Schoolmen, but they all had 
one master, and they built by his help and to his honor 
systems that even he would have acknowledged to be ency- 
clopedic and marvels of architectonic craft.'' ^ 

The ambition of Aquinas that his ''Summa" should be 
the totality of learning, fused into a living unity and 
subject to ecclesiastical guardianship^ was seconded by the 
spirituality which interpenetrated his work. It was, and 
stiU is, for the Papacy and the Curia, the standard the- 
ology, and its efforts to prove ''that religion is rational 
and that reason is divine, that all knowledge and all truth, 
from whatever source derived, must be capable of har- 
monious adjustment," ' deserve the attention of those who 
accept the sentiment of Aubrey Moore that whatever is 
truly religious is finally reasonable. The moderate Realism 
which the "Angelic Doctor/* who is the patron saint of 
many Roman Catholic institutions of learning,^ so trium- 
phantly interpreted became a shining mark for the attacks 
of the Nominalists of the next generation. 

Foremost among its assailants was the Franciscan John 
Duns Scotus (1275?-1308). The broken and uncertain 
records of his unique career assert that he died when only 
thirty-four years of age. If this is correct, the rapidity 

» •'Chriflt in Modem Theology" ; p. 119. 

*H. Rashdall: " UniveraitieB of Europe in the Middle Ages"; Vol. I, 
p. 367. 

* The FranciBcans have never completely acknowledged the supremacy of 
St. Thomas, although Pope Leo XIII practically made his teaching the 
official authority of the Church. It is also interesting to note that his doc- 
trines have been echoed in the theories of Bergson. Both thinkers use the 
method of analogy and their concept of order is essentially practical and 
theological. The Bergsonian views are anticipated in the " Summa " to a 
limited decree, but it would be absurd to claim their wholesale agreement. 



56 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and extent of his literary output, to say nothing of its 
microscopic detail and tortuous processes, are among the 
marvels of human achievement. His controversial attitude 
was swayed by the current antagonism between the Fran* 
ciscans and the Dominicans. Aquinas was constructive, 
Scotus destructive ; the former was essentially a philosopher, 
the latter a critic whose dexterous turns earned him the 
title of ''Doctor Subtilis." He insisted that his great 
predecessor erred in founding theology upon speculation 
rather than practice. Faith was an act of the will and 
not an outflow of the mind, and the intellect could not easily 
find what was loosely called a rational basis for the 
phenomena with which faith dealt. The most careful 
defense of this position was open to the attacks of the 
skeptical. Revelation and dogma were the only reliable 
guardians of anything noble and true, and the ontology of 
Aquinas was therefore worthless as an apologetic. The 
existence and nature of God could not be proved by reason. 
Even the Grospels were unworthy of credence save on the 
authority of the Church, and the tenets of religion were 
accepted and obeyed, not in deference to human under- 
standing, but under the inmiediate impulse of divine neces- 
sity. God conmiands what is good because it is good, 
argued Aquinas; the good is such because God wills it, 
rejoined Scotus; had He willed the opposite, the fact of 
His doing it would constitute its righteousness. In the 
one case the determinant was an ethical volition; in the 
other an arbitrary affirmation which had no necessary ethical 
quality. 

The tendency of the philosophy of Scotus was, as Dr. 
Rashdall phrases it, towards ''an emotional prostration 
before authority popularly called faith," and its ulti- 
mate drift lay in the direction of doubt. His extravagant 
advocacy of ecclesiastical supremacy, his superfluous in- 
tricacies and imaginary entities were more than merely 
fanciful; they marked the fast approaching decay of 



JOHN WYCLIFPE 57 

medieval thought, and this was hastened by his less pal- 
pable but graver error in divorcing faith from reason, 
thus threatening the citadel of the wisest Schoolmen. 
Neither his zeal for higher doctrine nor hb identification of 
faith with a blind submission to the Church could repair 
the havoc he had wrought by weakening the distinctions 
between right and wrong. He made moral action dependent 
on the unconditioned arbitrary will of God, and reduced 
duty to a mere matter of prudent calculation.^ 

The inevitable reaction found its advocate in William of 
Ockham, the "Invincible Doctor" whose new interpretation 
of Nominalism heralded the dissolution of Scholasticism and 
repudiated its historic loyalty to the Holy See. "Univer- 
sals/' for Ockham, existed only in "the thinking mind/' and 
no theological doctrines were rationally demonstrable. The 
modem scientist could accept many of his statements with- 
out serious modification, and in the light of later philosophy 
he was not so much a Nominalist as a Conceptualist. But, 
while he revived Nominalism of a qualified sort, he could 
not overcome the current of Realism which "dimly and 
blindly testified to the part mind plays in the constitution of 
the objects of our knowledge — to the truth that in all our 
knowledge there is an ethical element which comes not from 
any supposed 'external object' but from the mind itself." * 
His forceful individuality was felt in his leadership of the 
Spiritual Franciscans, who, so long as he was their head, 
observed both by precept and example the vows of their 
order. This policy revealed the latent antagonism between 
the political autocracy of Hildebrand and the etherealized 
aspirations of the Saint of Assisi. When Ockham with others 
inveighed against the Papal decisions on property, Pope 
John XXII pronounced condemnation on the Franciscan 
doctrine relating thereto, an act which led to further differ- 

> H. Rashdall : "Univeraities of Europe in the Middle Ages" ; Vol. II, 
p. 534. 

« /Wd.. Part II. pp. 366-367. 



58 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

ences until the order was denied official recognition and 
placed under the ban of the Church. 

Ockham's contention that the State was a divine ordina- 
tion, and should therefore be freed from ecclesiastical con- 
trol, aggravated the discontent which provoked the conflicts 
between the Pope and the Emperor. From these in turn 
sprang the nationalism to which reference has been made, and 
which nurtured the theories of religious freedom and the 
rights of civil government. Through Wycliflfe and Hus the 
protest against the temporal claims of the Papacy passed into 
the keeping of the sixteenth century Reformers. Yet Ock- 
ham's courageous impeachment was exceeded by that of his 
pupil Marsiglio de Mainardino (1270-1342),^ whose " Defensor 
Pacis'' was the most original political treatise of the Middle 
Ages. As the title indicates, it was intended to establish the 
concord of society upon a democratic basis, maintaining that 
the source of law was in the people themselves, who should 
elect the chief executive of the nation, be the judges of his ad- 
ministration, and if it were found errant or corrupt, hold him 
liable for its failures and crimes. The fictitious supremacy 
of the Papacy was denounced as the root of the troubles 
which afflicted the State ; the Pope, his bishops and clergy, 
were denied all right to promulgate interdicts or excom- 
munications, or in any way insist upon the observance of 
what they deemed the divine law. This power was vested 
in the Church alone, acting in unity and with the consent 
of the entire body of believers, and to that end General 
Councils ought to be composed of clerics and laymen alike. 
The Bible was the sole authority of faith and doctrine, and 
Papal decrees should be subjected to its teachings. Such 
was the quality of Marsiglio's plea for constitutional freedom, 
which gave him a prior claim to the honors afterwards be- 
stowed on Wydiffe; indeed, in the bull directed against 

^ Marsilius of Padua is distinguiahed by the best critics from Marsi^o 
de Mainardino, though in the British Museum Catalogue they are identi- 
fied. Marsiglio de Mainardino was a Canon of Padua in 1316. 



JOHN WYCUFFB 60 

the English schismatic, Gregory XI declared that the here- 
sies of the Refonner but represented with a few terms 
changed ''the perverted opinions and ignorant doctrine of 
Marsiglio of damned memory, and of John of Jandun." 
Yet this execrated thinker alone divined the secret of an 
age unborn, and laid down in all essentials the principles 
which were to mold the political institutions of the distant 
future.^ 

in 

The strange neglect which seemed to follow these men to 
their graves prevented any just appraisal of Marsiglio's 
services. The enemies of Roger Bacon, the most illustrious 
English scholar and thinker of his day, who moved heaven 
and earth to come into direct contact with reality, almost 
succeeded in destroying his reputation, and only within a 
comparatively recent period has it emerged from a long 
eclipse. Similarly, in the case of Wycliffe, his voluminous 
works, with few exceptions, remained in manuscript for 
over five hundred years. Even now many of them are still 
unpublished, and, so far as their present interest is concerned, 
are likely to remain so. Enough have been rescued from 
oblivion, however, to show that he stood in a philosophical 
sequence to the scholars already named. 

Although the great movement which had illuminated 
the spiritualities of life from the time of Anselm and Abailard 
virtually ended with Wycliflfe, it nevertheless retained suflS- 
cient virtue to enable him to rank as a learned clerk versed 
in the labyrinthine windings of scholastic philosophy. 
The majority of his predecessors were unanimous in their 
devotion to the Papacy, but that allegiance was now shaken 
and the Holy See openly assailed. This hostility was one 
among other symptoms of the restlessness which pervaded 
Oxford and Paris, and was encouraged in the former 

lArchibftld Robertson: "Regnum Die'*; p. 313. 



60 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and repressed in the latter University. At Paris the 
theologians were at their wits' end to quiet the doubts and 
questionings which fermented beneath a correct and prosaic 
surface. Oxford, with the rest of England, enjoyed immu- 
nity from the terrors of the Inquisition, which were un- 
known there imtil Henry IV needed the support of the 
Church because of his beclouded title to the crown. 
The University was therefore undeterred in those courses 
which inspired and reflected the national will. Her doctors 
were not only expoimders and defenders of metaphysics; 
they were also the organ voices of the secular govern- 
ment and its claims. Thus while Latin Scholasticism was 
for political reasons prevented from occupying the wider 
and more genuinely intellectual interests, the English type 
increasingly assimilated an independency evoked by the 
events of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 

Wydiffe turned this conditions of a£Fairs to good account : 
the unembarrassed speculative and practical tendencies of 
his life as a scholar offset to some extent the difficulty he 
experienced in dealing with a decadent system which was 
rapidly degenerating into a philosophical quarrel. While 
this situation forbade originality, it drove him to other 
spheres of inquiry, in which he was the founder of a school 
*of his own, the chief authorities of which were the Fathers 
of the early Church. He possessed in an unusual degree 
the power of seizing upon and adapting the products of crea- 
tive minds in such a manner as to secure for them a favor- 
able hearing. His leading ideas were either restatements or 
modifications of tradition ; his minor principles were truths 
recovered from long obscurity. He acted without the prece- 
dents he afforded to Hus, and in this sense he may be re- 
garded as a discoverer.^ 

As between the Realists and the Nominalists Wycliffe 
stood with the former, albeit with some concessions to the 
objections urged by the opposing school. His position was 

1 C. M. Trevelyan : "England in the Age of Wydiffe" ; p. 173. 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 61 

a protest against the extravagances of the Scotists and of 
the revised Nominalism of Ockham; for his thorough- 
gmng disposition the substratmn of their creeds was an im- 
possibility. His Realism, though modified, ran counter 
to any tlieory of illusion: he ascribed reality to mental 
ideas, and denied the subjectivism which treated them as 
mere phantoms of the imajpnation.^ The Realists' faith in 
the validity of knowledge was grounded upon reason and upon 
the actuaUty of the objective world. But reality also per- 
tains to subjective consciousness, and it is only when both 
are taken into accoimt that a reconciliation can be effected. 
Wydiffe's doctrine of the Deity showed a leaning toward 
that philosophical Pantheism which characterized all varieties 
of Realism. ''God is all and in all. Every existing thing 
is in reality God itself, for every creature which can be named 
is, in regard to its 'intelligible,' and consequently its chief, 
existence, in reaUty the word of God." Perceiving the 
dangerous side of these propositions he amended them by 
adding, somewhat illogically, that they gave "no color to 
the conclusion that every creature whatsoever is God." * 
The will of God "is His essential and eternal nature by 
which all His acts are determined." Creation is conditioned 
by it, and is neither an arbitrary selection nor a process of 
emanations, but the only possible universe and an immediate 
work at a specific time. This was directly contrary to the 
affirmation of the Scotists that God does not choose to do 
anything because it is best, but that whatever He does is 
best solely because He pleases to do it. He regarded Divine 
Omnipotence as self-determined and morally regulated by 
the inner laws of God's Being. Omniscience argues an 
eternal Now: that which is to be in point of time is and 
ever was in relation to the Supreme Mind. His discussion 



iH. B. Workman: "The Dawn of the Reformation"; Vol. I, pp. 139- 
140. 

'Quoted by O. V. Leohler: "Wycliffe and hia English Precuraora"; 
pp. 263-254. 



62 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of the Trinity proceeded on lines laid down in part by the 
Fathers and in part by the Schoolmen. Its main interest 
centers in the doctrine of the Son as the Logos, the sub- 
stantive Word; an inclusive theory which embraced all 
''realities that are intelligible/' that is, capable of being 
realized in thought, and of which the Logos was the mediating 
element or member between God and the Universe.^ 

He compromised on the question of predestination and 
free-will, using for the purpose the Aristotelian distinc- 
tion between that which is absolutely necessary and that 
which is necessary on a given supposition. When he faced 
the fact of sin in the light of his own statement thatGrod 
wills only that which has being, he replied that sin was the 
negation of being and therefore could not be willed by the 
Deity, Who necessitated men in their deeds, which, in them^ 
selves, were neither right nor wrong, and took of morality 
only through man's use of them by means of his free agency.* 
Here Wycliffe forsook the teaching of Thomas Bradwardine 
(1290-1349), the "Doctor Profundis" with whom he had an 
intellectual kinship to which the development of his own ideas 
was indebted. 

Bradwardine's importance has been overlooked by modem 
writers, and he deserves more than a passing reference. 
Neander does not mention him and Gieseler does so only 
to misconstrue his teaching. More recently, however, such 
authorities as Lechler and Workman have given him the at- 
tention he merits. He was a native either of Hartfield 
in Sussex, or of Chichester, and a student at Merton 
College. In 1325, the year when the University was largely 
freed from the control of the Bishop of Lincoln, Bradwardine 
was appointed its proctor. In 1339 he became chaplain and 
confessor to Edward the Third, whom he accompanied to 
the French Wars. His earnestness and benevolence pro- 
cured for him the Archbishopric of Canterbury, to which 

> Q. V. Lechler: "Wydiffe and his English Precursors" ; p. 263. 
' EneudojHBdia Briianniea, XI Edition, Article on Wycliffe. 



JOHN WYCUFFE 63 

he ascended unsullied by the slightest stain of selfishness or 
worldly ambition. After a journey to Avignon to receive 
consecration, he returned to London only to be smitten with 
the Black Death at Lambeth Palace, where he died on 
August 26, 1349. Few prelates have been so widely and 
deservedly loved and esteemed; his untimely decease was 
a national sorrow in which king, lords, and people alike 
shared. A spiritual awakening he had experienced while 
still a student at Oxford regenerated his entire life, and 
was the secret spring of his religious insight and moral 
distinction. Anticipating Bunyan and Wesley, he narrated 
this visitation in words of the heart, ascribing his conver- 
sion to elective grace rather than to his own volition. 
"So then," he quoted from St. Paul's Epistle to the 
Romans, "it is not in him that willeth, nor in him that 
runneth, but in God that showeth mercy." It is hardly sur- 
I»ising that his theology was profoundly necessitarian ; his 
treatise ''De Causa Dei" became the fountain of Anglican 
Calvinism, which asserted that in the act of sin there is 
a complete exclusion of freedom of choice, since the Ever- 
lasting Will infallibly determines man's conduct, and con- 
sequently human free will has no existence. 

This was too radical for Wycliffe, who objected that any 
criminal, however desperate and wicked, would be justified 
m saying ''God determines me to all these acts of trans- 
gression, in order to perfect the beauty of the Universe." * 
Such a conclusion totally condemned the suppositions from 
which it was drawn. Hence, although influenced by the 
obdurate predestination theory which was embedded in 
Bradwardine's theology, Wycliffe swerved from its more 
pronounced position, and while he agreed with the Arch- 
bishop that everything which takes place does so of neces- 
sity, and further, that the Divine Being cooperates in all 
actions of the human will to the extent of determining them, 
he tried to save man's freedom of choice from any prejudice 

1 Quoted by G. V. Lechler: "De Dominio Divino"; I, c. 15, p. 265. 



64 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

due to the cooperation. In particular he repudiated the 
arbitrary notion that if any man sins it is God Himself who 
determines him to the act, contending that the motive 
which prompts the evil deed, and is the main demait of 
transgression, did not proceed from God. 

IV 

Wycliffe's unique contribution to later medieval 
thought is foimd in his treatises ''De Dominio Divino" 
and "De Dominio Civili." The former was an extension 
of Richard Fitzralph's phrase that ''dominion is founded 
in grace" and the latter a corollary of the former. FitsE- 
ralph, who has already been quoted in reference to the age 
of the undergraduates of Oxford, was a fellow of Balliol 
College about the year 1320, appointed Chancellor of the 
University in 1333, and in 1347 consecrated Archbishop of 
Armagh. He employed his theory as a weapon to assaO 
the Franciscan doctrine of evangelical poverty, arguing that 
to abjure all holding of property was to run counter to the 
laws governing social relations, and also to those between 
God and man. In this Wycliffe favored the austerity of 
Ockham and the Fraticelli as against Fitzralph's inter- 
pretation. Further, Wycliffe's treatment of lordship was 
powerfully affected by Augustine's views on the nature of sin. 
According to these "sin is nothing, and men, when they sin, 
become nothing. Evil is a negation and those who yield 
themselves to it cease to retain any positive existence. 
Clearly, then, they can possess nothing, can hold no lordship. 
That which they seem to possess is no real or proper posses- 
sion at all ; it is but the unjust holding of that which they 
must one day restore to the righteous. 'From him that 
hath shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.' 
As thus the wicked hath nothing, so on the other hand the 
righteous is lord of all things." ^ 

1 Quoted in " SodaX England/' Vol. II» pp. 163-164 ; edited by H. D. TrailL 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 66 

WydifiFe's discussion of this and corresponding matters 
is stOl in manuscript form, the only extant copy of which is 
kept at Vienna. It filled three volumes, which were pre- 
luninary to his major and collective work, the "Summa in 
Theologia." Lechler regards these volumes as the indica^ 
tion of his transition from the philosophical to the strictly 
theological phase of his career, and it b conjectured that he 
wrote them shortly after he had completed his studies in 
theolc^^y at the University. The contemporary disputes 
between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII, and be- 
tween the Emperor Loub of Bavaria and Pope John XXII, 
raged around the vexed questions of Papal supremacy over 
the State, and thus directly concerned lordship or dominion. 
These quarrels may have been a contributing cause in 
determining Wycli£Pe's views with regard to lordship; 
another cause was the controversy of the Holy See with the 
Spiritual Franciscans, who sought to enforce that rule of 
their order which forbade it to hold either personal or cor- 
porate property. Out of this dispute arose the larger issue 
whether or not Christ and His Apostles had individually or 
collectively authorized such a regulation. The obligation 
of poverty as a vow of the mendicant friars clashed with 
the policy of John XXII, who j)ersonally was far removed 
from such drastic renunciations, and declared against them 
m a series of bulls ending in the sentence of exconmiunica- 
tion upon those who opposed his decision. 

Whatever was the effect of these events upon Wycliflfe, 
there is ample proof that he gave prolonged consideration 
to the general question and carried it forward into a 
practical conmiunism, the j)erils of which were somewhat 
mitigated by his implication of lordship with service. In his 
opinion each was essential to the other. The Lordship of God 
Himself began only when He created beings to j)erform His 
service. Moreover, the Supreme Lordship was distinguished 
from that of man by the fact of its domination over all crea- 
tures, and by the same condition of service ; for every living 



66 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

being owes it to his Grod to serve Him with his whole being. 
^'God rules not mediately through the rule of vassab who 
serve Him, as other kings hold lordship^ since immediately 
and of Himself He makes, sustains, and governs all that which 
He possesses, and assists it to perform its works according 
to other uses which He requires." ^ Nor does He give 
any lordship to any of His servants "except He first give 
Himself to them." 

The principle that in the sight of Grod all men are equal 
had been recognized from early times; but Wycliflfe, not 
content to leave it in the sphere of sentiment, built it into 
his political philosophy. In feudal phraseology he would 
have said that all men held from God on the same terms oi 
service. From this he argued that the standing which a 
man has before God is the criterion by which his position 
among men must be determined. If through transgression 
a man forfeited his divine privileges, then of necessity his 
temporal privileges also were lost. Even the Poj)e himself, 
if morally unsoimd, retained his right of lordship no longer. 

The entire theory was attached to the article that the 
creature could produce nothing save what God had already 
created. Anything He granted to His servants was first a 
part of Himself, and when bestowed He was still suzerain 
and retained the ultimate disposition of the gift. It foUowed 
from this that the Divine Lordship was forever and in all 
resp)ects supreme, and that upon it human lordship was 
dej)endent. Men held whatever they had received from 
God as stewards, and if foimd faithless could justly be 
deprived of what may be called their fief. A subtle distinc- 
tion was made between lordship and actual ownership; 
nothing of the former was of the nature of property, for 
property was the result of sin ; hence Christ and the Apostles 
would have none of it. 

Wycliffe met the obvious possibility that all men were 

1 **De Dominio Divino/' I, c. 5: quoted in "Social England/' Vol. 11, 
pp. 162-163. 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 67 

liable to dispossession for breach of tenure^ in that all had 
sinned, by urging that his theory required a pure social ideal, 
and, while in actual practice "dominion was denied to the 
wicked, power might be permitted to them to which Chris- 
tians should submit from motives of obedience to God/' 
His emasculated conclusion was quickly seized upon by 
opponents, nor could Wycli£Pe prevent it from passing over 
into an absurdity. 

The paradoxical nature of this part of the argument did 
not interfere with its general application to the Church as 
the standard of universal faith and morals. Wycliffe 
agreed with Ockham's contention that she should hold no 
property. He urged that endowments had an injurious 
effect by involving her in temporal affairs. Her work 
lay within the sphere of the soul, and her influence 
should be restricted to spiritual supervision. He rejected 
the policy of Hildebrand and his successors, declaring that 
the Papacy had nothing to do with civil government, 
and that it ought to regain its old ideal of supremacy 
over men's hearts and consciences; ''for to govern tempo- 
ral possessions after a civil manner, to conquer kingdoms 
and exact tribute, appertain to earthly lordship, not to the 
Pope ; so that if he pass by and set aside the office of spiritual 
rule, and entangle himself in those other concerns his work is 
not only superfluous but also contrary to Holy Scripture." ^ 
He further declared that it was the duty of the State to 
vindicate its right of control over its own affairs. Terri- 
tories and revenues held by the Church should revert to the 
nation. The likelihood of the Church's retaliation upon its 
plunderers led to his well-known utterance on the matter of 
exconmiunication. If she should use such a weapon, it 
could be of no effect unless by his own sin a man had ex- 
conmiunicated himself and cut himself off from all spiritual 
communion. No external decree pronoimcing spiritual 
banishment could overcome a man's consciousness of his 

1 "De Dominio Civfli." 1, 17, quoted in "Social England/'. Vol. II, p. 164. 



68 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

continuation in a state of divine grace. Wydiffe studiously 
avoided saying anything derogatory to the reigning Pope. 
On the contrary, he expressed himself in terms of loyalty, 
but with the reservation that such loyalty did not obviate 
the duty of resistance to the Ponti£F if his claims were in 
contravention of Holy Writ. 

The readiness with which he passed from scholastic 
theology to complicated political and social conditions 
showed that instinct and feeling were the trusted guides of 
his mind. He occasionally forgot that the logic of meta- 
physics was one thing and the logic of life another. His 
lack of moderation and his contentment with a technically 
correct dialectic sometimes betrayed him into an unreal 
and almost fantastic discourse, in which he viewed the issue 
at stake as one wherein pure theory could operate, regard- 
less of any other consideration. This weakness was ap- 
parent when he insisted that the Church, and the Universities 
as a part of the Church, should cease to hold real endow- 
ments; and that the clergy should confine themselves to 
theological studies. In the first instance he pushed to the 
extremes of formal disputation opinions he had imbibed 
from the mendicant friars ; in the latter, his postulate that 
the Holy Scriptures were perfectly sufficient for a clerical 
education was advanced beyond reasonable boundaries 
and unsupported by his personal example. Yet these 
extravagances and inconsistencies were redeemed by the 
warmth of his natural sympathies, which generally were 
rightly bestowed and gradually led him to become aware 
of something nobler and more vital than the exactitudes of 
Scholasticism or the unquestioning zeal of partisanship. 
When force of reasoning failed him he was frequently aided 
by that insight and prevision which enable prophetical men 
rightly to value the germinating power of apparently hope- 
less but pregnant ideals. His solitariness as the last of the 
Schoolmen intensified both this faculty of vision, and also 
his faults as a thinker. The ages which preceded his own 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 69 

had produced great figures who stood forth from among their 
contemporaries upon the higher levels of thought and achieve- 
ment. It was a ^gn that disintegration had already begun 
wbea he was fated to stand alone. The richer the summer, 
the greater the decay of autumn. Wycli£Pe came to the 
vineyard at the eleventh hour, when Scholasticism's day was 
departing and its sky was already imbrowned with shadows. 
Chill mists had begun to fall upon those fields in which were 
found no fellow laborers of equal capacity to correct his 
peculiarities or counteract his excesses. 

Fortunately for himself he was fertile in distinctions and 
expedients, yet not so f ortimate in his facile handling of the 
abstract as though it were the concrete. The former gift 
oc»nbined with the substantial justice of the causes he 
undertook to overcome the difficulties of his temperament, 
training, and isolation. He formulated a series of proposi- 
tions which other leaders defended and furthered against 
the claims of the Holy See. The avowal that the King was 
God's vicar as well as the Pope, and that the State had a 
natural right and dignity which should not be impaired by 
ecdesiastical trespass, was carried beyond the theoretical 
stage as early as 1366, when Parliament finally refused pay- 
ment of the annual Papal tribute. The report of the debates 
on this action was strongly influenced by Wycliffe's views ; 
and such could not have been the case except for his acquaint- 
ance with public affairs, which saved him from mere syllogistic 
manipulation and prevented him from beating the air. 

His critics should bear in mind that, had not his more 
daring conceptions and innovations been couched in the 
formal phraseology of the Schools, they would probably 
have been instantly rejected. Their nakedness was clothed 
with a garb academically correct, which concealed the fact 
that they constituted a revolutionary departure from the 
authorized tenets then current, and embodied a new theory 
of the relation between Church and State. Hence the main 
results of his efforts are not to be found, as some of his 



70 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

readers have contended, in those mventions which were 
largely the surplusage of his genius. On the contrary, they 
appear in the broadening of that individual and national 
freedom for which an unbroken lineage of scholars and 
doctors had striven. Marsiglio had demanded that the 
Church should limit herself to her own province ; Ockham 
had vindicated the necessity and justice of an autonomous 
secular power ; the Spiritual Franciscans had exemplified the 
evangelical poverty which the Gospels inculcated ; Grosse- 
teste had denounced pluralities and provisions; Fit2sralph 
had insisted that dominion was founded in grace; and 
Wycli£Pe blended these separate ideas into a measurably 
consistent unity. 



Pope Urban V has come down to us as the best of the 
Avignon popes, so far as purity of character and religious 
fervor are concerned. His labors to repress simony and cor- 
ruption were creditable, and it was he who in his desire 
to escape the vicious life of the French seat made an un- 
successful attempt to reestablish the Papacy in Rome. 
Ekiually futile was his ill-timed demand for the homage of 
England, which Wycliffe, at the conmiand of Edward III, 
answered, as we have seen, in 1366.^ The Reformer was still 
teaching at Oxford when he summarized in his reply the 
argmnents which had already been advanced in Parliament 
against Urban's action. The temper of the national l^;islar 
ture, as reflected in these argmnents and speeches, indicated 
a strong antipapal sentiment in England, which increased 
as the fourteenth century progressed. 

Apart from the royal mandate, the causes of Wydiffe's 
diversion to politics may have Iain in his weariness of the 
endless hairsplittings of the phUosophical schools. Their 
members essayed to elucidate eternal mysteries by logic 

1 Whether the date is 1366 or 1374 is very doubtful. Some authorities 
fayor the later date. The Pope's demand was repeated in 1374. 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 71 

while th^ enshrouded plain everyday truths in a dense 
mist. Political action offered him a broader path and firmer 
footing than theological discussion. Again^ not only were 
idiilosophy and theology an intellectual unity at that time, 
th^ also stood in dose relation to every public question. 
The thedogian and the metaphysician were political econo- 
mists of a sort, and Wycliffe's attainments in the first two 
sciences fitted him to deal with questions of State policy. 

By far the most distinguished of his patrons at this stage 
of his career was John of Gaunt (1340-1399), the ablest 
and most unscrupulous Englishman of the time; a prince 
who shared the qualities and ambitions of the Plantag- 
enets, and devoted his talents, as the leader of a small but 
compact and active party, to the aggrandizement of the 
Lancastrian dynasty and its supporters. When he and 
Wydiffe conjoined, the gloom of impending national mis- 
fc»tune had begun to darken the last years of Edward III ; 
the renewal of continental peace had flooded England with 
a stream of retiuning soldiers, whose training in the wars 
had rendered them unfit for civil life; France was pre- 
paring to wrest herself free from the yoke of her enemies ; 
and the Black Prince, whose knighthood mirrored departing 
diivalry, was nearing the end of his brilliant military 
career. It seems to the student of to-day that there were 
more natural portents of evil, more droughts, famines, pesti- 
lences, seasons of abnormal suffering and degradation than 
the world has ever known since.^ Aristocratic and terri- 
torial prerogatives remained unrestricted, and society was 
drifting towards the thunders of the cataract. Strange 
combinations of somber circumstances were forming when 
Parliament in 1371 petitioned the throne that secular men 
only should be employed in the royal court and household. 

The Duke of Lancaster's alliance with Wycliffe was 
prompted by selfish motives on the part of the prince. He 

>Thi0 Bentenoe was written before the outbreak of the great war in 
Europe. It might now possibly bear revision. 



72 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

was in hearty agreement with the Refonner's proposal that 
''the king and his witty lords'' should take back the wealth 
and endowments of the Church ''by i^ooess of time"; 
that prelates should vacate their secular offices and that the 
extensive ecclesiastical estates should be forcibly recovered 
from those guilty of their misuse. But here the concurrence 
ended. Wydiffe would have applied the proceeds of sudi 
restitution to the welfare of the realm ; Gaunt was bent on 
securing them for partisan ends. Meanwhile the compact 
remained unshaken, although Wydiffe was disappointed 
at the pusillanimous conduct of the new administration. 
When the Papal collector of tribute, Arnold Gamier, visited 
England, the royal officials merely extracted from him the 
customary oath that he would do nothing contrary to the 
laws and liberties of the kingdom. Their mildness angered 
Wycliffe, who indignantly remarked in one of his pamphlets 
that it could not be otherwise than subversive of the laws 
and liberties of the realm that a foreign potentate should 
plunder it at will. 

He was perversely slow to suspect Graunt of less conunend- 
able aims than his own, and Gaimt was quick to make good 
use of the Schoolman's trenchant pen. In April, 1374, 
he was appointed by the Crown to the living of Lutterworth, 
bestowed upon him, not primarUy because he was a learned 
and pious clerk, but rather as a reward for his services to 
the government. The authorities took advantage of the 
minority of the regular patron, Henry de Ferrers, to assign 
the benefice to their nominee, and Wycliffe's enemies cir- 
culated rumors that further preferments were in store for him, 
and that he was to be elevated to the see of Worcester on 
the death of its occupant, William de Leme. 

The wrongs which patrons of benefices suffered at the 
hands of the Pope through the constant violation of the 
Statute of Provisors continued to be the subject of protests 
in Parliament, and finally it was arranged that the matter 
should be discussed at Bruges with the commissioners of 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 73 

Gregory XI. Accordingly on the 26th of July, 1374, John 
Gilbert, afterwards Bishop of Bangor, was made the head of 
the English del^ation, with Wycli£Fe as a subordinate mem- 
ber.^ The outcome was discomfiting to them. The six 
bulls which the Pope dispatched in September, 1375, while 
deploring past irregularities, gave no promise of future 
redress, llie promotion of the Bishop of Bangor was looked 
iqx>n as a payment for the betrayal of the interests of the 
Anglican Church, and Gaunt was suspected of similar 
treachery in his negotiations with France. 

In order to furnish some idea of the grievances that 
were aired at the conference, it is necessary to revert to the 
time of King John's humiliation at the instance of Innocent 
in. After that event the Holy See steadUy drew to itself 
the patronage of the highest ecclesiastical offices and emolu- 
ments in England, acting in connivance with the reigning 
monarch, whose interests generally coincided with those 
of the Ponti£F. " Were the king of England to petition for 
an ass to be made a bishop, we must not refuse Iiim," was a 
piece of sacrilegious effrontery attributed to Clement V. 
An example of the innumerable abuses which sprang 
from this sinister association, and from the ramifications 
of the extortionate system and the helplessness of the 
Anglican bishops to check it, is afforded by the dioce- 
san annals of Salisbury. Here twenty-eight out of fifty 
prebends in the gift of the Bishop had been provided for by 
the Popes, while not more than three of the holders resided 
in them. Eight additional candidates were on the waiting 
list with the promise of preferment at the first vacancy. 

* The latest reeearches by Dr. Workman show that Wycliffe was not a 
member of the official Conference at Bruges which settled the terms of the 
Concordat with the Pope. He was only there for seven weeks and was 
b no sense a chief figure. Bishop Gilbert was practically supreme, and 
the Concordat, which was so disastrous for England, was not determined 
upon until 1376, when the moving spirits were Simon Sudbury and John of 
GmuDt. The statement of Lechler that John of Gaunt and Wycliffe met at 
Bruges is a fiction. Wycliffe had finally left Bruges long before John of 
Gaunt went there to participate in the Conference. 



74 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

At length thb senseless rapadty was restrained by the 
English government, which defied the Papal court at Avi- 
gnon as the head and fount of unblushing simony, ''where a 
caiti£F who knows nothing and is worth nothing is promoted 
to churches and prebends to the value of a thousand marks/' 
The Pontiff's hitherto imquestioned right of nomination to 
bishoprics rendered vacant by translation had also been 
wantonly exercised. Their occupants were removed from 
one see to another as often as possible in order that 
the usual fees and first-fruits, t.^., the first year's income, 
might be collected from the outgoing and incoming prelates. 
The nominees were more often than not absentees as well 
as foreigners, content to receive the revenues of offices 
they had never seen. The shameful sx)ectacle of these ad- 
venturers enriching themselves out of the treasury of the 
national Church and the fimds gathered from the gifts of 
the poor and the faithful excited strong indignation. 
Wanton avarice had reached its climax and battened on 
its ill-gotten gains until the notorious evil sharpened the 
popular appetite for reform. Thus, apart from doctrinal 
and intellectual developments, the Wycliffian movement 
suited the resolution of his countrymen, exasperated as they 
were by clerical parasites who drained the financial re- 
sources of conmiunities to which many of them were entire 
strangers. 

The Statute of Provisors of the year 1351 was designed to 
prevent the Pope from providing English livings for foreign 
clerics, from making provisions for benefices during the 
lifetime of the incumbent, and from reserving them for 
Papal use and benefit while their occupancy was de- 
layed for that purpose. It also prohibited the acceptance 
of Papal letters of provision, and vested the patronage thus 
bestowed in the king. Further, by this Statute the free 
election of candidates for the higher offices reverted to the 
ancient procedure of their choice by the Cathedral Chapter, 
and the dignitaries thus chosen were allowed to have free 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 76 

preaentatioDs of the benefices under their jurisdiction. The 
fact that the Statute had to be supplemented two years 
later by the first Statute of Preemunire showed that it had 
fiuled to accomplish desirable results. After thirteen years 
more stringent legislation was passed, applying the inhibi- 
tions of the latter Statute to the Curia, which it boldly 
named. Finally, in 1393 the Great Statute of Preemimire 
subjected all appellants to Rome to the forfeiture of their 
case. This succession of enactments, six in all, during the 
period from 1350 to 1393, proved the ineflfectiveness of the 
various measures designed to end the Avignon tyranny. 
But if such means did not avail to abolish foreign eccle- 
siastical control, they supplied the precedents which gave 
color to Henry the Eighth's plea that he was acting within the 
law when he destroyed the independence of the Church and 
monopolized for the Crown and the nobUity the estates and 
mcomes hitherto shared with the Papacy. 

After what has been said it is not inexplicable that the 
Commission of Bruges should have truckled to the Pope and 
the king, or that its negotiations were as fruitless as the 
English court no doubt intended they should be. The claims 
of corrupted usage continued to fetter the liberties of Angli- 
canism, and the few concessions agreed upon were only 
meant to save the face of the conunissioners. The Bishop 
of Bangor was appointed to certain benefices by means of 
the very "provisions" he had been instructed to denoimce; 
WycliflFe remained merely a parish priest in rank, and held 
the living at Lutterworth until his death. Yet he was promi- 
nent in the coimtry, and his alliance with Gaunt kept him 
m the political arena. The declining health of Edward III 
and the death of the Black Prince made the Duke of Lan- 
caster supreme, while his reactionary influence served to 
mido the legislation of the "Good Parliament." Wycliffe 
resided at Lutterworth and at Oxford, making frequent jour- 
neys to the capital, where by this time he was equally well 
known as a trusted adviser of the Crown and as a preacher 



76 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

whose ardent eloquence fitted him to inspire and direct public 
opinion. 

His labors during this period were only exceeded by those 
whidi followed between the years of 1378 and 1382, when 
his efforts for reform literally consumed him. They seem 
to have been prompted by the belief that physical decline 
could not long be deferred, and that what he had to do 
must be done quickly. Within six or seven years he not only 
wrote all his English works, of which, according to Shirley's 
catalogue, there are sixty-five,^ but revised or completed at 
least half of his Latin writings, of which the same authority 
enumerates ninety-seven, and these herculean tasks were 
augmented by his share in translating the Bible. He also 
originated the pamphlet as a weapon of controversy. The 
Scholastic doctor, esteemed by his contemporaries as excel- 
ling in profimdity and subtlety, now doffed the cumber- 
some armor of abstruse propositions couched in syllogistic 
forms and a dead language. Hb tracts, addressed to fellow 
citizens in their own speech, were clear in substance and 
style, with many a mcy aside and pungent sally whidi dis^ 
closed in the writer a union of rare qualities of heart and 
brain. They were terse, pithy, incbive, vehement in feel- 
ing; not without antics in which the most learned were 
capable of indulging on occasion; and relieved and em- 
phasized by the play of sarcasm, banter, and raillery. Some 
of these broadsides were not more than a couple of pages 
in length, yet in that brief compass they frequently conveyed 
a masterly exposition bearing directly upon the matter in 
hand. 

The lack of other literary models than the Bible and a 
few Latin authors threw him back upon his own originality. 
The classics were preserved in the libraries of St. Albans, 
Glastonbury, York, and Diu^ham. Richard Aungervyle, 
better known as Richard de Bury, author of the "Philobib- 

1 The English are much inferior to the Latin works both in bulk and im* 
portanoe. 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 77 

lion" which dealt with his favorite pursuit of book collect- 
ing, was the owner of a great library secured at infinite 
pains. He bequeathed it to Durham College, a mimificent 
endowment indeed, since such libraries were rare before the 
time of Duke Humphry. Peter Lombard's "Sentences" 
and Gratian's "Decretum'' were the better known reposi- 
tories of learning, and Wycli£Fe's acquaintance with St. 
Augustine and St. Chrysostom was probably due to Gratian. 
No interpreter of WyclifiFe's writings can rate the Re- 
former an optimist. The world he saw was sorely distressed ; 
the inconstancy of human things ever inclined them toward 
the great abyss; the common people were bad, the civil 
rulers worse, the clergy, and especially the higher ecclesiastics, 
worst of all. Perilous times had come, in which offenses 
abounded. Their mischief was the more vexatious by con- 
trast, for they directly followed a period of superabundant 
energy which once bade fair to rejuvenate society. All author- 
ities were now recreant in that they had forsaken Christ, suiv 
rendered to human maxims, and become the slaves of tyranni- 
cal greed and caprice. The following quotation from one of 
his sermons shows how far short of Wycliffe's expectations 
Christendom had fallen, and how freely he reprimanded the 
religious dearth and coldness of the age. " It is as clear as day 
that we so-called Christians make the creatures to be our 
gods. The proud or ambitious man worships a likeness of 
that which is in heaven (Exodus xx. 4), because, like Lucifer, 
he loves, above all things, promotion or dignity in one form 
or another. The covetous man worships a likeness of that 
which is in the earth beneath. And although, arrayed in 
sheep's clothing, we hypocritically confess that our highest 
of all service is in the worship of God, yet it would very well 
become us carefully to inquire whether we faithfully carry 
out this confession in our actions. Let us then search and 
examine whether we keep the first and greatest command- 
ment, and worship God above all. Do we not bend and 
bow ourselves before the rich of this world more with the 



78 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

view of being rewarded by them with worldy honor or tem- 
poral advantage, than for the sake of their moral character 
or spiritual help? Does not the covetous man stretch out 
now his arms and now his hands to grasp the gold, and does 
he not pay court untiringly to the men who have it in their 
power to hinder or to help his gains? Does not the sensual 
man, as though he were making an offering to the idol 
Molochy cast himself down with his whole body before the 
harlot? Does he not put upon such persons worldly honor? 
Does he not offer to them the incense of purses of gold, in 
order to scent the flow of sensual delight with the sweetest 
p)erfumes? Does he not lavish upon his mistress gift upon 
gift, tUl she is more wonderfully bedizened with various 
ornaments than an image of the Holy Virgin ? And does not 
all this show that we love the flesh, the world, and the devil 
more than God, in that we are more careful to keep their 
conmiandments than His? What violence do we hear of 
the Kingdom of Heaven suffering in our times (Matthew 
xi. 12), while the gates of hell are bolted ? But alas ! broad 
and well-trodden is the way which leadeth to hell, and narrow 
and forsaken the way which leadeth to heaven ! This it is 
which makes men, for lack of faith, love what is seen and 
temporal more than the blessings which they cannot see, 
and to have more delight in buildings, dress, and ornaments, 
and other things of art and man's invention, than in the 
uncreated archetypes of heaven." ^ 

Whatever may be thought of the justice of this whole- 
sale condenmation, its sincerity is beyond dispute. Self- 
deception is not dishonesty, though it is often mistaken for 
it, and the fact that a man's opinions and practices do not 
always square with his words does not necessarily prove 
him to be a charlatan. We may be sure, however, that 
history is not written in such pronounced colors as black 

1 Liber Mandatorum (Decalogus) : c. 15, fol. 136, col. I ; fol. 137, col. 2. 
Quoted by Lechler, *' John WycUffe and his English Precursors" ; pp. 303- 
304. 



JOHN WYCLIPFE 79 

and white, and certainly not in black alone, but in the half 
tints and manifold shades which are necessary to depict the 
varieties of human character. The unqualified terms of 
Wycli£Fe's homily were employed for the sake of mental 
convenience as well as moral correction, and those who 
are given to the use of such terms, as he was, generally have 
in mind the increase of the good and the defeat of the evil 
in their surroundings. 



CHAPTER m 
THE QUARBEL WITH THE PAPACY 



81 



Had it not been the obstinate perveraeness of our prelates against 
the divine and admirable spirit of Wydif to suppress him as a schis- 
matic and innovator, perhaps neither the Bohemian Hus and Jerom, no, 
nor the name of Luther or of Calvin, had been ever known : the ^ory 
of reforming all our neighbors had been completely ours. 

Milton, AreopagUioa. 



/ 



82 



CHAPTER in 

THE QUABBEL WITH THE PAPACT 

Wydiffe and Church institutions — William Courtenay, Bishop of 
London — Wydiffe's trial in 1377 — Gregory XI's five buUs against 
him — Second trial in 1378 — Wydiffe's polemic against the friars — 
Sketch of rise, devdopment, and decadence of monastidsm — Con- 
trast between monks and friars — Popular accusations against the 
latter — The Great Schism and its effect on Wydiffe — His defense 
of Gaunt — His change of attitude towards the Papacy — Wydiffe's 
doctrine of the Church — His teaching upon TVansubstantiation — 
Development of the dogma — Wydiffe's friends forsake him. 



Wtcuffe was in all respects a typical Englishman, inde- 
pendent in thought, jealous for the honor of his country and 
consistent in his patriotism. He was seldom wanting in self- 
confidence; a maker rather than a creature of precedent, 
with a high spirit unaffected by the external circumstances 
which sway weaker characters. His practical bent made 
him impatient of dreams and ecstasies. As to his rank in 
learning, he was "in theology most eminent, in philosophy 
second to none, in scholastic exercises incomparable." ^ 

The conscious authority of these distinctions invested his 
bearing with an austerity age did not perceptibly soften, and 
lent his temper a brusqueness that tolerated no dallyings. 
He lived near enough to conscience to be discontented 
with things as they were, and when the test was applied he 
passed into social and political retirement rather tl^n sur- 
render his convictions. His integrity arose out of a solicitude 
for what he conceived to be spiritual religion. Excessive care 

> Bishop Mandeli Creigbton : *' Historical Eaaays and Reviews " ; pp. 173- 
174. 

83 



84 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

for received dogmas did not deaden his moral sense; he 
impeached any ecclesiastical ascendency that depended upon 
resistance to the lawful authority of the State, and encoun- 
tered no adversaries sufficiently strong to silence or even 
deter him. He was positive, militant, and eager for direct 
action because apparently doubtful concerning any self- 
righting principle in human development. While faithful 
to his own beUefs, he was not always just toward antagonistic 
views, and in the heat of controversy sometimes forgot that 
unbalanced truth is itself untrue. He was far more willing 
to be hurried than idle; the familiar German proverb, 
"Ohne Hast, ohne Rast," was scarcely descriptive of a career 
the moderation of which was altogether disproportionate 
to its restlessness and resolution. These traits were displayed 
to the full in his disputes with the Csesarean clergy, the friars, 
the Papacy, and finally, in regard to the doctrine of Transub- 
stantiation. Little allowance was made by the stem re- 
monstrant for the inevitable shortcomings of human nature 
that found expression in these organizations and this dogma. 
The refinements of analysis which can detect potential good 
in some present evils were beyond him ; in brief, sailing close 
to the wind was for him an impossible art. Thus one of the 
exhilarating aspects of his record was its moral intrepidity, 
which, apart from his connection with John of Gaunt, was 
seldom deflected from desirable ends. 

The denunciations and the virulence of his quarrels grew 
as the Csesarean clergy gave place to the friars, the friars 
to the Papacy, and the Papacy to Transubstantiation.^ 
He found abundant incentive in existing conditions ; Euro- 
pean politics were suffering from the consequences of the 
later Crusades, which had lapsed into ruffianism, leaving small 
choice between the conduct of the infidels who held the Holy 
City and that of the adventurers who strove to wrest it from 
them. France lay broken and bleeding beneath the weight 

1 The question has been raised whether or not Wycliffe's attack on the 
friars preceded that upon the doctrine of Transubstantiation. 



JOHN WYCLIFFE 85 

of the first half of the Hundred Years' War.^ In Italy and 
Germany the conflicts between the Empire and the Papapy 
had shaken the fomidations of society, and their cities were 
ovemm with a rabble of mercenaries and free-lances. Eng- 
land had been fortmiate enough to escape the distractions of 
dvil strife, nevertheless her social state was wretched beyond 
words. Gnnpared with those of the Continent, her pro- 
vincial towns were small and insignificant; outside their 
dosely guarded walls and noisome precincts the peasants of 
the shires groveled before their lords, for whom they were 
hewers of wood and drawers of water. Yet there still 
smoldered in these men the ashes of their fathers' wonted 
fires ; ashes which had heat enough left in them to kindle the 
conflagration that threatened to devour the ruling powers 
at the time of the Peasants' Revolt. 

When the Lancastrian faction forced William of Wykeham 
to resign the Chancellor's seals, his deprivation and at- 
tempted punishment led to further recriminations and im- 
peachments, and the dergy made Wykeham's cause their 
own. However desirable Wydiffe's abstention from politics 
might have been, it was now practically impossible: he 
could not have retreated without loss of honor and 
injury to his cause.^ Moreover, his doubts and question- 
ings, as well as his beliefs, were no longer latent. Once 
released from the habit of absolute submission and obedience, 
they proceeded apace, and their radical tendencies affected 
matters of public moment rather than scholastic discourse. 
He openly avowed in London churches the tenets of dis- 
endowment and of the sanctity of clerical poverty which he 
had formerly taught in the University. Rumors of his sen- 
timents were verified by his actual declarations, and his 
writings were dosely scrutinized for further evidences of his 
disaffection by those whose practices were imsparingly 

1 Wycli£Fe*8 connection with John of Gaunt might also have arisen from 
the fact that the manor of Wydiffe was in the 'honor of Richmond/ one of 
Gaunt's fiefs. 



» 



86 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

assailed, and also by others whose honest ccmvictions 
opposed his own. 

Among the latter was William Courtenay, the aristo- 
cratic Bishop of London, a member of the family of the Earls 
of Devon and, on his mother's side, a direct descendant 
of Edward I. This prelate forced the hand of the tem- 
perate Archbishop Sudbmy, whom he virtually supplanted 
as leader of the clerical party, and Wydiffe was smnmoned 
early in 1377 either before Convocation, or more probably, 
according to Bishop Creighton, before the Archbishop as his 
Ordinary, to answer charges of heresy, which had been pre- 
ferred against him for his opinion concerning the wealth of 
the Church. On February nineteenth of that year the Re- 
former appeared at St. Paul's Cathedral to defend his 
position, accompanied by four friars of Oxford, and under 
the escort of John of Gaunt and Lord Henry Percy, who 
eleven days previously had been made Marshal of England as 
the price of his support of the Lancastrians and in place of 
the Earl of March, who was exiled to Calais. The dramatic 
but useless scene which followed has vividly impressed itself 
upon the imagination of later generations. Gaunt, who was 
detested by the freemen of the city for his cupidity and 
arrogance no less than for the plottings and chicaneries of 
his followers, stood at Wycliffe's side throughout the stormy 
interview, fuming and threatening that he would pull down 
the pride of all the bishops in England. He was aware that 
Wycliffe was regarded as the instrument of his schemes for 
the confiscation of Church offices and revenues. Sudbury 
and Courtenay were not intolerant prelates, but rather 
ecclesiastical politicians, whose decision to resist the Duke's 
measures can be ascribed to their vigilance on behalf of the 
menaced privileges which they held essential to the existence 
and standing of the Church. Percy's insolent behavior 
exasperated the spectators crowding the ables of the ancient 
church and the adjacent streets, and the disturbance which 
attended the passage to the Lady Chapel annoyed Courtenay, 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 87 

who dedared, had he known beforehand that Percy would 
act the master in the Cathedral, he would have barred his 
entrance. The Duke, blind with rage, replied for his re- 
tainer that he should do as he pleased. While prince and 
prelate exchanged defiances, Wycli£Fe seems to have calmly 
awaited the hearing. Even Courtenay, the most gifted and 
resolute oi his foes, whose opposition finaUy crushed the 
Wydiffian movement, sank into comparative insignificance 
when contrasted with the last great Schoolman of Europe, 
the first derk of Oxford and tJie noblest and most astute 
thinker left in a decadent and reactionary age. Lechler's 
idealized description portrays him as "a tall, thin figure, clad 
in a long, light gown of black, with a girdle about his body ; 
his head, adorned with a full, flowing beard, exhibiting fea- 
tures keen and sharply cut, his eye clear and penetrating, his 
lips firmly dosed, in token of resolution — the whole man 
wearing an aspect of lofty earnestness, and replete with 
dignity and character." ^ 

The issue between the two parties was sharply drawn and 
thorough examination was desirable, since the justice of the 
case was by no means confined to Gaunt's faction, but the 
decorum befitting so grave a trial was altogether absent. 
Heated rejoinders and personal vilifications ended any pre- 
tense to judicial dignity, and were so freely used that Gaunt, 
overmatched verbally, resorted to threats of physical vio- 
lence. The Londoners, who loved neither Courtenay nor 
the Duke, had already been aroused by the introduction of a 
bill into Parliament on that very afternoon which proposed 
to deprive the city of its municipal rights and vest its govern- 
ment in an offidal chosen by the Court. This news created 
such a tumult against Lancaster that the sitting was sus- 
pended, while in the riot which ensued he was compelled to 
flee, and barely escaped with his life. The enraged citizens, 
disappointed of their prey, sacked his Palace of the Savoy, 
refusing to desist till Bishop Courtenay interposed to avert 

1 "John WycUffe and his English Preoursors" ; p. 159. 



88 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

their further vengeance. The unexpected deliverance of 
Wydiffe convinced the writer of the English Chronicle that 
the entire a£Fair was a device of the devil to protect his elect 
servant. 

Courtenay now had recourse to the Holy See, which re- 
quired little instigation from him to interfere in En^ish aSairs, 
and on May 22, 1377, Gregory XI, who had just restored 
the Papacy to Rome, promulgated there in the church of 
St. Maria Maggiore five bulls against Wydiffe, which he 
dispatched to the king, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the 
Bishop of London, and the University of Oxford. Three of 
these bulls were jointly directed to the Primate and the 
Bishop, and the other two to the king and the University re- 
spectively. Eighteen erroneous articles were transcribed 
from Wycliffe's writings, all of which, with one exception, were 
correctly quoted from his treatise "De Dominio CivilL" 
They were condemned as theses and their conclusions ex- 
pounded and repudiated, the Pontiff affirming with truth that 
their substance was to be found in the works of Marsiglio, 
the advocate of the imperial cause against John XXII. The 
doctrine of evangelical poverty, which Wycliffe set forth 
against the material ma^iificence of the Avignon Court, to- 
gether with his theory of lordship, supplied the material 
which now came under official censure. The bull ad- 
dressed to the University chided its members for suf- 
fering "tares to spring up among the pure wheat of their 
glorious field"; the one to the king prayed him to grant 
the Papal commissioners his favor and protection in the 
discharge of their duty. Sudbury and Courtenay were 
reproved as "slothfully negligent, insomuch that latent 
motions and attempts of the enemy are perceived at Rome 
before they are opposed in England." Plenary powers were 
granted to the bishops to ascertain whether these pestiferous 
opinions were actually taught by Wycliffe, and the Pope di- 
rected that "the said John" should be arrested and impris- 
oned in safe custody until further commands were received. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 89 

The edicts reached England at an inopportune moment. 
Edward m died on June twenty-first of that year; the 
first Pariiament of Richard 11 at once manifested a strong 
animus against the encroachments of the Papacy, and the 
regency of the Princess of Wales was controlled by political 
exigencies which for the time made WyclifiFe the leader of the 
nation at large. He was consulted by Parliament as to 
** whether the realm might not legitimately stop the export of 
gold to Rome, considering the necessities of her defense/' 
and promptly answered in the affirmative.^ "The Pope," 
he argued, " cannot demand treasure except by way of alms 
and by the rule of charity, but all charity beginneth at home, 
for our fathers endowed not the Church at large, but the 
Church of England." The document concluded with the 
idea "that the goods of the Church should be prudently dis- 
tributed to the glory of Grod, putting aside the avarice of 
I^elates and princes." 

The last clause annoyed those who had predatory pur- 
poses of their own, and he was enjoined by the young king 
and the Council to keep silence. But Parliament and 
people were so enthusiastically in favor of Wycliffe that, 
while John of Gaunt was excluded from the Council of 
his nephew, any effort to indict the Reformer would have 
been an attempt to indict the nation. It is not surprising 
that the higher clergy acted circumspectly at this juncture, 
or that the University doubted whether the Papal bull 
could be received. The Archbishop's request that Wyc- 
liffe should appear before the Commissioners in February, 
1378, was extremely courteous in tone, and made no 
mention of the severe measures the Pope had commanded 
in the event of his resistance. He came to Lambeth, 

1 The export of gold from England by the religious orders was a constant 
drain on the nation. An example is furnished by the forty English de- 
pendencies of the French Abbey of Cluny, which in WycUffe's time re- 
mitted annually to the latter place a sum equivalent to $300,000 or more 
in modem money. There were many other instances of this continual 
exaction. 



90 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

but owing to the pleas of the Princess Dowager of Wales 
and the clamor of the populace, the conclave was speedily 
dissolved. Courtenay withdrew his clericals, who were 
probably much relieved to be freed from their thankless 
task. Many of the Oxford doctors were in sympathy 
with Wydiffe's heresies ; even his enemies hesitated to lay 
hands on an influential subject at the behest of a foreign 
ruler, and during the crisis, the ulterior aims of politicians 
and the patriotic pride of citizens united to sustain the 
Reformer as the upholder of national honor. Walsingham, 
chronicler of St. Albans, mourned over such a dearth of zeal, 
and chided the cowardice of the bishops Who were as ^^ reeds 
shaken by the wind. Their speech became as soft oil, to the 
loss of their own dignity and the injury of the Church. They 
were struck with such a terror that you would fancy them to 
be 'as a man that heareth not, in whose mouth there is no 
reproof.'" This jeremiad provided the funeral baked meats 
for the anti-Wycliffians, whose personal attacks on the 
Reformer virtually ended in the important year of 1378, 
when the Great Schism turned the attention of bishops and 
statesmen to heresiarchs of larger magnitude, and to the 
evils that arose out of their conduct. 



II 

Wycliffe's emphatic nationalism developed his first heresies 
round the grievances of the State, but he passed on to dis- 
cover in Scripture and Apostolic custom a firm basis for his 
remonstrance against the friars. His former sentiments 
toward their self-imposed poverty and sanctity were respect- 
ful and affectionate. He spoke of them as ''those evangelical 
men very dear to God," and his early distinction between 
them and the wealthy monastic orders (religiosi possessionati) 
was accompanied by an unmeasured rebuke of the indolence, 
mercenary disposition, and pride of the monks. Historians 
are generally agreed that it was not till the year 1380, when 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 91 

first he attacked the doctrine of the Mass, that he became 
onbroiled with the friars.^ Be this as it may, his aversion 
was not pronounced so long as he recognized that the early 
Franciscans had been established for the edification of the 
Church. But when he witnessed with all observers their 
inconceivably rapid d^eneration his references ceased to 
be eulogistic; in 1378 he protested against those practices 
which were divorced from their vows, and after 1381 he 
was their relentless opponent. This revubion was the more 
complete because of his previous regard for their excellen- 
cies. His unbending nature could not forgive their open 
derelictions, and these profoundly influenced his attitude 
toward clerical authority and doctrinal orthodoxy. As 
monastidsm in general was thus the second important 
factor in his controversies with the Church, a word of explana- 
tion concerning the origin and progress of the various orders 
will enable us better to imderstand their relation to medieval 
ecdesiasticism and to Wycliffe. 

Monastidsm arose in the Orient, and was common to 
antiquity as well as to modem times; to Buddhism and 
Mohammedanism, as well as to Christianity. In the third 
and fourth centuries the deserts of Egypt and Syria abounded 
with hermits and anchorites, who emulated the rigor and 
followed the precepts of St. Anthony and St. Pachomius. 
The former was the first Christian monk, and admittedly 
the father and prototype of Christian monasticism; the 
latter, its organizer, who foimded nine retreats with three 
thousand inmates and drew up rules for their guidance in 
fraternity life. Pachomius' cenobitical rules were made still 
more stringent by Basil the Great in Cappadocia. When the 
system entered the West, it received a practical impulse and 
&>urished under better forms than in its original home. 
Benedictine houses and congregations arose spontaneously, 
with* leaders of piety and personal gifts, whose work was 
adopted, regulated, and utilized by the inclusive policy of the 

> Biihop Aiandell Creichton : "Historical Essays and Reviews" ; p. 102. 



92 THRBE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Holy See. The fundamental laws which governed all alike 
were labor, poverty , obedience, and chastity ; beneath thdr 
sway monastidsm fixed the standards and absorbed the 
forces of the Church, her doctrine and her devotion. Not- 
withstanding the fact that by WyclifiFe's time the virtues and 
achievements of the system had passed into decline and could 
no longer overcome the self-assertion of the pagan world, its 
earlier regime had protected an immatiu^ civilization, and 
was useful in the reduction of its brutal tendencies. The 
monastic cdk enshrined the asceticisms and prayers of 
innumerable lovers of God whose hard pitiless life was illumi- 
nated by those emotions and meditations which are the re- 
verberations of eternity within the human spirit, and their 
visions of infinitude and holiness are now reflected in some 
of the choicest devotional literature. Cloistral life in its best 
periods furnished a center for the spiritual aspirations of 
mankind, and protected them against a Church too often 
secularized in heart and soid and a world filled with folly, 
lust, and cruelty. In addition, the fij^t monks were agricul- 
tmtdists whose holdings were models of thrift and industry. 
They did for the rural provinces a work similar to that done 
by the trade guilds for the cities and towns. The regulars 
were more than recluses occupying retreats where their 
beautiful structures, clustering around a Norman or Early 
English church, arose by the side of some quiet stream en- 
circled by woods and meads. Nor did they spend their 
entire time in a round of ritualistic offices while they 
depended on inherited or contributed means for support. 
They cleared the land of bracken and bramble, drained and 
tilled it, dug the fishponds, reared the bams which housed 
the harvests of an erstwhile wilderness, and built the fanes 
they filled with psalmodies. Their economic and religious 
value for the half-starved, ignorant peasantry was very con- 
siderable. This pioneer work taught the rustics to have some 
care for their bodies and homes, and the monks further in- 
structed them in respect to their souls' welfare. A colonizing 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 93 

habit and a communistic life were the focus for missionary 
^orts, in which educational provisions and medical dis- 
pensaries were included. Hospitality was a sacred duty, 
embracing all ranks and conditions. The vestiges of art 
which survived that stormy interregnum were preserved 
in the monasteries. They were the treasure houses for 
the traditions and examples of a former leanung, and the 
sacred books and the writings of the Fathers were kept 
intact in their libraries and copied in their scriptoria. 

But the institution which was comparatively irreproach- 
able in the tenth century was questionable in the f oiuteenth : 
later monastidsm had forsaken some of its healthy occupa- 
tions, and was no longer kept pure by sacrificial toil. It in- 
curred the adverse judgments of such loyal Catholics as St. 
Bonaventure, St. Catherine of Sienna, and the great Grerson 
himself.^ The details of its decadence are too lengthy for 
redtal here, nor do the learned and apologetic works of such 
writers as Cardinal Gasquet ^ deal as fully as could be desired 
with the official arraignments of the regular clergy during 
the four centuries preceding the Reformation. The state- 
ments therein contained are explicit and conclusive, and the 
Cardinal's explanations are characterized by a partisanship 
which the careful student is bound to take into consideration. 
On the other hand, Thorold Rogers' description of the late^ 
monasteries as "dens of gluttony and vice" is entirely too 
severe. Abandoned wickedness was prevalent in some quar- 
ters, but it was the exception and not the rule. Where the 
charges of immorality are true, as are those given in the 
painstaking accounts of Dr. H. C. Lea, they are likely to be 
misleading unless regarded in relation to the age in which the 
offenses were committed. The restraints and licenses of pub- 

* John Cfenon (1363-1429), French scholar and divine, Chancellor of the 
University of Paris and leading spirit in the Ecumenical Councils of Pisa 
and Constance. He labored to spiritualise university life, reform the clergy, 
and end the Church schism, and also to abolish scholastic subtleties from 
the university curriculum. 

* The Head of the Benedictines in England, elevated to the Sacred Col- 
on May 26, 1914. 



94 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

lie opinion were felt even in the cloister ; its devotees were not 
all of a superior sort ; to a great extent they represented the 
social conditions from which they had been transferred, 
and they should not be condemned without reference to 
current practices, which, although they do not excuse, help 
to explain the failure of religious professions. 

Sporadic attacks of sensuality were not the real causes 
which led to the decline of monasticism. The system ceased 
to live because it had forsaken its first love and lay en- 
gulfed in its selfish introspections. The terms monk and 
monastery lost their once grateful sound; local com- 
ments turned from praise to blame; esteem and a£Fection 
gave place in the breasts of their tenants and underlings to 
contempt and hate. The hostels of the lowly Nazarene, in 
which the poor and the maimed were no longer welcome, 
housed lordly abbots and their wasteful retinues. The 
effects of the unseemly change were seen in many direc- 
tions, and in none more than in this, that whenever local 
riots arose the monastery or abbey was almost sure to be 
the first building upon which the people vented their dis- 
pleasure. When Wycliffe assailed the monks and friars th^ 
were no longer formidable. The seculars had begun to sup- 
plant them in the cure of souls ; the Universities had found 
them a negligible quantity ; the education of the youth of the 
nation had passed out of their keeping ; the people resented 
their aloofness ; the barons hungered for their broad acres, 
and patriots viewed them as the watchdogs of an alien 
power. 

At this juncture, when the noble impulses of Benedictines, 
Augustinians, Franciscans, and Dominicans were trembling 
on the verge of extinction, the ravages of the Black Death 
destroyed at a blow one half the inmates of the religious houses 
in England. Then, as we have seen, the friars rendered a 
laudable service to stricken humanity. But the fearful visita^ 
tion crushed the monastic establishments. Their broken 
and dispirited survivors could not fill the vacancies thus 



JOHN WTCLIFFB 96 

created, and their funds went unreplenished by any entrance 
fees. In Engtand during the fourteenth century only sixty- 
four new monasteries were established, as compared with two 
hundred and ninety-six in the thirteenth century, and four 
hundred and ninety in the twelfth centiuy.^ Conciliation 
by means of a more public-minded policy and service was at 
an end. The state of a£Fairs before Wyclifife came upon the 
scene has been depicted by Dr. Jessopp: the moi^ "fled 
away to his sditude ; the rapture of silent adoration was his 
joy and exceeding great reward ; his nights and days might 
be spent in praise and prayer, sometimes in study and re- 
search, sometimes in battling with the powers of darkness 
and ignorance, sometimes in throwing himself heart and 
soul into art which it was easy to persuade himself he was 
doing only for the glory of God ; but all this must go on far 
away from the busy haunts of men, certainly not within 
earshot of the multitude.'' ' 

Monastidsm had received repeated warnings to set its 
house in order ; nor did the injustice of some of its enemies 
excuse its own perversity and pride. It evaded embarrassing 
situations and suppressed realities until doom fell upon the 
proudest and richest order of its chivalry, the Ejiights Tem- 
plars of France, and none could foretell where the next stroke 
would fall. In May, 1308, fifty knights were hurried to the 
stake ; five years later Pope Clement V decreed the dispersal 
of the order, and the tragedy was completed, on March 
14, 1314, by the burning of Jacques de Molay, the Grand 
Master, with three of his principal subordinates. A small 
island in the Seine, at the western end of the city of Paris, 
where now the Pont Neuf rests between the arms of the river, 
was the scene of the execution. The flames rose against the 
dusk of evening and crimsoned the shores, which were lined 
with spectators. While the Grand Master stood in the fire 

' In the fifteenth century only one or two monasteries were built in England, 
the chief of which was the Bridgettine Syon, at Isleworth, Middleeez, 
founded by Henry V in memory of his father. 

s "The Coming of the Friars"; p. 7. 



96 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and slowly roasted to death he summoned the Pope and the 
French kbig to appear with him at the bar of the Almighty. 
)^thin forty days Clement obqred the call, and Philip the 
Fair within the year.^ 

A centiuy and more before these events, monastidsm's 
loftiest ideal had found its most perfect realization in St. 
Francis of Assisi, the young Italian who for a moment molded 
the world to his own will, and better still, kept himself 
unspotted from it. The life of St. Francis is an imperishable 
example of the divinest elements victorious in human nature, 
surviving every vicissitude and bringing the race nearer to 
the goal of righteousness and obedience. The son of a mer- 
chant of Assisi, Pietro Bemardone, he is said to have received 
the name Franciscus because he was bom during his father's 
absence in France in 1182, although some biographers have 
attributed it to lus own residence there as a youth, and to his 
familiarity with the language of the Troubadours. In 1206 
he was brought to the verge of death by successive attacks of 
sickness, which decided his career. Out of their regen- 
erating piuification emerged the transcendently beatific 
figure of the saint, who tinned from his boon companions 
and their pleasures that he might taste the powers of the 
world to come. Relinquishing his inheritance, he took upon 
himself the vows of poverty, and appeared clad in a single 
tunic of coarse woolen cloth, girt with a hempen cord, the 
dress which afterwards became the garb of his famous order. 
The greatest of the Popes, Innocent III, gave him the 
sanction for which Francis had petitioned that discemer of 
spirits, and the young devotee settled the constitution of his 
fraternity upon the threefold basis of chastity, poverty, and 
obedience. From the beginning the second of these vows was 
first in spiritual importance and efficacy. The chosen motto 
of the brotherhood was Christ's word, "Ye cannot serve God 
and Mammon"; its practice, that each member should 
esteem himself the least and most unprofitable of all. "He 

1 M. S. C. Smith : **Twenty Centuries of Paris" ; pp. 116, 118. 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 97 

that will be chief among you/' said the founder, ''let him be 
your servant." Those whose self-consequence would not 
allow them to submit to these precepts were rejected, and 
the remnant became fratres, freres, or friars, who were 
sent out to proclaim their evangel to the ends of the 
earth. 

The companion order of the Dominicans was established 
in 1216, the year of Innocent's death and of his formal authori- 
zation of the Franciscans. St. Dominic, their founder, was 
a native of Calahorra in Old Castile, bom in or about 1170, 
the year of Becket's murder. When still a young man of 
twenty-three he was so well known for piety and learning 
that the Bishop of Osma appointed him to a canonry, and 
relied upon his help in the reform of the Chapter according to 
the Augustinian rule. His missionary labors among the 
Moslems, and especially among the Albigenses of southern 
France, convinced Dominic that the cruelties to which these 
sufferers for their faith were subjected could not convert or 
even shake the resolution of the victims. "We must meet 
them with other weapons and greater faith!" he cried. 
And in the belief that such heresies lured the souls of 
men to everlasting ruin, he conceived the order which 
bears his name. On December 22, 1216, he obtained an 
audience with Innocent's successor, Honorius III, who reluc^ 
tantly confirmed his predecessor's stipulation that the first 
Dominican conmiunity, then located at the Church of St. 
Romain in Toulouse, should be called a house of Augustinian 
canons. The endowments of St. Dominic as a preacher 
naturally led him to insist on the agency of the pulpit for the 
silencing of opponents and the instruction of the ignorant.^ 
In 1220 the Dominicans, imitating the Franciscans, adopted 
vows of poverty so rigid that not even as a corporation could 
they hold houses or lands. The two orders, thus nearly 
simultaneous in their origin, were known from the color of 
their robes as the Grey and the Black friars, and their 

1 A. Jeesopp : "The Coming of the Friars" ; p. 24. 



98 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Hussion^ while practically the same in its object, was suffi* 
ciently varied in methods to suit their distinctive gifts. 

Enough has been said to indicate that monks and friars were 
not simply different in degree, but also in kind. The monk 
climg to his possessions, the friar had not where to lay his 
head ; the monk lived apart from, the friar with, the people. 
The self-abnegation of the latter set him free to spend and 
be spent in their behalf. While he raised his voice against 
their lusts and iniquities, he was alive to their distresses and 
shared their hopes and fears. The story of the first appear- 
ance of the friars in England during the year 1224 surpasses 
romance in its fascinations. The land was just recovering 
from the religious destitution consequent upon the Papal 
interdict against King John when they entered it, delivering 
as they went the message that neither birth, nor station, nor 
riches, nor learning counted for aught, but rather goodness, 
meekness, sympathy, and truth. Men could live above the 
base and the vile, and find their highest selves while pursuing 
their ordinary vocations. Such words fell upon hearts 
longing for the truth, and the consistent conduct of the 
preachers, seconded by their brief and intense sermons, 
gained an eager response from all classes. The striking 
resemblance between the earlier friars and the itinerants of 
eighteenth century Methodism has been widely observed. 
"St. Francis," comments Dr. Jessopp, "was the John Wesley 
of the thirteenth century whom the Church did not cast 
out." Both the friars and the circuit riders saw that the 
Church was lifeless, that the parochial system had collapsed, 
and that the only means of recovery was by a return to the 
spirit and letter of the New Testament Evangel, in absolute, 
unquestioning obedience to its teachings. This they essayed, 
without disputing on useless issues, and unhindered by 
superfluous dogmas or rules. But the parallel was incom- 
plete in one salient particular. The friars were conformable 
to the general policy of the Roman Church, and when John 
XXII condemned the strict observance of the vows of their 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 90 

order they even burnt their brethren who clung to the tradi- 
tions of St. Francis. The Methodist Churches, whether in 
En^and, America, or elsewhere, have always been independ- 
ent of any ecclesiastical authority outside their own borders. 
Papal corruption had little to fear from the friars so long 
as the Curia exercised control. When the Spiritual Francis- 
cans developed their own principles and became the Fraticelli, 
they drew upon themselves the censure of popes, of kings, 
and of those who represented the conservative interests of 
society. The lower minds among them surrendered those 
ideals which had awed Europe into adoration, and sank 
down into an organized hypocrisy. The loftier intellects, 
who did not share St. Francis' contempt for learning, 
were harassed, silenced, banished, or imprisoned. Fore- 
most among such men was Roger Bacon, whose vast knowl- 
edge and investigations in physics enabled him to confront 
tradition and authority witji facts demonstrated by experi- 
ment. Time worked its deterioration on the friars' single- 
ness of aim; the exacting regimen of Assisi was honestly 
believed by many of the saint's followers to be impossible of 
fulfillment. Spiritual romanticism was followed by sudden 
and violent disenchantment. The millennial vision vanished 
after its collision with reality. The consequences were 
such as might have been expected; those who set up as 
idealists while at the same time living on the naturalistic 
level hastened the triumph of the forces against which they 
professed resistance. "Whether there be prophecies," said 
the Apostle, "they shall fail;" and those pseudo-prophets 
who were unable to breathe the rarefied atmosphere of the 
altitudes attained by seers of the past could no longer utter 
oracles with any meaning. Yet " Love never faileth," and, 
although their brotherhood was demoralized, their concord 
broken by disloyalties and divisions, that wonderful example 
of a life of holiness and service which at the first the friars 
placed before the world has been a source of strength and 
inspiration in every branch of the Church. 






100 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

ni 

An expert in adopting other men's ideas, Wycliffe incor- 
porated the friars' doctrine of voluntary poverty into his own 
teaching and copied their methods of evangelization when he 
sent out his poor preachers. The more devout among them 
were always cherished by him, and he coveted their aid in his 
revival of their neglected practices. Some responded, and 
many students, failing to notice this, have been puzzled by 
the presence of four friars as his advisers when he appeared 
before the Convocation at St. Paul's. But, once he was 
persuaded that the orders as a whole were lost to their 
proper aspirations and no longer abstained from all pursuits 
conmdon to men that they might preach the Grospel of Jesus 
in word and deed, he set them apart for contempt and scorn. 
They were outside the pale of decency, reprobate and ab- 
normally wicked. Nor was he alone in these accusations ; 
all classes, save those which profited by the friars' lapse, 
were a unit in protesting against their outrages, hypocrisies, 
and lusts. Exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, they were 
severely censured by the bishops who could not control 
their excesses. The monastic orders eyed them askance as 
successful rivals, and fiercely assailed them. But the general 
and prolonged outcry against them and the nearly universal 
hatred heaped upon their works and ways can only be ex- 
plained by the fact that the offenses laid at their door were 
substantially true. They had fallen to the lowest levels of 
society, and the height of their first endeavors gave momen- 
tum to the headlong descent. 

They glossed the Scriptures to extenuate the crimes of male- 
factors, and heard confessions and granted absolutions with 
such flagrant disregard for the sanctity of the priestly voca^ 
tion that the Pope was driven to contemplate its withdrawal. 
Freed from parochial responsibilities, they wandered where 
they pleased, refusing with impudent nonchalance to face the 
results of their evil deeds, and leaving behind them an in- 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 101 

creasmg army of villains and outlaws shriven for a fee and 
cleansed of all their sins. These sorry specimens of the 
pardoning power were the despair of the secular priests and 
of the bailiffs alike. The sober testimony of such dignitaries 
as Archbishop Fitzralph supports what otherwise might 
appear to be rhetorical exaggerations. He averred that 
he had two thousand ^ such in a year ''who are excommuni- 
cated for willful robbery, arson, and similar acts, of whom 
scarce forty come to me or my parish priests for confession, 
preferring to confess to the begging friars who at once 
absolve and admit them to conmdunion." "Any accursed 
swearer, extortioner, or adulterer," thundered Wycliffe, 
"will not be shriven by his own curate, but will go to a 
flattering friar that will assoil him falsely for a little money 
by the year, though he be not in a will to make restitution and 
to leave his accursed sin." He branded them with the name 
of Cain, spelt Caym, and taken from the initials of the Carmel- 
ites, Austins, Jacobins or Dominicans, and Minorites or 
Franciscans. Their farcical pretensions to religious over- 
sight were satirized in the political ballads of the street, of 
which the following stanza is a specimen : 

"For had a man slain all his kin, 
Go shrive him to a friar. 
And for less then a pair of shoon 
He will assoil him clean and soon." 

Giaucer's optimism gave place to irony when he depicted 
among the Canterbury pilgrims the monk ''who had 
but one fault, forgetfulness of the rules of his order, and an 
inordinate love for hunting." The smooth-tongued friar; 
the summoner, with his "fire-red pimpled face, narrow 
eyes and loose morals; the pardoner of beardless chin, 
goggle eyes, dark yellow hair and squeaking voice," were an 
unedifying group of clerical figures in the poet's narrative. 

* The number varies : some authorities giving two thousand, others two 
hundred. 



102 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Many had degenerated into hucksters; "Charity," wrote 
Lan^nd, ''hath turned chapman/' Their profits were too 
often spent in dissipation. The friars '' knew the tavemes 
well in every town/' Popular songs imputed to them the 
worst of crimes. 

"All wickedness that men can tell 
Reigneth them among, 



There shall no soul have room in hell 
Of friars there is such a throng.' 



» 



Wycliffe did not accuse them of the grossest forms of im- 
morality, but Langland, widely divergent from him in tem- 
perament and outlook, did, and issued his tirade against the 
mendicants, pardoners, sunmioners, and other such ''cater- 
pillars of the commonwealth." They were chiefly intent on 
humoring the lewd and the godless and inducing them to open 
their pockets after their harangues. Nor did they confine 
their solicitations to the poor. Lady Meed, the incarnation 
of illicit gain in "Piers Plowman,^' had scarcely arrived in 
London when 

"Came there a confessor coped as a friar 

****** 

Then he absolved her soon, and sithen he said. 
We have a window arworking will cost us full high, 
Wouldst thou glaze that gable and grave therein thy neme, 
Sure shall thy soul be heaven to have." 

So notorious were the infamies of these parasites that the 
authorities, and especially those of the Universities, were com- 
pelled to rise against them. But the friars were aware of 
their power as a useful organization to be employed in emer- 
gencies by unscrupulous superiors. They also had a firm 
hold upon the ignorant and the refractory, whose prejudices 
and oilenses they fostered or excused, and they could afford 
to ignore the threatenings of the higher clergy. This defiant 
attitude was emphasized by the alignment of the orders 
in opposite political camps. The Franciscans naturally 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 103 

• 

cast their wei^t on the side of the peasantry, from whose 
ranks thqr were recruited ; while the Dominicans favored the 
wealthitf groups. Both alike were advocates of Papal 
claims, emissaries of Rome, and defenders of the highest 
sacerdotal views of the priesthood and of the Sacrament 
of the Mass. They shared in the repression of intellectual 
freedom at Oxford, and hunted down WycUffe's preachers 
wherever found. 

He attributed their depravity to the inflated notions of 
clerical power then prevalent, and the wanton abuse of its 
prerogatives convinced him that it must be destroyed before 
any permanent reform in the Church could be accom- 
plished. As with many intellectual people, Wycliffe's in- 
exorable reasoning was more consistent than his insight 
was sure. He did not perceive that the real cause for 
the breakdown of the Franciscan ideal was to be found 
in the inevitable reaction which followed Francb' premature 
attempt to project his scheme on an agitated and wicked 
age. No such spiritual conception could remain alive and 
prosper unless the losses to its disciples from death and 
disaffection were repaired by compensatory gains the ad- 
verse conditions of the period did not supply. The saint 
of Assisi was set on the inmiediate regeneration of men 
and society after the pattern of his own transformation. 
The less obvious and more patient processes which enable 
the mass of mankind gradually to transcend the limitsr 
tions of evil in themselves and in their environment were 
rejected for a frontal attack upon iniquity and selfish- 
ness, which, while it was magnificent, was not war. It 
may be remarked in passing that the decline of the orders 
coincided with a desirable change in the fortunes of the 
parochial priesthood. The seculars were no longer to be 
ousted from their charges, nor deprived of their pastoral 
standing, nor robbed of their income in order that some 
fraternity might reap advantage, or an already wealthy 
abbey be increasingly endowed. The founding of Merton, 



104 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Queens^ and New Colleges was the genesb of an educational 
system intended to supply^ among other requisites^ a godly 
and learned ministry for the churches of the nation. The 
necessity for this waited long upon its fulfillment, but at any 
rate the diversion had been made, and while the regulars 
decreased the seculars grew in efficiency and serviceableness. 
Moreover, the Black Death bettered the condition of the 
survivors among the parochial clergy by increasing the de- 
mand for their labors. The registers show that during and 
directly after the pestilence, the number of priests instituted 
to livings increased from thirty-seven to seventy-four in every 
hundred cases. Notwithstanding episcopal edicts, their 
stipends were raised commensurately, and in this and 
other ways the disparity between them and the rest of the 
clergy was reduced. Thus the Black Death did in one year 
what the Ecumenical Council of Lyons had conspicuously 
failed to accomplish, although summoned by a reforming 
Pontiff, and prompted by such disciplinarians as St. Bona- 
ventura and lus fellow Franciscan, Eudes Rigaud of Rouen.^ 
From the moment that Wycliffe resented the sacerdotalism 
which the friars embodied and abused, his severance from 
Rome was simply a question of time. His hesitancies were 
dismissed by the Great Schism which six years before his 
death tore asunder the Papacy, and continued from 1378 to 
1417. This event convulsed Christendom and gravely 
affected the standing of the Holy See. The confusion 
and distress which resulted from it were an impressive 
tribute to the historical service of the Papacy as a cen- 
tralizing and cohesive power. "For nearly eight hundred 
years," says Dr. Workman, in an eloquent passage, "Rome 
had stood, not merely for righteousness, but solidarity. Her 
bishops were not only the vicars of God ; they were the sym- 
bols and source of a brotherhood that would otherwise have 
perished. Men remembered their services in the past ; how 
they had tamed the barbarians, enforced law upon the lawless, 

* G. C. C. Coulton : *' Chaucer and his England" ; p. 305. 



JOHN WYCUPFE 106 

pteaxhed the subordination of the individual to society, 
curbed the lust and despotism of kings, held up ideab of 
purity and truth in the darkest ages, saved the Church 
from the triumph of the Cathari,^ maintained a unity of 
faith and hope in the days when all creed was in danger of 
disintegration. '^ ' Whether or not everything in this list of 
notable deeds was Rome's actual work, or an appro- 
priation of that of other agents, the people of the four- 
teenth century neither knew nor cared. It sufficed for the 
vast majority that they held her daims valid, and her Pon- 
tiffs a divinely ordained succession. Any infringement upon 
the integrity and rights of the throne of St. Peter was there- 
fore a desecration of the controlling authority in civiliza- 
tion. There had always existed in the Church a liberal and 
Intimate trend of thought and effort, which was not at 
variance with any vital principle of Catholicism, but, on 
the contrary, essential to its fimctions as a unifying force. 
The representatives of this trend knew that "if in a higher 
world it is otherwise, yet here below to live is to change, and 
to be perfect is to have changed often." Yet when sagacious 
ecclesiastics, recognizing that the human element in the 
Church stood ever in need of correction and readjustment, 
made any overtures for reform, a conflict was invariably 
precipitated, in which the conservatives, with the Vati- 

I The Cathari^ also known as Paiilioians, Albigenses, Bulgarians, Mani- 
cbeana, etc., were a widely scattered sect both in the East and the West. 
They believed in the existence of two Gods, one good, the other evil, both 
eteroml* though as a rule they subordinated the evil to the good ; that Satan 
inspired certain parts of the Old Testament, and was the ruler of this world, 
which was spiritual, not material ; that all men would finally be saved, 
bat that those d3dng unreconciled to God through Christ must return to 
earth for a further term of imprisonment in the flesh, either in a human or 
an animal body. They fell into two well-marked divisions: the Cate- 
chumens or Believers, and the Perfect, who had received the gift of the 
Paraclete. The latter, which included women, formed the priesthood and 
eontioUed the Church. The influence of the Cathari on Christendom was 
eoormouB. To counteract it Innocent III instituted his crusades, and celi- 
bacy was finally imposed on the clergy ; the great mendicant orders and 
the sacrament of Extreme Unction were also evolved by way of competing 
with the teachings and practices of the sect. 

* '*The Dawn of the Reformation*' ; Vol. I, p. 12. 



106 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

can at their head, generally won an easy victory. Ger- 
son's plea for a constitutional Papacy deriving its authcmty 
from condliar representation, or the plan advocated by 
Grosseteste, who asked that methods of raising revenue should 
be reformed and a stricter discipline enforced, received 
scarcely less rebuke from Rome than the revolutionary pro- 
posals made by Marsiglio and Wycliffe. The outward 
unity of Christendom was finally shattered, and the re- 
proach incurred by the Holy See for its part in the calamity 
was the more deserved, because this was hastened by the 
resistance of the Popes to human progress and by their 
ambition for temporal sovereignty. The very raison d'Hre 
of the Papacy consisted in its being the divinely appointed 
trustee of the legacy of faith and morab bequeathed to 
mankind by Christ. The fidelity and energy with which 
this treasure should have been guarded were squandered on 
earthly affairs, and struggles for political ascendency. 

Further, in demolishing the Holy Roman Empire the Pa- 
pacy irretrievably damaged its own edifice. Conjoined, the 
two powers were supreme because they were complementary ; 
separated, each was deprived of the federation of secular 
and ecclesiastical authority which had been a mutual sup- 
port in their subjection of European tribes and kindreds. 
Their centripetal forces were spent in what was really a 
civil war; Gregory IX and Innocent IV even went to 
the length of proclaiming their conflict with the Em- 
peror Erederic II a crusade, and, on that assumption, 
demanded funds from the Church and the faithful. The 
struggle ended in the defeat of the Emperor, once known as 
the "wonder of Europe," a ruler of high ideals and pursuits. 
He died in the smnmer of 1250, leaving many projects 
unfulfilled ; on the subsequent ruin of his house, the Cape- 
tians strengthened their dynasty in France and the English 
monarchy became a still more essential part of that nation. 
Rome discovered, too late, the nemesis of her triumph over 
the Empire in the widespread conviction, which she could 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 107 

not shake, that the building up of separate nationalities 
was the future task of statesmen and the goal of history. 
Thus a deadly blow was inflicted upon her prestige by those 
resuks which she had imagined would increase it. 

Hiere was nothing novel in the idea of national automony, 
thou^ it had long been dormant when the dissolution of the 
Holy Roman Empire and the passing of the medieval prin- 
ciple of internationalism reawakened it and made possible 
its realization. The Popes asserted anew their claim to 
authority, only to find that the moral groimds on which the 
Papacy originally rested its case were no longer tenable 
and that tihe lower methods of diplomacy and of war 
were their only resources. Rulers and peoples were not 
di^XMed to readmit spiritual prerogatives or bow to 
derical control without the closest scrutiny, and, at times, 
open defiance. That astute and unscrupulous politician, 
Boniface VIII, endeavored to remove this antagonism, but he 
cauld not depend, as did his predecessors, upon the Euro- 
pean princes as his feudatories and the instruments of hb 
will. Where compulsion was unavailing, negotiation was 
the last resort ; by its employment of artifice and strategy 
the Papapy lowered itself to the level of surrounding gov- 
ernments, and incurred reprisals that were a contradiction 
of its theories of overlordship. To make confusion worse 
confounded Boniface plunged into a quarrel with Philip the 
Fair of France which ended in the defeat and capture of the 
Ponti£F, who was sent to Rome as a hostage, where he was 
imprisoned by the Qrsini in the Vatican, until, on October the 
eleventh, 1303, death mercifully released him from further 
humiliation. Such a tragedy had not been known since the 
fall of Rome ; the spiritual sovereignty of Christendom had 
become a mere adjunct in the administration of one among a 
group of developing states. The successor of Boniface like- 
wise perished with mysterious suddenness, and the choice 
of the next Papal candidate was dictated by Philip, who 
forced the new Pope to give pledges that he would revise the 



108 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Vatican's poli<7 in harmony with the king's wishes. Tliis 
infamous betrayer of hb Pontificate, Clement V, was bom a 
subject of Edward I in or about the year 1264. He became 
Archbishop of Bordeaux, and was crowned Pope at Lyons 
on November 14, 1305. 

After his elevation to the throne of Peter, Clement peremp- 
torily refused to reside in Rome, nor did he visit the capital 
of Christendom during his sovereignty. In 1309, consist- 
ently with the deliberate exploitation of the Holy See by the 
French Court, he transferred its seat to Avignon. The act 
was worse than a blunder, it was a crime. The Pope and 
Rome were inseparably one, a necessary unity for the religious 
symbolism which was cosmopolitan, not national, and still less 
sectional ; intelligible to all, understood by all. Their un- 
natural separation startled and repelled Catholics of every 
land; it chilled the heart and numbed the intelligence of 
those who ardently cherished divine things. 

Avignon is separated from the rest of the world by the 
legends and histories that haunt its embattled walls and 
thirty-nine towers. Innocent IV built these fortifications, 
whose strength stayed for a time the prowess of Bertrand 
du Guesdin, the foremost warrior of fourteenth century 
France. In Avignon, Petrarch is said to have looked 
on Laura for the first time, and the city still claims her 
tomb. Along its streets rode the beautiful Queen Jeanne 
of Naples, attended by her coiutiers, when she came to 
answer for the murder of her husband, and to sell the 
place to Clement VI for eighty thousand gold fiorins. 
Rienzi also found his way here, shadowed by hb approaching 
fate. The Palace of the Popes, a sanctuary and a fortress, 
is enthroned on the Roches des Domes, three hundred feet 
above the Rhone, and in its hall of audience the politics of 
Europe centered for a century and a half. The Court of 
Avignon during this period was a plague-spot of wholesale 
bribery, simony, and debauchery. Petrarch, whose language 
should be received with some reservation, described the gloomy 



JOHN WYCLIPFE 109 

stronghold as ''the city of the Captivity, the common 
sink of all vices, false guilt-laden Babylon, the forge of lies, 
the horrible prison, the hell upon earth." Beyond ques- 
tion its villainies saddened the souls of believers and stim- 
ulated the antagonism in which Wydiffe figured. The 
morale of the Church was impaired by the sight of the 
Pontiff acting as the ally of France, and subjected by French 
statesmen, to their schemes for dominating the continent. 
The tribunal which had been the court of arbitration for 
Western Christianity, and whose judgments, as the one un- 
tnumneled and absolute authority above the control or 
influence of secular states, had been dispensed with so even 
a hand as to conunand general approval, now became a 
hissing and a byword. 

In England dissatisfaction slowly passed into open hos- 
tility. The reasons were evident : not only was any measure 
which ran counter to French interests promptly suppressed, 
but these interests were aided and abetted by Papal decrees. 
Clement V and his brother supplied the French army with 
several millions of pounds sterling dining the wars of 
France with the island kingdom, which itself had previously 
contributed to the Papal exchequer a large part of the 
grant. The treacherous deed filled England's cup of bitter- 
ness to overflowing; it was typical of the conscienceless 
extortions wrung under every conceivable pretext from 
all regions within the Papal jurisdiction. The end of such 
a course could be nothing short of the degradation of the 
Papacy, the ruin of its standing and authority. And 
so the event proved. "The Church is pale," lamented 
Catherine of Sienna, "through loss of blood drained from her 
by insatiable devourers." 

The suicidal proceeding entered its last phase in the 
Schism, when two rival Popes reviled and excommunicated 
each other with every insult and calumny unheeding 
anger could evoke. They were compared by Wycliffe to 
hungry dogs snarling over one bone. After more than 



110 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

seventy years of the Avignon Papacy , Gregory XI returned 
to Rome in the winter of 1376-1377, reluctantly taking this 
step after repeated solicitations from St. Catherine, whose 
remarkable letters to the Pontiff on various occasions were 
replete with literary charm and spiritual fervor. He found 
the city a desolation and the Lateran Palace uninhabitable ; 
an ominous emblem of the irreparable havoc which had been 
wrought upon the Holy See itself. 

This brief sununary of the causes and consequences of the 
collapse of Romanism, as conceived by Hildebrand and real- 
ized in part by Innocent HI, leaves one occupied with con- 
jectures upon what might have been the future of Christen- 
dom if the warnings of Dante, the foremost religious genius of 
the last miUennium, had been effectual. His ''Divina Corn- 
media" is the grandest medieval memorial of a completely 
enfranchised soul, and the chief token of its power. Indi- 
vidual as his work is, it sets forth a universal system, in which 
he passes beyond the farthest boundaries of man's mind. 
The great poet sorrowed over the destruction of the EmfHre 
and liie lost unity of the Church which had been the nexus of 
the nations. He foresaw that without some auspicious inter- 
vention further calamities would ensue. The conclusions of 
saints of happier times, such as St. Bernard, St. Victor, and 
St. Thomas, haunted his remembrance. He heard the fail- 
ings of the Church on earth recounted in the courts above ; 
the splendors of Paradise grew dim while St. Peter denounced 
the sins of those who had disgraced the Holy See. But 
notwithstanding Dante's cyclonic bursts of wrath against 
her iniquities, Rome remained for him the center of the 
world and the hope of the race. The idea of a supreme 
divine development in which human institutions, however 
holy, were but the foam on the wave, did not relieve his 
distress. He knew only the things of the past; salvation 
from the disasters he mourned lay, not in the womb of the 
future, but in the restoration of a departed authority whose 
grandeur comported with the notions of his own mind% 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 111 

Believing this he turned to the reconstituted Church and 
Empire as the only source and anchorage of humanity. 

The resuhs he presaged came in full measure, pressed 
down and running over. The Papacy, which had cowed 
Abailard, silenced the speculations of Arnold of Brescia, and 
at every hazard held fast to the orthodox faith, itself fell a 
victim to the heresies of the Renaissance. Emerging from 
the Frendi Captivity crippled and shorn, it became degraded 
even in its own eyes, and the refined sensualism of the 
later Pontiffs was only purged away by the defection of 
the half of Christendom. The wounds then inflicted have 
not been healed ; the unity and the universality lost under 
Boniface VIII and Clement V have not been recovered, nor 
has the Holy See since resumed its overlordship of the Euro- 
pean nations. Nevertheless, though sorely pressed on many 
sides, and sadly mutilated, it regained the old severe and 
rigid method, and continued to serve as a great reservoir 
d influences and powers which have steadily contributed to 
the <M^nization of modem society. 

The splendid dream of Hildebrand, like that of St. Francis, 
was foredoomed for lack of elasticity. When realized, it 
was defeated by the expanding life of Christian States which 
the Church knew better how to evolve than to control. 
Beneath the moral turpitude, the exodus to Avignon, 
the treacheries, grievances, complaints, and wars, lay the 
Papacy^s fundamental error: its slowness to perceive that 
feudalism in the fourteenth century had begun to die and 
was no longer possible as an organic system. The higher 
civilization which supplanted it could not be permanently re- 
strained by the lower. While the northern peoples increased 
m vitality and ethical superiority, the Holy See lost its 
breadth of sympathy and was unconsciously narrowed by 
Latin traits and tendencies. It vainly trusted in the glamour 
of outward rank and circumstance ; in the unyielding moni- 
tions of a hierarchy, and in the stilted formulse with which it 
expressed the major truths of life and faith. These had little 



112 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

meaning for the more powerful conununities which eventually 
gained supremacy in Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Great 
Britain and her colonies of the New World. Rome's tra- 
ditional arguments, which her wisest children would have 
modified, were not sufficiently strong to support a position 
rendered patently anomalous by the growth of knowledge 
and freedom. The outcome was far too complex and exten- 
sive for its various aspects to be characterized in a phrase. 
The mischievous result for the Holy See was the loss of its 
genuine catholicity. On the European continent the anarchy 
and war which followed offset the otherwise notable advan- 
tages of release from Roman supremacy. 

IV 

While Sudbury, Courtenay, and their fdlow bishops were 
anxiously pondering how to obey the Pope without offending 
the English people, Wydiffe escaped scot free. His first 
appearance in public affairs after the proceedings connected 
with the Papal bulls of condemnation was in the autunm 
Parliament of 1378. John of Gaunt had violated the sanc- 
tuary at Westminster by sending a band of armed men to 
seize two knights who had taken refuge there, one of whom 
was slain in the m£16e which ensued. Wydiffe was requested 
to write a defense of the Duke's high-handed action ; he re- 
sponded with a state paper which is still preserved and 
incorporated in his treatise ''De Ecclesia." As an argu- 
ment against the abuse of such privileges the document 
is creditable enough, but it was not applicable to the case in 
question. The result was that it gave color to the accusation 
that Wycliffe was a hireling of the Lancastrian party, and 
neither helped Gaunt nor increased its author's reputation. 
Wycliffe occupied a far stronger position when he resiuned 
with unabated vigor his philippic against the Csesarean clergy. 
His ecclesiastical protestantism voiced a conmion feeling of 
discontent. Its political elements contained the germinal 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 113 

« 

oonoqitioiis of modem as substituted for medieval ideas of 
man and society, and in giving them utterance Wycliffe 
confirmed his position as a leader of the . nation. The 
luxurious residences and appointments of the wealthier prel- 
ates savored of the devil ; their flourishing estates were a 
scandal to the service of Him who had said, "My kingdom is 
not of this world" ; the exactions and sinecures of the hier- 
archies and the orders were derogatory to the honor of Grod. 
Here he halted before assailing the Papacy, restrained by the 
reflection that it was the animating principle of the Church 
and the focus of her external forms. Yet the rift between 
him and the Holy See was made in the first instance by 
logical deductions from his own theories on lordship and its 
counterpart in service, which bore heavily upon the Papal 
daiiiis. Then came the Schism, which demanded force 
instead of logic, and certainly could not be met by Wydiffe's 
fixed faith in the virtues of argumentative persuasion. 

In this change of sentiment toward the Pontiffs the 
antithesis of Church and State was implicated, and to such 
(^position as his the genesis of the Reformation must be 
ascribed. Yet he earnestly desired the preservation of the 
Holy See, believing that its dignity and prestige were as 
essential to the stability of Christendom as its entangle- 
ment with matters temporal was subversive of that end. 
He contended that the spheres of temporal and spiritual 
sovereignty were necessarily separate and distinct, that the 
Church should neither influence politically nor be influenced 
by the secular power. 

Impelled by these and similar arguments he slowly drifted 
from his loyalty to the Papacy. Prior to 1378 he had 
acknowledged its governance, although denying its imcon- 
ditional plenary power. As late as that same year he hailed 
the election of Urban VI with a burst of approbation: 
" Praised be the Lord who has given to our Church in the days 
of her pilgrimage a Catholic head, an evangelical man, who, 
m reforming the Church that it may live in accordance with 



114 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the laws of Christ, begins in due order with himself and his 
own household, so from his works we believe that he is our 
own Christian head." Even after the Schism, Urban was 
still, in Wycliflfe's words, "our Pope." But the death of 
Gregory XI at Rome changed all this. His successor had to 
be elected there, and the violence of the populace so alarmed 
the Conclave that to appease it they chose Urban, an Italian 
by birth. Five months later he outwitted the French repre- 
sentation in the College and entrenched himself in power by 
nominating twenty-eight new Cardinals, a majority sufficient 
to end the Galilean control of the Curia. At this turn of 
events the malcontents elected their anti-pope, Robert of 
Geneva, who assumed the title of Clement VII, and was ulti- 
mately deposed by the Council of Constance. Thus the 
Curia itself destroyed the unity of the Church and created 
that incipient revolt which ended in the upheaval of the 
sixteenth century. The conduct of Urban and Clement in 
their violent outbursts against each other soon quenched 
Wycliffe's praise of the former claimant. Both became tar 
him as "crows resting on carrion,'' and he advised that they 
should be discarded, since they had "little in conunon with 
the Church of the Holy Grod." The description was justified ; 
Urban, a man of meager cultivation and harsh manners, 
behaved with the ferocity of a savage, and Clement, although 
less cruel by nature, was conspicuously deficient in moral 
character. Selfish oligarchies had met their usual fate, and, 
while Christian people looked on, helpless and depressed, 
both Popes pursued a tumultuous course of personal ven- 
geance, wherein tortures, imprisonments, assassinations, and 
wars occurred which the Cardinals themselves endeavored 
to arrest. 

Neutrality was impossible, and Wyclifife's detestation 
extended beyond the rival disputants to the system which 
they were tearing to pieces. He publicly denounced the 
Papacy as accursed in root and branch, employing epithets 
which echoed the fiuy that raged at Rome and Avignon, 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 116 

''Christ,'' said he, ''has begim to help us gradously in that 
he has doven the head of Antichrist and made the one part 
fight against the other." The primacy of St. Peter could 
not be proved; the claims based upon it were mythical; 
Papal infallibility and the right to canonize or exconmiunicate 
were wicked delusions. He placed upon the Curia the onus of 
blame for the oppression, immorality, strife, and misgovem- 
ment that disgraced the Papal court and administration, 
and referred to the Pope himself as an apostate to venerate 
whom was blasphemous idolatry. While he traced the source 
of these grievous misdoings to the Pontiffs, he asserted that 
their poison had spread throughout the ecclesiasticism they 
personified. The "twelve daughters of the diabolical leech" 
were found in the hierarchical grades of the clergy, beginning 
with the Cardinals, and ending with the doorkeepers who did 
their bidding. None had scriptural warranty, and least of 
all those of the higher ranks, who should be plucked out of 
the seats they defiled. The pastoral offices were safer in 
the keeping of simple and godly clerks than in that of learned 
ingrates, and, unless such virtuous men were installed and 
the Church purged of crafty and ambitious worldlings who 
had so long been her woe, she could not be restored to her 
ancient purity and service. It is difficult to determine 
how much of this objurgation originated with Wydiffe, as 
distinguished from that attributed to him. Current con- 
troversial literature aboimded with references to Antichrist, 
a mysterious, awful being who was regarded as the sum of 
diabolical iniquity, whose name was employed by all and 
sundry to heighten their vilification of opponents. Many 
of the j)amphlets then issued have been confused with 
the writings of WycKffe, and, later, of Hus. It is fairly 
certain that Wycliffe did not object to the Holy See so long 
as it was invested with its essential qualifications. Nor can 
his adverse attitude be ascribed to the removal of the 
Papal Court to Avignon, an event which took place before 
he was born. His abhorrence arose from the disgrace of 



116 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

rival successors of St. Peter frantically issuing excommuni- 
cations and raising armies against each other. This prodi- 
gious evil infected the entire Church, and, so far as Wydiffe 
was involved, after 1378, the memorable year in his 
career, he had no dealings with Rome, except as an open 
adversary. 

His doctrine of the Church, when freed from the scholastic 
abstractions which mystified it, may be divided into three 
parts: the Church triumphant, the Church militant, and 
the Church "asleep in Purgatory." The second of these, 
which alone concerns us, he defined as consisting exclusively 
of those who were predestined to salvation. This assign- 
ment was so arbitrary that the Pope "wots not whether he 
be of the Church or whether he be a limb of the fiend." 
The number of the elect was entirely an allocation of the 
Divine Will, and their indissoluble spiritual union did not 
require the coimtenance of hierarchies, nor that of the " sects " 
of monks, friars, and priests. He showed here, as elsewhere, 
the deep distrust of human arrangements which he seems to 
have inherited from Ockham, carrying it to the extent of 
complete disorganization. Not only might Pope and Cardi- 
nals be set aside, but he further asserted that he could im- 
agine a state of society in which the Church should consist 
solely of the laity. The law of the Gospel, as her sufficient 
and absolute rule, rendered her independent of such adventi- 
tious aids as masses, indulgences, penances, or any other in- 
ventions of spurious sacerdotalism. He foimd it impossible 
to defend his statements by Christian tradition or by the 
canon law, and his unhistorical procedure was really retro- 
grade. But, though he did not see the direction in which 
the Church should be guided, he did see that the hierarchical 
system which had hitherto commanded his assent had ended 
in disgrace and failure. And he expressed the national 
instinct in his approach towards that evangelicalism which 
has since largely incorporated the religious life of English- 
men and Americans. He further contended that the reign- 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 117 

ing monaich should be the head of Christ's commonwealth, 
popes and bishops being subjected to him. This frankly 
Erastian doctrine could scarcely have withstood the reasons 
adduced against it from the encounter of Louis the Fair of 
France with Boniface VIII and Clement V, wherein French 
treachery was more to be dreaded than Crerman truculence. 
What might have been its consequences during Edward the 
Third's later period, when he was in his dotage and John of 
Gaunt and Alice Ferrers distributed the patronage of the 
Crown, or again, during the troubled years of Richard II, 
may be surmised from the robberies and confiscations which 
were afterwards perpetrated in the reign of Henry VIII. 

The way is now clear to discuss Wycliffe's teachings upon 
Transubstantiation, in which he advanced from his opposi- 
tion against the Fapal power to that indictment of all sacer- 
dotalism and of its visible evidence in the Mass which exposed 
him to the definite accusation of heresy and completely 
separated him from Catholicism. In the summer of 1381 he 
first publicly denied that the elements of the altar suffered 
any material change by virtue of the words of consecration, 
an avowal which filled his closing years with agitation and 
eventually cost him the support of the monarchy, the Lan- 
castrian party, and the University. Here follows a survey of 
the chief landmarks in the history of the dogma he withstood 
at such risk. The term Transubstantiation originally occurs 
in a treatise of the eleventh century, by Hildebert de Savar- 
din of Tours, or Le Mans, although the ideas which the term 
conveys were familiar at a much earlier date, and arose out 
of the disputation concerning the Eucharist that extended 
from the ninth to the eleventh century. During this era 
theologians endeavored to place the holy mystery of the 
Christian faith upon a philosophical basis. In 844 the learned 
monk Radbertus Paschasius published a monograph on the 
"Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ," which defined 
the dogma more clearly and was instnunental in its develop- 
ment. As Radbertus interpreted it, the bread and wine 



118 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

became internally changed into the veritable flesh and blood 
of the Lord's actual Body. Against this the Benedictine 
monk Ratranmus contended that the consecrated wafer was 
simply a memorial or mystery of the spiritual body existing 
under the vail of the material, but he failed to secure any 
general agreement with his conception. Materialistic ideas 
of the Eucharist found such favor that when Berengarius of 
Tours, who lived from 998 to 1088, declared against them, 
asserting that the Real Presence was only spiritually con- 
ceived and received, the Lateran Council of 1059 forced him, 
under threat of death, to recant the heresy. One of its indi- 
rect consequences was the remarkable statement of Guitmund 
of Aversa, that the entire Person of the Divine Redeemer was 
present in every particle of the associated elements. This 
St. Thomas subsequently amplified into the dogma that the 
Blood was contained in the consecrated wafer, and therefore 
the cup could properly be withheld from the laity. Tran- 
substantiation was treated by Lianfranc from the standpoint 
of the Realists, who sought to refine the coarse materialism 
in which it was set by the Nominalists. He emphasized the 
distinction between the universal substance held to be present 
in any particular thing included under it, and those accidents 
or sensible properties which appeared only when the pure 
form clothed itself in matter. Accordingly, by the act of 
consecration the substance of the elements was changed 
while the sensible properties remained the same. It is clear 
from this reasoning how the Roman Catholic belief in the 
Mass came to be based upon what was held to be apostolic 
practice, and also that later Realism supplied its philosophi- 
cal ground.^ The orthodox standard was officially an- 
nounced by the Church at the Fourth Liateran Council, in 
1215, which adopted the term Transubstantiation as the 
expression of New Testament teaching. The summary of 
that teaching, quoted here from Roman Catholic sources, 
may be stated as follows : Christ is really and truly present 

^ See Catholic EnoyolopsBdia : Article on Eucharist ; p. 577. 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 119 

in the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and 
wine, so that His real Body and Blood, His Soul, and His 
Divinity are present. The living Christ is on the altar, or in 
the consecrated wafer. The change that takes place at the 
moment and by the act of consecration is Transubstantia- 
tion ; a change whereby the substance of the bread and wine 
passes over into the substance of Christ, who, under that form 
of bread and wine, becomes and remains present so long as the 
accidents remain uncomipted.^ 

This doctrine had been gradually accepted in the Western 
Church, tacitly held for more than five centuries, and for- 
mally and authoritatively enunciated for three. Fortified 
by the learning of the Schoolmen, it gradually became the 
citadel of priestly power, which worked a daily miracle 
before the adoring faith of Grod's believing children. In the 
Sacrifice of the Altar they found the offering of Supreme 
Love, and in the solemn worship that surrounded it the peace, 
rest, and meditation belonging to eternal realities thus divined 
and appropriated. From his youth Wycliffe himself had 
been taught to revere the sacred Ordinance, and, resolute 
innovator though he was, its hold upon him caused him to 
place it above the remaining Sacraments as the highest and 
most honorable of all. He was convinced that no other 
had so sure a guarantee in Holy Scripture. It was not indeed 
the Sacrament itself, but rather the doctrine of the change 
of substance, that aroused his misgivings. His contribution 
to Protestant theology under this head did not go beyond the 
destruction of that theory ; it was left to Hus to deal with 
the denial of the cup to the laity, and to Luther to contend 
against the sacrificial feature of the Mass. For a long time 
Wycliffe accepted the interpretation of the changing sub- 
stance, and there are no hints in his earlier writings of 
any doubt concerning it. On the contrary, he expressly 

>See Catholic Elnoydopodia : Article on Transubstantiation ; p. 570. 
Also '* Hierurgia *' by Dr. Rock, Chapter I, sectionB 3 and 4, and Chapter 
n, section 1. 



120 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

stated in the "De Dominio Civili" that our Lord, there 
described as the eternal Prophet, Priest, and King, ''was a 
Priest when in the Supper He made His own Body." The 
clear inferences of this phrase were twofold : first, that the 
words of Christ effected the miracle; and again, that the 
officiating priest, who stood in the apostolical succession, 
brought it to pass by virtue of the words of consecration 
which he repeated, and not by his own authority. The belief 
that the Body of Christ was present under the accidents of 
bread and wine was then practically universal, and this b 
precisely the meaning of the dogma as it b now held. 

Beneath all his deviations Wycliffe was very much of the 
Schoolman, and to the last his theological positions were 
conditioned by his propensity for metaphysical expressions. 
Hence his denial of Transubstantiation was directly related 
to the theory that annihilation was a fiction, for '4t was not 
in the power, because not in the nature of Grod to annihilate 
anything." This adherence to philosophical theories in 
theological discussion, together with his contempt for sacer- 
dotalism and his painful experiences with the superior clergy 
and the mendicants, helps to explain his rejection of the 
orthodox view of the Sacrament. At the same time he was 
eager to validate and safeguard the Ordinance in every 
possible way, but his study of the Scriptures and of the 
earlier worship of the Church convinced him that the weight 
of evidence was against its more recent developments. 

According to Wycliffe, these were unknown to the doctors 
of the early Church; medieval sophistry had supplanted 
Biblical and patristic teachings, and this usurpation had 
taken place three hundred years previously, when ''Satan 
was imbound for a millennium." The only theories of the 
Eucharist he knew at his transitional moment were those of 
Aquinas, already mentioned, and of Scotus, who, on the basis 
of his doctrine of the omnipotent and unconditioned will of 
the Deity, formed the conception that accidents existed inde- 
pendently of their substance. If this was so, it followed that 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 121 

the bread and wine existed independently of the Body of 
Christ. Wydiflfe urged in refutation that accidents always 
presupposed substance, and that to argue otherwise was to 
indulge a nonsensical plea which overthrew the very mature of 
the Sacrament. He challenged the defenders of the Mass to 
define what was properly the element which remained after 
consecration; one replied, quantity; another, quality; a 
third, nothing. Such disagreement demonstrated the unten- 
ableness of their doctrine, and he capped his opposition with 
the words of the Gospel : ''A kingdom divided against itself 
cannot stand." Even if such a miracle as they claimed were 
possible, it was superfluous, for why should bread be anni- 
hilated in order that Christ's Body may be present ? When a 
man became a lord or prelate, he remained the same being, 
notwithstanding his higher rank. So it was with Christ. 
He did not cease to be Grod because he became man. In like 
manner the substance of the consecrated wafer was not 
destroyed, it was promoted to higher uses.^ 

The Reformer's reasonings showed the weakness of con- 
troversy; they were not always consistent, and there are 
indications that he had at one time sought a metaphysical 
interpretation which could satisfy the demands of his 
mind, while conserving his reverence for the Eucharist. 
In his expositions of its nature he did not allow his mili- 
tancy to carry him beyond due bounds, nor did he forfeit 
that refined devotion which is for religion what the per- 
fume is for the rose. Theologically he held that the bread 
and wine were the Body and Blood of Christ, for Christ 
had so ordained them at the Last Supper; the words of 
institution contained in the Gospel were conclusive on that 
point. But how the Lord of the Feast was concealed in the 
elements he could not explain, and sometimes lost himself 
while endeavoring to do so. He saw an analogy between the 
Person of Jesus Christ, as being neither solely Creator, nor 
solely creature, and the bread of the altar which was both 

1 G. v. Lechler : '* Wycli£Fe and his Ensliah Precuraors" ; p. 347. 



122 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

earthly and heavenly; real bread, and at the same tune, 
the real Body. The Real Presence was a reality, occa- 
sioned by the words of consecration, which were necessary 
for the supernormal change. The bread and wine remained 
such, but also became in verity the Body and Blood of the 
Redeemer. Not that the glorified Body of Christ descended 
from Paradise to enter the elements : He was present in an 
imponderable and intangible manner, as the soul of man was 
present in his body. ''The Sacrament of the altar, " he said, 
"is the Body of Christ in the form of bread — bread in a 
natural manner, and Body in a sacramental manner," and 
the conununicant spiritually perceived and handled the Lord's 
Flesh and Blood thus concealed in the Host. Its grace and 
blessing depended upon the faith of the recipient, and a nice 
distinction was drawn between the corporeal and spiritual 
taste of the consecrated elements.^ These conclusions, while 
differing in important details, are closely allied to the Lu- 
theran theory of Consubstantiation. 

The abuses connected with the worship of the Altar were 
condemned by Wycliffe, whose resentment was particularly 
aroused against the clergy's deliberate use of the Mass to 
increase their power and importance in the eyes of the simple. 
" Can a creature," he demanded, " give being to his Creator ? " 
Some who pretended to do so, he continued, were priests of 
Baal, not of Christ. But though he described their idea of the 
Mass as a mischievous fable, he did not correctly estimate its 
place in the medieval Church as the keystone of her doctrinal 
system and the secret of her organic life. The bishops pro- 
tested that were it modified or relinquished, the faith and 
obedience of conmumicants would be subverted, a statement 
which is partly justified by the fact that the hold of clericalism 
is strongest to-day where a high doctrine of the Eucharist is 
accepted. This assertion is made with the knowledge that 
there are in Catholicism not less than four permissible ex- 

>G. v. Lechler: "Wycli£Fe and his Ensliah Procunors"; pp. 332^-361. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 123 

idanatioiis of the dogma, upon which there has been as yet no 
authoritative decision. 

The uproar following Wydiffe's revolt showed how deeply 
entrenched the Mass was in the hearts of believers. As 
eariy as 1380 Chancellor Berton and a council of twelve 
members condemned his theses, and forbade the Reformer 
to lecture at the University. John of Gaunt hurried to 
Oxford and besought his advocate not to meddle with 
the ark of the Lord. The government withdrew its patron- 
age from him, and his friends, with a few exceptions, left 
him to encounter the hurricane alone. It was a triumphal 
hour for Courtenay, when, as it seemed, the results of Wyo- 
li£Fe's gigantic labors had instantaneously vanished. Even 
at this juncture he might have retracted and yielded to 
(jaunt's importunities, sacrificing conviction to personal gain 
and remaining the eminent doctor and teacher, and the 
chosen advisor of princes. There is little doubt that the 
hierarchy would have welcomed and rewarded the sub- 
mission of its most gifted and formidable foe. But such 
was not the mettle of the man who, whatever his failures 
and shortcomings, now turned his back upon the temptations 
of place and power. He petitioned the throne that his teach- 
ings should be publicly expounded in the churches of the 
nation, and continued, undismayed, his resolute efforts in 
behalf of what he believed to be the truth of Grod. 



CHAPTER IV 
PRINCES AND PEOPLE 



126 



Once more the Church is seized with sudden fear, 

And at her call is Wyclif disinhumed : 

Yea, his dry bones to ashes are consumed 

And flung into the brook that travds near ; 

Forthwith, that ancient Voice, which Streams can hear, 

Thus speaks (that Voice which walks upon the wind. 

Though seldom heard by busy human-kind) — 

"As thou these ashes, little Brook I wilt bear 

Into the Avon, Avon to the tide 

Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas. 

Into main Ocean they, this deed accurst 

An emblem yields to friends and enemies 

How the bold Teacher's Doctrine, sanctified 

By truth, shall spread, throughout the world dispersed." 

Wobdswobth's EodentuHoal SonneU. 



126 



CHAPTER IV 

PBINCES AND PEOPLE 

Political fife of Engjand in the fourteenth century — The wan 
with France — Hie Black Prince — Edward III — John of Gaunt — 
Social conditions in En^^and — The Black Death and its effects — 
Peasants' Revolt of 1381 — Wycliffe accused of complicity — The 
Earthquake Council — Wydiffe's translation of the Scriptures — Pur- 
veys version — Wydiffe's Poor Priests — TVialogus — Opus Evangeli- 
cum — Crudata — Wycliffe dted before Urban in 1384, — lUness and 
death — Summary of his diaracter. 



The history of religion in England during the fourteenth 
century is largely a record of debates and differences which 
affected the political status of ecclesiasticism. Yet these 
controversies and Wycliffe's part in them were but one phase 
of the life of the commonwealth. The main currents of 
hb thought and action can be best ascertained and their 
background smveyed by a reference to the fate which that 
generation endured in peace, in war, and above all in the 
pestflences which came to stay for the next foiu* centiu-ies, 
and caused unparalleled suffering throughout Eiu-ope. The 
one hundred and seventy-eight years which elapsed between 
the death of the first Edward and the accession of Henry VII 
were distracted by calamity and turmoil at home, by initial 
victory and ultimate defeat to English arms abroad. The 
Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt and the campaigns in 
Prance were the events of this period which proved to be most 
serious and lasting in their consequences. The early tri- 
umphs over the French revealed to European chivalry the 
prowess of Edward the Third's redoubtable infantry and the 
archers and knifemen of Wales, who, under his strategy, 

127 



128 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

hurled back the attack of the French knighthood at Crfipy in 
1346, and, though foiu* times outnumbered, remained the 
masters of the field. Ten years later, the Black Prince, 
having already fought as a lad of fourteen under his father's 
eye at Cr^, won a still more astounding success behind the 
vineyards of Poitiers, where the French King John, sumamed 
the Good, was taken prisoner. But these adventures proved 
as useless as they were brilliant ; they inflamed that military 
arrogance which sought occasions for a quarrel ; their mone- 
tary cost increased by leaps and bounds ; and the baronage, 
which seldom vailed its crest to the French foe, could not 
long endure the restraints of domestic peace. The scions of 
the aristocracy, who respected little except physical force, 
fell foul of one another, and were finally exterminated in the 
ferocious Wars of the Roses. 

The treaty of Bretigny, confirmed on October 26, 1360, by 
which France ceded nearly one third of her territory to Eng- 
land, ended the first stage of the Hundred Years' War, The 
rewards of battle enriched the cities and castles of Edward's 
Kingdom, and his fiftieth birthday was kept with the pomp 
befitting so unexampled a conquest. His fame rang in 
all men's ears; no other ruler of the day could equal 
the regalities of the chief prince of Christendom, con- 
trasted as they were with the distress and humiliation of 
his defeated foes. For the nonce all went merrily, and 
the royal court was the scene of stately ceremonials and 
sumptuous feastings. At this apex of prosperity, when a 
moribund phase reasserted itself, deeds of valor and knightly 
defiance were commemorated in the Round Tower at 
Windsor, where the Order of the Garter was established 
in the winter of 1347, shortly after the king's return from 
France. 

But the suffering and discontent of the people were in 
glaring contrast with the artificial exuberance of their rulers. 
The laborers of six siurounding counties were impressed to 
build Edward's Tower, and his Order was instituted when 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 129 

nearly every household in the land lay stricken by the Plague. 
Hie sycophantic yet observant Froissart gave his readers 
l^impses of an impcoiding catastrophe. He complained that all 
was not well with England. Notwithstanding the intoxica- 
tion of militarism, the plain folk were vindictive, disloyal 
toward thdr superiors, and disdainful of foreigners. A 
nearer view than Froissart's would have recognized that the 
disaffection, which began as early as 1349, was due to ex- 
wbitant taxation, to other economic and political evilsj and 
to the incessant demand for fresh levies to defend the French 
possessions of the Crown. As an aftermath of these excesses 
came the useless expedition of February, 1367, when the 
Black Prince and his troops marched through the snowy 
defiles of the Pyrenees and restored Pedro III to the throne 
of Castile. This gallant campaign cost the Prince his 
health and bankrupted his exchequer, while the monarch 
irtio gained a temporary advantage from it was utterly 
unworthy of its sacrifices. The Prince's Duchy of Aqui- 
taine rose in rebellion against the financial measures 
necessary to discharge his huge indebtedness. In September, 
1370, he turned upon the city of Limoges, where the insurrec- 
tion centered, and stormed and sacked it with a savagery 
that left a dark stain upon his memory. The following 
spring he returned home to languish for six years in the grip 
of a mysterious malady which defied the primitive remedies 
then in vogue, and was aggravated by his despair over the 
ruin of the Plantagenet sovereignty in France. His father, 
now fast approaching senility, had transferred the manage- 
ment of state affairs to his second son, John of Gaunt, who 
ruled by the fear rather than the affection of the realm. 

Gaunt was unjustly suspected by his brother of designs 
upon the throne, and these suspicions were heightened by 
stories of favoritism, corruption, and lawlessness brought to the 
invalided Prince at Kennington Palace. The nation now 
knew that its beloved hero was physically shattered. His 
prospective subjects were dismayed by the somber clouds 



130 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

which spread rapidly over the horizon of their future. They 
had relied upon his wisdom and justice no less than upon hb 
prowess in the field. ''Their welfare/' said the Chronicler 
of Walsingham, ''seemed bound up in his person. It had 
flourished in his health, it languished in his illness, and 
I)erished at his death ; in him expired all the hopes of the Eng- 
lish.'' He died on June 8, 1376, in his forty-sixth year, at 
the Palace of Westminster; his work demolished, his spirit 
broken, and the kingdom seething with mutiny. Hiere 
was no available space among the royal tombs in the sacred 
mound of Edward the Confessor, and the Prince was buried 
in Canterbury Cathedral, where the arms he wore in battle 
are hung above his tomb. His separation from his house, 
even in the place of sepultiu^, betokened his mute protesta- 
tion against the degeneracy of the father "whose folly he 
had vainly tried to correct, and the son whose doom he 
might foresee, but could not avert." ^ Although his eulogists 
invested him with some virtues he did not possess, his charac- 
ter transcended the general morals of the time. It was sullied 
by the violent outbreak at Limoges, an act foreign to his nature 
and committed when he was weak and irascible from con- 
tinued illness. The eloquent and discriminating Bishop 
Brinton of Rochester spoke of him in terms of respect and 
praise, and the majority of his contemporaries indorsed the 
Bishop's verdict. 

Eight years after the rejoicings and tournaments which 
ushered in Edward the TTiird's fiftieth birthday, he had 
lost nearly all his territories beyond the Channel. The 
interminable wars with France had broken out again; the 
English coasts were menaced by pirates ; and John of Gaunt's 
reactionary Parliament provoked the popular wrath. Alice 
Perrers, the king's mistress, decked in the dead Queen's 
jewels, masqueraded at the tilting yards as the Lady of the 
Sun. She sat openly at the judges' side in the law courts, 
interfered with legislation, and dispensed the royal patronage 

> G. M. Trevelsran: "Engliuid in the Age of Wycliffe" ; p. 27. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 131 

to her flatterers. ' On the jubilee of his reign Edward granted 
a general amnesty^ which proved to be his last act of govern- 
ment. A few months later, on June 21, 1377, he died at the 
royal manor of Sheen, robbed by his leman in his last moments 
of the very rings on his fingers. While he lay in the final 
agony, moaning for a priest to shrive him, she forsook him and 
fled ; the parasitical ministers also hastened away to greet 
the new monarch, and the servants of the household plun- 
dered the death chamber. Richard II, who succeeded his 
grandfather, fulfiUed the gloomy destiny of the Plantagenets. 
B^linning as a handsome and promising youth, he ended as 
a despised, deposed, and murdered king, the moody, fitful, 
treacherous " Richard the Redeless,'' in whom none could put 
faith. His uncle, John of Gaunt, has already figured in this 
history as the most distinguished political personality who 
offered protection to Wycliffe. The Duke took his name from 
Ghent, where he was bom at the Abbey of St. Bavon in 1340, 
when his parents were in Flanders on a dipFomatic errand. 
He inherited the stalwart build and manly features of the 
Angevins, and with these physical traits their pride and 
ambition. Flashes of hereditary distinction from time to 
time broke through his haughty reserve ; he was a pleasant 
companion where he chose to award his preferences, and he 
had the courage of his blood, a blind courage, however, so far 
as his generalship was concerned. Poets and dramatists and 
a series of propitious circumstances have combined to thrust 
celebrity upon him. Chaucer was wont to frequent his 
lordly house upon the Strand, and listen to the " sof te speeche " 
of the golden-haired lady of whom he sang in the "Booke of 
the Duchesse." He may have met Wycliffe there, since the 
latter's connection with the Duke required their frequent in- 
tercourse. Gaunt was twice married, first to Blanche, the 
youngest daughter of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, whose title 
and estates he inherited, and next to Constance, the heiress of 
Don Pedro of Castile, who brought him additional wealth 
and honors. To these marriages the great feudatory of the 



132 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

fourteenth century owed that multiplicity of hereditary claims 
with which he was ever busy. For fifteen years he was the 
titular king of Castile ; for twelve the ruler of England in all 
but name ; his son Henry IV seized the throne from Richard 
Ily and his heraldic devices are still found on the arms of 
Bordeaux, and are carried on those of the reigning House of 
Hanover. 

He merited no such preeminence, either as a strategist or as 
a statesman. The people understood him better than did 
Wycliffe, and they hated and plotted against him as the foe 
of justice and liberty. The grotesque exaggerations of his 
villanies by the Monk of St. Albans, who saw him "playing 
Beelzebub to Wycliffe's Lucifer," can be summarily dis- 
missed. On the other hand, his soldiers spoke kindly of a 
captain who seldom led them successfully in battle, and, 
while neither cursing nor blessing him, asserted that he was 
never guilty of that most serious of offenses, disloyalty. 
How narrowly must this the unpardonable sin of medieval 
chivalry have been avoided by a leader who at no time won 
distinction for fidelity! Chaucer's favorable judgment of 
him is less trustworthy than that of his troops, because it 
was dictated by prepossessions arising from friendship and 
social advantage. And if Gaunt was true to the interests of 
class and party, he certainly felt no impulse to repress the 
tyrannies of which they were guilty. The regenerating zeal 
of his ancestor Edward I was not in him ; on the contrary, 
he subordinated his policies to the schemes of a selfish and 
lordly group which disguised base ends beneath professions of 
heroism. The caste of which he was the representative was 
as ignoble as he ; not only did it neglect its opportunities for 
service, but, alert to suppress effort for betterment from any 
quarter, trampled down in blood the rising spirit of prog- 
ress. Subsequent generations have forgiven the Duke's 
betrayal of the people's cause, chiefly for the reason 
that he relieved the poverty of Chaucer and rescued Wyc- 
liffe from peril, two generous acts that secured for him the 



JOHN WYCUFFB 133 

indorsement of Shakespeare and the resounding name, ''old 
John of Gamit, time-honored Lancaster/' With the excep- 
tion of Edward I, and even in his case the exception is 
not absolute, the Plantagenets wasted their substance and 
energy upon wild escapades. Those who witnessed their 
ending in Richard II must have recalled the defiant saying 
of Coeur de lion, ''From the devil we came and to the 
devil we shall all go." Yet laudable objects were some- 
times accomplished contrary to their intention, thus making 
their evil an unexpected means for good. The rise of self- 
government in England, of national unity and patriotic 
resistance in Scotland and France, and the breaking down 
of conmierdal barriers between the island kingdom and the 
continent, should be weighed against deeds which in them- 
selves were highrhanded wrongs. 

We may now turn from the princes of the period to the 
plain people, those who really suffer from war and its deadly 
allies, famine and pestilence, which destroy what war has 
spared or failed to reach. From the middle of the thirteenth 
to the close of the fourteenth century, the average price of 
wheat was thirty dollars a quarter, which was of course pro- 
hibitive for the peasantry. Proclamations were issued to 
cheapen victuals, but without effect. Not only the poor but 
the more fortunate, including the monks, felt the pinch of 
want. Starvation induced disease, and the epidemic of 1349 
followed, stalking through Oxford during Wycliffe's residence 
there and blotting out the thought of lesser miseries by the 
extent and deadliness of its contagion. This overwhelming 
calamity which befouled England and the European coun- 
tries arose in Asia, and, according to Walsingham, extended 
from the shores of China to those of Galway in Ireland. It 
was first heard of in its western course at a small Genoese 
fort in the Crimean peninsula, whence it was conveyed to 
Constantinople by trading vessels whose crews lay dying on 
the decks, and from that place, traversing the entire sea 
coasts, was borne to all parts of Europe. A contemporary 



134 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

friar, Michael Platiensis, has left a graphic account of the 
Plague in Sicily. ''A most deadly pestilence/' he wrote, 
"sprang up over the entire bland. It happened that in the 
month of October, 1347, twelve Genoese ships, flying from the 
divine vengeance which our Lord for their sins had sent upon 
them, put into the port of Messina, bringing with them such a 
sickness clinging to their very bones that, did any one speak 
to them, he was directly struck with a mortal sickness from 
which there was no escape." ^ Almost simultaneously with 
its appearance in Italy the pestilence obtained a foothold in 
France, and was carried from Calais, then an English posses- 
sion, to the Channel Islands, and finally into England. 
Beginning at Melcombe Regis, or Weymouth, in Dorsetshire, 
the horrible disease, now known as the bubonic plague, 
steadily invaded the southwestern and midland counties, 
and on the first of November passed within the gates of 
London. Its symptoms developed with extreme rapidity, 
and inspired such terror that tiie nearest relatives of the 
stricken shrank from the ordinary offices of charity. "The 
sick man lay languishing alone in his house and no one came 
near him. Those most dear to him, regardless of the ties of 
kindred or affection, withdrew themselves to a distance; 
the doctor did not come to him, and even the priest with fear 
and trembling administered the Sacraments of the Church. 
Men and women, racked with the consuming fever, pleaded, 
but in vain, for a draught of water, and uselessly raved for 
some one to watch at their bedside. The father or the wife 
would not touch the corpse of child or husband to prepare it 
for the grave, or follow it thither. No prayer was said, nor 
solemn office sung, nor bell tolled for the funeral of even the 
noblest citizen ; but by day and night the corpses were borne 
to the common plague-pit without rite or ceremony." * 

The annals of its ravages in England are found in the 
episcopal registers, monastic chronicles, and town records of 
the kingdom. The mortality was so enormous that in the 

^ Cardinal Gasquet : '*The Black Death" ; p. 15. * Ilrid., pp. 22-23. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 135 

wc»ds of a writer of the period, "very many country 
towns and quarters of innumerable cities are left altogether 
without inhabitants. The churches or cemeteries before 
consecrated did not suffice for the dead; but new places 
outside the cities and towns were at that time dedicated to 
that use by people and bishops." ^ Conservative authorities 
agree that the population of England decreased from five 
millions to two and a half millions. An unconsciously 
pathetic comment upon these deplorable statistics is found 
in "Piers Plowman/' where Langland conceives that all the 
people of the realm could be gathered into a single meadow 
to hear his rebukes and exhortations. His imagination will 
not appear at fault if we recall that the entire interval of 
four hundred years between Wycliffe and Wesley was re- 
quired to repeople England upon the scale of the early four- 
teenth century. In other words, the England of George I 
was no larger in numbers than that of Edward II. Still 
more significantly, the realm over which Henry VII reigned 
was neither as enlightened nor as humane as that of Edward 
I ; by the time the first of the Tudors united the houses of 
Lancaster and York in his marriage, repeated wars and their 
accompaniments had worked their wicked will on the nation. 
The strong and steady progress of national consolidation 
during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries received an 
effectual check in Wycliffe's day, the worst disaster, that of 
the pestilence, descending upon a country already stagger- 
ing beneath the burdens of a protracted and indecisive 
conflict, a luxurious and licentious court, and a turbulent 
nobility. 

Yet the almost universal visitation did not morally chas- 
ten its survivors, who manifested a stolid indifference to 
their miserable siuroundings, and in many instances gave 
way to the lowest passions. Although commerce fared 
better than some have supposed, the overthrow of es- 

1 B. Mu8. Cott. M. S., Vitell., A. xz, fol. 56, quoted by Cardinal Gasquct : 
'The Black Death'* ; p. 187. 



136 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

tablished conditions was so severe that not only the mon- 
asteries, but also the Universities, the system of land 
tenure, the political machinery, the art and architecture 
of England, alike felt the cataclysmic shock. The working 
classes, however, were the chief sufferers, and their diminu- 
tion brought about a complete social change which ramified 
from the bottom upwards. The selective processes of the 
Plague introduced a new scale of life and manners, and so 
modified or revolutionized the agrarian situation that there 
b hardly a modem economic problem that cannot be traced 
to them. The study of these effects verifies two conclusions : 
first, that not all were injurious, and second, that they were 
met and borne with a reckless courage which did much to 
relieve the gravity of the situation. Medieval England was 
disgraced by transgressions, but she was also disciplined by 
hardships which, bitter though they were, could not obliter- 
ate the color, the variety, nor the joy of her life. The 
twentieth century peasant knows no such zest and gaiety as 
blessed his ancestors, who, though they lacked facilities for 
prompt material recovery from the ravages of the scourge, 
were not hampered by the fear and disillusionment which too 
often sadden the prospect of the modem laborer. All who 
outrode the storm had shared a common peril, and the 
frequency with which they had looked on death made them 
despise it. Meanwhile the present moment was their own, 
and they built again the world they knew, undaunted 
by diflSculty or danger. A fatalistic tinge in their out- 
look taught them that what had perished had perished, 
and no time was to be wasted in vain regrets. In Europe 
great names arose out of the darkness, St. Roch, St. Cath- 
erine, Petrarch, and Gui de Chauliac. The era bent, but 
did not break ; it was still sufficiently resilient to reassert its 
vitality and guard the germinal growth of freedom and 
justice. 

If constitutional progress was retarded it was at least 
preserved. The national consciousness solidified und^ ad- 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 137 

versity, and was still resentful of foreign dictation. The 
men who believed with Wycliffe that the safety and well- 
being of the kingdom were to be found in independence of 
the Holy See were patriots. But patriotism was not con- 
fined to one sect or faction ; it became a conscious passion 
in all hearts. Love of country throbs in the verse of Chaucer, 
than whom no poet was ever more intensely English in his 
character and sympathies. The nine and twenty pilgrims 
of the Tabard Inn are a vivid company, standing clearly 
against the misty background of their time. His inimitable 
descriptions of the men and manners of hb native land made 
Chaucer its premier poet. Society was still comparatively 
so simple that his narrative was able to embrace most of the 
types that had survived the Plague. Wandering by the 
way became the favorite pursuit of all classes. Pilgrims and 
travelers were everywhere abroad, exulting in the freedom 
of the king's highway, and presenting at once the unity and 
the diversity of medieval life. The pedlar and the pardoner, 
the mendicant and the outlaw, the juggler and the gleeman, 
the flagellant and the soldier, journeyed cheek by jowl, cast- 
iag admiring or envious eyes upon the cavalcades of royalty 
and gentry riding past. Knights and barons entertained one 
another in castles and manors, and counted hospitality a 
habit of courtesy and pleasure. Franklins and merchants 
frequented the better class of hostelries ; the alehouses and 
meaner inns were crowded with foresters and laborers. The 
roads, good or bad, were the arteries of trade, and every hall 
or hut a medium for news. There the nobles met in nightly 
conclave; the "poor priests*' kept aglow the flame of a 
purer faith ; the friars fawned or threatened ; and the serfs 
and underlings debated their wrongs, which were so unendur- 
able that at last they assumed decisive shape in the most 
spontaneous uprising of the laboring folk that ever took place 
m England.^ 

> G. M. Trevelyan : " England in the Age of Wycliffe*' ; p. 1. 



138 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

n 

During the two years preceding the Peasants' Revolt in 
the spring of 1381 Wydiffe remained in comparative retire- 
ment at Lutterworth. The Great Schism was the crucial 
point in hb public life, when he became to all intents and 
purposes a Protestant. While he was still busy berating the 
popes, sometimes unjustly, as in the case of Gregory XI, and 
again for reasons which almost excused the virulence of his 
language, the social outbreak occurred which forever de- 
stroyed his hopes of any improvement by means of State 
interference. During one month the volcanic but mercifully 
brief terror put half the realm in arms ; for some days the 
existence of the government was imperiUed by the efforts 
of the peasants to avenge their injuries. The causes of their 
rebellion were both near and remote ; they extended far into 
the past, and were too complicated for prolonged examination 
here. One third of the working population had perished in 
the Plague, and, as already stated, this abnormal depletion 
disorganized agrarian and commercial relations. The sur- 
vivors were determined to get rid of oppressive usages and 
secure higher wages. The lords were equally resolved to 
prevent free competition in labor and to tighten their hold 
on the situation with bonds of their own choosing. Stripes 
and brandings were inflicted on stubborn offenders. Repres- 
sive legislation begot a reckless lawlessness among those 
whom it affected. In London and other cities the guilds 
were agitated by internal difficulties peculiar to themselves. 
The stringent provisions of some charters granted to towns 
by spiritual lords and abbots added to the friction. The 
poll tax of one shilling a head on every adult person in the 
land which had been voted by the Nottingham Parliament 
of 1380 was the final aggravation in a quarrel that had lasted 
for more than thirty years. Then came the terrific explosion, 
astonishing the court and the nobles, stupefying the clergy, 
and bewildering the administration. But the source of 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 139 

such an organized resistance lay even deeper than dvic 
and economic causes. England was besotted by the lust of 
militarism, and degenerate by the vices that followed in 
the train of the French wars. Impoverished, weakened, 
betrayed, the nation grew desperate, and distrustful of its 
hereditary leaders. It is but just to observe that the 
young king Richard II and his murdered ministers, Arch- 
bishop Sudbury and Sir Richard Hales, were not altogether 
culpable for an anarchy which they did not create and 
could not control. The line of Horace, 

" Not Heaven itself upon the past hath power/' 

could be appropriately applied to many troubles and ob- 
stacles that threatened the new reign. John of Gaunt, who 
had been identified with the enormities of his father's court, 
was the first man the insurgents singled out for punishment. 
He was absent in Edinburgh when they broke loose, or he 
would have shared the fate of Sudbury and Hales ; as it was, 
his Palace on the Strand, stored with the richest treasures 
of foreign spoil, went up in flames. The insurrection de- 
feated his policies, the disendowment of the Church was 
postponed to the time of an equally rapacious and more 
powerful prince, and the Duke's influence as a publicist sus- 
tained irreparable injury. 

The immediate results were a callous mockery of the fine 
promises and unconfirmed charters which Richard readily 
gave to induce the rebels to return to their homes. His 
advisers knew that parliamentary action was necessary to 
redeem these pledges, and also that it would be impossible 
to secure any such consent. Wat Tyler was killed at Smith- 
field in the presence of the king ; John Ball, a forerunner of 
modem reform, together with thousands of his disciples, paid 
for their untimely efforts with their lives. For the moment, 
under the pressure of a universal danger, the regulars and 
seculars forgot their enmities, and the bishops made peace 
with the friars. Church and State united in the task of 



140 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

torturing and hanging their victims, many of whom w^e 
executed without process of law. Nobles returned to their 
castles from their hiding places in the woods, and resumed 
their former practices. The exhausted passions of the de- 
feated and hunted peasantry left them hdi^ess, and the nation 
sank back into apathy and neglect. The proletariat forgot 
that spasm of outraged self-respect which had caught the 
barons off their guard. Chaucer's glad morning song, so 
surprising in this dark epoch, waited long for its antiphony in 

"Those mdodious bursts that fill 
The spacious times of great Elisabeth 
With sounds that echo still." 

Serfage revived, despite the brave attempt to do away with 
its abominations. Yet the beneficiaries of feudalism had 
received a wholesome lesson, not the less impressive because 
unaccompanied by the nameless horrors of the Jacquerie in 
France. It taught the proud, self-sufficient aristocrat to 
beware of his underlings, and he at least understood that 
fearful possibilities were lodged in men he had hitherto de- 
spised. He moved more cautiously among his dwindling 
claims ; the system of villeinage feebly lingered on and came 
to an almost imobserved end in the days of the Tudors. 

Wycliffe did not escape without charges of implication in 
these movements ; his enemies averred that he had been '' a 
sower of strife, who by his serpent-like instigations had set 
his serf against his lord." Notwithstanding the dying con- 
fessions of John Ball and Jack Straw, which involved him, 
there is no proof of the truth of their accusations.^ He had 
little appreciable influence upon the purely secular aims of 
the insurgents, who were bent on deliverance from practical 
grievances in which spiritual affairs played no part.^ Uni- 
versity doctors were not found among them, and John Ball's 

> We hear nothing of these confessions until twenty years afterward. 
They are not found in any contemporary chronicle, and were probably 
extorted by the rack. 

« C. Oman : *' The Great Rebellion of 1381 " ; p. 27. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 141 

itineraries in behalf of the peasants had commenced while 
Wydiffe was still an undergraduate at Oxford. But his 
sweeping dedaration that " every righteous man is lord over 
the whole sensible world" could easily be distorted by impul- 
sive orators who paid no regard to the refined subtleties with 
which he qualified the statement. In any case he did not 
desert the persecuted patriots in their emergency. They had 
no conception of the conmiunism which was latent in his 
theories, but he openly avowed his sympathy with their 
demand for individual freedom and his anger at their oppres- 
sion« He stood alone in his plea for clemency, and by this 
unselfish attitude still further separated himself from the 
ruling powers and the nobles, and was condemned to po- 
litical impotence. His consistent conduct fiu*nished an 
instructive contrast to that of Luther under somewhat similar 
circumstances during the sixteenth centiuy. The Zwinglian 
heresies, the Rising of the Anabaptists, and the Peasants' War 
of that era were the logical outcome of Luther's theory of the 
right of private judgment and dissent. This theory had 
served him well in the severance of his allegiance from Rome. 
Yet when others used it for their own purposes he seceded 
from the people to the princes, complaining loudly of the 
preachers of blood and treason whom the devil inspired to seek 
his destruction, and impressing upon his followers the neces- 
sity of passive obedience to the State. The popular phase 
of his Reformation was quickly abandoned, while he took 
refuge in the arms of the civil power, and purchased the safety 
of his doctrine by the sacrifice of its freedom.^ 

If Luther's idealism gave place to compromise, WycliflFe 
steadily refused to surrender his convictions or be silent 
upon them. "The heresiarch of execrable memory" was 
cut off from all but a small minority of his supporters, and the 
unfortunate coincidence of his protest against the endowments 
of the Church and the pretensions of clerical power with the 
insurrection of the peasants gave Courtenay an opportunity 

> Lord Acton: ''ESsBays on Liberty" ; pp. 155-156. 



142 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to suppress opinions which he believed were responsible for 
the death of his predecessor. Archbishop Sudbury. Wyc- 
liffe, so far from being abashed by the connection of his 
opinions with these depredations, reaffirmed his position on 
questions of controversy. He denied Transubstantiation 
afresh, after having appealed to the king in 1381 for secular 
help in a purely theological issue. In reply to Gaunt's 
earnest request tJiat he should rest his case, he memorialized 
Parliament in 1382 with a lengthy petition, wherein he 
recited a list of grievances and asked that the Statutes of 
Provisors and Praemunire be enforced against the Pope, 
above all iu*ging that "Christ's teaching concerning the 
Eucharist may be openly taught in churches." 

The Archbishop retaliated by convening the "Earthquake 
Council" on May 21 of that year at the House of the Black 
Friars in London. The assembly derived its name from the 
occurrence of a seismic disturbance during its proceedings. 
This was construed by the Wydiffians as a sign of Heaven's 
wrath against the higher clergy, and by the prelates as a 
token of its approval of their efforts to expel heterodoxy 
from the bosom of the Church. Of the twenty-foiu* Articles 
examined ten were pronounced heretical, and fourteen errone- 
ous. The Council, in condemning the Reformer's doctrines, 
also struck at the University which had nurtiwed them. 
Courtenay and the regulars, aided by Richard II, won the 
fight against the doctors and students who prized religious 
and intellectual freedom. Dr. Rigg, the Chancellor, who 
had hitherto favored Wycliffe, was summoned to Lambeth 
and warned by the bishops and the Privy Coimcil that his 
support of the Lollard Repyngdon as against Stokes must 
cease, the disaffected be subdued, and concord restored. 
The seculars who had exhorted the University authorities 
to expel all friars and monks were themselves excluded. 
A Convocation for the suppression of heresy met at Oxford ; 
the royal writ ordered a monthly inquisition upon the fol- 
lowers and the works of Wycliffe, and within half a year the 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 143 

second school of the Catholic Church was recovered to 
orthodoxy at the expense of her academic standing in 
Europe. The inquisitors made a desolation and called it 
peace, and Courtenay unwittingly became one of the greatest 
enemies to Oxford's reputation for scholarship she has ever 
known. The University sank into stupor and decline; 
speculation was throttled; Cambridge was regarded by 
cautious parents as the place unvexed by reactionary 
ecdesiasticism, and Paris regained the intellectual eminence 
Oxford had so long disputed. Thus the later medieval 
period of the University's leadership ended with Wydiflfe ; 
Courtenay could not cope with the vigorous dialectic of the 
last of the Schoolmen, but he could and he did unreservedly 
destroy Oxford's capacity to produce another like him. 

Cast down, but not dismayed, Wycliffe was now beyond 
the pale of the Chiu*ch and of the Schools. Yet he was of that 
type of men who hope, 

"And see their hope frustrate, 
And hope anew." 

He was enough of the ascetic to despise the liu^s of the world ; 
of the man of affairs to know the deceptions of political strife ; 
of the saint to regard that which he held as truth as more im- 
portant than place or power. The material side of life was 
for him reduced to a minimum, and, although ambitious, he 
desired no influence which required him to subject his con- 
science to the incitements of temporary convenience or 
success. His last days at Lutterworth were spent in appeals 
to the people at large, in which his further separation from 
sacerdotalism was evident in the unwise declaration that 
preaching is of more value than the administration of any 
sacrament. He forsook learned clerks and titled supporters 
for the weavers and artisans of Norwich and Leicester, and 
devoted the remainder of his life to its most notable achieve- 
ment, the translation of the Holy Scriptures. Henry of 
Knighton, a canon of Leicester during the second half of 



144 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the fourteenth century, and a fierce hater of the Lollards, 
complained that Wycliffe's action in translating the Scrip- 
tures "which Christ gave to the clergy and doctors of the 
Church" had scattered abroad the pearls of the Grospel to 
be "trodden under foot by swine" ; "the jewel of clerics was 
turned to the sport of the laity." ^ 

The Reformer's previous insistence upon the supremacy 
of the Sacred Writings had obtained for him, while still at 
Oxford, the title of "Doctor Evangelicus." In his attack 
upon dogmatism or in defense of his own conclusions, he 
unhesitatingly used quotations from the Old and New 
Testaments as final proofs, setting aside the weightiest 
traditions in their behalf. "Neither the testimony of Au- 
gustine nor Jerome, nor any other saint, should be accepted 
except in so far as it was based upon Scripture," and to 
this he added the assertion that every man had the right to 
examine the Bible for himself. 

The quotation from Knighton contains the substance of 
similar animadversions against Wycliffe's enterprise, which, 
nevertheless, was justified by the example of primitive Chris- 
tianity. For the right of religious independence must have 
been tacitly assumed by the early Christians to justify their 
position, and the publicity of the Hebrew Scriptures was 
presupposed in the works of the apologists of the second cen- 
tury. Even so late as the fourth century no dignitary of the 
Church dreamt of forbidding the reading and interpretation 
of the Bible by the laity. On the contrary, Origen held that 
it was the purpose of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures to be 
intelligible to those who were uneducated and insignificant 
in the eyes of the world. Theodoret, who shared the current 
presumption that the Scriptures needed defense as literature, 
in a burst of eloquence turned this lack to gain, declaring 
that "all the heralds of the truth, to wit the Prophets and 
Apostles, though unendowed with the Greek gift of eloquence, 

* At that time Knighton was dead. The author whose records are quoted 
here is known as his "Continuator." 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 146 

were yet filled with true wisdom, brought to all nations both 
Hellenic and Barbarian the divine doctrine, and filled all 
lands and seas with their writings, whose content is virtue 
and piety. And now all men having renoimced the follies 
of the philosophers, feast upon the doctrines of fishermen 
and publicans and reverence the words of the Tent-maker/' ^ 
Chrysostom reconmiended that the sight of the Bible should 
be so familiar to children as to form a necessary part of their 
home scenery, and poetically remarked that " the very touch 
of the Book of the Gospels of itself awakens the heart." ' 
Had these counsels been heeded in after times, the false step 
taken by the Church when she began to withdraw the Scrip- 
tures from the laity and place them in the custody of eccle- 
siastical tradition might have been avoided. Nor could 
the unchecked sacerdotalism that ensued have escaped the 
restrictions imposed by a better acquaintance with the 
Bible. 

The entire Old Testament and the greater part of the New 
were translated into the French language before the middle 
of the fourteenth century. England was not so fortimate : 
the Anglo-Saxon versions, some manuscripts of which are 
as late as the twelfth century, had become unintelligible 
by Wycliffe's time, with the result that, although the Bible 
was fairly well known among the clergy and superior lay- 
men, the masses were utterly ignorant of it, and had no 
means of being otherwise. Anglo-Norman was then the 
speech of the schools, the colleges, the courts of law, and 
polite society. English prevailed among the humbler classes 
and the tillers of the soil. It is not certain that Edward III 
could address the Commons in the vulgar tongue, as Henry 
IV took pains to do when he appeared before them to claim 
the throne. Yet by the end of the fourteenth century, 
French had become a sickly exotic and English had sup- 
planted it as the official language, first in the courts, and 

1 Harnack : "Bible Reading in the Early Churoh" ; p. 90. 
* Ibid., p. 101. 



146 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

later in Parliament. A doctor of laws confessed in 1404, 
"We are as ignorant of French as of Hebrew." John de 
Trevisa attributed its sudden disappearance to the Plague, 
but the decline antedated this event, and, despite legislative 
efforts to arrest it, the use of French gradually diminished. 
It may have survived in Parliamentary debates, however, for 
fifty years after Chaucer's death.^ The statutes of the realm 
continued to be published in French until the reign of Henry 
VIII. One of the main factors which contributed to the 
spread of English was the friars' preaching in that lan- 
guage throughout the country, a habit which goes far to 
explain their hold upon the people. Another factor was the 
important aid Chaucer rendered by welding the strength of 
both into one speech different from either, superior in 
the richness of its vocabulary and the simplicity of its 
structure, and which became the life blood of the new nation- 
alism. From his day to oiu* own the development and ex- 
pansion of English have gone steadily forward; but the 
poet's largest service to the mother tongue was the pref- 
erence he awarded it during a bilingual period, a literary 
precedent which later writers were constrained to follow. 

This transition from French to English deprived the ver- 
sions of the Bible in the earlier language of their usefulness, 
and an attempt was made to meet the needs of the situation 
by partial translations, including the Psalms, which were 
made into English in 1320 and 1340. The first of these is 
ascribed doubtfully to William of Shoreham ; the second, to 
Richard Rolle, the hermit of Hampole.^ Both men used the 
Vulgate as a basis, and their work was provincial in dialect 

> Parliament was first opened with an English speech in 1363 ; and with 
an English sermon by Courtenay, in 1381. This will indicate that the de- 
bates may have been in English, although their reports were actually pub- 
lished in French. 

* Rolle was bom in Yorkshire about 1290, and died at Hampole in 1349. 
He was one of the first religious authors to write in the native language, 
which he used for the instruction of those who knew no Latin. EUs poetical 
manuscript, **The Pricke of Conscience," is freely quoted by Warton in his 
"History of English Poetry." 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 147 

and circulation. But to Wycliffe and his coadjutors in the 
task belongs the credit of fii^ setting forth the whole Scrip- 
tures in their own speech^ an indescribably meritorious 
achievement, and the first fruits of a series of versions which 
have to a large extent molded the nature and determined the 
course of English civilization. From the literary standpoint, 
Wycliffe's translation was a contribution to that move- 
ment in which, as we have seen, Chaucer was the central 
figure, and his version should be viewed in that relation. Of 
necessity a translation of such intrinsic worth, and one 
which so closely affected the spiritual interests and ideals of 
the nation, could not have been woven into its Ufe and 
character without considerable benefit to the language. 
But Wycliffe was not a stylist in the larger meaning of 
the term, and the relatively rudimentary condition of 
the language made it impossible to produce a finished 
rendering like that of the translation of 1611. Indeed, the 
Authorized Version stands apart from all others, ''equally 
untouched by the splendor of EUzabethan and the extrava- 
gance of Jacobean prose," and marked by the noble simpUcity 
of ancient times. Wydiffe's version owed much to its later 
revision by his curate Purvey, who, in or about 1388, 
smoothed out the harsh literalness of the original and sub- 
stituted short marginal comments, many of which were taken 
from Nicholas de Lyra, for the frequent glosses of the text. 
The desire of Wycliffe and of Nicholas of Hereford, who 
was his chief assistant in the rendition of the Old Testament, 
to be scrupulously faithful to the Latin of the Vulgate was 
the source of the pedantries and obscurities which are foimd 
in their work. Others besides Nicholas and Purvey must 
have cooperated in an enterprise of such magnitude, and the 
multiplication of copies proceeded so rapidly that of the one 
hundred and seventy existing manuscripts the majority were 
written within forty years after the completion of the trans- 
lation. 
Purvey's version, which should be carefuDy distinguished 



148 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

from Wycliffe'Sy was eagerly sought and read by all who could 
obtain it. The princes of the royal house and the sovereign 
himself did not disdam to possess it. Nor was there any 
formal condenmation of the first English Bible. The assump- 
tion of sectarian writers that the medieval Church prohibited 
the translation and circulation of the Scriptures is contra- 
dicted by the fact that manuscripts were plentiful both in 
England and on the continent. Although printing was not 
yet invented, Germany had fifty complete and seventy-two 
incomplete versions. Seventeen printed editions of the Bible 
preceded the great version of Luther. The French transla- 
tions extensively used in England have been named. Arch- 
bishop Arundel, the burner of heretics, conmiended Queen 
Anne of Bohemia, consort of Richard II, for having owned in 
English ''all the four gospels with the doctors upon them." 
WyclifiFe's reiterated appeals to the support of the Scrip- 
tures, uttered long before his translation was made, would 
have no meaning for a clerical body unacquainted with them. 
Such were the principal circumstances connected with the 
memorable versions of Wycliffe and Purvey, the earliest 
rendering of the complete Bible England possessed in her 
own language.^ 

Cardinal Gasquet * has advanced the theory that the so- 
called WycliflFe translation is really a "Catholic Bible," and 
some extreme Anglicans have taught this supposition. He 
emphasizes the fact that there was nothing in Wycliflfe's 
writings to show that he had either translated or attempted 
to translate the Holy Scriptures. While this is true, it 
should also be noted that those writings are full of passages 
advocating such a translation. His intimacy with the Bible 
had been one of the governing forces of his life, and his grow- 

> For WyclifiPe's and Purvey's Bible see the account in the preface to 
Forshall and Madden's edition. 

* This distinguished prelate and scholar was appointed in 1907 by the 
late Pope, Pius X, President of a Commission for the revision of the Vulgate, 
to restore it, as nearly as possible, to the pure text of St. Jerome ; a task 
which is not likely to be completed for many years. • 



JOHN WYCLIPPB 149 

ing sense of dependence upon its sanction finally obtained 
an absolute control over his intellectual processes and re- 
ligious views. It also dictated his rejection of the vener- 
able dc^mas and solemn mysticism of his Church, a course 
which found its justification in his belief that ''the New 
Testament is full of authority and open to the understand- 
ing of simple men, as to the points that be most needful to 
salvation/' Lechler's siumise that the perilous conditions 
of the time imposed a prudent silence on those responsible 
for such an undertaking is not convincing: secrecy and 
subterfuge were foreign to WydifiFe's character, and he had 
scanty regard for men who differed from him. His courage 
drew him from the set paths which pierced the jungle of 
medieval life, and he thrust his way in new directions, ao- 
oompanied by some who, although they lacked his audacity 
and endurance, were prepared to help him. 

Moreover, while the claim that Wycliffe translated the 
version attributed to him is not invalidated by arguments 
derived from silence, its probability is confirmed by con- 
temporary evidence, corroborating the testimony of Knigh- 
ton already given. At the Synod held at St. Frideswide's, 
Oxford, on November 28, 1407, an edict was passed adverse 
to any version of Scripture texts " by questionable hands with- 
out authoritative sanction." The provisions enacted at the 
Synod and afterwards promulgated at St. Paul's, London,^ 
granted the bishops power to control the circulation of the 
volume without positively proscribing it. Archbishop Arun- 
del and his suffragans, addressing Pope John XXIII in 1412, 
accused Wycliffe, "the child of the old serpent and fosterling 
of Antichrist," with having devised, in order to fill up the 
measure of his malice against the Church, the plan of a trans- 
lation of the Scriptures into his mother tongue. John Hus 
affirmed in a polemical tract issued during 1411 : "It is plain 
from his writings that Wycliffe was not a German, but an 
Englishman ; for the English say that he translated the whole 

> The date of the promulgation ia given as January 14, 1409. 



160 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Bible from Latin into English." These and other quotations 
of a similar character support two conclusions : first, that 
WyclifiPe's reputed work was actually his own; and again, 
that it escaped, to some extent, the inhibitions of the eccle- 
siastics. 

Cardinal Gasquet's further contention that an earlier 
English version than that of WyclifiFe existed is foimded on 
refutable statements. Sir Thomas More, who b his authority 
for this assertion, remarked in his ''Dialogue" that he had 
seen " Bibles fair and old written in English, which have been 
known and seen by the bishop of the diocese and left in 
laymen's hands . . . who used them with devotion and 
soberness." He added that the ** Holy Bible was long before 
WycliflFe's day by virtuous and learned men translated into 
the English tongue." ^ Since More did not know Purvey's 
version when he saw it, it is very probable that he mistook 
that version for an earlier work. He strongly condenmed this 
translation of heretics who purposely corrupted the holy text, 
as he accused Wycliffe of doing, while he was totally unaware 
that the English Bibles of his friend Bishop Bonner and of 
other orthodox persons and of numerous churches and con- 
vents were copies of Purvey's version. More was not alone 
in his confusion of the two editions of Wydiffe's Bible as 
distinct translations. Until a comparatively recent period 
all writers mistook Purvey's revision for a translation anterior 
to Wycliffe's. The assurance that Wycliffe and his associates 
translated the Bible into English, that their translation was 
the first complete version thus made, and that Purvey re- 
vised it to its great benefit, is too well attested to be easily 
disturbed. 

Bishop Westcott shows that the history of the English 
Bible, as we now have it, began with the work of William 
Tyndale, rather than with that of Wycliflfe. Tyndale him- 

* Light has been shed upon the question of the Old English Version by a 
work of A. C. Panes, entitled "The Fourteenth Century English Biblical 
Version" (1902), showing that there was an independent translation of 
some parts of the New Testament made before Wycliffe. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 161 

self stated that he was not "holpen with English of any 
that had interpreted the same or such like thing in the Scrip- 
ture beforehand/' • Yet the two men, though separated by a 
century and a half of time, were of the same spiritual gene- 
alogy, and one in the loving veneration for the Scriptures 
which actuated their labors. The translation by Wycliffe 
stands apart, like a mountain separated and remote from 
meaner ranges, bearing the marks of primeval origin ; in its 
solitary and rugged grandeur a fitting monument and witness 
to the 'Doctor Evangelicus,' to his unwearied patience and 
prodigious toil. 

in 

His separation from Oxford isolated him as a scholar ; the 
lack of mechanical means for the diffusion of his teachings, 
and his conflict with the hierarchy drove him to copy tiie 
methods of St. Francis, and his ripening experience convinced 
him that the organized societies within the Church were 
backslidden sects which could not prevent her decay. To 
obviate thb he adopted the extraordinary measure of institut- 
ing an order of poor priests, who were sent out to declare the 
message of the New Testament in the rejuvenated spirit 
of the earlier friars. Lutterworth became the headquarters 
for these evangelists, some of whom were Oxford graduates 
who had felt the impulse of Wycliffe's influence while he 
was stiU at the University, but the majority were unlettered 
men. Although at first ordained, the demands of their 
mission superseded clerical limitations and laymen were 
soon found among them. In Wycliffe's later writings they 
were no longer called "simplices sacerdotes," but "viri 
apostolici " or " evangelici." A remarkably effective preacher 
himself, Wycliffe carried the betterment of preaching upon 
his heart, and many of his sermons and addresses were 
direct^ to that end. He complained that useless specula- 
tions, legends, tales, and fables were substituted for Scrip- 
tural instruction, and that ornamented rhetoric marred 



152 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the pulpit utterances of the better sort of clergy. Had he 
not been constrained to examine and reject the intellectual 
foundation of Catholic belief , he might have shared the honors 
of St. Francis and St. Dominic as the founder of another 
order of preaching friars. His own prototypes of Wesley's 
helpers were superior to the regular ecclesiastics in self- 
effacing zeal. They shared that collective sagacity of the 
Anglo-Saxon folk which has sometimes outwitted the designs 
of the wise and the noble. Poverty and plainness of speedi 
gave them ready access to their countrymen. Clad in a rustic 
garb of undressed wool, dependent on charity for their daily 
bread, provided only with a pilgrim staff and a few pages from 
Wydiffe's tractates or sermons as the staple of their brief and 
pointed homilies, they survived the contempt of the hier- 
archy and seciwed the good-will of the people. Courtenay, 
whose aversion to such men and measures can be imagined, 
referred to them as wolves in sheep's clothing. Their suc- 
cess, which exceeded the most sanguine expectations, was 
confessed in the exaggerated avowal of Knighton that the 
"sect was held in the greatest honor and multiplied so that 
you could scarce meet two men by the way whereof one was 
not a disciple of Wycliffe." ^ 

Under such auspices, the heart of the rector of Lutter- 
worth seemed proof against the frosts of age, or that more 
deadly blight which the world's harsh treatment so often 
inflicts upon hope and faith. He saw the good ends his 
evangelists served, and the restricted areas of his concluding 
period only intensified its energies. Released from the 
intrigues of political cabals, his desire to project new activity 
into the morab of his age found another outlet in the stream 
of pamphlets that flowed from his pen, both in Latin and in 
English. Two of his larger works, the "Trialogus," most 
erudite of all his productions, and the unfinished "Opus 
Evangelicum," were also written at this time. Nor did his 
seclusion render him indifferent to those issues of the State in 

^ G. G. Coulton : "Chauoer and his England" ; p. 307. 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 163 

which he had so recently been conspicuous. When Henry 
Spencer/ Bishop of Norwich^ obtained a commission from 
Pope Urban VI to lead a crusade against the adherents of his 
rival at Avignon, Clement VII, Wycliffe published a small 
Latin treatise entitled '^Cruciata/' in which he exposed and 
condemned Spencer's proceedings, probably the more readily 
because that bishop had become notorious for his brutal 
treatment of the peasants during their insurgency. In 
Wycliflfe the prelate encountered an opponent not so easily 
subdued, who characterized his action as a prosecution 
unbecoming true Christians, and an invasion of the faith. 
Not content with this, WycliflFe addressed a letter to the 
Primate covering the same grounds. The scheme he ar- 
raigned failed; on Spencer's return to England the tem- 
poralities of his see were withdrawn, and he was cited 
before Parliament to answer for his conduct. Courtenay 
had tightened the reins to no purpose if he meant to curb 
Wycliffe. Yet the Archbishop was reluctant to push matters 
to extremes, and although this hesitation has been generally 
credited to the status of the Reformer as a renowned doctor 
of Theology, his inmiunity from personal attack may have 
been due in some measure to more generous motives on the 
part of Courtenay. The evangelists themselves received 
no consideration ; they were harassed on every side, expelled 
from the University, forced to abjure their opinions, and 
to renounce their allegiance to the arch-heretic. One after 
another submitted, but a faithful group, chiefly composed 
of Doien of humble position and relatively small attainments, 
refused to recant, and displayed that fortitude for which 
the English yeoman has been justly esteemed. 

Their leader was neither banned nor excommunicated, 
&nd the fable of his recantation is too flimsy for serious dis- 
cussion. He had realized his freedom, the outside world 
had lost its charms and terrors for him, and he was not re- 

' Also known as Henry le Spencer or Despenser ; bom in 1341 or 1342, 
died in 1406 ; a soldier rather than a ohurchman. 



154 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

strained from stimulating to the fullest extent the adapta- 
tion of his teaching to actual conditions. In the inquiry 
which Courtenay had set on foot no mention was made of any 
individual. The doctrines condemned were not attributed 
to any particular party ; ecclesiastical discipline has seldom, 
if ever, been maintained with more moderation. On the 
other hand Wycliffe was not so much a Reformer with a 
numerous and determined body of supporters as an earnest 
seeker after truth who, although he could no longer accept 
things as they were, had no deUberate system of his own 
to offer in their stead. 

Thus in a comparatively peaceful eventide, his hitherto 
unwearied day drew near its dose. A paralytic seizure in 
1382 had warned him that his incessant toils could not be 
long extended; still, except in so far as physical debility 
imposed restraints on him, he gave no sign of relinquishing 
his duties. The consciousness that his race was well-nigh 
run could not induce him to retire from the field, in which he 
labored against the friars and the Holy See with unabated 
mental and moral force. Some of his biographers assert that 
the friars appealed to Rome in protest, and that in 1384 
Urban summoned Wycliffe to appear before the Papal Court. 
His reply to the Pontiff, they inform us, showed that the 
emaciated recluse, " spare and well-nigh destitute of strength," 
while mellower in tone, could still use the speech of contro- 
versy with old-time skill and promptitude : " I have joyfully 
to tell to all men the belief that I hold, and especially to the 
Pope, for I suppose that if my faith be rightful and given of 
God the Pope will gladly confirm it, and that if my faith be 
error, the Pope will wisely amend it. Above this I suppose 
that the Pope is most obliged to the keeping of the Gospel 
among all men that live here, for the Pope is highest vicar 
that Christ has here on earth. For the moreness (superiority) 
of Christ's vicar is not measured by earthly moreness, but by 
this, that this vicar follows Christ more closely by virtuous 
living. Now Christ during the time He walked here was 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 156 

the poorest of men, and put from Him all manner of worldly 
lordship. From this I take it as a wholesome coimsel that 
the Pope should abandon his worldly lordship to worldly 
lords, and move speedily all his clerks to do the same. For 
thus did Christy and thus He taught His disciples, until the 
fiend had blinded this world. And if I err in this sentence 
(opinion) I will meekly be amended, yea even by death, 
for that I hope would be a good to me." 

This was the last flash of his expiring fires ; a few weeks 
later, ''on the day of the Holy Innocents," said John Horn, 
a priest and an eyewitness, ''as Wycliffe was hearing Mass 
in his church at Lutterworth, at the time of the elevation of 
the Host, he feU down smitten by a severe paralysis." Three 
days afterward, on Saturday, December 31, 1384, his tran- 
scendent spirit, whose great gifts, activities, and aspirations 
command^ the admiration of friends and enemies alike, 
entared into rest with the departing year. The manner of 
his decease, after all he had said and done, might well be 
described in the language of Dante's "Convito" : "Natural 
death is as it were a haven and a rest after long navigation. 
And the noble soul is like a good mariner ; for he, when he 
draws near the port, lowers his sails and enters it softly 
with gentle steerage. For in such a death there is no grief 
nor any bitterness ; but as a ripe apple is lightly and with- 
out violence loosened from its branch, so our soul without 
grieving departs from the body in which it hath been." ^ 

Wycliffe was buried at Lutterworth, but by a decree of the 
Council of Constance, dated May 4th, 1415, his remains were 
ordered to be exhumed and cast away. Thirteen years later. 
Bishop Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College, Oxford, 
carried out the order. When Charles V stood beside the 
tomb of Luther at Wittenberg, those about him suggested 
that the body of his triumphant enemy should be disinterred 
and burned at the stake in the market place. "I war not 
with the dead," was the Emperor's reply, a chivalrous word 

1 Dr. Carlyle's tranalation. 



156 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

which stands in contrast to the malevolent uselessness of 
Fleming's deed. 

In any attempt to present a miified view of Wydiffe's 
character and service as the first English prophet who smote 
the rock of medieval ecclesiasticism, first place should be 
given to that spiritual insight which outlasts the transient 
value of his intellectual efforts. The forms of his thought 
have perished with the age that gave them meaning, but the 
spell of his soul's presence is with us still. ''Feeble unit in 
a threatening infinitude" though he was, his reliance was 
upon Christ, Whom he set forth under terms of high political 
phraseology, as the supreme Head of the race, the "Caesar 
semper Augustus," the Saviour of the whole number of 
the elect. Yet the esoteric strain was seldom apparent in 
Wycliff e ; he expressed little of that poignant sense of individ- 
ual transgression which is the plaint of such men as St. Paul, 
St. Augustine, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, nor does a 
rapt conmiunion with God seem to have been vouchsafed 
to his religious experience. His intellectual habits to a 
large extent controlled his devotional attitude. He closely 
identified knowing with being, and the legalistic rather than 
the strictly evangelical appropriation of divine grace found 
favor in his sight. This was expressed in his article that 
"working by a right life ended after God's will maketh a 
man God's child," a statement which, however true in itself, 
stood unrelated to the doctrine of Justification by Faith. 
Indeed, despite Wycliffe's familiarity with the New Testa- 
ment, he did not give that emphasis to St. Paul's teaching 
which was the mainspring of the sixteenth century Refor- 
mation. Notwithstanding his incessant appeal to reason, 
his words are suffused with a direct earnestness, a passion 
for truth, and an unaffected sincerity which lift them above 
the chilling mists of mere abstraction. Moreover, the opera- 
tions of Puritan theocracy were foreshadowed in his religious 
development. If reason and the exposition of holy doctors 
approved by the Church were his earlier guides in the inter- 



I 



JOHN WYCLIFPE 157 

pretatjon of the Scriptures, in his later writings he insisted 
that the Spirit of God alone could expound the Bible to the 
individual Christian. He only can hope to understand aright 
who seeks the truth therein contained in holiness of heart 
and humility of mind. "He that keepeth meekness and 
charity hath the true understanding and perfection of all 
Holy Writ," for "Christ did not write His laws on tables, 
or on skins of animab, but in the hearts of men I" "The 
Holy Ghost," he adds, "teaches us the meaning of Scripture 
as Christ opened its sense to His Apostles." 

Milton praised Wydiffe in the "Areopagitica" as a "di- 
vine and admirable spirit," and, if his rectitude and in- 
tegrity, his enthusiasm for the cause of religion and his 
ardent longing for the purification of the Church are recalled, 
it cannot be gainsaid that the austere poet's eulogium was 
on the whole deserved. Some of his theological convic- 
tions have sunk to the level of curiosities, and men have 
turned away from others because they have ceased to retain 
any interest. The rest were held by him in an intelligent 
and a spacious way, and were full of enlightenment and hope. 
His theory of the lordship of God was more than an indefi- 
nite aspiration or a supreme feeling for the loftiest object 
of human contemplation. He was not content with the idea 
of a Deity Who was the mere creation of metaphysics, and 
whose attributes were so arbitrarily expressed as to baffle 
those who sought His aid. By deriving human from divine 
lordship, and by making the former dependent on character 
and service, Wycliflfe but employed feudal language to 
sweeten the lives of suffering multitudes and lift from their 
shoulders the burdens that bowed them down. The didactic 
phraseology of his constructive thinking was seldom without 
an application to the problems of actual life. 

His granitic character was unmantled by superficial ten- 
derness, and as a celibate he could not enjoy the domestic 
intercourse which contributed to Luther's humanness and 
popularity. Yet his temperament, though naturally inclined 



158 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to forcible action, never knew those revulsions of sentim^it 
which frequently accompany such a disposition. He was 
in a great ethical sense a lover of Grod, of goodness, and of 
his fellow creatures; especially such as were deserted and 
forlorn ; victimized by the outrageous evils which a merciless 
caste system inflicted on the poor. These he cared for as 
though they were his own, and the more persistently because 
of their wretchedness. For love is not only the impulse of 
natural affection, it is also that moralized devotion which 
seeks the highest welfare of its object. This passion pre- 
vailed in Wycliffe ; it made him solicitous for the nation, the 
Church, the Bible, and for those helpless members of the 
State who could not ward off hunger, cold, and misery. 
"Poor men," he cried, "have naked sides and dead walls 
have plenty of waste gold." The recurrence of such abject 
conditions has brought back these and similar phrases into 
modem speech. They have not yet escaped the stir made 
five hundred years ago by his opinions, opinions which, while 
somewhat inchoate, nevertheless had a real influence for their 
own age, as the Peasants' Revolt sufficiently attests. 

Even friendly observers have complained of his constant 
invective against the established order, and certainly he 
indulged an unseasonable readiness for scathing rebuke. 
Believing, because of his sensitiveness to more commanding 
interests, that property was the capital offender against the 
common weal, he scorned its inheritors, and propounded 
impossible schemes for their elimination from the social 
organism. His hate of greed and of the despotisms which it 
dictated was the militant aspect of his ecclesiastical and 
political righteousness. Yet these explanations do not justify 
his language in controversy, which was harsh, imperious, and 
vituperative. His opponents returned it in good measure 
after the fashion of the era. Dignitaries of the Church and 
of the University were prone to scurrilous abuse as weU as 
stiff argumentation, and were seemingly oblivious of the 
fact that such methods lowered the merit of their debate. A 



JOHN WYCLIFFE 159 

witty Frenchman satirized Geoffrey's vitriolic criticisms by 
announcing that he died as the result of having inadvertently 
tasted the tip of his own pen. But Greoffrey was mild and 
soporific when compared with the fourteenth century doctors 
and disputants, whose pictiu^squely blasphemous epithets 
need not be recounted here. Courtesy and fairness were 
then unknown, and his admirers cannot claim that Wycliffe 
did aught to discover them. 

But the principles of tolerance were known ; and the men 
of that age never thought of persecution as right; they 
used it as a necessary instrument in the maintenance of the 
churchly organization as a vital factor of the State. Even so 
enlightened a scholar as Gerson entirely declined to recognize, 
except for his own purposes, his avowed principle of the non- 
coercion of opinions, and when Hus applied it to the revival 
of spiritual religion it at once became heretical.^ Wycliffe 
did not suggest physical violence against his adversaries, but 
he did recommend that they should be stripped of their 
honors and emoluments. He might have said in the words 
of Groethe, ''I can promise to be sincere but not impar- 
tial," and his unlicensed speech injured his cause and ex- 
posed him to the just accusations of his enemies. On the 
other hand, a judicial attitude was scarcely possible in con- 
tentious matters which went to the root of a semi-civilized 
life. Both he and his adversaries struck for a definite object, 
and received hard blows in return. Moreover, the clergy 
upon whom he poured out his anger were not forgiven by 
following generations. A century and a half later the laity 
of many countries revolted against them, and to-day no 
progressive people would tolerate them for a moment. 

All conquests are, more or less, the prize of courage, and it 
is essential for the forward march of the race that deeds of 
daring should grapple boldly with fate. In this respect 
Wycliffe has received no blame and requires no defense. He 
had other characteristics; moral earnestness, a horror of 

iBiahopMandellCreighton: "Peneoution and Tolerance": pp. 100-101. 



160 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

hypocrisy, honesty that did not shrink from the confession 
of failure, and the temper which brouj^t opinions to the test 
of practice; qualities expressed in an undaunted bearing 
which never flinched, and made him the foremost citizen of 
England while he was a simple derk at Lutterworth. To 
attempt, to persist, to affront unjust power, and to stand in 
his own place faithful to what he believed, was habitual with 
him, and constituted him an example of genuine greatness. 
He was further distinguished for an indomitable will, whidi 
harmonized his strong and varied gifts and directed them 
upon specific lines of action. Amid the mire and malignancy 
of his environment, he pushed onward and cleared the 
path for those who had less initiative. His contempo- 
raries were aware of this determination, and his ablest 
opponent, Archbishop Courtenay, was wary in his dealings 
with one whom he knew to be as inmiovable as himself. 
If there was in Wydiffe any reluctance to face obnoxious 
circumstances, he seldom permitted it to appear. Indeed, 
he preferred those dangerous pursuits from which prudence 
would have retreated, and the greater the risk, the more 
ready seemed his undertaking. This hardihood was not 
stimulated by any optimistic outlook ; few dear-eyed men 
were optimists after the Black Death and its consequences. 
Langland asserted that ''the last stronghold of Christianity 
had already succumbed to the assaults of Antichrist and 
the teachings of the friars. Henceforth his pattern of 
simple faith, Piers Plowman, must shake the dust of the 
past from his feet and wander forth alone in search of the 
Christ that is to be." ^ Even Chaucer, who stood alone in 
his inexplicable buoyancy, struck a less cheerful note in his 
latest song. Wycliffe anticipated Langland, and dedared 
that the Church would never be reformed except by the 
conjunction of an irresistible movement from within and a 
heroical pressure from without. Half the truth of this asser- 
tion was preceptible to his vision, but the remainder was not. 

iQ. G. Coulton: * 'From St. Franda to Dante"; p. 36a 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 161 

He saw that men had begun to pass their accustomed bound- 
aries and to find other fears and hopes far exceeding the griefs 
and joys they knew. But he did not foresee their expansion 
into a freedom whidi could dbpense with narrow creeds and 
scholastic interpretations, nor rise to an apprehension of that 
search for good before which such formularies fade away. 
Yet dqection never impeded his efforts, and, so far as the 
immediate future was concerned, his wisdom was justified 
by his accurate prediction of the troubles which fell upon 
Christendom. 

Material for volumes of disquisitions upon justice and 
righteousness, or upon ecclesiastical and political plots and 
counter-plots, can easily be obtained from a study of his 
writings. Their treatment of these issues is far more akin 
to the problems of our generation than are his acquire- 
ments in the Scholasticism he expounded, and from which 
he could never separate his modes of thought. But though 
he was not the intellectual equal of the greater Schoolmen, 
and it is vain to compare him with the premier thinkers 
of the Middle Ages, nevertheless, in the opinion of those 
best qualified to judge he was chiefly important because of 
the weight and extent of his learning. He soared far above 
others in the range of his genius and surpassed them in the 
profundity of his knowledge. Sufficient evidence to confirm 
this has already been quoted from his contemporaries, 
who were agreed that in philosophy, theology, and famil- 
iarity with the Scriptiu^s he had no living equal. Scho- 
lasticism was in its recession when he arrived upon the 
scene; yet Wycliffe's assiduity so redeemed what oppor- 
tunities were left as to secure him this eminence. The 
limitations of the metaphysic in which he wrought were 
shown in the fact that men argued first and thought after- 
wards. His formal treatment of certain themes moved in a 
circle, and it was only when he reached the question he 
desired to prove that he displayed an intellectual vigor and 
ease which the clumsiness of his methods could no longer 



162 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

conceal. Here the keenness of his mind and his strategical 
handling of arguments for attack or drfense, while derived 
from the discipline of the Schoob, went far beyond them, 
and transferred him into the region of the reformer. 

Passing from his intellectual qualities to his services as a 
Christian patriot, it b relevant to say that his differentiat- 
ing principle was the dependence of the individual soul upon 
God alone. This doctrine, which assigned to every sin^^e 
person an equal place in the regard of Deity, contained die 
seed of destruction for the carefully graded hierarchies of 
the Middle Ages. It sounds trite to our ears since custom 
has deprived it of freshness and force. But the prelates who 
resisted it did so because they recognized in its implications 
the handwriting on the walls of their lordly houses. Wydiffe 
transferred the conception from religion to politics, and the 
result was that he fell into those paradoxes which perplexed 
his friends and assisted his foes. Yet even here the for- 
mula has still to be reckoned with ; for, though it is not the 
final expression of the truth, it must be held as a depository of 
what truth it contained, that this may be used as a means for 
new light upon the relations of character to material posses- 
sions. 

Wycliffe's thunderings against medieval authority should 
be estimated in the light of the fact that rulers were unaware 
of the distinction between civil and religious liberty as a 
principle and as an actual achievement. The fact, if not the 
theory, they were compelled to accept at spasmodic intervals 
as an unwelcome intruder into a weU-ordered condition. 
Kings and popes granted it, but in reality it was the force of 
circumstances which gave it, and what were deemed conces- 
sions from above were really conquests from below. The 
government of Christian States rested on an absolutism which 
flatly contradicted the democracy of the New Testament, 
and Wycliffe was too close a Biblical student not to know 
its plain teachings. Codes, statutes, franchises, charters, 
dispensations, and similar instnunents were frequently ex- 



JOHN WYCLIFFB 163 

torted by force, or procured by money payments to needy 
exchequers. Occasionally they were regarded as fragments 
<rf a larger freedom not yet evolved out of the surrounding 
conf usion, but never acknowledged by the governing powers 
as a fundamental social necessity. Wydiffe was shrewd 
enough to detect this temper in the princes, bishops, and 
nobles, and if he did not perceive it with the lucidity of 
Marsiglio, yet hb speculations were sufficiently incisive to 
disturb those who regarded his theory of lordship as a fore- 
runner of anarchy and madness. Further, these views, how- 
ever visionary, were the stimulus for those active mental 
and moral processes by which he sought to attain beneficial 
results, and which saved him from ending in a morass of 
impossibilities. He called upon the students of Oxford to 
renounce the grandiose puerilities of a barren curriculum 
and occupy themselves with solid and useful verities. The 
exhortation was enforced by his own researches beyond 
lordship in the State into the baseless assumptions of a 
sacerdotal hierarchy, whose pretensions he met, as we have 
said, with his exposition of the theory of the immediate 
dependence of the individual soul upon God ; a relation which 
needed no priestly mediation and to which the Sacraments of 
the Church, however desirable and edifying, were not abso- 
lutely necessary.^ But powerful minds are not always safe 
minds, and when he divorced the idea of the Church from any 
connection with its official or formal constitution, he advo- 
cated an impossible radicalism which verified his description 
of himself as one who " stammered out many things he was 
unable clearly to make good." 

Enough has been said to show that the typical religion 
which rises above changes of earth, above schools of the- 
ology, above conflicting doctrines; the religion which is 
created by a man's realization that as man he must stand 
face to face with the Supreme Being, and that God has 
given him his manhood for this specific purpose, — was 

^Encyclopedia Britaimica: 11th edition: article on WyclifiFe. 



164 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Wycliffe'Sy his unfailing source of confidence and of hope. 
His virtues stood high in the ethical scale, and the motives 
which inspired his conduct were, as a rule, unmixed. The 
gross and open inmiorality then prevalent did not touch 
him, even by rumor, to sully his priesthood, and apart from 
politics, no compromise with wrong has been laid to his 
charge. Among his contemporaries his influence corre- 
sponded with the elevation of his character and the large- 
ness of his mind. Yet he could not persuade a comparatively 
primitive society whose spiritualities had been nourished by 
that marvel of construction, the dogma, ritual, and liturgy 
of Roman Christianity in the Middle Ages, to tutu at once 
to his purer and more exacting creed. 

But the irresistible forces of Time were enlisted in behalf of 
his teaching, while the convictions of his countrymen have 
moved toward its more refined articles and away from dwarfed 
finalities whose leaden, motionless infallibility arrests change 
by destroying life. He was brought into contact with issues 
which could not be discussed without differences nor settled 
without leaving in the conclusions the leaven of some error. 
The difficult r61e of the cleric in politics was not undertaken 
without risk to his reputation, but here the sturdiness which 
was inimical to his statesmanship served him well, in that it 
prevented him from making final shipwreck of his honor. 
Venomous misrepresentation was heaped upon his public 
acts ; he was in no way idealized by what was said about 
him after he was gone. His memory was either left to 
the mercies of a rabid ecclesiasticism, jealous for its corpo- 
rate powers and privileges, or connected with a despised 
and obscure group of sectaries which dwindled to extinction 
under persecution and its own fanaticisms. In his earlier 
days a pluralist, a beneficiary of the Crown, and an associ- 
ate of the Lancastrian party, in his later years he spurned 
higher rewards within the compass of his talents because 
their acceptance would have involved a sacrifice of principle. 
Thus the gulf between preferment and his own self-respect 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 165 

had widened, nor would he bridge it by betrayal. He 
supported the peasants in their revolt against the festering 
abuses and iniquities of their rulers, and the deprivations 
which ensued redounded to his credit and usefulness. 

The approval of the inward monitor, the translation of the 
Bible which he loved and venerated, the ministrations of his 
parish and the direction of his poor priests afforded him en- 
joyments beyond those he had forfeited. Besides, Wycliffe 
was built for battle, and for him to renounce patronage was 
less difficult than to abstain from onslaughts upon sordid 
wrongs. If we are safe in believing the evil which men assert, 
not of their antagonists, but of their companions, then cleri- 
cal avarice, luxury, simony, and similar works of darkness 
abounded in high places and under the disguise of spiritual 
authority. Against these, the wearisome reiteration of which 
would fall short of their actual extent, he waged a good 
warfare, and in adversity he kept a high mien which discon- 
certed his adversaries. The reaction against the Papacy, 
which began in the reign of Henry III, reached its high-water 
mark in John Wycliffe, and, though a subsidence followed, 
it increased the independence of the nation and created 
precedents for a larger freedom. His final months of 
earthly life ran their course unvexed ; a certain grandeur 
overspread the man, who seemed to gather to himself in that 
sunset calm those loftier hopes and fulfilments which have 
made his memory the treasured heritage of a nation excep- 
tionally rich in such bequests. His dust escaped the hate of 
ignominious reactionaries and has the world for its tomb, 
though he needed neither tomb nor epitaph to guard a name 
than which no braver glows in the golden roll of English 
sires. 

Epilogue 

Those who approach the study of the later medieval period 
in England through the poetry of Chaucer or the glories of 
Gothic architecture may find it difficult to reconcile the joy- 



166 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

ous and sublime triumph of these master works with the 
physical and moral wretchedness of the populace we have 
depicted. The fourteenth century Churdi which WydiflFe 
pronounced abandoned and degenerate could still erect those 
exquisite cathedrals and abbeys which are to-day the monu- 
ments of her religious cultiu^. If anywhere there were 
sermons in stones, capturing the imagination to an extent 
that can be claimed by few buildings in the world, they 
were found in Gloucester's reconstructed pile, in Abbot 
Litlington's additions at Westminster, and in the trans- 
formation of the great Hall of Rufus by Richard II. But the 
marks of decadence were on them, and, though its progress 
was slow, the change which reduced the free and flowing lines 
of the earlier Gothic to the stiff utilitarianism of the later 
style was already in process and continued during the life- 
time of Wycliffe. Nor did their fascinations satisfy men's 
cravings for a more spiritual setting of the Christian faith 
than '' long drawn aisles and fretted vaults " supply. Seekers 
after God tiuned from their cloying beauties and from the 
elaborate rituals they housed, as they had turned from the 
subtleties of academic argument. Wycliffe, although given 
to a proper ceremonialism, showed scanty appreciation for 
these holy fanes. They were memorable achievements, but 
the world could not live by them. Sculptures, however 
skillfully wrought, were not the bread of Heaven ; not the 
realities upon which piety must feed to live. Intonings and 
chantings had not increased the morality of the worshipers. 
Their constant repetition dulled the hearing of the heart, and 
sacred offices hardened upon the accustomed mind like a 
shell. He quoted St. Augustine's dictum — "As often as 
the song delighteth me more than that is songen, so oft do 
I acknowledge that I trespass grievously" — against the 
endless array of vested priests and choristers who enlisted 
the senses at the cost of the spirit. 

But although he was the chief contemporary Englishman 
who berated such cherished ways of worship, and also op- 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 167 

posed the hierarchical control of the State, he did so without 
rightly estimating their latent usefulness, and his proposab 
for their abolition failed because they were premature in 
origin and n^ative in character. It has been pertinently 
observed that it was the misfortune of his position to 
have to. attack abuses at a time when their abolition was 
but too likely to be followed by worse abuses, and to de- 
fend the rights of the State at a time when its rights were 
likely to be asserted in practice for the satisfaction of a 
dique of nobles more greedy, more unscrupulous, and more 
incompetent than the respectable ecclesiastical statesmen 
in whom Wycliflfe saw no good thing. The governing classes 
were aware that the modifications and balances afterwards 
introduced to adjust the relations of Church and State had 
as yet found no place in English law. Nor could the towns 
and cities, those repositories of a larger freedom, advance the 
Reformer's schemes, since they were fully occupied in pro- 
tecting their civic interests. The peasants and artisans to 
whom he appealed in his extremity were deprived of any 
means for an eflPective response. Hence he attempted to 
pluck the fruit before it was ripe; the experiments in de- 
mocracy which he advocated, if they had been carried out, 
would have tiuned back by centuries the hands of the clock. 
He saw the needs of the present, and to some extent the possi- 
bilities of the future, but he did not sufficiently esteem the 
spirit of the past from which they could not be separated if 
they were to be satisfied. Constructive policies were abso- 
lutely essential in dealing with the great fabric which previ- 
ous ages had reared with untold pains and sacrifices. These 
policies were not forthcoming, and the Reformer mediated 
between the methods he condemned and those he could not 
fully formulate. Thinker though he was, his first principles 
were sometimes far from cohesive ; on specific questions his 
was too often the logic that flourished in seclusion but withered 
in the open. It should be added that he indulged no roseate 
dreams about victory ; on the contrary, he never concealed 



168 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

from himself nor from others the foreboding that their joint 
efforts would be defeated and driven back. Hb str^igth 
was found in the faith he had in truth and righteousness. 
And in this temper, more manly and deserving than the 
artificial courage which is kindled by success, he bore a brave 
front and wrought valiantly. 

Some of his former companions in tribulation were Bheat- 
ward tormentors of the Lollards who inherited his teadihig; 
one of these backsliders, Philip Repyngdon, became Bishop 
of Lincoln and a Cardinal of the Church. This prelate hu- 
manely refused to obey the official order from the Council of 
Constance commanding that the bones of his old master be 
exhumed and burned. Nicholas Hereford also recanted his 
Wycliffian opinions, and, last and most melancholy, John 
Purvey, who had been so closely identified with the Reformer's 
dearest hopes and labors, and to whose gifts was due the 
revision of the first version of the Wycliffe Bible, revealed 
the untrustworthiness of scholastic LoUardism by his abjura- 
tion of the cause in which he had been a leader. He after- 
wards repented of his cowardice, recalled his recreancy, 
and disappeared from view. William Thorpe, a more honor- 
able man, kept the faith, enduring imprisonment in 1397 and 
again in 1407, and on being brought before Archbishop 
Arundel, gave the Primate a moving account of his own life, 
and witnessed that historic confession for Wycliffe from which 
we have already quoted. But the Lollards gradually perished, 
the University relinquished its hard-won rights and returned 
to the bosom of the Church, and during the perjured and 
disgraceful reign of Henry TV the heads of colleges became the 
persecuting agents of the bishops. Shakespeare made that 
unhappy monarch, the son of John of Gaunt, denounce his 
own career, when he cried out that God knew by what 
crooked means he had obtained the crown, and continued, 
" I myself know well how troublesome it sat upon my head." 
He rests beneath the infamy of being the first English king 
who burned his subjects in the name of religion. This policy 



JOHN WYCLIPFB 169 

could not endure, and after an interval the persecutions of his 
successor, Harry of Agincourt, and of Archbishop Arundel, 
were quietly abandoned, although such was not the case until 
Wydiffe's mission was apparently obliterated in England. 

But if his opinions were subdued in his native land, they 
rose again in Bohemia, and the account of their revival in 
southeastern Europe is among the dramatic phases of Prot- 
estant history. John Hus and Jerome of Prague continued 
there the enterprise Wydiff e had begun at Oxford and Lutter- 
worth. Hus obtained his forerunner^s manuscript works 
through scholars who came to England with Queen Anne 
of Bohemia, the consort of Richard II, and, while this in- 
fluential disciple did not accept all his master's teachings, 
he raised their essentials to the dignity of a national faith. 
His tracts, pamphlets and books were copied ipsissima verba 
from Wydiffe's works and freely circulated among the people 
of that distant land. An Englishman who heard the exami- 
nation of Hus before the Council of Constance, which con- 
demned and burned him, declared that he thought he saw 
standing before him "the very Wycliffe." It required little 
stretch of imagination to see, looming in the background, the 
majestic shade of that great Englishman " for whose doctrine 
Hus went to the stake." Their memories, with Luther's, 
are enshrined in three medallions at the University of Prague, 
which depict the evolution of Protestantism for a century and 
a half, from the Anglican Scholastic through the Bohe- 
mian martyr to the German Titan. The first shows Wyclifife 
striking gleaming sparks from a flint; the second, Hus 
kindling the coals with the sparks ; the third, Luther bearing 
a blazing torch he has lit at their fires. 



Throughout this review we have seen that belief in 
liberty as an essential part of the good of all things, and 
dread of liberty as a dangerous innovation, were then, as 
they are now, the polar instincts meeting there, as every- 



170 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

where, in ceaseless antagonism. The rulers of the period 
were intent on securing its aims and ideak in their own way, 
by the consolidation of Church and State, and the preserva- 
tion of that loyalty to both upon which, as they held, all 
welfare here and hereafter alike depended. ''Obedience is 
the first lesson in social progress, and this lesson was weU 
worth learning, even though it took centuries to make it 
an instinctive motor reaction. By the steady pressure of 
authority the Church was modifying the very brain tissue of 
the Christian world, and inculcating habits of thought which 
Ue at the basis of social progress. The Church may perish, 
but the psychic qualities it created will endure as long as 
European civilization." ^ 

The time came when self-knowledge and self-control were 
sufficiently developed to attack with success the evils 
Wyclijffe deplored, and the failure of the Roman Church to 
withstand the onset must be sought in the domain of morab 
as well as that of religion. Protestantism consecrated the 
home life of the people, enforced the Ten Commandments, 
put the ban upon lawless communal pleasures, and reminded 
men and women that they could attain sainthood by living 
in the world rather than fleeing from it. The mention of these 
things does not detract from the inestimable worth and 
spiritual character of other and more familiar causes that 
also contributed to the same result, but they are emphasized 
for the reason that they have not always received adequate 
consideration. The German Reformation was the outcome 
of an ethical quite as much as of a theological revolt. When 
its day dawned and the shadows fled, men saw with astonish- 
ment that throughout the long night preceding a few faithful 
souls had kept their vigil, and that the succession of the truly 
apostolic order had never been entirely broken. In that suc- 
cession, always supreme because nearest to God's right' hand, 
John Wycliffe stood first and greatest, as its noblest and most 
serviceable member during the later medieval period. 

1 S. N. Patten: "Development of English Thought" ; pp. 89-90. 



JOHN WYCLIFPB 171 



BIBUOGRAPHY 

For m BchcAuiy and authoritative study of Wydiffe and his times 
the student is strongly recommended to consult ''The Dawn of the 
Reformation," by Herbert B. Worknum, M.A., D. lit., of Westminster 
College, London. 

Acton, Lord'1 History of Freedom and Other Essays. 

Acton, Lord. Historical Essays and Studies. 

Acton, Lord. Lectures on Modem History. 

AaiciTAOS-SifrrH, Stdnet. John of Gaunt. 

BoASE, Charles W. Oxford (Historic Towns Series). 

Brodrick, Hon. George C. A History of the University of Oxford. 

Capes, W. W. The English Church in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth 
A Centuries. 
4Carrick, J. C. Wydiffe and the Lollards. 

Coulton, G. G. Chaucer and hb England. 

CouLTON, G. G. From St. Francis to Dante. 

Creiohion, Bishop Mandell. Historical Essays and Reviews. 

Creighton, Bishop Mandell. Historical Lectures and Addresses. 

Creighion, Bishop Mandell. History of the Papacy. 

Creighton, Bishop Mandell. Persecution and Tolerance. 

Creighton, Bishop Mandell. Simon de Montfort. 

Denton, W. England in the Fifteenth Centiuy. 
[EneydoptEdia Britanmca. Article on Wydiffe. Vol. XXYIH. 11th 
J edition. " " 

Fortescue, Adrian. The Mass. 

Gasquet, Cardinal. The Black Death. 

Gasquet, Cardinal. English Monastic Life. 

GiHR, Nicholas. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

Green, Alice S. Town life in the Fifteenth Century. 

Green, John Richard. Oxford Studies. 

Green, John Richard. Short History of the English People. 

Gribble, Francis. The Romance of the Oxford Colleges. 

Guizot, M. The History of England, Vol. I. 

Harnack, Adolf. History of Dogma. 

Harnack, Adolf. Bible Reading in the Early Church. 

Henderson, E. F. (Editor). Select Historical Documents of the 
Middle Ages. 

Jessopp, Augustus. The Coming of the Friars, and other Historical 
Essays. 

Jubserand, J. H. English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages. 
(Fourteenth century). 



172 THREE RELIQI0U8 LEADERS OF OXFORD 

V' Lbchleb, Gotthabd v. John Wydiffe and his English F^ecuraors. 
Locke, Clinton. The Age c^ the Great Western Schism. 
QiCAN, Charles. The Great Revolt c^ 1381. 
^OOLE, RoQiNALD Lane. WycUffe and Movements for Reform. 
Rait, Robert S. Life in the Medieval University. 
Rambat, Sir James H. The Angevin Empire. 
Ranke, L. von. Ifistory c^ the Popes. Vol. I. 
Rashdall» Hastinos. The Universities c^ Europe in the Middle 

Ages. Vol. n, Part n. 
Rock, D. Hiemrgia, or the Holy Sacrifice c^ the Mass. 
Sanderson, Edqar. History of England and the British Empire. 
Skeat, Walter W. Geoffrey Chaucer. 
Stevenson, Francis S. Robert Grosseteste. 

Stubbs, Bishop William. Historical Introduction to the Rolls Series. 
A'atlor, H. O. The Medieval Mind. 
Tout, T. F. The History of Enghind. Vol. H. 
3rREVELTAN, George Macaulat. England in the Age of WycUffe. 
VprcENT, M. R. The Age of Hildebrand. 
Ward, Adolphus W. Chaucer. 
WORKMAN, Herbert B. The Dawn of the Reformation. 
Workman, Herbert B. The Evolution of the Monastic Ideal. 



BOOK II 
JOHN WESLEY 

AND 

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 



173 



I have f dt 
A Presence that disturbs me with the joy 
Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime 
Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean and the living air 
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man ; 
A motion and a spirit, that impels 
All thinking things, all objects of all thou^^t. 
And rolls through all things. 

WoRDSWOBTH : Lines at Tintern Abbey. 



174 



CHAPTER V 
ANCESTRY AND TRAINING 



176 



And yet, as angels in some blister dreams 

Call to the soul when man doth sleep. 

So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themesy 

And into glory peep. 

Then bless thy secret growth, nor catdi 
At noise, but thrive unseen and dumb ; 
Keep dean, be as fruit, earn life, and watdi 
Till the white-winged reapers come. 

Henrt Vauohan : The Seed Orowing SeereUy. 

''But God, Who is able to prevail, wrestled with him; marked 
bim for His owil" 

IsAAK Waioow. 



iZ, •' 



-r ^ 



1 ■■ 






176 



CHAPTER V 

ANCESTRY AND TRAINING 

Religion in England in the eighteenth century — Penonality the deter- 
mining factor in progress — Wesley's J>irth and ancestry — Hie early 
years at Epworth — The Wesley family — The Charterhouse — Ox- 
ford University — Wesley's self-condemnation — Preparation for Holy 
Orders — His Ordination — Elected Fellow of Lincoln College — 
Curate of Wroote — William Law and the "Serious Call'' — Charles 
Weal^r at Oxford — The "Holy Club" — Death of Samuel Wesl^ 
— The Mission to Georgia — General O^ethorpe — The Moravian 
Brethren. 



We deal in these chapters with the history of an almost 
unparalleled transformation of the English national character 
effected under the impulse of a revival of Christianity which 
subsequently spread throughout the British Empire and 
the United States. That revival was preceded by a period 
of spiritual decline and moral inertia which itself had fol- 
lowed the brief reign of Piuitanism in the seventeenth 
century. The clergymen who filled the pastoral offices of 
Anglicanism or of Nonconformity during the eighteenth 
century were, with few exceptions, convinced that the im- 
mediate, direct action of the living God upon the spirits 
of men was practically impossible in reality and well nigh 
blasphemous in conception. They differed widely about 
theological systems and methods of Church organization, 
but they were united in relegating the intervention of Deity 
in matters of personal religion either to the far past or to 
the future that lay beyond the grave. To ward off assaults 
upon their respective institutions and beliefs seemed to all 
alike a more imperative duty than to contend against the 
N 177 



178 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

deplorable vice and crime which afflicted society on every 
side. The regenerating faith of the New Testament was 
obscm^, while the scholarship and energies which should 
have heralded it to a needy race were expended in guarding 
sectarian prejudices and shibboleths, the meanings of which 
were not always intelligible. 

Yet this untoward generation produced out of the heart 
of Anglicanism the man of Puritan ancestry who reaffirmed 
the truth of God's presence in His children, and who was in- 
strumental in stimulating and organizing a faith which rested 
upon Christ's personal word and self-conmiunicated life; 
a faith that could not be depreciated by controversy, nor 
shocked by intellectual changes, nor convulsed by social 
upheavals; an overmastering faith, the progress of which 
won conquests similar to those of the Acts of the Apostles. 
Many had perceived the crying need of this faith, but John 
Wesley became its embodiment and messenger. In him 
and in his work Anglican and Puritan coalesced — the order 
and dignity of the one, the fearless initiative and asceticism 
of the other — and admirably served their mission to his 
own and succeeding ages. His quenchless zeal enabled 
him to quicken in multitudes of his fellow men that repent- 
ance for sin and sense of the renewed favor of (Jod which 
had wrought his own deliverance. His labors had a pro- 
found and pervasive influence on the evolution of Protest- 
antism, to which Mr. Lecky bears witness in the following 
words: "Although the career of the elder Pitt and the 
splendid victories by land and sea that were won during his 
ministry, form unquestionably the most dazzling episodes in 
the reign of Greorge H, they must yield, I think, in real im- 
portance to that religious revolution which shortly before had 
begun in England by the preaching of the Wesleys and White- 
field." ^ 

This deserved tribute, which has received a tardy yet 

1 " History of England in the Eighteenth Century *' ; Vol. III. p. 1. 



JOHN WESLEY 179 

increasing approval, serves to bear out the contention of 
Goethe, Carlyle, and Emerson, that personality rather 
than ideas is the determining factor in human progress. 
But while a character such as Wesley's does infinitely more 
for the advancement of morals and religion than any ab- 
stract theory or mechanical formula possibly could accom- 
plish, it also creates the difficulty of interpreting him 
adequately. There is a mystery of genius as well as a 
mystery of godliness, and he shared in both. The Oxford 
deric who became the center of the revolution which Lecky 
described possessed a significance which requires patient and 
thorough examination. Literary ingenuity can set forth the 
motions of his gifted mind and the outward expressions of 
his far-reaching and benevolent sympathies, but it falters 
in attempting to delineate the secret history of his rich and 
contagious spirituality. Although his was one of those hap- 
pfly constituted intellects which pierce through immaterial 
and irrelevant accretions to the core of a question, his nature 
was complex, and his spirit accommodated many apparently 
contradictory elements. He shared the sentiments conmion 
to sunts of every school, and dbplayed an admirable cath- 
olicity toward those who did not hold his opinions. Yet 
some of his biographers have embalmed him rather than 
made him vital to our apprehension, and others have treated 
him as a quarry from which to excavate the building mate- 
rial for the defenses of their orthodoxy. The living Wesley, 
as one of the chosen vessels of God's grace and a prophet 
of divine realities whose life and teaching were an inspiration 
and a blessing to the Church, should not be submitted to 
these stereotyped processes. Nor can his varied quaUties 
be compressed into those simplifying generalizations which 
gratify the advocates of a theological system but fail to 
elucidate the deeper meaning of the man. 

He was bom at Epworth rectory, in the coimty and dio- 
cese of Lincoln, on the 17th of June, 1703,^ and came 

> The new style oi reckoning would make it the 2Sth of June. 



180 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of a sturdy Anglo-Saxon stock whose later members fur- 
nished their quota of scholars and clergymen to the service 
of the Church.^ Bartholomew Westley, the great-grand* 
father of John, was the third son* of Sir Herbert West- 
ley, of Westleigh, Devon, and Elizabeth de Wellesley, of 
Dangan, Coimty Meath, Ireland. An Oxford man, he 
studied both medicine and divinity in the University where 
his son, grandson, and three great-grandsons were after- 
wards educated. In 1619 he married the daughter of Sir 
Henry Colley of Castle Carberry, Kildare, Ireland, and after 
an interval, during which little definite b known concerning 
his career, Westley became in 1640 the Rector of Catherston, 
and also held the neighboring living of Charmouth in 
Dorset. When Charles II fled from Cromwell's "crowning 
mercy" at Worcester in 1651, he attempted to cross the 
Channel from Charmouth to France. But the delay of 
the boat chartered to convey the king to the vessel jeopard- 
ized the scheme, and he barely escaped. The "puny par- 
son's" bold avowal that he would have captured the monarch 
had he been present was an indication of the political opin- 
ions which speedily involved Mr. Westley in the troubles 
of the Restoration. In 1662 he suffered ejection from his 
living under the Act of Uniformity, and thereafter practiced 
as a physician among his former parishioners and at Brid- 
port. His blameless and benevolent character seems to have 
been a protection during the persecuting days. He lived 
to a ripe and honored age, and at his death was laid to rest 
in the churchyard at Lyme Regis. 

John Westley, the son of Bartholomew and the paternal 
grandfather of the man who bore his name and inherited 
his spirit, was born in 1636, and graduated from Oxford in 
his twenty-second year with a reputation as an Oriental 

* In old parish registers of churches in the vicinity of Bridport, near 
Dorchester, the name of John Westley appears in 1435 as prebendary and 
vicar of Sturminster: in 1655 Jaspar, son of Ephraim Westley, gentleauui, 
redded at Weymouth, and in 1691 James Westley was one of the b^Qiffs 
of Bridport. 



JOHN WESLEY 181 

linguist. The \^ce ChanceUor, Dr. Owen, had imbued 
him with Dissenting views of Church government, and 
Westley, probably avoiding Episcopal ordination, exercised 
his first ministry among the fishermen of Radipole, a hamlet 
near Weymouth. In 1658 his piety and culture secured 
for him the pastorate of Winterborne-Whitchurch, in Dorset, 
and Cromwell's Board of Commissioners, known as '"Triers," 
who pronounced upon the fitness of candidates for the min- 
istry of the Church, approved the selection. In 1661, the 
second year of the Restoration, he was imprisoned for de- 
clining to use the Book of Common Prayer, and a year later 
was ejected from his living. The remaining sixteen years 
of his life were marked by repeated labors and hardships; 
he died when still in the forties, prematurely worn out and 
apparently thwarted in his aims. But his legacy to the 
Wesley family was treasured by his widow and children, 
who transmitted to the sons of Epworth rectory his lofty 
example of a singularly pure and sacrificial career, ennobled 
by the sufiPerings he endured for the sake of conscience. 

His wife was the daughter of Dr. John White, the patriarch 
of Dorchester, a member of the Westminster Assembly and 
one of the original patentees of the Massachusetts colony. 
Her uncle, Samuel Fuller, the witty divine and church histo- 
rian, described her father as "a grave man, who would yet 
willingly contribute his shot of facetiousness on any just 
occasion." Mrs. John Westley received the sympathy of 
those who had admired her husband's adherence to his 
convictions, and by their assistance she was enabled to 
educate her children. Her son Matthew became a physician 
m London ; Samuel, the father of John and Charles Wesley, 
was intended for the Dissenting ministry, and was sent to 
Mr. Martin's Academy on Newington Green in that city 
to obtain his training.^ The lack of genuine religion and 

' These academies were established after the passing of the Toleration 
Act. Prior to that, Dissentiiig ministers acted as private tutors in families 
or received pupils in their own homes. Many of the ministers were men of 
leuxuDg and power and linked their schoola with the history of Nonoon- 



182 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the prevalence of sectarian controversy among his fellow- 
students chilled hb Nonconformity, and, notwithstanding 
his tender regard for his father's memory and for his mother's 
wishes, he began to examine the questions at issue between 
the Established Church and Dissent. He naturally felt 
reluctant to inform his mother and her friends of his impend- 
ing change; yet he met the emergency with characteristic 
courage and promptitude, and having carefully considered 
the situation and invoked Heaven's directing wisdom, he 
determined to seek admission to the Anglican Church. With 
this end in view, he set out on foot for Oxford, with little 
or no provision for his expenses, and on arriving there en- 
tered as a servitor at Exeter College. After the completion 
of his studies, he was ordained deacon on August 7, 1688, 
and priest in February, 1689 ; thus reuniting his branch of 
the family with the Church which had expelled his father and 
grandfather, and which afterwards looked with prejudice 
on the efforts of his sons. It may be noted here that the 
change in the spelling of their name from Westley to Wes- 
ley was made by Samuel on the ground that the latter was 
the original form. 

John Wesley was equally well bom on the maternal 
side. His mother was the youngest daughter of Dr. Samuel 
Annesley, a graduate of Queen's College, Oxford, and an 
able, genial, and erudite divine whose conspicuous gifts were 
highly esteemed by his brethren. Ejected from the historic 
London Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, Dr. Annesley 
afterwards ministered to a congregation worshipping at 
Little St. Helens, Bishopsgate, where his reputation as a 
trusted leader earned for him the title, "the St. Paul of 
Nonconformity." Mrs. Wesley, like her husband, was dis- 
satisfied with the Calvinistic tenets of Puritan theology then 
prevalent, and while still a girl had deUberately renounced 

formity. But the intellectual activity of these schools injured their spiritual 
life, and herein lay the secret of their bickerings and ultimate atrophy. See 
The Cambridge History of English Literature : Vol. X, pp. 431-432. 



JOHN WESLEY 183 

them and returned to the Anglican fold.^ This renunciation 
created a mutual sympathy between her and Samuel Wes- 
ley, whose good fortune it was to marry her during the 
year of his ordination. From the first the yoimg couple 
struggled under burdens of poverty and debt consequent up- 
on a meager income and a growing family. After a London 
curacy, a chaplaincy in the navy, and a brief teniu^ in the 
smaU living of South Ormsby, Lincolnshire, they came in 
1697 to Epworth, the place destined to be the scene of their 
joint labors for nearly forty years. The new rector, then 
thirty-five years of age, received scarcely enough support 
for hb necessities. The rectory was a three-storied building 
of timber and plaster, thatched with straw; the parish- 
ioners were ignorant and degraded farmers and peasants, 
bitterly opposed to their parson's Tory politics, and the 
majority remained long heedless of his religious exhortations. 
They have been described by the Rev. W. B. Stonehouse 
as descending from the Fenmen, ''a race according to the 
place where they dwell, rude, uncivil, and envious to all 
others." In the early eighteenth century these people main- 
tained the bad reputation of their ancestors. They formed 
an insulated group, much below even the pitiable average 
of rural intelligence, turbulent and vulgar, profane and 
corrupt. The deference usually shown to superiors in long 
settled communities was entirely absent from their behavior, 
and they despised and habitually neglected the conventional 
observances of religion. 

The market town of Epworth, containing a hitherto 
stationary population of about two thousand, is situated 
on the Isle of Axholme,^ a strip of land ten miles long and 
four broad, once enclosed by five rivers, two of which are 
now only marked by the willow trees lining their former 

1 Archbishop Laud, to his credit, had always protested against these 
tenets. 

' The Isle of Azholme still retains the chief remaining examples of the old 
three-field system which was the ancient Aryan method of tillage, showing 
how little the place has been afifected by the surrounding order of progress. 



184 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

banks. The fertile plains of Lincolnshire stretch in green 
expanse beyond the gentle slopb on which the place is 
located, their stagnant marshes drained and dotted with 
woodland groves, prosperous farmsteads, and herds of cattle. 
On the rising growid commanding the town stands the 
church with its massive tower. The parsonage in which 
John Wesley was born was destroyed by an incendiary fire 
on a winter's night in 1709, and although the rector promptly 
began the work of rebuilding, the new edifice remained half 
furnished for several years. The present rectory is a Queen 
Anne structure of comfortable dimensions, with one of those 
old-fashioned English gardens which harbor peace and con- 
templation in their bordered walks. 

Few clergymen seemed less fitted to minister to such a 
parish than Samuel Wesley, and even his wife's superior 
discernment could not prevent frequent misunderstandings 
between pastor and flock which occasionally involved her 
also. Yet choleric, stubborn of temper and somewhat ec- 
centric in conduct as the rector was, his shortcomings 
were offset by his cheerful optimism, his courage, and his 
fidelity to his calling. He contended with pecimiary diflB- 
culties and the indifference and malignancy of hb parish- 
ioners until his high sense of duty and his independence 
finally won the reluctant confidence of those whom he 
served according to his own ideas instead of their desires. 
His tastes and aspirations as a scholar found expression in 
voluminous writings, none of which had any particular 
value. Swift in the "Battle of the Books," and Pope in 
the "Dunciad," dismissed his versifications with a phrase, 
and even the favorable eye of his son John failed to detect 
any signs of poetry in them. His chief work in prose was 
a Commentary on the Book of Job, in which he brought 
to the memory of the much enduring Patriarch an accumu- 
lation of curious and varied learning. Yet these literary 
efforts kept alive in his frugal household the traditions of 
scholarship, and doubtless served to cheer the lonely lot of 



JOHN WESLEY 185 

an intellectuaUy ambitious man who was severed from 
fellowship with craftsmen of the pen. He weathered the 
storms of his tempestuous passage, and steadily maintained 
the Apostolic vision of a world converted to the true faith, 
himself volimteering for missionary service in the far East 
that this cause might be advanced. An ardent patriot 
and a churchman, he never despaired of affairs in the home- 
land. ''Charles/' said the father as he lay on his death- 
bed and addressed his youngest son, '' be steady ; the Chris- 
tian faith will surely revive in these kingdoms. You shall 
see it, though I shall not." To John he had before testified, 
"The inward witness, son, the inward witness, — this is 
the proof, the strongest proof, of Christianity." 

"I did not at the time imderstand them," remarked 
John in after days, speaking of these dying words; yet 
when viewed in the light of Methodist history, they show 
the prophetic instinct, and how the far-reaching fibers of 
the Evangelical Revival were nurtured in the hearts of that 
family from the days of Bartholomew and John Westley to 
those of Samuel Wesley and his sons. 

His wife exercised the dominant influence in the house- 
hold, and John was essentially his mother's child. Her 
Anglicanism was blended with the sterner qualities of her 
Puritan father, and her zeal was no less ardent because it 
was equable. Although deficient in some milder attributes 
of the feminine nature, and without that sense of humor 
which would have softened the rigidities of her domestic 
rule, she excelled in simplicity, dignity, practicality, and 
firmness of purpose, traits which made her affection a source 
of strength and security. Of the numerous children ^ bom 
to this excellent lady all were gifted, and some were doomed 
to saddened and disappointed lives, but two of them founded 
the Methodism of which she was a primal source. Her 

• 

' Epworth was the birthplace of fifteen of the nineteen children of Samuel 
and Susannah Wesley. Samuel, the eldest son, who was bom in London, 
was thirteen years older than John, and Charles four years younger. 



186 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

home was a school of manners^ morals, and religion, in which 
their conversation and intercourse were closely guarded, and 
turned into the most profitable channels. She taught them 
letters; their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and pro- 
fessions of piety were the objects of her unstinted care, from 
which the duties and privations of her household could not 
detain her. Although her Spartan regime reacted on some 
of the children, in later days they referred to her in terms 
of the liveliest gratitude, seeking her counsel, and making 
her the recipient of their confidences. The touch of human- 
ness, which would have relieved the austerities of her disci- 
pline without lowering its tone, came with the passing of 
the years; time was generous to Mrs. Wesley in that it 
mellowed her, adding to her grace and tenderness. Her 
assiduous defense of the circle she adorned was a revela- 
tion of her goodness and wisdom, virtues which her letters 
to John and Charles abundantly confirm. With such a 
mother, the Church would have been justified in expecting 
great things from the sons. To enlarge upon her worth 
is superfluous, since that has been emphasized by many 
authors and moralists who have wondered at her tranquil 
authority over a family so highly individualized, and one 
which conferred such priceless benefits on mankind. The 
latent Puritanism to which her sons afterwards appealed 
with an unerring belief in its desire for God, and which 
produced its best results in regions beyond the sphere of 
the State, found no finer or more complete setting for 
the spiritual phases of Protestant history than that given 
at Epworth by Susannah Wesley. Content to cultivate 
in poverty and seclusion the purer ideals which political 
struggles and changes had failed to maintain, she lived to 
a beautiful and venerable age, and grew in holiness and influ- 
ence, until called to the life beyond, when her happy spirit 
passed from peace to deeper peace with confidence and 
thanksgiving. 



JOHN WESLEY 187 



n 



The first decade in Epworth was full of vexations. When 
John was but two years old his father was committed to 
Lincoln Castle for debt. The rector's enemies not only 
brought this trouble upon him; they also destroyed his 
crops^ injured his cattle, and after several attempts, burned 
his home. John, who had been overlooked in the confusion, 
was rescued from the upper story at the last moment by 
a man raised on the shoulders of others to snatch the child 
out of the flames. Immediately afterwards the roof col- 
lapsed, and his father, overcome with gratitude, fell upon 
his knees and acknowledged the providence which had 
delivered the lad. In later days John frequently recurred 
to the incident then stamped upon his memory as a proof of 
God's personal supervision of his life, and desired that his 
epitaph should commemorate it in the words, "Is not this 
a brand plucked from the burning?" The capricious esca- 
pades of "Old Jeffrey," the ghost which haunted the rectory, 
were also among the vivid recollections of his youth. He 
had entered the Charterhouse School when this much dis- 
cussed visitor from another world began those disturb- 
ances which continued during the months of December and 
January, 1716 and 1717. The real source of the phenomena 
was never discovered; the Wesleys attributed them to a 
supernatural cause, but seemed not to have been affrighted 
by this impression. Whenever prayers were offered for the 
Royal Household the spirit manifested its Jacobite sym- 
pathies by vigorous poundings, a form of remonstrance 
which greatly amused the children. John's frank acceptance 
of this and similar marvels, references to which are frequent 
m his writings, was more than an ordinary recognition of 
such occurrences; it savored strongly of superstition. 

Samuel, the eldest son, entered Westminster School in 
1704, became a Queen's scholar in 1709, and went up to 
Christ Church, Orford, in 1711. He returned to West- 



188 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

minster as head usher, was admitted to Holy Orders, and 
in process of time made the acquaintanoe of a group of 
notables whose political and ecclesiastical opinions he fully 
shared. Of that select company were Bishop Atterbury, 
the stormy petrel of the Anglican episcopacy, Harley, Eaurl 
of Oxford, Prior, Addison, and Dean Swift. This Samuel 
Wesley was a poet of some moment, an accomplished scholar, 
and a conservative man of retiring disposition who looked 
with alarm upon the religious ''extravagances" of his younger 
brothers. He was designated in 1732 head master of Blun- 
dell's School at Tiverton in Devonshire, well known to 
readers of Blackmore's ''Loma Doone," and died there on 
November 6, 1739, without having realized the preferment 
which might have been his had the Tory party not been 
defeated by its allegiance to the Stuarts. 

John entered the Charterhouse School, London, at eleven 
years of age, on the nomination of the Duke of Buckingham, 
and remained there until he was seventeen. The name of 
this famous school is derived from the French Maison Char- 
treuse, a religious house of the Carthusian monks, and as such 
was applied to the various Carthusian monasteries in Eng- 
land. Its familiar and corrupted usage is connected with 
the Charterhouse, where on a former burying ground near 
the city wall, Sir Walter de Manny, at whose death all 
England mourned, and Bishop Northbury, founded in 1371 
the Priory of the Salutation. After the dissolution of the 
great monasteries in 1535 the property passed through 
various hands until in 1611 the Earl of Suffolk sold it to 
Thomas Sutton, one of Queen Elizabeth's Masters of Ord- 
nance, who here established a brotherhood for eighty poor 
men and a school of forty poor boys. The latter has long 
ranked as one of the foremost public schools of the realm, 
and boasts among its scholars the names of Crashaw, 
Lovelace, Barrow, Roger Williams, Addison, Steele, Wesley, 
Blackstone, Grote, Thirlwall, Leech, Havelock, and Thack- 
eray. The school was removed to its handsome new build- 



JOHN WESLEY 189 

ings at Godahning, Surrey, in 1872, but the fasdnating 
place which Wesley loved and frequently revisited stands 
practically the same to-day, and the gentlemen pensioners 
whom Thackeray immortalized in ''Colonel Newcome" 
still gather at the sound of the curfew in the stately Elizar 
bethan hall, and worship in the dim chapel which contains 
Sutton's alabaster tomb. 

Public school life in Wesley's England was cruel beyond 
d^ree; the elder boys bullied the younger ones, who had 
to be content with short commons at table, and submit to 
brutal treatment on every side.^ The discipline of the rec- 
toiy had prepared John for his ordeal ; he did not complain 
of the food, nor resist the rough handling of his companions, 
as Charles did at Westminster when he thrashed one of his 
worst tormentors. Yet bis quiet persistence and advanced 
knowledge gained him a standing even in that ru£Sanly 
crowd, and he always attributed his abstemious habits and 
longevity to the scanty diet and abundant exercise of the 
Charterhouse. The Rev. Luke Tyerman makes the por- 
tentous announcement that "John Wesley entered the 
Charterhouse a saint, and left it a sinner." ^ What particu- 
lar kind of saint or sinner he had in mind the vigorous biog- 
rapher of Wesley does not define; and the statement can 
be dismissed as one of those vagaries which are due to theo- 
logical prejudice. It is highly questionable if the boy 
suffered any loss of genuine faith or purity. He had come 
from a sheltered existence at home, where his early interest 
in religious matters induced his father to admit him to Holy 
Communion when he was eight years old. His fastidious 
scruples had already attracted the attention of those about 
him, and needed no further encouragement, while the drastic 
treatment he received from his schoolfellows probably saved 
him from becoming a pious prig by discouraging any dis- 

* Leech's "Winchester College" and the article on Eton in the Victoria 
County History of Buckinghamshire give striking accounts of the harshness 
and iU usage of eighteenth century public schools. 

> 'Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 22. 



190 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

position towards artificiality. During his six years in 
London he kept in dose touch with his parents and his 
brother Samuel, who had oversight of Charles at Westmin- 
ster and of John at the Charterhouse throughout the four 
years the three brothers were together in the capital. Sur- 
rounded by these influences, John maintained his private 
devotions and communicated on the appointed days. 

He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in tlie summer of 1720, 
having already gained solid advantages in the breadth and 
sincerity of his character and a thorough drilling in the 
classics. As a Carthusian scholar at the University he 
received an annuity of forty pounds, an income which made it 
almost impossible for him to keep out of debt. His father's 
finances were too straitened to be of much avail, and his 
mother's letters contained frequent advices on the need for 
economy. Yet the monetary drawback did not hinder his 
serious us^ of those opportimities which his fellow students 
for the most part neglected. 

The University was at a low ebb, too careful for the 
interests of the banished Stuart dynasty, and so indifferent 
toward scholarship as to provoke Wesley's exclamation — 
"Oh I what is so scarce as learning save religion?" Eldward 
Gibbon described a typical tutor of the day as a man who 
" remembered that he had a salary to receive, and forgot that 
he had a duty to perform." ^ Separated from the life and 
progress of the nation, supercilious toward the Hanoverian 
succession, which, despite its foreign extraction, was the 
safeguard of constitutional liberties, and without any effective 
internal supervision, Oxford had fallen on evil days, the 
more pronounced because of its perverse blindness to any 
defects. Students evaded their classes, wasting their time 
in drinking and gambling. Idleness, ignorance, and decep- 
tion abounded. Candidates for degrees could purchase a 
dispensation freeing them from attending lectures, some of 

^ It should be noted that Gibbon's impressioDS of Oxford were received 
when he was a youth of fifteen. 



JOHN WESLEY 191 

which were never given, and had others been omitted no 
serious loss would have been incurred. This betrayal of 
trust and the general inunorality intensified Wesley's sense 
ci separateness. Twenty years later he rebuked them in a 
sermon preached before the University and exhorted the 
coll^;es to mend their ways. In the meantime the reli- 
gious devotion of his adolescence began to weaken under 
the stress of his studies and social engagements. But he 
was far removed from the gross pursuits of many of his 
fellow students, thoroughly reputable and conscientious in 
his dealings, and justly respected for the propriety of his 
conduct. His earUest diaries show that he read popular 
dnuoas, took a special interest in the gay Horace, and 
studied the graver works of Homer, Virgil, Juvenal, Spenser, 
Shakespeare, and Milton. 

He spent the Christmas of 1725 with college friends, 
at the rectories of Broadway and Stanton, villages situated 
under the Cotswold Hills, in one of the loveliest valleys 
<rf England. Here he met Miss Betty Kirkham, probably 
the ''religious friend" who had first induced him in the 
preceding April to enter earnestly upon a new life.^ 
Another of his companions was Mrs. Pendarvis, of 
the Granville family of Buckland, a third place in the 
vicinity. This fascinating young widow, the niece of Lord 
Lansdowne, afterwards the wife of Dr. Delaney of Dublin, 
was one of the accomplished women of the time, to whom 
Edmund Burke paid an unusual tribute for her culture and 
conversation. Wesley maintained a correspondence with 
both ladies, addressing Miss Kirkham as Varanese and Mrs. 
Pendarvis as Aspasia. He danced at a wedding which took 
place during the vacation and also with his sisters at £p- 
worth upon his visits there, and returned to Oxford to 
reproach himself for his susceptibility to the charms of a 
bewitching circle. It was his custom on Saturday evenings 

^ "The Journal of John Wesley" : edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumook; 
VoL I. p. 16. 



192 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to record the events of the moving hours, and confess his 
faults. "Have I loved women or company more than 
God?"^ he asked, shortly after his return from Stanton. 
The inquiry showed that while enjoying the pleasures 
of a refined taste, he also felt that to fear God and to 
have no other fear is the jninciple which not only saf guards 
religion, but asserts its truth and wisdom in all affairs 
of life. In retrospect he was unsparing toward himself, and 
sometimes demanded more than his nature or circumstances 
could then afford, striving after a d^ree of excellence well- 
nigh unattainable in those who have to mingle in the current 
of human affairs. With guileless and unreserved candor he 
exposed the inmost secrets of his soul, and his sincerity led 
him to reflect, "Who more foolish and faithless than I was?" 
He did not insinuate his experiences nor gloss them; he 
proclaimed them from the house-tops. "I still said my 
prayers, both in public and private; and read, with the 
Scriptures, several other books of religion. . . . Yet I had 
not all this while so much as a notion of inward holiness; 
nay, went on habitually and, for the most part, very con- 
tentedly, in some or other known sin; though with some 
intermission and short struggles, especially before and after 
the Holy Communion, which I was obliged to receive thrice 
a year." * This confession disquieted him more than it 
need disquiet others. While we should not refuse to admit 
the inferences which lie on the surface of his statement, we 
must not suffer the phraseology to mislead us. The "known 
sin" of which Wesley speaks can be judged in the light of 
his maturer experience, when a leaning toward asceticism 
rendered him sensitive to what may have been at their best 
harmless amusements, and at their worst mild indiscretions. 
Assuredly, he did not easily yield to the temptations of 
a University career. He was remiss in his expenditure 

^ "The Journal of John Wesley" : edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumook; 
Vol. I, p. 62. 

> L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wesley*' ; Vol. I, p. 24. 



JOHN WESLEY 193 

of mon^, considering its scarcity at Epworth, and his 
parents properly warned him to be more careful in this 
respect, but he never deliberately disregarded the obvious 
distinction between good and evil. The content of the 
term sin varies with acuteness of spiritual perception; 
where this faculty is unduly alert, acts are included in the 
cat^ory of sins which by no means fall within the proper 
meaning of the word. Spiritually-minded men and women 
are the severest arbiters of their own past, and are always 
prone to depreciate their motives and deeds. Their writings 
teem with accusations against themselves, which not infre- 
quently are the shadows cast by an intense yearning to know 
and do the will of Heaven, that they may enter into its more 
perfect fellowship. It should be understood that from his 
earliest youth Wesley had been attached to noble ideals, 
and that throughout a long life he seldom swerved from 
the hard and narrow path of duty. 

During the first four years of his residence at Oxford he 
gave no indication that he proposed entering the Anglican 
ministry, although there is little doubt that his parents 
had always hoped such would be his decision.. His father 
frequently expressed the desire that he should do so, and 
m 1725 Wesley began to read the works of Thomas k Kempis 
and Jeremy Taylor, with the result that his religious life 
became more pronounced, and he gave himself to prayer 
and meditation. His correspondence with his mother, who 
was then, as always, his guide and confessor, shows that he 
seriously questioned his fitness for Holy Orders. The ideal 
of the writer of "De Imitatione Christi" repelled him as 
being too cold and austere, and he complains in a letter to 
his mother of k Kempis for "inverting instead of disciplin- 
ing the natural tendencies of humanity." Taylor's exhor- 
tation to hiunility seemed to him to clash with the claims 
of truth.^ Notwithstanding these criticisms, both authors 

1 Julia Wedgwood : ** John Wealey and the Evangelical Reaction of the 
Eighteenth Century" ; p. 33. 

o 



194 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

introduced Wesley to depths and reaches of the spiritual 
realm hitbarto imknown to him. They stimulated his 
faith, and placed him under an obligation he afterwards 
acknowledged. Taylor's "Holy Living and Holy Dying" 
had exceedingly affected him. He remarked, "Instantly I 
resolved to dedicate all my life to God — all my thoughts, and 
words, and actions, — being thoroughly convinced ^ere was 
no medium ; but that every part of my life (not some only) 
must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself, that is, in effect, 
the devil." ^ His mother did not always satisfy his inquiries, 
but she admirably summed up the question of his general 
relation to the world in the following manner, "Take this 
rule — whatever impairs the tenderness of your conscience, 
obscures your sense of Grod, or takes the relish off spiritual 
things, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may 
be in itself." * Her anxiety for his safe emergence from 
theological perplexities prompted similar counsels which 
reveal her at her best both as a Christian and a thought- 
fid student of current doctrinal statements. "But if 
you would be free from fears and doubts concerning your 
future happiness," she wrote on July 21, 1725, "every morn- 
ing and evening conmiit your soul to Jesus Christ, in a full 
faith in His power and will to save you. If you do this 
seriously and constantly. He will take you under His conduct ; 
He will guide you by His Holy Spirit into the way of truth, 
and give you strength to walk in it. He will dispose of the 
events of God's providence to your spiritual advantage; 
and if, to keep you humble and more sensible of your de- 
pendence on Him, He permit you to fall into lesser sins, be 
not discouraged ; for He will certainly give you repentance, 
and safely guide you through all the temptations of this 
world, and, at the last, receive you to Himself in glory." * 



1 L. Tyennan : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 36. 
'Julia Wedgwood: "John Wesley and the Evangelical Reaction of the 
Eighteenth Century"; p. 34. 

* L. Tyennan : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 38. 



JOHN WESLEY 195 

As his oidinatioii approached, the Thirty-nine Articles 
were scrutinized, particularly those relating to Predestination, 
and Mrs. Wesley comments on its extreme interpretation 
in a letter dated August 18, 1725. ''The doctrine of predes- 
tinationy as maintained by the rigid Calvinists, is very shock- 
ing, and ought to be abhorred, because it directly charges 
the Most High God with being the author of sin. I think 
you reason well and justly against it ; for it is certainly in- 
consistent with the justice and goodness of God to lay any 
man under physical or moral necessity of conunitting sin, 
and then to punish him for doing it." ^ Their interchange of 
sentiments occupied eight months, at the end of which time 
Mrs. Wesley wrote, "I approve the disposition of your mind, 
and think the sooner you are deacon the better." With 
such conmiendation, and after exercising every care in prep- 
aration for the office he was about to assume, John Wesley 
solemnly offered himself for the Christian ministry. He 
was ordained deacon on Lord's Day, September 19, 1725, 
by Doctor John Potter, Bishop of Oxford, who three years 
and three days later admitted him to priest's orders. 



HI 

This event marked the beginning of an era in Wesley's 
rdigious development. Hitherto he had known some re- 
laxation from his studies, and an acquaintance who must 
have shared his hours of ease described him as "the very 
sensible and active collegian, baffling every one by the 
subtleties of logic, and laughing at them for being so easily 
routed ; a young fellow of the finest classical taste, of the 
most liberal and manly sentiments. He was gay and 
sprightly, with a turn for wit and humor." * His excellent 
diaracter and scholarship, combined with his social gifts, 
obtained for him a fellowship of Lincoln College in the 

> L. Tyerman: "life and Tunee of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 40. 
s John Telfoid : "The life of John Wesley" ; p. 33. 



196 THREE REUQIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

spring of 1726, an honor indeed for one so young, who had 
not yet received his master's d^ree. With his entrance 
there at the beginning of the October term, he imposed a 
stricter rule upon himself and wrote to his brother Samuel, 
''Leisure and I have taken leave of one another." Mon- 
days and Tuesdays he gave to Greek and Latin ; Wednes- 
days to logic and ethics ; Thursdays, to Hebrew and Arabic ; 
Fridays, to metaphysics and natural philosophy ; Satimlays, 
to oratory and poetry; Sundays, to divinity. He was 
appointed Greek lecturer and moderator of the classes, which 
assembled six times a week for disputation on stated themes, 
his duty being to preside over and conclude the debates.^ 
While he always disliked needless controversy, by means of 
this occupation he acquired a dexterity in argument which 
was afterwards of no small service. His general reading 
was well chosen and showed him to be a scholar of a substan- 
tial sort, without that fear for the corrosive effect of intel- 
lectualism on faith which has beset so many advocates of 
religion. Writing to one of his pupils in August, 1731, he 
tendered the following advice : "You, who have not the as- 
surance of a day to live, are not wise if you waste a moment. 
The shortest way to knowledge seems to be this: 1. To 
ascertain what knowledge you desire to attain. 2. To read 
no book which does not in some way tend to the attainment 
of that knowledge. 3. To read no book which does tend 
to the attainment of it, imless it be the best in its kind. 
4. To finish one before you begin another. 5. To read them 
all in such order, that every subsequent book may illustrate 
and confirm the preceding." * 

His father, then verging on old age and enduring many 
afflictions, rejoiced over the preferment of his "dear Mr. 
Fellow-Elect of Lincoln. What will be my own fate God 
only knows, sed passi graviora, wherever I am, my Jack is 

* The disputations were the relics of that medieval system which in- 
sisted on logic as the main part of a University training. 

* L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wesley'^ ; Vol. I, p. 81. 



JOHN WESLEY 197 

Fellow of Lincoln."^ The collie was founded in 1427, 
by Richard Fleming, the recreant Lollard who, as already 
stated, became Bishop of Lincoln, burnt Wycliffe's bones, 
endeavored to extirpate his teachings at Oxford, and ordered 
that " any fellow tainted with these heresies should be cast 
out, like a diseased sheep, from the fold of the college." 
Wesley's feUowship on Fleming's foundation once more 
demonstrated the folly of such provision against the inevi- 
table changes of time. The crass materialism and neglect 
which demoralized the University during the eighteenth 
century were not so prevalent at Lincoln as elsewhere 
in Oxford. The atmosphere of the college was more con- 
genial to Wesley's intentions than Christ Church had been, 
where he resented those companionships of which he after- 
wards said, ''Even their harmless conversation, so-called, 
damped all my good resolutions. I saw no possible way of 
getting rid of them, unless it should please God to remove 
me to another college. He did so, in a manner utterly con- 
trary to all human probability. I was elected Fellow of a 
coU^e where I knew not one person. I foresaw abimdance 
of people would come to see me . . . but I had now fixed 
my plan. I resolved to have no acquaintance by chance, 
but by choice; and to choose such only as would help me 
on my way to heaven. ... I knew that many reflections 
would follow; but that did not move me." * The men of 
Lincoln were "well-natured and well-bred," yet their polite 
intercourse palled on him ; he repelled their advances, and 
shut himself up to his own pursuits. Even at this the world 
was too much with him, and he looked with longing upon 
the prospect of a mastership in a Yorkshire school, "so pent 
up between two hills that it is scarce accessible on any side, 
80 that you can expect little company from without, and 
within there b none at all." For such solitude he was 
prepared to sacrifice his position at Oxford. In a less bal- 

> L. Tyerman : '*Life and Times of Samuel Wealey" ; p. 399. 

> Jbid., "life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 55. 



198 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

anced nature than Wesley's the consequences of this inordi- 
nate craving for a cloistered retreat would have been inju- 
rious, and as it was the desire determined the course of his 
private life. Yet his companions did not charge his sedu- 
sive habits to any lack of geniality ; on the contrary, those 
who were admitted to his friendship lauded his amiability, 
and one of them wrote to him, lamenting his enforced ab- 
sence from the college as a deprivation for them. 

After spending the summer of 1726 at Epworth, where he 
acted as his father's curate, he passed a year in residence 
at Oxford, returning again to Epworth in 1727, when he 
assumed charge of the obscure parish at Wroote, which 
formed a part of the living. In this lonely hamlet of the fen- 
lands, surroimded by bogs and tenanted by a hopeless peas- 
antry, he spent the next two years and three months. His 
ministrations were addressed to ''unpolished wights" as 
"impervious as stones," and the innate aristocracy of the 
Wesleys, which denoted, not a class, but a creed, was exhib- 
ited toward these stupid parishioners both by John and 
by his lively sister Hetty. Few details of his curacy are 
available, and those that are have no particular interest. 
It was evident he did not then possess the secret of that 
marvellous power which enabled him to kindle an im- 
paralleled enthusiasm in town and hamlet when he rode the 
length and breadth of the three kingdoms during later days. 
He tells us, " I preached much, but saw no fruit of my labor. 
Indeed, it could not be that I should ; for I neither laid the 
foundation of repentance, nor of believing the Gospel; 
taking it for granted that all to whom I preached were 
believers, and that many of them needed no repentance." * 
His relaxation was foimd at Epworth, where a renewed 
intercourse with the family rendered the tedium of his un- 
profitable days less irksome. While in the disenchanting 
hermitage of Wroote, and probably when he began to feel 
that distaste for the limitations of parochial work which he 

' L. Tyerman : "life and Times of John Wesley" : Vol. I, p. 67. 



JOHN WESLEY 199 

always retained, he leverted to his religious meditations. 
William Law's ''Serious Call/' to which later references 
will be made, was published in 1728, and shortly afterwards 
WeslQT obtained the volume and read it with eagerness. 
It is notable for its religious fervor and for the insight and 
skill of its contrast between the life of the flesh and the life 
of the spirit — qualities the more admirable when the gen- 
eral lukewannness and formalism of eighteenth century de- 
votional literature are recalled. Law's book followed no 
contemporary models. It ploughed up new ground, and 
restored to an age of barrenness in religion, to a church 
that had become a mere adjunct of public life and which 
confounded the Body of Christ with the Anglican Estab- 
lishment, and to a Puritanism submerged in Socinian the- 
ology, some forgotten ideals of Evangelical Christianity. 
The writer's sway was evidenced by the thoroughly appre- 
ciative tributes of leading minds far different from his 
own. He lived with the Gibbons at Putney, near Lon- 
don, where he acted as tutor to the father of the histo- 
rian. A rubicund man, jovial in appearance, Law gave 
little indication of the devotee and the philosopher, yet 
such he was, and one of the very few who then bestowed 
specific attention upon religious problems. His discussion 
of these was sympathetic and illuminating, and many who 
were troubled with spiritual or doctrinal diflSculties resorted 
to him for help. 

The Wesleys, John and Charles, valued his counsel so 
highly that on several occasions they walked from Oxford 
to London to obtain it. After John's unseemly quarrel with 
Law the latter remarked, "I was once a kind of oracle to 
Mr. Wesley," and at least one saying of the oracle was 
fastened in the recollection of the younger man: "We 
shall do weU to aim at the highest degrees of perfection if 
we may thereby attain at least to mediocrity," — a remark 
destined to accelerate that deeper belief in the divine possi- 
bilities of human nature which Wesley did much to implant. 



200 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

"If some persons/' wrote Law, ''should unite themselves in 
little societies professing voluntary poverty, retirement, and 
devotion, that some might be relieved in their charities, and 
all be benefited by their example, such persons would be so 
far from being chargeable with any superstition that they 
might be justly said to restore that piety which was the boast 
and glory of the Church when its greatest men were alive.^ 
The early Franciscans might have been the inspiration of 
this statement, which flatly contradicted the grosser ideals 
of Hanoverian Protestantism. It was not by any means 
Law's greatest conception, but certainly it was reflected in 
Wesley's conduct and in that of the Holy Club, to say 
nothing of its palpable effect upon the life of Evangelical 
Methodism.^ 

IV 

Charles Wesley, who was elected a student of Christ 
Church, Oxford, from Westminster School, about the same 
time that John became fellow of Lincoln, was the more san- 
guine and emotional of the two brothers. His affectionate 
disposition was instanced by his refusal to leave his parents 
when Mr. Garret Wesley, an Irish gentleman of fortune 
who was in no wise related to the family, offered to 
adopt him as his heir. The individual who accepted the 
offer, one Richard Colley, assumed his benefactor's name 
and became the grandfather of the Duke of Wellington, 
who appears in the army list of 1800 as Arthur Wesley. 
During his residence at Oxford, Charles indulged buoyant 
habits which, although harmless, were not conducive to 
sudden and serious changes, and he resented John's over- 
tures in behalf of ascetical piety by impatiently declining 
to become a saint all at once. But this mood soon passed, 
and his letters during his brother's sojourn at Wroote showed 

> Julia Wedgwood : "John Wealey and the Evangelical Reaction of the 
Eighteenth Century" ; p. 39. 

' The best account of Law can be found in Canon Overton's volume on 
the Non-Jurors. 



JOHN WESLEY 201 

that habitual deference to John's superior judgment which 
nothing could disturb in Charles except his pronounced 
Anglicanism. He now began to shun his former com- 
panions, conununicated weekly in the college chapel, and 
persuaded a friend whom he had reclaimed from doubtful 
society to do likewise. This was the germ of the fellowship 
of Oxford Methodism which Charles instituted and John 
directed. The latter states that "in November, 1729, four 
young gentlemen of Oxford, Mr. John Wesley, Fellow of 
Lincoln College, Mr. Charles Wesley, Student at Christ 
Church, Mr. Morgan, Conmioner of Christ Church, and 
Mr. Kirkham, of Merton College, began to spend some 
evenings a week reading, chiefly the Greek Testament." 
To these were subsequently added among others George 
Whitefield, John Clayton, Benjamin Ingham, John White- 
lamb, Westley Hall, John Gambold, and James Hervey, 
the author of "Theron and Aspasio" and "Meditations 
among the Tombs." The friendships then begun were 
afterwards ended by death or separation or dissimilar views. 
Clayton, the Jacobite and High Church rector of Manchester, 
eventually shunned the Wesleys ; Hervey opposed them in 
his writings; Ingham forsook them; Gambold avowed he 
was ashamed of his youthful relation with them ; and White- 
field, after being their colleague in labor and persecution, 
was for a time alienated from them by doctrinal diflFerences. 
In their college days they were a harmonious group of 
kindred souls, and when in 1729 Wesley, at the request of 
Dr. Morley, the rector of Lincoln, resumed his residence 
as fellow of the College, he at once became the " curator of 
the Holy Club." The wicked wit of the University sporting 
fraternity was spent in vain upon these " crackbrained 
enthusiasts." Behind John and Charles stood the rector 
of Epworth and his wife, who advised them " in all things 
to endeavor to act upon principle," and not to "live like 
the rest of mankind who pass through the world like straws 
upon a river." Nothing was further from their purpose; 



202 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the foremost member of the band never knew the meaning 
of retreat, and mitil he left Oxford in 1735, John remained 
the controlling spirit of the organization. Wesley's pre- 
dominance in a group which included Hervey, Clayton, 
and Whitefield, was an indication of his gifts as a leader 
of men. The Club flourished or declined according as he 
was present or absent; its permanent adherents were less 
numerous than the timid backsliders who could not en- 
dure the obloquy which membership entailed. All alike 
were tenacious of order; scrupulously observant of the 
statutes of the University and the ordinances of the 
Church. Their community life and frugality afforded a 
siu*plus from their united incomes which they devoted to 
the relief of the poor and of prisoners. Regular seasons for 
prayer and fasting were observed, and frequent attendance 
on the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, with other means 
of grace and self-denial, was made obligatory. A system- 
atic visitation of the slums and jails of Oxford and its 
surrounding villages was undertaken at the instance of Wil- 
liam Morgan. Neglected children were instructed in the 
Bible ; debtors confined in the " Bocardo" ^ and felons imder 
sentence of death received the consolations of religion. 
Upon Wesley's solicitation, prompted by his father's advice, 
the bishop of the diocese gave his approval to these works 
of mercy and charity, and a few of the clergy followed his 
example. 

But such thirteenth century practices were bound to meet 
the censure of a pleasure-loving generation. Fogg's Weekly 
Journal protested against the presence of these sons of 
sorrow who had conmiitted themselves to an absurd per- 
petual melancholy designed to make the whole place a 
monastery. While they passed for religious persons and men 

* The **Bocardo'* was a prison over the North Gate of the dty on what 
is now known as Commarket Street. It may have been so named from the 
form of syllogism called Bocardo, which presented certain logical difficul- 
ties ; or again, from Brocardia, a legal term signifjring a contentious and 
diffictilt matter. 



JOHN WESLEY 203 

of extraordinary parts among themselves, to outsiders tliey 
appeared as madmen and fools. The galled jade winced; 
careless professors and undergraduates of open moral lassi- 
tude were incensed by this return to the sacrificial devotion 
of typical Christianity, and their contempt was poured 
upon a few fellow members of the University whose offense 
lay in their regularity and piety. Efforts were made to 
breed dissensions among them; abuse and calumniation 
raged apace. Nicknames were plentiful; in addition to 
those already given, these young men were known as Bible 
Bigots, Bible Moths, Sacramentarians, and Methodists. 
The last term was supposed by Wesley to have been derived 
from Bentley's allusion to the Methodici, as opposed to the 
Empirics, two ancient rival schools of medicine. This was 
far-fetched; the waggish student with whom the epithet 
probably originated may have found the name of the largest 
En^ish-speaking Protestant Church among the sectarian 
disputes of the previous century. In 1638 a sermon preached 
at Lambeth contained the following passage, "Where are 
now our Anabaptists and plain pack-staff Methodists, who 
esteem all flowers of rhetoric in sermons no better than 
stinking weeds?" and in 1693 a pamphlet was published en- 
titled, "A War among the Angels of the Churdies ; wherein 
is shewed the Principles of the New Methodists in the 
Great Point of Justification." ^ When applied to the 
Oxford men who dared to be singular, the appellation, if not 
new, was aptly descriptive ; it at once clung to them, and 
was afterwards bestowed on the Church which inherited 
some of their characteristics.^ 

If Wesley needed further support, the rector of Epworth 
certainly gave it. He wrote in ringing words to his sons, 
" Go on, then, in God's name, in the path in which the Saviour 
has directed you and that track wherein your father went 

» L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 67. 
* For a full discussion of the term see the Oxford English Dictionary ; 
ilio H. B. Workman's "Handbook on Methodism." 



204 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

before you." Their brother Samuel interposed a mild ob- 
jection to their " being called a Club, a name calculated to do 
mischief." ''But/' he continued, ''the other charges of 
enthusiasm can weigh with none but such as drink away 
their senses." He lived to make similar charges himself 
when Methodism shook off its academic chains and essayed 
the conquest of a wider field. There was nothing in the 
bearing of Wesley and his friends leaning toward sensa- 
tionalism, neither were they whimsical nor unnecessarily 
precise. They looked inwardly and outwardly with a gaze 
which was pure and intent on increased purity. Wesley's 
defense of their habits was almost invariably wise, calm 
in tone, and modest in statement. * His presentation of 
the case was immarred by any arrogant assumptions, and 
showed he was sincerely convinced that the renunciations 
they made were essential to Christian character. Yet St. 
Frauds himself could scarcely have surpassed his assevera- 
tion that no man was in a state of salvation until he was 
contenmed by the world, and unfortunately the prevailing 
attitude toward those who sought to exemplify their faith 
in deeds largely confirmed his opinion. 

This earlier Oxford movement made no impression on the 
University when compared with that led a hundred years 
later by Rose, Keble, Pusey, Hurrell Proude, and Newman. 
Some of its followers, as already observed, became the 
censors of the later Methodism of which it was a foretoken 
rather than a cause. Indeed, but for Whitefield and the 
Wesleys, Oxford Methodism would have been no more 
than an ephemeral outburst of pious devotion ; an earnest 
inquiry for the heart of the Gospel rather than a mani- 
festation of the Gospel's subduing grace. Its isolation and 
environment would have successfully impeded any propa- 
ganda, since Oxford at that time could scarcely maintain, 
far less originate, vitality in morals or religion. Nor were 
the few who enlisted in the premature attempt as yet 
equipped for a crusade in behalf of spiritual regeneration. 



JOHN WESLEY 205 

In fact, the majority retained throughout life the sense of 
clerical separatism and excessive deference to churchly 
authority which formed an effective barrier between them 
and democracy. The enterprise was conmiendable because 
it rebuked a moribund University. Yet it proved that 
such religious efforts, although taking their rise in centers 
of learning, must find a speedy outlet in the unhampered 
service of the people, or dwindle and perish at the source. 
The venerable rector of Epworth was now approaching 
the end of his ministry, and in January, 1735, he suggested 
to John the propriety of becoming his successor. In a 
later letter he put the matter more definitely and urged 
it as a personal request. Wesley's reply revealed his need 
of emancipation from the notion that he was only safe when 
sequestered. He gave a lengthy but irrelevant list of reasons 
for remaining where he was, their biuxlen being that he was 
determined to shun the world and its distracting activities, 
in order that he might preserve intellectual growth from the 
blight of material concerns, and shield religious contem- 
plation from the assailments of hypocrisy or wickedness. 
He could be holier in Oxford, he asserted, than anywhere 
else. Mingled with this ambition was his love for the 
University, a sentiment not readily appraised by those who 
have not felt its force. His father was bewildered by the 
scruples John raised, and his reply seems to have removed 
them. "It is not dear self/* he wrote, with mature wisdom, 
" but the glory of God, and the different degrees of promoting 
it, which should be our main consideration and direction 
in the choice of any course of life" ; and again, "I cannot 
aUow austerity, or fasting, considered by themselves, to be 
proper acts of holiness, nor am I for a solitary life. God 
made us for a social life; we are not to bury our talent; 
we are to let our light shine before men, and that not merely 
through the chinks of a bushel for fear the wind should 
blow it out." ^ This was a healthy breeze from the fen 

» C. T. Winchester : "The Life of John Wesley" ; p. 39. 



206 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

country which John's enervating atmosphere sorely needed, 
and after further discussion he made a belated and unsuc- 
cessful application for the Epworth living. 

The rector died on April 25, 1735, joyous and hopeful 
to the last. Thirty-eight of the forty-six years of his pas- 
torate had been spent in the one parish, and he took leave of 
it and of his dear ones with a holy confidence which his 
son Charles, who was with him at the time of his decease, 
must have had in mind when he composed some of his 
matchless hymns upon the triumph of the saints in their 
mortal hour. John was still bent on '^ saving his own soul," 
and this resolution dictated his acceptance of an invitation 
to establish a mission in Greorgia. The longed-fcH* conscious- 
ness of his personal relation to God through Christ Jesus, 
which he had hitherto failed to gain, might, he thought, be 
achieved by his consecration to the task of converting the 
Indians. He set everything else aside for the primitive and 
unpromising conditions of a recently founded settlement in 
the New World. As Dr. Workman pithily observes, "In 
words that would have charmed a Rousseau he dreamed of 
a return to nature as a return to grace." " I cannot hope," 
said Wesley, "to attain the same degree of holiness here 
which I may attain there." Charles shared his sentiments 
and joined his mission, and also agreed with John's un- 
sophisticated ideas concerning the innate virtues of the 
Indians among whom they proposed to dwell. Having 
obtained their widowed mother's consent and blessing, they 
sailed for Georgia in the month of October, 1735, accom- 
panied by Benjamin Ingham, a member of the Holy Club, 
and Charles Delamotte, a friend and also an Oxford man.*^ 

General Oglethorpe, the founder and first governor of 
Georgia, the youngest of the English colonies in North 
America, was the son of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe of Godal- 
ming in Surrey. His varied career was full of interesting 
events as a soldier, legislator, pioneer, philanthropist, and 
patron of literature. Dr. Johnson was his intimate friend, and 



JOHN WESLEY 207 

Hannah More, the high priestess of the Evangelicals, spoke 
of Oglethorpe as "a delightful old beau." Touched by the 
miseries of the English prisoners for debt he determined to 
give the unfortunate inmates of the Fleet and the Marshalsea 
another opportunity beyond the seas. He required a chap- 
lain for the expedition who would care both for the whites 
of the proposed colony and for the Indians. Dr. Burton of 
Corpus Christi College recommended John Wesley for the 
post. The Epworth family was already known to the Gen- 
eral; he had been the largest subscriber to the rector's 
volume on Job, and by this and other timely assistance 
had won the author's afiFectionate gratitude, who declared 
that had he been a younger man he would have joined 
Oglethorpe's enterprise. Under these favorable circum- 
stances John and Charles were offered the position. Their 
acceptance was actuated by their desire for personal sanctity, 
and by a solicitude for the cure of souls and the extension 
of Grod's kingdom. 

Other dergymen had anticipated their missionary effort; 
their father, as we have noted, had his dreams of a more 
aggressive Christianity in foreign parts ; and Bishop George 
Berkeley preceded them and their comrades in his attempt 
to establish the Gospel among the people of Bermuda, leav- 
ing an attractive position in England only to return a dis- 
illusioned and defeated man. The college he had planned 
was still unbuilt, and Oglethorpe obtained his consent to 
petition Parliament that the funds assigned for its erection 
should be diverted to the Georgian scheme. The Society 
for the Propagation of the Gospel also supported the Gen- 
eral's undertaking, and public grants and private gifts were 
contributed toward the necessary expenses. During the 
westward voyage of the Simmonds the Oxford men faith- 
fully observed their religious exercises, and when some of 
the ship's oflBcers took umbrage at this they drew upon 
themselves a severe rebuke from Oglethorpe. Among the 
passengers were twenty-six Moravians, headed by their 



208 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

bishop, David Nitschmann, who were about to join their 
brethren ahready settled in Georgia. Their acquaintance 
with Wesley and his companions was fraught with impor- 
tant consequences, which necessitate a brief account of the 
Church they represented. 

Count Zinzendorf avowed it had not been founded by 
him, but was '' the most ancient of the Protestant Churches, 
if not their common mother," since its origin dated from the 
movement of John Hus in the early fifteenth centiuy. After 
numerous vicissitudes the Brethren, as they called them- 
selves, attained a numerical growth which in 1609 included 
half the Protestants of Bohemia and more than half those 
of Moravia. But the Thirty Years' War practically abol- 
ished their congregations, and for a centiuy afterwards they 
were an almost extinct body. The renowned bishop, John 
Amos Comenius, whose work, "The Great Didactic," is 
still one of the textbooks of historical education, had pre- 
served, however, the episcopal succession and discipline, and 
after decimating persecutions in Moravia the Church was 
resuscitated in Germany. Its members, descendants of 
former Grerman immigrants, retreated to the Fatherland, 
crossing the border into Saxony, and were received at Herm- 
hut^ by Count Zinzendorf, who had to satisfy the State 
government that the conmiunity could be brought under 
the conditions of the peace of Augsburg, and also quiet the 
misgivings and suspicions of the Lutheran clergy. The 
refugees belonged to more than one sect; oppressions 
had made them cling pertinaciously to small differences of 
belief, worship, and polity, and it was with the utmost diffi- 
culty that the Count induced them to live together harmo- 
niously. Despite his high personal example and tireless 
energy, their conduct was so fanatical that they combined 
in his own house to denounce Zinzendorf as the Beast of 

* Zinsendorf o£Fered them an asylum on his estate of Berthelsdoif , 
where he built for them the village of Hermhut (the Lord's keeping). Tbe 
refugees came thither in various groups between 1722 and 1732. 



JOHN WESLEY 209 

the Apocalypse, and his helper Rothe as the False Prophet. 
Presently a better temper obtained, and they conformed to 
the Count's wishes. Instead of reviving Moravian orders 
they professed themselves as pietistic Lutherans, and 
attended the services of the parish church. But after an 
extraordinary unifying experience at a Conununion Service 
on August 13, 1727, they renewed their allegiance to Mora- 
vianism, and that date has since been celebrated as its 
Urthday. 

Two conflicting parties were now found among them. 
The first regarded Zinzendorf as their head, and built their 
settlements on the estates of friendly noblemen, where they 
lived a retired life and enriched the spirituality of "the 
scattered" in the Church at large without attempting to 
proselytize. The second was recognized in 1749 by the 
British Parliament as an ancient Protestant Episcopal 
Church and played a significant part in the religious revival 
of the eighteenth centiuy . The importance of the Moravians 
must be measured by their influenoe upon .Christendom at 
large, and upon such individuals as the Wesleys, Schleier- 
madier, and, in a measure, Groethe. Their contribution to 
the missionary spirit of Protestantism is notable for the 
fact that they were the first to revive the duty of the 
Church to present the Gospel to all nations. This achieve- 
ment, together with their blameless conduct, has given them 
an ascendency in Europe and America altogether out of 
proportion to their numbers, which, as late as 1909, showed 
no more than 444 congregations with 62,096 communicants. 

Their first appearance in England dates from the early 
seventeenth century, when, during the first stages of the 
Thirty Years' War the Bohemian Protestants were routed 
at the battle of White HiU, fought in 1620, and the Brethren, 
driven from their homes, took refuge in various countries.^ 
Their simplicity and fraternity, expressed in a social life 
of ordered piety, were singularly attractive; and they 

1 En<grclop0dia Britannica, 11th Edition, Article on The MoraviaoB. 

P 



210 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

made a deep impression on devout and meditative people 
weary of a hard and superficial age. Julia Wedgwood fit- 
tingly speaks of the "cool mysticism of these monks of 
Protestantism" which "afiForded a welcome shade from the 
prosaic aridity of rationalism." ^ 

During the tedious voyage of the Simmonds, Wesley had 
ample opportunity for the close observation of a people 
whose Christianity was both unusual and exemplary. 
Their patient willingness to serve the sick, their humility, 
untainted by self-consciousness, and their tranquil behavior 
during the fierce storms which swept the Atlantic, won 
his respect and confidence. "Were you not afraid?" he 
queried, after a hurricane. "I thank God, no," reined 
the one addressed. This insensibility to the peril of the 
ocean, which was not permitted to interrupt their stated 
worship, aroused Wesley's curiosity and his repeated refer- 
ences to the Moravians revealed his interest in them and 
their affairs. After landing at Savannah, he sought them 
out again, and asked one of their elders, August Grottlieb 
Spangenberg, to advise with him about his new field. " Have 
you," said Spangenberg, " the witness within yourself ? Does 
the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are 
a child of God?" Wesley faltered before these pertinent 
inquiries, whereupon the Moravian elder pushed them home. 
"Do you know Jesus Christ?" he continued. "I know that 
He is the Saviour of the World," rejoined Wesley. "True, 
but do you know He has saved you ? " "I hope He has died 
to save me," was the hesitating answer. "Do you know 
yourself?" his inquisitor demanded. Wesley was non- 
plused by this pointed address, couched in terms afterwards 
familiar enough, but which were then strange to him. He 
could only express a faint affirmative, and subsequently 
doubted whether he was justified even in that. He lived for 
a time with the Brethren, and discovered in them other 

^ "John Wesley and the Evangelical Reaction of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury"; p. 94. 



JOHN WESLEY 211 

vital elements of religion till then foreign to his conceptions. 
Their election and ordination of a bishop prompted the fol- 
lowing reflection: "The great simplicity, as well as solem- 
nity, of the whole, almost made me forget the seventeen 
hundred years between, and imagine myself in one of those 
assemblies where form and state were not, but Paul the tent- 
maker or Peter the fisherman presided, yet with the demon- 
stration of the Spirit and of power." ^ It was indeed a 
far cry from stately Oxford and the latitudinarian Greorgian 
clergy to these few radiant souls on a lonely shore where 
the light of a hitherto unsuspected phase of Christian ex- 
perience began to play upon Wesley's sacramentarian- 
ism. He did not yield to it, however, without a severe 
and prolonged struggle, and he was never more active as a 
champion of ecclesiastical formalism than during his sojourn 
at Savannah, which lasted from February 5, 1736, until 
December 2^ 1737. But he had seen, if only as through a 
^ass darkly, the great truth that the divine order is not * 
perfectly fulfilled till the soul has believed, not because of 
indirect evidence, but because of its regenerating contact 
with the living Christ. And that glimpse must be remem- 
bered by those who would understand Wesley's career. 

1 **The Journal of John Wedey" ; edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumook, 
Vol. I. p. 170. 



CHAPTER VI 
DARKNESS AND DAWN 



213 



Oft when the WcMrd is on me to deliver, 
Lifts the illusion, and the truth lies bare : 
Desert or throng, the dty or the river. 
Melts in a ludd Paradise of air, — 

Only like souls I see the folk thereunder. 

Bound who should conquer, slaves who should be kings, — 

Hearing their one hope with an empty wondtf , 

Sadly contented in a show of things ; — 

Then with a rush the intolerable craving 
Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call, — 
Oh to save these I to perish for their saving, 
Die for their life, be offered for them all I 

Give me a voice, a cry, and a complaining, — 

Oh let my sound be stormy in their ears I 

Throat that would shout but cannot stay for straining, 

Eyes that would weep but cannot wait for tears. 

Quick in a moment, infinite for ever. 
Send an arousal better than I pray, 
Give me a grace upon the faint endeavor. 
Souls for my hire and Pentecost to-day I 

F. W. H. Myers: Saint Paul, XVH and XX. 



214 



CHAPTER VI 

DARKNESS AND DAWN 

Wealqr in Georgia — Religious condition of the settlers — Charles 
returns to England — Miss Hopkey — Williamson's suit against Wesley 
—Wesley's return to England — Effect of Greorgia mission on his later 
development — Peter 'Bohler — Wesley's dispute with William Law 
— His conversion — Its results — Social condition of England in the 
eighteenth century — The effect of Methodism on Engh'ah national 
life. 



Wesley's residence in Georgia is described at length in 
the new edition of his Journal, for which the Christian Church 
is under lasting obligation to its painstaking editor, the 
Reverend Nehemiah Cumock.^ It gives a graphic picture 
of the social and religious conditions of the colony which 
have only to be comprehended to explain Wesley's compara- 
tive failure there : indeed, the wonder is that he did any good 
whatever for so motley and turbulent a throng. It is note- 
worthy that the Brethren seem to have been equally unsuc- 
cessful ; despite their evangelical teaching they were unable 
to overcome the indifference and reserve of the emigrants, 
whose scanty numbers embraced various nationalities and 
beliefs, with few things in conmion except ignorance and 
prejudice. The Moravians and Salzburgers did not need 
Wesley's oversight, having their own Bishop Nitschmann. 
The Scotch Highlanders clung to their priestless worship, 
and offended Wesley's sense of decorum by assembling in a 
bam. French Huguenots, Italian Waldenses, and Spanish 
Jews formed the fringe of a population of broken Englishmen, 
including insolvent debtors and disappointed adventurers, of 

^Died, November 1, 1915. 
215 



216 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

some of whom the Motherland was well rid, whose chief 
pursuits were found in the ale-house or in low intrigues 
against the parson who denounced rum and slavery. Such 
parishioners would doubtless have afforded a more moderate 
man a welcome excuse for being cautious in his dealings with 
them. But Oglethorpe craved Wesley's aid, and he aban- 
doned his mission to the Indians, who showed no propensity 
for anything better than tribal wars and the vicious habits 
of the white settlers, that he might enforce upon the latter 
a meticulous code of ordinances in accordance with the 
literal directions of the Book of Conunon Prayer. His 
requirements were so exacting as to suggest that he was not 
altogether assured in his own mind of their legitimacy or 
usefulness. "He that believeth shall not make haste"; 
and Wesley's ardor in imposing this regimen, which he 
himself observed by going unshod, reading prayers thrice 
every day, fasting, communicating, and refusing to bury 
Dissenters, or baptize children save by triple inunersion, 
may have been an indication of the secret longings of a 
spirit which found vent but not satisfaction in the minutiae 
of punctilious ecclesiasticism. The Moravians, who were 
also in that Apostolical Succession which he held necessary 
to faith and order, and upon which he believed the stability 
of the Church and the Gospel depended, did not encourage 
his sacerdotalism nor make experiments similar to those 
which inevitably led to his disappointment. Yet they lived 
in the strength of a calm and constant joy, while he, ill at 
ease and restless in spirit, "drenched his flock with the 
physic of an intolerant discipline." Many rebelled against 
his lack of wisdom ; others, however, disarmed by his personal 
piety and his incessant labors in their behalf, at length 
yielded him a reluctant support. 

Equally tactless was Charles Wesley's connection with 
the mission. During a six months' stay at Frederica, a 
small township south of Savannah, he alienated nearly 
everybody, and ended by quarreling with Oglethorpe, where- 



JOHN WESLEY 217 

upon he returned home. John's disillusionment was now 
complete, and the impending hostility between him and 
the colonists was precipitated by his love affair with Miss 
Sopjbyjiopkey. This young lady was the niece and ward of 
Thomas Causton, the principal magistrate of Savannah, 
a man of doubtful antecedents, and of an overbearing and 
boorish disposition which attracted to him acquaintances 
of a like kmd. His home became the resort of dissolute 
characters, and afforded little protection to a beautiful, 
modest, and affectionate girl of eighteen. One of her uncle's 
boon companions, who had shortly before proposed mar- 
riage to her, was arrested and thrown into jail. This 
humiliating experience drove Miss Hopkey to the consola- 
tions of religion, and her friendship with Wesley developed 
rapidly. When she removed to Frederica to escape the Caus- 
tons and the threats of her imprisoned admirer, Wesley fol- 
lowed and begged her to return. His persuasions, coupled 
with Oglethorpe's, induced her to do so, and the two young 
people made the six days' journey back to Savannah together. 
While encamped one cold, stormy night on St. Katherines 
Island, Wesley, moved by a sudden impulse, earnestly de- 
clared, ''Miss Sophy, I should think myself happy if I was 
to spend my life with you," at which she begged him not 
to speak to her again "on this head," but in such a way as 
to indicate that the declaration was not distasteful to her. 
On their arrival at Savannah she spent her mornings and 
evenings with Wesley, the Caustons, who regarded the 
fliatch as assured, consenting to the arrangement. Devo- 
tional exercises and literary studies could not prevent what 
Wesley ingenuously calls " such intimacy of conversation As 
ours was." Here began the tragic struggle between love 
and duty, the alternate phases of which are recorded in the 
Journal. His friends Ingham and Delamotte for somewhat 
selfish reasons opposed the marriage, and after the former 
had returned home, Delamotte implored Wesley to surren- 
der all claims to the lady of his choice. The assertion 



218 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

that the Moravians gave such advice is incorrect ; indeed, 
Toltschig, the pastor, astonished the despondent lover by 
declaring, " I see no reason why you should not marry her/' 
The affair was another instance of that witless suscepti- 
bility to feminine society which Wesley had previously 
evinced in the case of the far less worthy Mrs. Hawkins, 
whom he met on shipboard. Yet while his heart was deeply 
affected, his sense of responsibility to the ministry and his 
conviction that he should live a single life warred against 
his inclinations. Miss Hopkey natundly resented his vacil- 
lations, and the methods he adopted to reach an irrevocable 
decision were not calculated to appease her. After prayer 
Wesley and Delamotte proceeded to a solenm casting of lots, 
when the latter drew the paper on which was written the 
last alternative, ''Think no more of it,'' and Wesley at once 
accepted this as a divine injunction against the marriage. 

Such talismanic dealing with a pure and natural attadir 
ment was its own condemnation. Determined as he was 
to find and follow the Highest Will in a matter so important, 
Wesley's ignorance of the feminine nature and his repre- 
hensible habit of settling questions of moment in a hap- 
hazard way were responsible for the unhappiness which 
ensued. Miss Hopkey was by far the most suitable woman 
he could have chosen for his wife, and probably she was the 
only woman he ever really loved. He was then thirty-three 
years old, and when unembarrassed by his leanings toward 
celibacy, an insistent and ardent suitor. She, while con- 
siderably his junior, was unusually mature for her age, and 
needed the help and guidance such a husband as Wesley 
would have given. Although not his equal in education, 
she surpassed him in prudence and courage under difficult 
circumstances, and her affectionate disposition warrants the 
assumption that, had he formed a union with her, he would 
have been saved from the domestic wretchedness to which 
he was afterwards subjected. His sentimentality over* 
spread the entire proceedings with a half-fabulous tinge. 



JOHN WESLEY 219 

Tlie credulity he displayed in arriving at his decision by lot, 
a trait which sometimes impedes reason and practicality in 
one who is known as a master of men, was always latent in 
Wesley, at intervals dimly present, and occasionally far too 
active for his good or for the good of others. 

The sequel of this unfortunate incident was grievous 
enough. Miss Hopkey, prompted by her relatives, accepted 
a certain Thonms Williamson as her prospective husband, 
and, much to Wesley's distress, became his wife a few days 
after the separation from the man of her heart. Her decla- 
ration that she would never marry was thus violated by 
events which she could not altogether control; where- 
upon Wesley began to act in a manner indicative of the 
feelings of the injured lover who was also a domineering 
priest, '^^niliamson was naturally unwilling that his wife 
ahould have any further acquaintance with Wesley, and 
would not allow her to enter the parsonage. Wesley, on 
the other hand, exhorted her to continue her religious duties, 
and upon her failing to do so with regularity, proceeded to 
rebuke her. On the strength of a talebearer's gossip he 
further upbraided her; and at length, about five months 
after her marriage, publicly excluded her from the Lord's 
Table. Her husband, justly outraged at this inexcusable 
action^ brought suit against Wesley for defaming her 
diaracter. The malcontents of the town, with Causton as 
tbeir leader, ranged themselves on Williamson's side of the 
quarrel, and desired nothing better than such an oppor- 
tunity for getting rid of a pastor who had frequently offended 
them for righteousness' sake. However, when the charges 
against him were sifted from the scandals and calumnies 
mth which the small and self-centered conmiunity abounded, 
no case was left against Wesley. He had acted within his 
derical rights, although in such a way as to impair the con- 
fidence of the best people of the settlement in his motives, 
and the agitation which followed ended his usefulness in 
Georgia. 



220 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Delamotte agreed with him that his best course was to 
return home, and accordingly he posted a notice in the 
public square of Savannah that he was about to leave the 
colony. Mr. Williamson at once announced that he had 
sued Wesley for one thousand pounds damages, and would 
prosecute any one who aided his escape. The magis- 
trates also forbade him to leave until the case had been 
heard. Wesley reminded them that he had attended seven 
sessions of the Court, at none of which had he been 
allowed to answer the charges against him. Nevertheless 
they demanded that he sign a bond, pledging himself, 
under a penalty of fifty pounds, to appear in Court when- 
ever required to do so. He refused to give dther bond or 
bail, and the magistrates retaliated by ordering the officers 
of the law to prevent his departure. These measures may 
have been a mere pretense, but, whether seriously intended 
or not, they failed. After evening prayers, which he con- 
ducted publicly before going to the boat, Wesley, accom- 
panied by four friendly men, set out for Purrysburg, 
twenty miles down the river, and arrived there the (crow- 
ing morning. From Purrysburg the party of five went on 
foot to Port Royal, an exhausting journey through track- 
less forests and swamps. From Port Royal they shipped 
to Charlestown, and there Wesley embarked for England 
on December 22, 1737. 

Such were some of the main factors in his Greorgian prepa- 
ration for a greater embassy. When the day of his mis- 
sion dawned, he observed, "Many reasons I have to bless 
God for my having been carried to America contrary to all 
my preceding resolutions. Thereby I trust He hath in some 
measure humbled me and proved me and showed me what 
was in my heart." Certainly self-denial, resolute sacrifice, 
a sense of sin, and a constant hope for deliverance from sin 
were in that heart, so sad and weary, which turned back 
from the New World to the Motherland, and was destined 
there to redress the religious balance of the British people. 



JOHN WESLEY 221 

rhese feelings already opposed in him the evils of formalism 
ind of a provincial orthodoxy, and, whatever else was lost 
ir won, he had guarded his integrity as a Christian pastor, 
sven to the crudfying of his natural affections. If a little 
nore hmnanness would have added to the geniality of 
RTesley's disposition, it might also have detracted from the 
completeness of a consecration, the intensity of which has 
iddom been equaled. His autocratic temper was a fault 
for which he had to make his own atonement. Of quite 
mother sort were the qualities which enabled him to handle 
irith unrivaled strategy and daring the recruits who en- 
Ssted in his crusade. These qualities made him prompt, 
fearless, decisive, a bold leader in extremity, who kept the 
narks he followed well within the range of his vision. His 
bter innovations, although deplored by his clerical brethren, 
were dictated by necessity and prompted by the lessons he 
iiad learned when defeat had been the outcome of ecclesi- 
istical regularity. In reality he always maintained the 
Mtter part of Anglicanism as he conceived it. Swayed by 
its spirit he expatriated himself for a life of devotion and 
lervice. It sustained him during his absence from congenial 
lociety, while as a missionary wearing coarse clothes and 
mating coarse food he wandered through a virgin territory in 
lUstmng heat or biting cold. His endurance of these hard- 
ships is proof that the things in him which could be shaken 
were being removed in order that those which were funda- 
nental might remain. Oxford Methodism began to Ian- 
{oish amonjg the chaotic morals of a turbulent conununity, 
but the world's Methodism was already in process of gesta- 
tion ; and the pains Wesley endured were the birth pangs 
of its deliverance. In Georgia he did nothing more than 
experiment with a pietistic individualism rooted in ritual- 
istic Anglicanism, which showed small understanding of the 
central truth of the New Testament. The outcome was 
disastrous, but would his determined soul have submitted 
to anything less disastrous? For while these traditions 



222 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of his earlier religious life, as permanent elements in his 
nature, were blended with the more complete experience of 
his conversion and his subsequent growth in divine grace, 
they never again controlled his energies or invalidated his 
action. His narrowness and indifiFerence to the interests 
of the Church universal, and his trust in the merit of good 
works, had received a definite challenge. Extreme notions 
regarding ecclesiastical prerogatives and sacramental grace 
were no longer so acceptable as they once had been. The 
quietism of the Moravians and the ignorant apathy of 
the colonists, although nothing akin, had shown Wesley 
that his exclusive ideas of the Grospel were not its most 
efficient interpretation, a discovery which gave rise in him 
to chastening reflections. Yet those who cannot recall 
his career without a sense of gratitude will not too hastily 
judge his stay in Greorgia a fruitless period. It was a 
necessary stage in his evolution, and Whitefield, who fol- 
lowed him there, wrote enthusiastically that ''the good 
Mr. Wesley has done in America b inexpressible." This 
was perhaps the exaggerated tribute of one who seldom had 
difficulty in believing what he wished to believe. Neverthe- 
less good had been done, and in no direction so much as in 
this, that Wesley's larger self emerged from uncongenial 
surroundings which rebuked his fastidiousness and pride, 
and taught him the lessons of patience and wisdom. The 
illumination of his powers for serving men to the full was pre- 
ceded by the consciousness of a failure which finally wrought 
in him a more productive faith. His confessions during 
the homeward voyage corroborate these sentiments. "I 
went to America to convert the Indians; but oh I who 
shall convert me ? . . . I have a fair smnmer religion. I 
can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger 
is near. But let death look me in the face, and my spirit 
is troubled. . . . Whosoever sees me, sees I would be a 
Christian. . . . But in a storm I think, what if the Gospel 
be not true ? Then thou art of all men most foolish. For 



JOHN WESLEY 223 

what hast thou given thy goods, thy ease, thy friends, thy 
reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou 
wandering over the face of the earth? — A dream, a cun- 
ningly devised fable I Oh I who will deliver me from this 
fear of death? ... A wise man advised me some time 
aince, 'Be still, and go on/ Perhaps this b best, to look 
upon it as my cross." ^ Doubtless these melancholy solil- 
oquies were prompted by his wounded affections as well 
as by spiritual disquietude. Miss Hopkey's hand in mar- 
riage had been, to quote his own words, "the desire of my 
eyes and the joy of my heart ; the one thing upon earth I 
longed for." Such a love, unsealing as it does the nethermost 
springs of life, creates, when thus repressed, a grief likely 
to become permanent. But notwithstanding these grave 
discouragements, he accepted the wise man's word, and went 
on, not knowing that his greater heritage was near. 

II 

Wesley landed at Deal on the first of February, 1737, 

just a few hours too late to receive the greetings of his 

friend Whitefield, whose whole-souled companionship would 

have been especially acceptable at this time. But after 

a victorious experiment in field-preaching, Whitefield was 

then sailing down the Channel on a voyage to Savannah. 

During the first months after his return, Wesley passed 

through a period of restless discontent, not to say vehement 

agitation. Clerical complacency was a banished sentiment ; 

conventional beliefs had lost their authoritative note; 

he chafed beneath that sense of impotence so distressing 

to men who are intent upon noble ends and have not yet 

found the means for their attainment. The account of 

this interval and of his efforts to meet its emergencies, 

as ^ven in the Journal, is in all respects a clear, manly, 

"The Journal of John Wesley": edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumock; 
VoL I, p. 41& 



224 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and candid narrative. He was entering upon an epoch where 
extensive changes were to prevail, and he had a touj^ 
struggle to break through the barriers of prejudice and 
habit. His emotions and aspirations were such as led him 
to deeds of capital consequence. Beyond doubt he was a 
Christian and practically at one with all Christians on the 
fundamental questions of morality and worship. But 
hitherto his advanced sacramentarianism and l^alism had 
been the trusted vehicles for communication of divine life, 
and the revolution now inuninent in him was such a com- 
plete dbplacement of those doctrines, and one so entirely due 
to the royal faculty of faith, that it became a signal event 
in the history of evangelical methods. His entire being 
verged upon a new world, wherein he was to become supreme, 
overcoming by the weight of his witness those Anglican 
ideas which had previously governed him. 

Meanwhile he hastened to London, and reported to the 
Trustees of the Greorgia Settlement. There he found his 
brother Charles, who entered heartily into his projects, and 
they b^;an to attend the gatherings of the Brethren. Peter 
BShler, a native of Frankfort, a graduate of Jena and a 
convert to Moravianism, had been ordained in Gr^many 
and conmiissioned by Count Zinzendorf for missionary work 
in the Carolinas. During his stay in London he was intro- 
duced to the Wesleys, who were much edified by his quiet 
and persuasive preaching. Although ministering through 
an interpreter, his words were suffused with a mystical in- 
fluence which subdued and elevated the secluded audiences 
he addressed, and his connection with the Wesleys has 
since cast a solitary beam of splendor upon his brief so- 
journ in England. Charles gave him lessons in the lan- 
guage; John cross-examined him on the matters which 
prevented his own peace. Bohler's answers consisted, in 
the main, of quotations from Scripture, specifically those 
passages which deal with regeneration. He showed that 
salvation is of God, through Christ Jesus, and by means of 



JOHN WESLEY 225 

Bis Death and Resurrection ; the sole conditions of its be- 
stowal being repentance and faith on the part of the re- 
cipient. These graces are supplied by the Holy Spirit^ Who 
inclines believing hearts to respond to the overtures of mercy, 
and confirms in them the assurance of their filial relation 
with the Heavenly Father. The content of this creed, 
sanctioned as it is by Holy Writ, is smnmarized in the text, 
''He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." The 
challenge Luther hurled at the conscience of Christendom 
was due to his vivid apprehension of the declaration, ''Now 
the just shall live by faith," and his conversion furnishes an 
instructive parallel with that of Wesley. In both cases a 
large space of time is covered with a series of confessions 
which reveal important points of change and progress ap- 
parently inconsistent, and, to those not in spiritual sympathy 
with the men, somewhat perplexing. Luther's mind was emi- 
nently intuitional, glancing with an eagle's eye at truth when- 
ever it rose before him. Wesley's mind was eminently 
logical, arriving at conclusions by argumentative processes. 
Luther's theology sprang directly from his experience; 
Wesley's was illuminated and applied by his experience. 
He learned the doctrine of Justification by faith before he 
exercised the faith which brought him consciously into a 
justified condition. Both were alike in that they did not 
at once gain certitude without wavering, but tarried for a 
fuller revelation which secured their unreserved consent, and 
induced in them a state of exaltation and of praise. 

The placid but observant Bohler saw that the Wesleys 
had come to the parting of the ways, and in a letter to 
Zinzendorf he gave his impressions of their state. "I 
travelled with the two brothers from London to Oxford. 
The elder, John, is a good-natured man; he knew he did 
not properly believe on the Saviour, and was wilKng to be 
taught. His brother, with whom you often conversed a 
year ago, is at present very much distressed in his mind, but 
does not know how he shall begin to be acquainted with the 



226 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Saviour. Our mode of believing in the Saviour b so easy 
to Englishmen, that they cannot reooncile themselves to it ; 
if it were a little more artful, they would much sooner find 
their way into it. Of faith in Jesus they have no other idea 
than the generality of people have. They justify themselves ; 
and therefore, they always take it for granted, that they 
beUeve already, and try to prove their faith by their works, 
and thus so plague and torment themselves that they are 
at heart very miserable." ^ On the journey, and while at 
Oxford, Wesley began dimly to apprehend the secret Bohler 
strove to impart. This in substance was the verification by 
actual experience of the principal teachings of the New Testa- 
ment. These were also embedded in the doctrinal formula 
long familiar to Wesley, but he had not yet abandoned 
himself to them with that resolution which surmoimts every 
obstacle, or in that faith which is disengaged from all 
supplementary considerations and fixed on Christ alone. 
Dependence on the outward form instead of the inward vital- 
ity of the Grospel was seldom more palpably shown, yet it 
is only too frequent in professed Christians, and operates 
so subtly that they think of it as little as of the air they 
breathe. A Laodicean contentment arising out of super- 
ficial assent to mere dogma deprives many believers of 
real fellowship with their Risen Redeemer. Here, as else- 
where, the witness of Christian consciousness, which extends 
not merely to abstract or speculative opinions, but to the 
whole current of feeling and of action in the regenerated 
soul, is left stranded on the shore of oblivious years, while 
men forget the solemn warning that "the letter killeth but 
the spirit giveth life." Justification by faith is an historic 
phrase covering the profound depths of religious experience, 
of which the content cannot be expressed in any statement, 
however full or apposite. The tides of that experience be- 
gan to stir in Wesley, and though they ebbed, they ebbed 
to flow again, bringing on their returning crest a strength 

X L. Tyerman: "life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, pp. 181-182. 



JOHN WE8LET 227 

of will, a courage, and an assurance which made him a 
wonder to himself and to others. 

Dedsive moments which affect the wider circles of hu- 
man existence are rare indeed, and Wesley now approached 
one that has seldom been surpassed in interest or impor- 
tance. God's intervention drew near, when the manifesta- 
tion of love divine ended the travail of this seeker after 
the highest life and truth, and endowed him with gifts for 
the strengthening of his brethren. The crisis showed that 
even the best and most sincere men are never the masters 
of their highest destiny: that heaven in recognition of 
their single-mindedness takes their wood and gives them 
iron ; their iron, and gives them gold. 

Between February the first and the date of his conversion 
he preached at least eighty sermons in London, Oxford, 
Manchester, and other centers, to congregations so widely 
separated as the prisoners of the conunon jaUs and the 
students and professors of the University. Although not 
averse to this duty, he was still in bondage ; and he teUs us 
that he spent March the fourth with Bohler, '' by whom, in the 
hands of the great God, I was on Simday, the fifth, clearly 
convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby we 
are saved.'* "How can I preach to others who have not 
faith myself?" was his pathetic query. In his bewilderment 
he turned again to Bohler, who counseled him, "Preach 
faith till you have it, and then because you have it you 
will preach faith." Implicit reliance upon the Moravian's 
precept was not a simple process for the High Churchman. 
It involved the consmnmation of beliefs he already held, 
but which did not as yet hold him in their resistless grasp ; 
yet, once they were freed from opposing elements, his soul 
was drawn to them as flame is drawn to flame, and faith be- 
came the definite, preponderant ingredient of his personal 
relation with God in Christ Jesus. This explanation suf- 
fices to show the impropriety of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 
stupid conunent on Wesley's dilemma. The Highgate 



228 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF [OXFORD 

philosopher avowed that Bohler's suggestion was tanta- 
mount to saying : ''Tell a lie long enough and often enough 
and you will be sure to end by believing it/' a cheap and 
shallow criticism devoid of application and lacking moral 
insight and sympathy for a situation of peculiar delicapy. 

On Monday, March the sixth, Wesley put Bohler's doc- 
trine to the test by proclaiming to a felon awaiting execution 
eternal life and blessedness through voluntary acceptance 
of the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. The condemned 
man at once responded, relying with absolute confidence 
upon the Grospel as thus stated, and its consolations en- 
abled him to die with a " composed cheerfulness and serene 
peace." Wesley's questionings were silenced ; he hastened 
from the cell of the outcast to a renewed study of the Holy 
Scriptures, where he foimd sufficient evidence that repent- 
ance at the last hour was a possibility and conversion fre- 
quently instantaneous. On Lord's Day, the twenty-third of 
the following month, he heard further testimony from " liv- 
ing witnesses," who declared that these operations of saving 
grace were not confined to the Apostolic Age. They had 
persisted throughout the schisms and heresies wrought by 
rites and ceremonies, symbols and theories, ecclesiastical 
claims and counter claims, and were being repeated in his 
own day. Thus he was slowly drawn from under the cold 
shadows of clerical intolerance and misconception into the 
sunshine of the all-sufficient Love Divine. "Here ended," 
he wrote, "my disputing. I could now only cry out, 'Lord, 
help thou my unbelief.'" ^ Such were the heraldings of the 
dawn which abolished his misgivings, extending and irra- 
diating his spiritual horizon, and fixing his faith upon its 
central luminary, the Son of God Who loved him and gave 
Himself for him. 

While the actual moment of his daybreak lingered, it was 
anticipated by that of his brother Charles, who lay sick in 

* "The Jouraal of John Wesley": edited by Bev. Nehemiah Cumook; 
Vol. I, p. 466. 



JOHN WESLEY 220 

mind and body at the home m Little Britain ^ of a tradesman 
named Bray, where he was visited by his brother John, 
Bohkr, and other friends. They held frequent conver- 
sations with him, and offered prayers for his recovery. 
Mrs. Turner, the sister of his host, who had recently found 
peaoe throuj^ believing, consented to bear a message of 
comfort and command to their guest. Accordingly, on the 
anniversaiy of the Feast of Pentecost, coming to the door 
of his room, she called to him in soft, dear tones, ''In the 
name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise and believe and thou 
shalt be healed of thy infirmities." Charles at once obeyed 
the injunction and trusted the promise ; at the instigation 
of an obscure agent began for him his rejuvenated being, 
and for the Church that enraptured burst of Christian song 
which has kindled and refined her adoration of the Holiest. 
Meanwhile, John's resentment wasaroused against the theo- 
logical guides he had read or consulted, because they had not 
directed him to the simplicity which is in Christ. He wrote 
a letter to William Law, arraigning him in terms reminiscent 
of his old hierarchical temper, bearing down upon his for- 
mer mentor with a stringency indicative of his inward dis- 
turbance, and an immoderation which for the time over- 
came his charity. "Now, sir," he demanded, in reference 
to Bohler's views, " suffer me to ask, how will you answer it 
to our common Lord, that you never gave me this advice? 
Did you never read the Acts of the Apostles, or the answer 
of Paul to him who said, 'What must I do to be saved'? 
Or are you wiser than he ? Why did I scarce ever hear you 
name the name of Christ? Never so as to ground anything 
upon faith in his blood ? Who is this who is laying another 
foundation ? If you say you advised other things as pre- 
paratory to this, what is this but laying a foundation below 
the foundation ? . . . I beseech you, sir, by the mercies of 
God, to consider deeply and impartially whether the true 
reason of your never pressing this upon me was not this — 

> A London street still to be found in the eastern section of the dty. 



230 THREE RELiaiOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

that you had it not yourself?" ^ Law met this fuhnination 
with the reply that his instruction had been in substance, 
though not in expression, identical with that of Bohler, 
and concluded with the timely admonition, ''Let me advise 
you not to be too hasty in believing that because you have 
changed your language you have changed your faith. The 
head can as easily amuse itself with a living and justifying 
faith in the blood of Jesus as with any other notion, and the 
heart which you suppose to be a place of security, as being 
the seat of self-love, is more deceitful than the head/'* 
Law was not appreciated by the deists of his generation, 
nor could this be expected ; for, as Sir Leslie Stephen remarks, 
''A mystic in a conmion sense atmosphere can no more 
flourish than an Alpine plant transplanted to the Lowlands/' 
But he had a claim to Wesley's grateful respect on the 
grounds both of hi& personal character and his teadiing. 
Even Gibbon, who showed scanty appreciation for Chris- 
tianity, referred to Law in his Autobiography with affec- 
tionate esteem. ''In our family,'' observed the historian, 
"he left a reputation of a worthy and pious man who be- 
lieved all he professed and practised all he enjoined." In 
later days Wesley himself acknowledged that Law's writings 
first sowed the seed of Methodism, and stemmed the torrent 
of infidelity and immorality which had submerged the Eng- 
Ush people since the Restoration. Certainly "it was Law 
who, alone of living writers, materially influenced Wesley's 
mind; and gave to universal principles that special form 
which rendered them suitable at the moment." * His sub- 
jective treatment of Christian doctrine, particularly of the 
Atonement and other articles of which Wesley had com- 
plained, was characterized by remarkable spiritual origi- 
nality. Law's superiority to Wesley as a thinker was shown 
in the correspondence that ensued between them. The 

» L. Tyennan : "life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I. p. 186. 
« Ibid., p. 187. 

*Sir Leslie Stephen: "English Thought in the Eighteenth Century"; 
VoL I, p. 168. 



JOHN WESLEY 231 

honors of the dispute remained with Law, the more so be- 
muse his opponent injected into it personal charges which 
should not have been made. The unfortunate aspect of 
the controversy was that it estranged two sincere servants 
of God. Of the few glaring indiscretions of the sort which 
can be charged against W^ey, this perhaps was the most 
unnecessary. He turned from its embarrassments to con- 
sult with Bohler until the latter's departure for the Caro- 
linaSy and then went forward to his Peniel alone. 

The twenty-fourth of May, 1738, has always been kept by 
Methodists as the day which ended their Founder's night of 
wrestling. Wesley rose at five o'clock on that memorable 
morning, and, opening the New Testament, read these words : 
"Whereby are given imto us exceeding great and precious 
promises ; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine 
nature.'' After a while he again opened the book and read 
— "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God." In the 
afternoon he attended St. Paul's Cathedral, where the an- 
them was taken from the 130th Psalm as found in the Book 
of Conunon Prayer : ^ " Out of the deep I have called unto 
thee, O Lord : Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears con- 
sider well the voice of my complaint." As the strains of 
supplication and praise roUed in long melodious thunder 
beneath the soaring arches and lofty dome of the sanctu- 
ary, this humble worshiper found his refuge in the words, 
"My soul fleeth unto the Lord : before the morning watch, 
I say, before the morning watch." The choristers sang of 
trust in His changeless mercy and plenteous redemption: 
outpourings of a faith which had been the stay of Juda- 
ism, and was now the comfort of one who was to become a 
prince in God's spiritual Israel. 

He left the Cathedral to enter upon the experience which 
he describes in simple, solemn, convincing language, un- 
oolored by hectic emotion, and stamped with reality. His 

> The musio for this anthem was probably written by Puroell, the greatest 
of F^wgiiah coxnpoiers of cathedral anthems. 



232 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

words have burned in countless hearts, many of which have 
known their inmost meaning. ''In the evening I went very 
unwiUingly to a Society^ in Aldersgate Street where one 
was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. 
About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the 
change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, 
I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, 
Christ alone for salvation ; and an assurance was given me 
that He had taken away my sins, even miney and saved me 
from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my 
might for those who had in a more especial manner despite- 
fully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly 
to aU there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not 
long before the enemy suggested, 'This cannot be faith; 
for where is thy joy?' Then was I taught that peace and 
victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our 
salvation ; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually 
attend the beginning of it, especiaUy in those who have 
mourned deeply, Grod sometimes giveth, sometimes with- 
holdeth them, according to the counseb of His own will." 

His regeneration should not be confused with those renun- 
ciations of religious or philosophical opinions at the behest 
of conviction, under the impulse of which Carlyle left 
the Calvinism of his youth; Martineau ceased to be an 
orthodox Unitarian; Mill rejoiced over his social gospel 
after reading Dumont's interpretation of Benthamism in the 
"Trait6 de la Legislation"; and Newman passed into the 
Roman Catholic Church. Wesley's was preeminently a vital 
change, which, while more or less sharing the intellectual 
importance of the instances named, surpassed them in the 
qualities it evinced and the services it rendered. In many 
respects it closely resembled St. Paul's conversion, and can 
be more fittingly compared with that classic proof of justify- 
ing faith, or with the transformation wrought in Luther, than 

1 This was the Anglican Society in Nettleton Court, conducted l^ 
Hutton, and not, as many have supposed, a Moravian gathering. 



JOHN WESLEY 233 

with any other individual witness to the saving knowledge of 
Jesus Christ. Certainly after Wesley's realization of eternal 
verities his former limitations disappeared : his soul yielded 
to ''the expulsive power of a new affection/' and the priest 
was merged into the prophet. He was no longer compelled 
to rest his case as a Christian upon human authority, however 
sacred. His belief in the Church and in the Bible had 
enabled them to bear an indirect testimony sufficient to 
stimulate his devout and conscientious inquiries. But he 
had discovered that any beliefs which hinged upon the 
word of an earthly witness worked under defective condi- 
tions, and varied with his estimate of that witness; that 
futh so founded could be weakened, and lacked the tenacity 
and the purity which characterized the faith that came 
through personal contact with the Son of God. In these 
experiments he at last seized upon the very essence of the 
Gospel of his Lord, and occupied a position from which he 
could not be dislodged. Based upon the rock of an in- 
disturbable assurance, his religion was never again mini- 
mized into a mere scheme of probabilities: he felt the 
results of a living intercourse with Christ, and he might 
have stated them in the words of the Samaritans to their 
country-woman: "Now we believe, not because of thy say- 
ing, for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this 
is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." j^ 

The chronic irritation which had given him no rest was 
banished ; he drew from the springs of heavenly love a vital 
energy, and with his spiritual faculties thus quickened he 
gained the perception of truth; not the deceptive half- 
truth of material science that conceals the germs of agnos- 
ticism, but the truth that transcends mere intellectual 
knowledge, the truth which is the objective of such faith as his. 
In the prime of manhood, he passed at a bound to a high 
point of being, and carried to the grave untarnished and 
unimpaired the plenitudes of restoration and of power which 
then became his own. Neither life nor death was suffered 



234 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to take one jot of their meaning from his heart ; their reg^ 
nancy increased with the passing of his years. His r^en- 
eration, apparently spontaneous, was really the outgrowth 
of all he had been. But he was now enlarged, enriched, 
illimiinated in every province of his nature. Nor could sub- 
sequent changes of feeling or circumstance weaken his hold 
on God or on his fellow-men. 

It is no detraction from his superior value as a Christian 
to recognize in him the egoism out of which his growth 
and service were shaped by higher impulses. If he some- 
times spoke, like St. Augustine and Bunyan, as though 
the Creator and himself were the only valid ends for 
which all things else were the means, this re-adjustment 
of his soul's fellowship with its Maker ennobled every 
other relation he sustained. Fixed in his conscious accept- 
ance with God, he was enabled to move with freedom in 
the entire region of his reconstructed existence. The grace 
he had received imparted no flawless excellence, but it en- 
dowed him with a vigilance, a resolution, and a wisdom 
which were typical of Protestant Christianity at its best, 
and it rebuked the materialized conceptions and indirect 
methods of its appropriation which proceed from external 
things. 

Our reverence for Wesley is the greater because of the 
devotion with which he accepted and acted upon the in- 
disputable fact of his new life in Christ. Only in the 
light of that devotion, and of all it involved, can we 
form an adequate estimate of the warm, aspiring saint, as 
distinguished from the artificial character, cold as monur 
mental marble, which some have ascribed to him in the 
interests of doctrinal theories. He was deeply aware that 
he had been created again in Christ Jesus, and the knowl- 
edge gave him rest and gladness. Yet he offered his sacri- 
fice in humility, as one who was not meet, being careful 
to reserve nothing from the altar of consecration. More- 
over, because the Gospel was a sanctifying eneigy, he re- 



JOHN WESLEY 236 

sented every effort to belittle or obscure it. Yet the 
oontroversialist and the precisionist were no longer welcome 
to him: he rather laid emphasis upon the grace of God 
manifested in the forgiveness of his sin and in his deliverance 
from its shame and guilt. This grace solved the problems 
which once perplexed him ; answered the questions that had 
not spared his tranquillity ; imbued him with a divine sensi- 
bility and equipped him for the mission which at once be- 
came an inherent part of his life. The vision of Christ as the 
Redeemer of mankind was the heart of his message; the 
only Gospel sufficient for the saving of his own soul and of 
them that heard him. 

Such, then, was the nature of Wesley's faith, prepared as 
it was to forsake derivative beliefs, if by so doing it could 
secure that immediate access where the finite draws life 
from the infinite. He pushed his interrogations to the last 
issue, distinguishing, as he did so, between opinions and 
convictions, and construing truth in the light of the spirit 
and word of the New Testament. Beginning with inquiry, 
he was not content to detect his inconsistencies, or dwell 
upon his needs, but went forward till he found an all- 
sufficient object in Christ Jesus, and fastened his trust and 
obedience upon Him. Cardinal Newman remarked that 
this was an inverted process : that the Roman devotee begins 
with belief, and reverently foUowing the divine instincts, 
draws out their hidden oracles into the- synmietry of a holy 
philosophy. The distinction is worth attention, but the 
fruits of Wesley's faith are the best answer to Newman's 
objection. That his extraordinary experience should arouse 
criticism, especiaUy after it became the type and standard 
of countless similar experiences, was to be expected. Skep- 
ticism could not suffer so startling a rebuke to pass unno- 
ticed ; for men resent nothing so much as the unexpected 
advent of a truth that wrecks their assumptions. Whether 
cultured or ignorant, imaginative or stupid, they agreed in 
protesting against the claims made by Wesley and his fol- 



236 THREE RELiaiOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

lowers. The transfonnations of life and character on whidi 
they were based confuted those who were forced to admit 
their actual occurrence, but attached to them their own 
explanation. Hence Coleridge maintained that Wesley's 
assurance of salvation was nothing more than ''a strong 
pulse or throb of sensibility accompanying the vehement 
volition of acquiescence : an ardent desire to find the posi> 
tion true and a concurring determination to receive it as 
truth." This may be a correct psychological definition of 
some conversions, but in Wesley's case its sonorous phrase- 
ology is misleading. Coleridge evidently took it for granted 
that the divine element dominant in the change then 
wrought was not worthy of his consideration. He had no 
valid ground for any such attitude, and the omission of that 
element so completely vitiated his analysis that it had about 
as much bearing on Wesley's actual experience, its nature, 
intensity, and extent, as the nebulous vapors of the heavens 
have upon the motions of the planets. 

Further, notwithstanding Wesley's occasional lapses into 
sentimentalism, it must not be forgotten that he was a great 
Christian who was also a great Englishman. He belonged to 
a people whose pieties have never been divorced either from 
reason or ethics, who were Pragmatists before Pragmatism, 
and whose accepted test for enthusiasm, vehemence, or pro- 
fession, is practice. Their first question concerning theories 
or institutions is not, " What can be said for or against them ? " 
but, "How do they work?" Their theology and religion 
have always been influenced by politics and morality ; hence 
the paradoxical compromises of the English Reformation 
defied the consistency so dear to the French mind, in order 
that they might include the main currents of public opinion. 
Innate conservatism is apparent at every stage of the reli- 
gious development of the nation in which Wesley became a 
representative teacher. The mystical fervors found in the 
Latin race, which ran to extremes even in the Moravians, 
were moderated by the utilitarian tendency of Anglican 



JOHN WESLEY 237 

saints. They usuaUy related their ecstasies to earthly 
affairs, econonuzing them for that purpose; the extrava- 
gances of St. Francis, of St. John of the Cross, and even of 
Bodime were foreign to the more sober but equally intent 
piety of such men as Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Hooker, 
and Jeremy TKylor. In a letter written to his brother 
Samuel, dated November 23, 1736, Wesley says, ''I think 
the rock on which I had the nearest made shipwreck of the 
faith was the writings of the mystics; under which term 
I comprehend all, and only those, who slight any of the 
means of grace. . . . Men utterly divested of free will, 
of sdf-love, and self-activity, are entered into the passive 
state, and enjoy such a contemplation as is not only above 
faith, but above sight. . . . They have absolutely renounced 
their reason and understanding; else they could not be 
guided by a Divine Light. They seek no dear or particular 
knowledge of anything, but only an obscure, general knowl- 
edge. . . . Sight, or something more than sight, takes the 
place of faith.'' ^ These avowals of the dangers he had so 
barely escaped leave no doubt on the point at issue. He 
dung to the venerable guarantees of historic Christianity, 
avoiding sensational and gratuitous changes, but adopting 
those dictated by the expansion of his heart and work. ^ 
It is one of the triumphs of originality not to invent or 
discover what is probably already known,. but by a revivify- 
ing of former things to make their meaning new and irre- 
sistible. Wesley's conversion was a good example of this 
process. His entire life hitherto had been steadily directed 
toward the infiatus it then received and the decision with 
which he received it. Even his doubts and difficulties had 
contributed to his regeneration. He might have said in 
the language of a later day, 

"Thoughts hardly to be padced 
Into a narrow act, 
Faiides that broke through language and escarped ; 

> L. Ts^erman : *'Life and Timee of John Wedey '* ; Vol. I, pp. 133-134. 



238 THREE RELiaiOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

All I could never be, 

All men ignored in me. 

This was I worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shiq)ed." 

He was early set apart by his mother's diligent care for 
his soul, and her reminder that he could be saved only 
by keeping all the conmiandments of his Maker. This 
excited his sense of moral responsibility, making him appre- 
hensive of the approaches of evil and painfully censorious of 
himself. It prevented him from regarding sin as being 
nothing more than a general imperfection, and his grief 
over past failures strengthened in him the presuppositions 
of the Gospel which delivers men from sin. In his dealings 
with heaven he could not brook trifling or evasion ; every 
act of worship was candid and absorbing. The despair 
his previous state had evoked was the prelude to the 
rapture of his deliverance, and his subsequent ministry 
was proportioned by his experiences both of sorrow and 
of joy. His afiPection for the beauty and appropriateness 
of the Anglican litiu*gy remained unchanged. He con- 
tinued to associate faith not only with worship but with 
work, and he had no sooner begun to preach than he 
established an orphanage at Newcastle. Alert to the 
dangers of exuberant emotionalism, he warned his con- 
verts that an uprush of feeling did not necessarily indicate 
divine sonship. It was to be validated by corresponding 
deeds, since a profession of religion without its fruits 
was vanity. Here the young Oxonian of the Bocardo 
reappeared, and while he preached faith he also main- 
tained that "he who doeth righteousness is righteous." 
The presumptions of those who imagined they had exclusive 
rights to evangelicalism were rebuked in the foUowing obser- 
vations : " I find more profit in sermons on either good tem- 
pers or good works, than in what are vulgarly called Gospel 
sermons. That word has now become a mere cant word; 
I wish none of our Society would use it. It has no deter- 
minate meaning. Let but a pert, self-sufficient animal. 



JOHN WESLEY 239 

that has neither sense nor grace bawl out something about 
Christ or His blood or justification by faith and his hearers 
cry out, 'what a fine Gospel sermon I'" In later days he 
wrote again, '*When fifty years of age, my brother Charles 
and I in the simplicity of our hearts taught the people that 
unless they knew their sins forgiven, they were imder the 
wrath and curse of God, I wonder they did not stone us. 
The Methodists know better now." The spirit of the New 
Testament was nurtured in Wesley by the combination of 
numerous differing phases and gifts. Many streams fed 
the mighty river of gracious influence which issued from 
his personality, a river still flowing, and bearing the life of 
men toward happier havens beyond. 

Julia Wedgwood in her able study of Wesley states that 
his regeneration transferred ''the birthday of a Christian from 
his baptism to his conversion, and in that change the parti- 
tion line of the two great systems is crossed." This is 
true so far as characteristic Wesleyanism is concerned, but 
it does not take sufficient account of the significance of 
the religious education of the young, or of the Christian con- 
sciousness of the Church universal. Later Methodism has 
been compelled to acknowledge these factors as in many 
instances modifying the older conception which limited con- 
version to an immediate and pronounced experience. Count- 
less hosts of Christians owe their faith to early religious 
training, or to the Sacraments which have undoubtedly 
fostered it. These multitudes can neither be ignored nor 
dismissed by a sweeping generalization. The operations 
of the Divine Presence in human hearts do not submit to 
the rough and ready assignments of man. "The wind 
bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, 
but knowest not whence it cometh and whither it goeth: 
so is every one that is born of the Spirit." 

Such then in outline was the inwardness of Wesley's change 
as he published it to the world, to be read by all who desire to 
fonn a sober judgment on this supreme issue. Anything more 



240 THREE RELiaiOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

restrained in temper, more cogent in statement, more per- 
suasive in appeal, it would be difficult to find. In many respects 
it is the wisest as it is the most impartial modem utterance 
that has interpreted Christian origins and Christian history 
by Christian experience. And although some of its suggestions 
may be open to minor criticism, its value as an apologetic 
and as an eirenicon is beyond estimate. It recalls the flame 
from the Altar of Eternal Love which burned in the breasts 
of the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Martyrs, and afterwards 
burst forth again in St. Francis and the heroes of the Refor- 
mation. How well it fulfilled in Wesley the more perfect 
will of God is dispassionately stated in a further quotation 
from Mr. Lecky : "It is, however, scarcely an exaggeration 
to say that the scene which took place at that humble meet- 
ing in Aldergate Street forms an epoch in English history. 
The conviction which then flashed upon one of the most 
powerful and most active intellects in England is the true 
source of English Methodism"^ — a judgment far too 
modest in its ascription. That conviction set free the reli- 
gious genius whose light flashed on England when the moral 
condition of her inhabitants was aptly summarized in the 
somber phrase of the Hebrew prophet: "They sat in dark- 
ness and the shadow of death." Yet neither England nor 
English Methodism was the sole beneficiary of Wesley's 
consecrated faculties; his words have gone out unto the 
ends of the earth. 

Ill 

The vile conditions for which the eighteenth century was 
unenviably notorious were at their worst in its second 
quarter, and continued even after the Evangelical Revival 
had succeeded in abolishing some of their most deplorable 
features. Mark Pattison describes the age as " one of decay 
of religion, licentiousness of morals, public corruption, pro- 
faneness of language, — a day of rebuke and blasphemy 

^ " England in the Eighteenth Century "; VoL m, p. 48. 



JOHN WESLEY 241 

. . . an age destitute of depth and earnestness; an age 
whose poetry was without romance, whose philosophy was 
without insight, and whose public men were without 
diaracter; an age of 'light without love/ whose very 
merits were of the earth, earthy/'^ Since these essays 
w&e published in 1860 we have learned to understand the 
eighteenth century better ; to know that, despite the sordid- 
ness and materialism which characterized it, the period was 
not and could not have been wholly corrupt. Agents and 
fences of purification are always present in every society, 
however debased and degenerate that society may seem to 
be, and they never cease to operate, though at times too 
br below the surface for their presence to be detected by 
the superficial observer. 

Yet without question the disorder of England during the 
years included in Pattison's survey was far-reaching and 
obstinate. Professor Henry Sidgwick has remarked that 
the national character was such as to make belief in a con- 
stitutional government impossible. In the judgment of 
wise and patriotic men absolutism was necessary, because of 
the ignorance, materialism, and waywardness of the people. 
The morality of polite circles was content to express itself 
b epigrams and maxims, while their rampant vices shel- 
tered behind these useless formula. Hume, in an essay 
published in 1741, complained of the tyranny of political 
tactions, and concluded that, "We should, at last, after 
many convulsions and civil wars, find repose in an ab- 
solute monarchy, which it would have been happier for us 
to have established peaceably from the beginning." If we 
may judge from these and many other authoritative criti- 
cisms, social stability was by no means assured. License 
was too frequently mistaken for liberty : the general weU- 
being was hindered by those who bawled for freedom in 
a senseless mood, and there was a justifiable distrust of popu- 
lar sentiment. The wise political instinct now attributed 

1 "EoBays"; Vol. U. p. 42. 



242 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to the British people, and the actual establishment of civic 
solidarity and virtue, are far more recent than is commonly 
supposed. Levity, caprice, selfishness, and turbulence were 
prevalent. The fickleness and perversity of the populace, 
which Milton in his treatise on " A Free Conmionwealth " re- 
garded as dangerous, were due in a measure to the sourest 
and narrowest type of Puritanism. Notwithstanding the 
short tenure of the Cromwellian Protectorate, the religious 
enthusiasm it generated, and the triumphs of peace and 
war it secured, the reaction against it flung aside morality 
altogether, and had not spent its force in Wesley's day. 
Men still spoke with detestation of the attempts to enforce 
virtue and suppress vice by penal statutes, and the orgies 
of the court of Charles the Second were perpetuated in the 
dissoluteness of the aristocracy and the degradation of the 
masses. The reign of the saints was succeeded by the revels 
of the sinners; the profligates of the Restoration had 
produced a progeny almost worse than themselves, whose 
cynical brutalities it would be difficult to exaggerate. 
Rational goodness seemed as impossible as art to a nation 
smitten with color-blindness. The highest elements in 
human existence were cast away; conduct drifted into 
wrong channels; conscience was defiled; then indeed was 

"Time a maniac scattering dust. 
And life a fury slinging flame." 

Yet on the low dark verge might be discerned the twilight 
of a new day. For there was a saving remnant not unmind- 
ful of the honor of God, which waged war on the evils that 
usurped His claims, however hopeless the undertaking seemed. 
The earlier reformers who strove to stem the pestilential 
flood of wickedness voiced their anxiety in the words of Dr. 
Woodward. Writing in 1699, he declared, "Our great enjoy- 
ments in liberty, law, trade, etc., are in manifest danger of 
being lost by those horrid enormities which have for some 
years past abounded in this our nation ; for indeed they are 



JOHN WESLEY 243 

gross, scandalous, and crying, even to the reproach of our 
Govermnent and the great dishonor of our religion." The 
''Proposal for a National Reformation of Manners/' issued 
in 1694, anticipated Woodward's accusation. ''All men 
agree,'' states its opening paragraph, "that atheism and pro- 
faneness never got such a high ascendant as at this day. 
A thick gloominess hath overspread our horizon and our light 
looks like the evening of the world . . . vice and wickedness 
abound in every place, dnmkenness and lewdness escape 
unpunished; our ears in most companies are filled with 
imprecations of damnation ; and the comers of our streets 
everywhere the horrible sounds of oaths, curses, and blas- 
phemous execrations." ^ 

The monarchs of England contributed to the deplorable 
state of affairs. Thackeray's lectures, "The Four Georges," 
show that these princes, with the exception of Greorge III, 
while less openly depraved than Charles II, were infinitely 
more vulgar. The novelist's masterly portrait of the hero 
of Dettingen, — the second Greorge, a strutting, self-impor- 
tant, irascible little boor, who corrupted society by his 
example and coarsened it by his manners, — is not a whit 
overdrawn in its fearless and repulsive delineation. His, 
Queen, Caroline of Anspach, described by Sir Walter Scott 
in "The Heart of Midlothian" as a sagacious and attractive 
princess, although personally chaste and deserving of a better 
husband than the man to whose puerile eccentricities she 
sacrificed everything, did not hesitate to jest about his 
paramours nor to indulge in obscene allusions. The life 
and thought of the nation were infected by this betrayal of 
decency in high places : its intelligence, virtue, and seemly 
demeanor were constantly discouraged ; its worst propensi- 
ties found their instigators among those who were miscalled 
noble. In spite of his loyalty to the throne, Wesley felt and 
avowed a healthy contempt for the upper classes. The 

> Julia Wedgwood: "John Wesley and the Evangelical Reaction of the 
Eighteenth Century" ; pp. 116-117. 



244 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 



•_• 1 _ 1_ M 



i;iii[i -CI]* I 



barriers which the advocates of an onpirical 
of cultured common sense strove to oppose against con- 
tagious vices were swept away by passions which neither 
the serene guidance of Addison nor the stem protest of 
Johnson could withstand. An increase of wealth and trade 
furnished the means for tasteless profusion and animalistic 
excess. Folly, filthy conversation, libertinism, and j^uttony 
were the pursuits of the majority. The landed proprieties 
and the squirearchies took pattern from the reigning house, 
which was sunk in debauchery until the accession of George 
III, who allied his coiut with domestic r^^ularity. What- 
ever may be urged against him as an incapable ruler 
whose ambition for executive supremacy ended in tiie dis- 
memberment of the Empire, in his private character George 
III was weU nigh irreproachable, strongly and simply re- 
ligious, given to prayer and to observance of the ordinances 
of the Church. Yet he and his bigoted consort, Chariotte 
of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, never controlled their unruly sons, 
who mocked and defied the quiet ways of Windsor, and 
came near to overthrowing the Hanoverian dynasty in 
Britain. 

The mania for gambling reached its height during this 
epoch, wielding an absolute sway over rich and poor alike, 
who turned to its lure as naturally as to food or sleep, and 
viewed the hazarding of fabulous sums as nothing worse 
than an indiscretion. Any vice which receives general 
approval ceases to be looked upon as such, and there were 
few who escaped the ruinous fascinations of the race track 
and the casino. All ranks and conditions gambled pro- 
digiously and systematically. "Whist," wrote Walpole to 
Sir Horace Mann, "has spread a universal opium over the 
whole nation. On whatever pretext, and under whatever 
circumstances, half a dozen people of fashion found them- 
selves together, whether for music, or dancing, or politics, 
or for drinking the waters or each other's wine, the box was 
sure to be rattling and the cards were being cut and shuf- 



JOHN WESLEY 245 

fled.'' ' The habitufe of St. James's Palace staked nothing 
less than two hundred pounds apiece at their nightly play, 
and when Lady Cowper declined to enter the game because 
she could not a£Pord to risk the wager, she was cbided for 
her lack of courage. Lord Dchester lost thirteen thousand 
pounds at one sitting, a debt of honor he never paid. Top- 
ham Beauderk, the patron and friend of the literati who met 
in the taverns of Fleet Street and the Strand, declared that 
the extremities to which Charles James Fox was reduced 
after he had parted with his last guinea were pitiable beyond 
words. Before this orator and statesman was twenty-four, 
he had incurred gambling debts to the amount of five 
hundred thousand pounds, more than a fifth of which 
sum represented the losses of one evening; and during 
hb lifetime he squandered a million pounds in the same 
pursuit. Instead of being sobered by such wild exploits, 
Fox jested about them and referred to the anteroom where 
hb Hebrew creditors waited to negotiate his paper as the 
Jerusalem Chamber. White's Coffee House was one of 
the favorite resorts of those who courted the smile of the 
goddess of chance. Mr. Thynne won twelve thousand 
pounds there in one night. Beau Brummel is said to have 
won twenty thousand, and General Scott one hundred thou- 
sand pounds in the same place at a single sitting. Nor were 
these instances extraordinary ; in proportion to their means 
the majority of gamblers were equally profuse. 

The State patronized lotteries until near the close of the 
century; the mischief which ensued passes description. 
Great numbers of people were beggared in mind and body ; 
the havoc among the tradesfolk, farmers, and artisans was 
greater than can now be imagined: they were in every 
sense demoralized. The racing towns of Epsom and New- 
market swarmed with sharpers, blacklegs, and their dupes. 
Loaded dice, fullams, and other apparatus for trickery 

>8ir Gtoorge O. Trevelyan: "Eariy History of Charies Jamee Fox"; 
p. 80. 



246 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

were carried in the pockets, caps, and sleeves of these 
knights of the craft, who viewed their calling as the industry 
of the age. The financial speculations of Exchange Alley 
victimized thousands rendered gullible by the national pur- 
suit. No project was too ridiculous to win support. The 
place was filled, according to Smollett, ''with a strange con- 
course of statesmen and clergymen, churchmen and dis- 
senters, Whigs, and Tories, physicians, lawyers, tradesmen, 
and even females; all other professions and employments 
were utterly neglected." Companies were formed for dis- 
counting pensions, insuring horses, providing perpetual 
motion, discovering the land of Ophir, and for the manifestly 
superfluous enterprise of improving the breed of asses. Even 
when that bloated venture, the South Sea Bubble, burst 
and reduced thousands to poverty and despair, the madness 
received no perceptible check. Fresh devotees consigned 
their fortunes to greedy schemers; estates, heirships, trust 
funds, even chastity and life, were flimg into the insatiable 
maw of this iniquity. The players plunged without stint, 
laying all they had or could obtain upon the board, while 
they watched the turns of the game with oaths and im- 
precations. Flown with wine and rendered desperate by 
their losses or their lust for gain, men without conscience 
or honor quarreled and fought, and satisfaction was de- 
manded and given in numerous duels which became infamous 
for that vulturous ferocity peculiar to the confirmed gambler. 
Until Garrick revived the Shakesperian traditions, the 
stage was monopolized by farces and spectacles of which 
Congreve, Wycherley, and Vanbrugh were the chief pur- 
veyors. Their ribald comedies suited current taste by 
exalting pruriency and laughing the marriage vow out of 
fashion. The scenes reeked of the stews; rakes and deb- 
auchees were heroes; skepticism of any possible virtue, 
especially between the sexes, was paraded with sickening 
reiteration. The dialogues took it for granted that there 
was an essential antagonism between what was moral and 



JOHN WESLEY 247 

what was witty and admirable. Fielding, who was by no 
.means fastidious about such matters, makes Parson Adams 
say in ''Joseph Andrews" he had never heard of any plays 
that were fit to read except Addison's ''Cato" and Dicky 
Steele's somewhat prosy "Conscious Lovers." The obser- 
vation is corroborated by the fact that ladies wore masks 
at the theaters, a custom which lasted until long after the 
accession of George III. Tragedies were filled with tedious 
dedamations upon the flagrant crimes of the classic monsters 
of Greece and Rome, which made little appeal to the mind 
and less to the heart. This repression of the deeper emotions 
was inimical to the higher drama: instead of envisaging 
the sacredness of human fate, resolution, and endurance, it 
languished in the unrealities of finely polbhed couplets and 
rhetorical bravado. Yet these disadvantages could not 
prevent the triumph of David Garrick's inimitable genius 
as an actor, nor were they incompatible with the develop- 
ment of a delightful and masterly series of comedies from 
those two genial Irishmen, Sheridan and Goldsmith, whose 
treatment of the lighter aspects of life did something to 
redeem wantonness and intellectual sterility. The fourth 
Earl of Chesterfield, a pattern of etiquette, inculcated 
an exquisite bearing and address which was the doak 
for a refined impurity much more detrimental to morals 
than the salacious frankness of Fielding or the grossness of 
Smcdlett. Historians may willingly accord him posthumous 
justice as an able, careful, conscientious statesman who de- 
served weU of his country and despised bribery by money or 
preferment in an unscrupulous era when Sir Robert Wal- 
pole surveyed the benches of the House of Commons and 
declared "AU these men have their price." Chesterfield 
was not only the representative of his class; he was also 
a patron of literature, and in a lesser degree an author of 
some merit. In the former capacity his lack of generosity 
provoked Johnson into writing one of the best letters of the 
language; in the latter, his lack of virtue induced him to 



248 THREB RBUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

instruct his son in the arts of intrigue, seduction, and 
adultery as accomplishments highly becoming a gentleman. 
Women of rank appeared at private functions and in public 
places of entertainment dad in the scantiest garb, and far 
from incurring disapproval, their immodesty was applauded* 
Drunkenness was an established custom, with a code of r^u- 
lations which decreed the order of merit for the bibulous, and 
arranged the incessant rounds of wine and wit, punch bowl 
and song. The Prince Regent, hailed by his boon com- 
panions and flatterers as the first gentleman in Europe, 
caroused nightly with Sheridan, Grattan, and other celdi>- 
rities of the Carlton House coterie. He conspired with 
his brothers — those stout, well-fed princes whose farmer- 
like faces look down upon the visitor from the walls of En{^ 
land's Portrait Galleries — to make her premier noble, the 
Duke of Norfolk, drink a toast with every seasoned toper at 
the royal board. Norfolk would not refuse the challenge, 
and the debauch went on till the aged Duke's gray head lay 
stupefied among the decanters while the wine ran like blood 
on the table. Lord Eldon was a six bottle man, as were 
other legal and political luminaries; William Pitt emptied 
a bottle of port wine at home before going to the House of 
Commons, and after the debates betook himself to Bellamy's 
with Dundas and helped to finish a couple more. Addison, 
Steele, Poulteney, Goldsmith, Fox, and Lord Holland were 
all addicted to the cup. Sir Gilbert Elliot, writing to his 
wife in 1787, said, "Men of all ages drink abominably . . . 
and Gray more than any of them." The beaux of the town, 
known as " frolics," " bloods," " mohocks " and " macaronies,^' 
consumed large quantities of fermented liquor. Byron's 
letters contain references to the sprees of Cambridge profes- 
sors and students, and he informed his friend Jackson, the 
pugilist, of the masquerades at Newstead Abbey, where 
goblets fashioned out of human skulls were quaffed by young 
scapegraces attired in monastic robes. Ministers of State 
reeled to their places in Parliament or at the opera, and some- 



JOHN WESLEY 249 

times even dergymen, with their wigs awry, went to the 
sacred desk to hiccough in the pauses of their discourse. 

Routs, assemblies, baUs and ridottos were thronged with 
fashionable patrons; Vauxhall and Ranelagh gardens were 
frequented by the upper and middle classes. The Spectator 
describes Sir Roger de Coverley's visit to the former resort, 
then one of the sights of the metropolis, which the good knight 
enjoyed when he came up from Worcestershire. Between 
the social extremes were the territorial proprietors who 
shared in the common decadence. The local magnates, 
parsons, and magbtrates of the shires, with their isolation, 
ignorance, pride, static politics, uncouth speech, and rustic 
garb, furnished material for the satire of the novelists and 
the moralizing of the essayists. It was an epoch of hilarious 
feasting, fiddling, dancing, and buffoonery : in many aspects 
unmanly, imbecile, and pitiable. The wreck of talent, 
the untimely ending of individuals who might have been 
shining lights in a perverse generation, but who left noth- 
ing except painful memories of needless error and suffering, 
fill the observer with a sense of irreparable loss. The hope 
of the nation's redemption lay in the best of the clergy, 
the merchants, and the yeomanry, and from their ranks came 
the leaders of Methodism, who supported Wesley in his 
^orts to reclaim the debased multitudes. 

These neglected hordes were exactly what the ruling powers 
had made them. Had those who exercised civil and religious 
authority been wise and just, pure in life, sincere in motive, 
and honorable in their dealings, the proletariat would 
undoubtedly have felt the restraint of their example. But 
such virtues were far to seek, while the vices we have noted 
spread in virulent form among the workmen and peasants.^ 

> The editor of the Oloueeater OoMette wrote : '* Is it not mysterious that 
I^ir*^'*!g which has been known to bring calamity on the greatest and rich- 
est men ahould now become common among the common people them- 
selves?" Piety and gentleness must have lived in the shade. Brutality 
flourished in the daylight. Public executions and whippings were every- 
day fpectades ; bull-baiting, dog-fighting, and duck-hunting — the last 



250 THKEE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Gin was the chosen beverage of the great unwashed, out- 
bidding ale, porter, nun, and brandy in competition t<x 
popular favor. Hogarth's pictures of Beer Street and Gin 
Lane were delineations of the neighborhoods of St. Martin's 
and St. Giles. The first represented John Bull engaged 
in his national pastime, when the butcher, the drayman, and 
the blacksmith drained their foaming tankards, flourished 
a prime leg of mutton, and sang in praise of beer : 

"Labor and art, upheld by thee. 
Successfully advance. 
We quaff the balmy juice with j^ee. 
And water leave to France." 

In contrast to this scene of counterfeit merriment was the 
nauseating squalor of Gin Lane, where human nature, naked 
and unashamed, wallowed in the depths of bestiality. The 
artist vented his wrath on the ciu^ed fiend, with murder 
fraught, which preyed on the vitak of his countrymen. 
Nothing in his terrific arraignment of contemporary immo- 
rality was more awful in its fidelity than the portrayal of 
that scene where old and young, and even mothers with 
infants in arms, greedily drank the potations doled out in 
return for their coppers. Dtu'ing a debate on the question 
of drunkenness in 1736, it was reported to Parliament that 
within the precincts of Westminster, Holborn, the Tower, 
and Finsbury there were over seven thousand houses and 
shops which retailed spirituous beverages, — and this in a 
city which then contained only 600,000 inhabitants, of 
whom over one fifth were directly interested in the traffic. 

two during service-time on Sundays — were usual. Reputable Londoners 
made it their Sunday afternoon amusement to repair with their families 
to the Old Bethlehem Hospital, to watch the maniacs who were chained 
naked to the pillars. At this time some two hundred thousand persons 
usually gathered in tea-gardens about London every Sunday afternoon, and 
at the end of the day they were to be classified thus: "Sober, 50,000; in 
High Glee, 90.000 ; Drunkish, 30.000 ; Staggering Tipsy, 10,000 ; Mussy, 
15,000; Dead Drunk, 5,000." In every circle of life it was unusual for a 
party to disperse while one masculine member of it was sober. 



JOHN WESLEY 261 

Distilleries and breweries increased apace, and Mr. Lecky 
states that, small as is the place which gin-drinking occupies 
in ESnglish history, it was probably, if all the consequences 
that flowed from it are considered, the most disastrous prac- 
tice in the eighteenth century.^ Painted boards were sus- 
pended from the door of almost every seventh house, invit- 
ing the poor to get intoxicated for a penny, and dead drunk 
for twopence ; straw whereon to lie being provided without 
charge until they had slept off the effects of the first debauch 
and were ready to start afresh. Dr. Benson, Bishop of 
Gloucester, writing from Westminster to Bishop Berkeley 
of Cloyne on February 18, 1752, says, "Your lordship calls 
this the freest country in Europe. There is indeed freedom 
ct one kind in it ... a most unbounded licentiousness of 
all sorts ... a regard to nothing but diversion and vicious 
pleasures. . . . Our people are now become, what they 
never were before, cruel. Those accursed spirituous liquors 
which, to the shame of our Government, are so easily to be 
had, and in such quantities drunk, have changed the very 
nature of our peo^e. And they will, if continued to be 
drunk, destroy the very race of the people themselves."* 
Life and property were menaced by this waste of soul 
and substance : thugs and footpads, recruited from bagnios 
and taverns, were quick to take advantage of the unpro- 
tected condition of society. Armed with murderous weapons 
they sallied forth at dusk from their hiding places and skulked 
in dismal alleys or on the heaths, to rob wayfarers and 
travelers, beating or killing those who resisted them. The 
Strand and Covent Garden were infested by these ruffians, 
and mail coaches were liable to be held up on Hounslow 
Heath, Gad's Hill, or any other open space. Fraternities 
of criminals banded together under names which indicated 



1 **EiiglaiKl in the Eighteenth Century " ; Vol. II, p. 101. See also " Mem- 
oirs of William Hickey (1749-1775) " ; edited by Alfred Spencer. 

* W. C. 83rdDey : "England and the English in the Eighteenth Century" ; 
pp. 02-63. 



252 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

their various depredations; some were driven to theft by 
poverty, many more preferred it to work, not a few esteemed 
it a chivabous occupation. James Maclean/ the ''gentle- 
man highwayman," and others of his kidney, after they had 
lost their all in pursuit of pleasure and lust, took to the 
road with horse, mask, cutlass, and pistols. Cavaliers of 
plunder invested its sordid realities with a fictitious romance, 
and had a doggerel of their own, vended everywhere, and 
especially at the foot of the gallows, where they paid the 
penalty for their misdeeds. The adventures of Jack Shep- 
pard and Dick Turpin, who were better known to the aver- 
age Englishman than any other heroes of the hangman's 
rope, were chanted in alehouses by admiring yokels, and 
roared in drunken chorus on the streets. The criminal 
code was a ferocious and sanguinary legal instrument. Sir 
Samuel Romilly, who commands the admiration of poster- 
ity for the enlightened principles of legislative justice and 
mercy he advocated, on reviewing it, said, ''The first thing 
which strikes one is the melancholy truth that among the 
variety of actions which men are daily liable to conmiit no 
less than one hundred and sixty have been declared by Act 
of Parliament to be felonies without benefit of clergy; or 
in other words, to be worthy of instant death." Yet, un- 
deterred by this Draconian severity, crime was outrageous 
and incessant ; the jails were filled with criminals awaiting 
transportation to the penal colonies or the cart that should 
convey them to Tyburn ; the frequent public executions at 
Newgate and at the county towns were occasions for a 
junketing. Men who owed a few pounds they were unable 
to pay languished in the Fleet Prison ; women were hanged 
for petty thefts.^ All that has been affirmed here can be 

* Also spelt Maclaine, or Macleane. 

' Even Oxford students suffered the extreme penalty. Dr. Routh (born 
in 1756, died in 1855) had seen this. "What, Sir, do you teU me. Sir, 
that you never heard of Gownman*s Gallows? Why, I tell you. Sir, that 
I have seen the undergraduates hanged on Gownman*s Gallows in Holywell 
— hanged, Sir, for highway robbery." A. D. Godley: "Oxford in the 
Eighteenth Century" ; p. 35. 



JOHN WESLEY 253 

rerified from the pages of Gay, Walpole, Fielding, and 
Smollett ; from the Newgate Calendar^ the colunms of the 
ipeeUdoff the TaiUry the Ledger ^ the London Evening, 
knd from the caricatures of Gillray and the pictures of 
logarth. 

The testimony of these authors, journalists, and artists 
¥as largely limited to London, because there the Coiui;, the 
jovemment, the social dictatorship, much of the wealth 
md one tenth of the population of the country were located. 
3ut in the provinces and agricultural dbtricts a similar state 
rf affairs prevailed ; indeed, Wesley regarded the rural peas- 
mtry as the most inaccessible of all the laboring classes. 
Hie l^;islator and the moralist left Hodge out of their calcu- 
ations, and there seemed to be no remedy for his senseless 
antagonism to new conditions. Corrupt and contented, 
lis daily life was a dull, sullen, insensate round, his lot a 
)itter inheritance of deprivation and practical serfdom. 
!dany of the agrarian wrongs which had enraged the insur- 
^ts of the fourteenth century were still in existence,^ and 
!ven now the backward condition of these people is a social 
iroblem aggravated by their conservatism and apathy, 
rhe more active spirits among them migrated to the 
x>wns, and settled in congested spots which bred a general 
iepravity. The miners of Cornwall, the potters of North 
Staffordshire, the colliers of South Staffordshire, Shropshire, 
Newcastle, Yorkshire, and the Forest of Dean, the stock- 
ingers of Northampton, and the weavers of Lancashire, were 
It once the most unruly and the most promising workmen 
of England. Their moral deterioration was so marked that 
respectable members of the community despised them, 
obUvious of the fact that they had been denied those pri- 
mary elements and means of knowledge which human beings 
have a right to expect and acquire. The character of these 

* As a matter of fact, the state of the Engiish peasantry was worse at this 
time (1760-1820) than during the Middle Ages, owing to the indosure of 
the ooDUDOD lands and the injustice and hardship that this wrought. 



254 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

men and women was in the main shaped by the circwnstances 
in which they were placed and the laws by which they were 
governed. When these changed they changed, and notwith- 
standing their faults and profligacies they were at all times 
vital and responsive. Physical standards of manhood 
inured them to the hardships of the coalpit and the forge. 
The wake and the fair were the occasions for their dissipa- 
tion, affording them relief after exhausting labors which 
humiliated the body and apparently canceled the last traces 
of humanity in the soul. Employers, enriched by their 
exertions, demanded from them an unremitting toil which 
benumbed their intellectual life and flung them back into 
paganism. Anything which could uplift them was either 
forgotten or scouted ; when released from work they were 
left at the mercy of their animal instincts, the reckless indul- 
gence of which, as their only means of recreation, made them 
thenceforth impatient of moral restraint. The heartlessness 
and avarice of the masters and the crushing slavery of the 
workers were a monstrous contradiction of New Testament 
teaching in a nominally Christian land. The larger part of 
the inhabitants of the mining and manufacturing districts 
were without hope, because they were without God.^ The 
few lived at the expense of the many. Pay day was preceded 
by semi-starvation and followed by a saturnalia. The agents 
and managers of the pits and factories were not infrequently 
owners or lessees of adjoining taverns where they practically 
confiscated the hard-earned pittance of the workmen, who 
must perforce spend it there or suffer for their abstinence. 
Dog-fighting, cock-fighting, pigeon-homing, and bouts of 
fisticuffs were interspersed with horse-racing and bull-baiting. 
Almost any place that could muster a sufficiently profitable 
crowd to witness the latter spectacle provided acconunoda- 
tion for it, and one of the squares of the city of Birmingham 

^ Notwithstanding the increase in population of manufacturing oentera, 
few new parishes had been created. The State Church was so inflexible 
that it was difficult to adapt it to these growing needs. 



JOHN WESLEY 255 

still retains the name of the Bull Ring. The Weekly Journal 
for June 9, 1716^ advertised that a bear-baiting to the death, 
with bull-baiting in addition, would begin at 3 o'clock in 
the afternoon, as the sport promised to be lengthy ; a wild 
bull was also to be released with fireworks all over its body. 
Nameless torturings and mutilations were necessary in order 
to attract the largest gatherings. Sometimes, to the huge 
relish of on-lookers, a cat was tied to the bull's tail ; and the 
ddight of the mob knew no bounds when an unfortunate 
wight was tossed by the frantic beast. 

A well known resort of those who matched game cocks 
armed with steel spurs, was found in Bird Cage Walk, imder 
the shadow of Westminster Abbey. It was here that 
Hogarth sketched the outline for his picture "The Cockpit," 
painted in 1759, although he might have obtained material 
anywhere, since cock-pits were conunon, even at the public 
schook, and patronized by all classes. Some mains lasted 
three days, and not less than two or three hundred birds 
were killed. The church bells had been known to ring 
a merry peal when town or coimty secured the coveted 
prize. The names of famous pugilists were household 
words : their portraits were found in the gun-rooms of the 
wealthy, the students' haunts at the Universities, and on 
the walls of the coaching hostelries and taverns. Matches 
were arranged by the nobility and gentry, who presented 
bdts bestudded with gold to the successful combatants. 
Even royalty did not disdain the prize ring when some first- 
rate exponent of "the manly art of self defense" occupied 
the arena, and it is on record that the House of Conunons 
adjourned on February 27, 1770, to attend a contest at Car- 
lisle House in Soho. The gilded youth of Piccadilly and PaH 
Mall aspired to fistic honors, and lent their countenance to 
any likely lad for the companionship. Men, and sometimes 
women, delirious with drink and deviltry, circled around the 
half-naked pugilists, urging them forward and betting 
excitedly on the outcome. Cotnment on such despotisms 



256 THREB RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of fleshly lust is unnecessary: suffice it to say that they 
further enchained the hapless masses which the rise of indus- 
trialism in towns and cities had already brought under its 
dominion. The people, who delved into every other abyss 
before they reached that of the grave, literally perished for 
lack of knowledge. 

Yet any survey of eighteenth century England from the 
ethical standpoint should not fail to emphasize the good 
qualities which lay dormant beneath such riot and confu- 
sion. Because some annalists have n^ected to do this, 
their accounts, while true as to facts, are misleading in im- 
port. He would be an imsdentific hydrographer who should 
describe the ocean in nothing more than terms of its surface 
calms, its currents, its storms, and tempests. Beneath these 
lie silent depths, the reservoirs of its life and power, in whidi 
are contained the remnants of past ages and all those forms 
of recurring sanitatiop and renewed existence that help to 
preserve the habitable globe. The illustration applies to 
humanity in any period, and especially in such an age as 
Wesley's, which, apparently so impotent, in reality had a 
decided capacity for regeneration. There has always been 
virtue enough in the world when there has been sufficient 
religious earnestness to call it forth, and always religious 
earnestness enough when there were strong convictions to 
arouse it. Individual and social conduct may be reprobate 
when acting under the governance of swiftly succeeding 
passions of the baser sort, but it still has to reckon with 
those fundamental laws of soul and conscience and with 
those necessities of character upon which the making of 
Christian civilization depends. The impressionist can find 
abundant social phenomena in the days of the Greorges to 
justify pessimistic conclusions, but he should correct his 
observations by extending them to the eras that went be- 
fore and came after. The very wickedness of the period 
furnished opportunities for the evangelist and the reformer. 
Faith had the last word, and during the dreary interval 



JOHN WESLEY 257 

the few who held fast the beginning of their confidence 
without wavering had the consolation that 

"Power is with us in the ni^t 
Which makes the darkneas and the light, 
And dwdb not in the light alone." 

Past and future had large interests at stake in the eighteenth 
century: and where such interests are found their rights 
and claims must eventually be asserted. More powerful 
than all else was the unchanging truth that one Image is 
indelibly engraven on the mind of Christendom : the Christ 
who reveals the Father in all times and to all His children 
was still present with His scattered flock. Those who felt 
the inward strivings of divine monition still heard His voice 
and followed Him. Wherever any resemblance to the great 
Original was perceptible in ideals of charity and deeds of 
sacrifice, there the most lawless were* subdued and paid a 
becoming reverence. The Spirit of the Eternal brooded 
then, as He ever does, over the social abyss, to dispel its 
apathy and illuminate its gloom. Merchants, miners, and 
artisans were mysteriously prepared by His offices to receive 
theinessage and mission of Whitefield and Wesley. After 
the long dearth of nearly a hundred years their preaching 
was as grateful to these hearers as the return of spring. 
Amidst every facility that could be given to treacherous 
and ignoble traits, and to leaders in State or Church who 
seldom manifested any moral apprehension or spiritual 
desire, the revival of religion was bom from above, to 
strengthen the sinews and the heart of England. It re- 
kindled, as already observed, her consciousness of God, and 
prevented her from political and social revolution. The 
first result was a primal and an unmixed blessing, the 
second was by no means without qualifications, — although, 
in view of the enormities of the French uprising, which yet 
rendered signal service in shattering the corrupt traditions 
of the century and in punishing its luxury, frivoUty, and 



258 THRBE RBUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

oppression, it was perhaps salutary for Europe that England 
should have maintained her ancient constitutional polity. 
When in the rush of these fearful events the first Napoleon 
climbed to power, and, to quote Lord Rosebery, "his 
genius had enlarged indefinitely the scope of human con- 
ception and possibility," it was the resilient strength of 
the United Kingdom which clashed with his boundless 
ambition. Aided by the reaction of his stupendous gifts, 
she defeated the final efforts of the conqueror who had 
carried the faculties of war and administration to their far- 
thest point and held a continent in awe. Few severer tests 
could be imposed on any people than those which Britons 
then met and satisfied. The outcome goes beyond the period 
with which we are directly concerned, but its causes belong 
there. Certainly the statesmanship of Pitt and Biu'ke, 
Clive's conquest of India, the campaigns of Moore and 
Wellington, and the naval victories of Hood and Nelson, 
regained in the East the prestige which had been lost in the 
West, and Great Britain never stood so high in the councils 
of the world as after Waterloo. That the Evangelical Re- 
vival was one of the chief factors in evoking and conserving 
the solidarity and discipline of the forces thus engaged can- 
not be seriously gainsaid; and, although domestic reforms 
were too long postponed, eventually they could not be re- 
strained. The same trustworthy reserves of character which 
had furnished Wesleyanism with its constituencies, defended 
the Homeland from invasion, and extended the boundaries 
of the Empire, also helped to secure the social advantages 
which have never ceased to accrue to English democracy. 



CHAPTER Vn 
(X)NFLICT AND VICTORY 



260 



Let not that image f ade. 
Ever, O God 1 from out the minds of men, 
Of him. Thy messenger and stainless imest. 
In a brute, sodden, and unfaithful time. 
Early and late, o'er land and sea, on-driven ; 
In youth, in eager manhood, age eztrane —: 
Driven on forever, back and forth the worid. 
By that divine, onmipotent desire. 

RiCHABD Watbon Gildbb: Ode to Weale^. 



200 



CHAPTER Vn 

CONFUCr AND VICTORY 

Political development of Eng^d in the eighteenth oentuiy — Liter- 
ature ol the period — Increasing prosperity of the country — English 
rdigious thou^t rationalistic in tone — Adherence to Locke — Con- 
flict between orthodoxy and deism — Loss of qurituality in the Church 
caused by undue insistence on rationalizing — Clergy of the Estab- 
lishment not entirely to blame — Their poverty — Decadence of Dis- 
sent — Spiritual awakenings in En^and and Scotland prior to Wesley 
— Wealejr's visit to Hermhut — Christian David — Warburton and 
Wesley — Greorge Whitefield — His fidd preaching — Wesley joins 
Whitdfield — John Nelson's description of Wesley's labors — Emotional 
outbursts consequent on Wesley's preaching — Clerical opponents-— 
Bishops Gibson, Lavington, and Warburton — Wesley's relation to 
the Establishment — Popular outbreaks against the Methodists. 



The British dominions expanded rapidly during Wesley's 
lifetime, their growth being due to the colonizing and com- 
mercial activities of Englishmen and also to their numerous 
conflicts with France. Sixty-four of the one-hundred and 
twenty-six years between the reigns of James 11 and Greorge 
III were spent in a series of wars, the longest of which 
lasted twelve and the shortest seven years, their general 
result being that Britain became the mother of free common- 
wealths in the West and at the Antipodes, whose inhabitants 
shared with her a common language and law. The revolt 
of the American Colonists in 1776 showed that communi- 
ties derived from the parental stock could not be held to 
their aUegiance when unwise legislation offended their love 
of freedom, and least of all by the threat and employment 

261 



262 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of physical force. The outcome ensured the elimination 
from British policy of those structural defects that had re- 
sulted in the dissolution of previous empires, consisting of 
alien nationalities mechanically compressed into a superficial 
unity. The triumph of Washington and his fellow-patriots 
was an impressive lesson in the rights of self-government 
which English statesmen have not forgotten, and it was not 
less instructive for the founders of the Republic The world 
had never known what they proposed to establish, an 
enlightened and popular authority intended to operate on 
a continental scale. Hitherto republican institutions had 
existed only in cities and compact provinces such as the 
Italian municipalities and the Swiss Confederacy; even 
ancient Rome failed in her efforts to realize the mean be- 
tween anarchy and despotism. Hence, from the beginning 
the American experiment was viewed with disfavor by 
European rulers whose interests were imperiled by its grow- 
ing success, and with anxiety by publicists who felt a 
sincere distrust of democracy. That it succeeded is a 
tribute to the respect for precedent and for law which 
animated its leaders. 

While Britons arose every morning to hear of new victo- 
ries on land or sea, they took pains to push the business 
ventures that provided funds for the costly military proj- 
ects of the government, and left a handsome surplus to 
their capital account. Financial interests were carefully 
fostered by Sir Robert Walpole, who was brought to the 
front rank of politics in 1721 by the panic that followed the 
collapse of the South Sea Bubble and involved several 
ministers of State. He had warned the country against the 
scheme, and it was to him that the English people looked for 
guidance and recovery when disaster overtook them. Wal- 
pole sprang from the country gentry whose vices he shared 
without their stupidities. He owed his long continuance in 
oflSce to a variety of causes, but chiefly to his predominance 
as a man of affairs when men of affairs were few in the House 



JOHN WE8LET 263 

of Commons* More trustworthy than the gifted but treach- 
erous St. John^ whom he succeeded, Walpole saw what 
even Stanhope had failed to see: that the masses were 
not prepared to participate in affairs of government, which, 
as yet, must be reserved for the upper classes. His dil- 
atory tactics and pacific temperament staved off the 
wars for which the nation clamored, while he devoted his 
wise and useful talents to its material prosperity. In no 
sense a scholar, a courtier, or a wit, Walpole was never- 
theless a statesman of firm temper and unfailing good 
humor; sane, self-contained, and shrewd in practical con- 
cerns. These gifts enabled him to impose his wiU on the 
Cabinet, and for twenty years he was the virtual head of the 
State, the first of a series of Prime Ministers who have 
gradually limited the prerogatives of the Crown and estab- 
lished the party system which obtains in England. Somers 
and Montague, Harley and Bolingbroke, were foremost 
members of administrations which had no premier : Walpole, 
on the other hand, inaugurated the slow and silent change 
by which the English constitution was transformed from an 
hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary regulative agency 
into a parliamentary government with an hereditary regu- 
lative agency. He was accused of wholesale bribery and 
oomiption, but a careful scrutiny of his conduct does 
not altogether sustain the charges nor justify the reproach 
that has blackened his reputation. His successor, Henry 
Pelham, employed methods which Walpole disdained to use, 
and Pelham's brother, the Duke of Newcastle, who suc- 
ceeded him, had lower standards of public honesty than 
either of his immediate predecessors. The wars with France 
virtually ended Newcastle's ministry, and then emerged the 
elder Pitt, Lord Chatham, whose lofty appeal to the patriot- 
ism of his countrymen enthralled England and marked 
the beginning of a new era in her affairs. With too much 
dignity of character to care for the emoluments of office, 

1 Elevated to the peerage in 1712 as Viaoount Bolingbroke. 



264 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Pitt governed by the force of his tremendous personality 
and his splendid example rather than by political sagacity. 
His commanding countenance and bearing indicated the 
bom ruler of men. He was filled with ideak and hopes 
which, though they could not always be realized, stamped 
him as something apart from the courtiers and placemen 
by whom he was surrounded. His chronic and abysmal 
melancholy deepened this impression on those who knew 
him, and the tragic scene of his last protest against the 
policy of George the Third convinced the nation that its 
true greatness had been safest in the keeping of the dying 
hero who, ''wounded sore, 'sank foiled,' but fighting ever- 
more." The career of his son, ''the heaven-bom minister 
of State," was made famous by his resistance of Napoleon 
I and his lifelong duel with his great adversary, Charles 
James Fox. Above all other statesmen of the period in 
his eloquent and profound exposition of constitutional ques- 
tions stood Edmund Burke, the illustrious orator whose 
hatred of the excesses of the French Revolution prompted 
those "apocalyptic ravings" which, while they deflected 
his genius from its true objects, added to his renown.^ 
The endless intrigues and controversies of the century 
were not conducive to the growth of domestic reform, yet 
they were interpenetrated with larger, better public aspira- 
tions for which the efforts of the more enlightened Whigs and 
Radical partisans were chiefly responsible. But aristocratic 
interests were then very powerful : borough-mongering was 
everywhere accepted, ecclesiastical monopolies were abun- 
dant, and equal and speedy justice in ordinary matters was 

^ In his Lectures on LUeraiure, Schlegel says : *' If we are to praise a man 
in proportion to his usefulness, I am persuaded that no task can be more 
difficult than that of doing justice to Burke. This man has been to his own 
country and to all Europe — in a very particular manner to Germany — a 
new light of political wisdom and experience. He corrected his age when it 
was at the height of its revolutionary frensy ; and without maintaining any 
system of philosophy, he seems to have seen farther into the true nature of 
society and to have more clearly comprehended the effect of religion in con- 
necting individual security with national welfare, than any philosopher or 
any system of philosophy of any preceding age." 



JOHN WE8LET 265 

difficult to obtun. The nation's greatest need, however, 
was not a social readjustment, nor an educational program, 
so much as a spiritual regeneration. Many perceived and 
de^red this, but the means they employed were wholly 
inadequate. They had forgotten that man is an emotional 
being, and appealed solely to his reason, treating any display 
of feeling as folly, and branding it with the opprobrious name 
of enthusiasm, a term which moved into an entirely new 
atmosphere after the Evangelical Revival, passing from 
contempt to honor. The preaching of Whitefield and the 
Wesleys, which was mainly directed to the individual heart 
and conscience, supplied their clamant necessities and gave 
to numberless Englishmen a vigorous social coherence 
through a conunon religious experience. Wesley's contribu- 
tion was a powerful organization which, when once es- 
tablished, did not always follow the course of its author, 
but adapted itself to the exigencies of unforeseen circum- 
stances. 

Movements in literature corresponded with those of 
ethics and religion. They sprang into being from a soil 
not upturned by any violent convulsion, but in which an 
irrepressible vitality had been secretly at work. From the 
age of Milton to that of Wesley, Puritanism had been ban- 
ished from the superficial life of the world. ''Yet, Bunyan 
had dreamt his dream, and visualized forever his imaginings ; 
Addison had reconciled literature with the earnest purposes 
of human existence; Defoe had grasped the concrete sub- 
stance of things and breathed truth into fiction." ^ When 
deism entered the field it infected with its cold and im- 
^rmpathetic outlook the school of which Alexander Pope 
was the acknowledged master. The new birth of Puritan- 
ism and the resurrection of emotion reacted against this, 
and concurred in giving rise to the romanticism of Bums 
and Scott. They demonstrated that the spirit of man 
demanded emancipation from a one-sided intellectualism, 

1 "The Cambridce History of EngUsh Literature" ; Vol. X, pp. 1-2. 



266 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

• 

and Wordsworth afterwards enforced the demand by 
prompting that return to nature of which Rousseau's 
writings were so poor an expression. These underlying 
principles are merely mentioned here, but they should be 
taken into serious account in any attempt to appraise and 
interpret the literary output of the century, which b^an 
with Pope, but was really fathered by Dryden. 

The work of the high priest of pseudo-classicism, thor- 
oughly imbued as it was with the spirit of his art, furnished 
current speech with many of its quotable phrases. The 
"Rape of the Lock" has been termed the most brilliant 
occasional poem in the language, and as a rule Pope's verse 
reached the height of polished perfection. When its faultless 
monotony began to weary the ear of a more earnest genera- 
tion, Robert Bums appeared, and heralded another epoch for 
humanity in his spontaneous song. He was so completely 
the greatest of Scottish poets that no other comes into the 
reckoning. Sir Walter Scott's genius was more eclectic, but 
in the essential elements and spirit of the ballad Bums is still 
unsurpassed. He used the narrow cranny of a rustic dialect 
to pour out a lyric so unaffected, so compassionate, so clear, 
and so appropriate, that it rejuvenated his nation. Be- 
ginning as the bard of his shire, he became the poet of 
Scotland, and ended as the singer of love, nature, patriot- 
ism, friendship, and courage for the English-speaking race. 
Thomas Gray and William Collins strove to revive the 
designs of Greece, both in the fullness and maturity of their 
style: Gray's "Elegy" remains, as Lord Morley has said, 
"an eternal delight and solace for the hearts of wearied 
men," and had Collins lived, he might have rivaled Keats. 
Oliver Groldsmith vocalized the new feeling for man and 
nature in his "Traveller" (1764) and the "Deserted Village" 
(1770). The merits of the humble and obscure, the charms 
of pastoral environment and the blessings of the religious 
life were expressed in the works of Cowper, which mark the 
second phase of poetry in the eighteenth century. Li 1782, 



JOHN WE8LET 267 

when past his fiftieth year, he gave forth from a life of sad 
seclusion his first volume, and three years later ''The Task 
and Other Poems'' was published. The strong sense, good 
morals, domestic piety, and love of rural scenery expressed 
in them revealed possibilities in poetry which many who 
worshiped Pope had not suspected. 

In other branches of literature influential writers some- 
times forgot that works to be enduring must be elevated 
above contemporary standards and interests. The unscru- 
pulous partisan whose reputation was based upon contro- 
versial skill paid little regard to the literary conscience, his 
principal aim being the proving of his case wholly right and 
that of his antagonist wholly wrong. Philosophers who hesi- 
tated because tiiey held more comprehensive and balanced 
views were far less acceptable to the popular taste than es- 
sayists and pamphleteers who settled vexatious questions 
with dogmatic assurance, and carried their opinions on re- 
ligion, ethics, or politics to the last extreme. The century 
was impatient of the twilight zone in these discussions ; it 
welcomed the man who was entirely positive, clear, and 
unhampered by misgivings. Jacobites and Hanoverians, 
Whigs and Tories, Romans and Protestants, Churchmen 
and Dissenters, Jurors and Non-Jurors, Skeptics and Sec- 
taries stoutly contended for their respective orthodoxies, 
and denounced the rest with an intolerance ignorant of 
compromise. When Dean Swift's pen was enlisted in 
support of Harley and Bolingbroke, he at once turned 
upon his former friends Addison and Steele and abused them 
with unseemly violence, looking upon his rivals, not as 
opponents to be defeated, but as enemies to be driven out 
of public life. His amazing genius found an opening for 
its display in his pamphlet on "The Conduct of the Allies," 
which rendered one of England's most popular wars so odious 
that the people loudly demanded peace on almost any 
terms. For inventiveness, ridicule, scorn, and hate, no 
satires have surpassed ''Gulliver's Travels" and few if any 



268 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

political authors have wielded these weapons so effectively. 
In England^ Swift turned the current of feeling against the 
Whigs, and Ireland's capital still reveres his memory. 
But although some traits of his singular character were 
praiseworthy, physical disease and moral deformity united 
to vitiate his imagination, and he acquired that taste for 
loathsome ideas which defiled the workings of his powerful 
but gloomy mind. The most dreaded writer of his age, 
his vindictive passions prevented him from attaining personal 
success ; he began by attacking partisans, he ended with a 
fearful and depraved assault upon the human race, "letting 
irony blacken into savage and impious misanthropy," — 
and the darkness which finally enveloped him was fore- 
shadowed in his later books. 

Of fiction it must suffice to say that Richardson, Smollett, 
Fielding, and Sterne continued the tradition so delightfully 
begun by Defoe, and mirrored in a large and varied way the 
life of their times. The periodical essay was the creation 
of Steele and Addison: "I have brought," said the latter, 
''philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, 
to dwell in clubs and assemblies." The claim was genuine, 
and the humanity, refinement, humor, and instruction of 
the TaUer and the Spectator were widely appreciated, 
although they had little effect upon the corruption and de- 
pravity of the period. The historians Hume and Robert- 
son were largely influenced by Montesquieu and Voltaire. 
Notwithstanding that Hume's History was written from a 
prejudiced standpoint, its philosophic tone and literary qual- 
ity partly reconcile the reader to its failings as a trustworthy 
account. His "Treatise on Human Nature" proved to be 
the original impulse of the Scottish philosophy, and his 
"Political Discourses," published in 1752, announced the 
economic principles afterwards formulated into an elabo- 
rate system by Adam Smith in his "Inquiry into the 
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." Robert- 
son's "History of Charles V," while less distinguished for 



JOHN WE8LET 269 

style than Hume's work, was more careful as to facts. Ez- 
taaded comment on Gibbon's '' Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire" is superfluous: the book was suggested to him in 
1764 as he wandered among the ruins of the Eternal City ; 
since 1787 it has been one of the few works that all educated 
men and women have felt obliged to read, and " still remains 
unique for its supreme and almost epic power of moulding 
into a luckl array a bewildering multitude of details." Bos- 
well's life of Dr. Johnson, which is perhaps the best biography 
in the language, portrays with exactitude and life-like detail 
the most unpressive literary character of the century. John- 
son's moral dignity and independence of spirit, so intrepidly 
shown in his fight against poverty and patronage, was 
a patch of blue in leaden skies, and gave him a monarchical 
influence over his contemporaries. Always true to himself, 
he was more afraid of his conscience than of the world's 
judgment. R. H. Hutton has justly said, '' He towers above 
our generation because he had the courage to be what so 
few of us are — proudly independent of the opinion in the 
midst of which he lived." From the society by which he 
was surrounded, a society false to God and false to man, the 
observer turns with relief to this paladin of letters, with the 
tea-slopped vest, fuzzy wig, and shabby coat, who walked 
with elephantine motions down Fleet Street to his lodging 
or favorite tavern, muttering to himself and hitting the way- 
side posts with his cudgel. His unswerving loyalty to duty, 
which presented itself to him in the form of certain definite 
principles, was based, not only upon the general practice of 
the best of mankind, but also upon the Divine Law as laid 
down in Scripture. His "Lives of the Poets" and the "Dic- 
tionary" attest his critical gifts and his industry as a scholar. 
His table talk, as recorded by the devoted Boswell, covered 
a host of convictions, prejudices, axioms, and criticisms on 
men and events, alike expressed in vigorous and un- 
mistakable speech. It has become an inseparable part of 
literature, and is in itself a memorial of his tremendous and 



270 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

virtuous personality. An evening spent with Johnson and 
his chosen friends was an introduction to the inner drde 
of the most gifted and creative men of the English-speaking 
world: even Wesley succumbed to the attractions of the 
Literary Club^ and paused in his endless labors that he 
might enjoy a chat with the oracle of the " Cheshire Cheese." 

The period may be likened to a low-lying and arid plain 
from which ever and anon arose towering mountain peaks. 
Swift, Gibbon, Chatham, Burke, Johnson, and Wesley were 
great in the largest sense of that overworked term, and be- 
low their height was no dearth of first-class talent. Yet the 
gracious and elevating elements which make Christian society 
and conversation were lacking, and one has but to compare 
such a cleric as Swift with the Foimder of Methodism to 
perceive the gulf which separated them. Wesley's life 
spanned the century ; and he was more familiar with the 
England of his time than any other man in it. Bom in 
the reign of Queen Anne and dying in that of Greorge 
III, he saw in his old age, and regretted, the separation 
of the American colonies from the historical develoinnent 
of English-speaking men; and heard the news that the 
Parisians had guillotined Louis XVI. The first entry made 
in his Journal was dated October 14, 1735, the last, October 
24, 1790; during the interval his country's religious and 
social phenomena were perhaps as fully recorded there as 
in any contemporary volume. Written large in its pages is 
the evidence of the moral and spiritual obtuseness of the 
people and the apathy of the educated and clerical 
classes; dead weights of stupidity and indi£Perence with 
which he had to deal. No explanation of the Evangelical 
Revival can be complete unless these adverse conditions 
are taken into account ; no just estimate of the greatness of 
Wesley is possible without an appreciation of the obstacles 
he surmounted. 

The otherwise disastrous days of the Stuarts had wit- 
nessed a steadily increasing conmiercial prosperity, which. 



JOHN WESLEY 271 

although mtemipted by the French Wars, speedily revived 
after the peace of Utrecht in 1713. The value of exports 
reached their lowest point in 1705, when it fell to about 
twenty-six million dollars; ten years later it was nearly 
forty millions. In the course of the eighteenth century ex- 
tensive changes took place in agriculture, which was for 
a long time to come the leading industry. Until the reign 
of the second George, methods of tilling the soil were ex- 
tremely primitive, more than half the cultivated land 
being divided and worked on the old open-field system. 
The credit for effecting an improvement was due to 
Jethro Hill and to George the First's Secretary of State, 
Lord Townshend, who also introduced the turnip root into 
England, thereby earning for himself the nickname of 
"Turnip Townshend." The increased productiveness of 
the soil, which was at least fourfold that of Wycliffe's age, 
aided the growth of population and manufactures. Sta- 
tistics are scanty and faulty, but it is generally assumed that 
the population of England at the close of Elizabeth's reign 
did not exceed two and a half millions. By the time of 
James II, Macaulay estimated that it had reached five or five 
and a half millions. In the eighteenth century there was a 
large increase, and Professor Thorold Rogers concludes that 
in 1772 England contained about eight million inhabitants.^ 
The people enriched the waste land and drained the marshes. 
The conmions were enclosed and cultivated in order to supply 
the towns with foodstuffs. In this development, however, the 
yeomanry were sacrificed ; men of slender means could not 
afford to purchase their holdings at the enormously advanced 
prices, and for the same reason small owners were induced 
to sell. These classes either moved into the towns and 
cities, or became tenants and laborers on proprietary estates. 
The group of intellectuals, with its salons, its life of cultured 
ease, of epigram, and sententious wisdom, was apparently 
as unaware of these changes as were the coteries of fashion 

» "Six Centuries of Work and Wages" ; p. 477. 



272 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and of politics. At the very moment when England boasted 
that she had won half the world and controUed the other 
half, the once contented workers of the comitryside were 
being robbed of their farmsteads, their ancient rights, 
their economic freedom, and reduced to the most forlorn 
condition of all British toilers. 

Manufacturing enterprises were also revolutionized during 
this period. Cotton was scarcely known in England bdFore 
the eighteenth century, and when it appeared legislaticm 
was uselessly enacted to prevent its competition with the 
time- honored trade in woolen goods. But the most marked 
improvement resulted from the invention of machinery. 
Newcomen applied steam power to manufactures in 1712, 
and James Watt constructed his first steam engine in 
1765. Kay's flying shuttle, Hargreaves' spinning jenny, 
Arkwright's spinning frame, Compton's mule-jenny. Cart- 
wright's power loom, and similar inventions gave Britain 
her preeminence in textile fabrics. The basic industries, 
however, were coal mining and iron smelting, in which, until 
the latter half of the nineteenth century. Great Britain etk- 
joyed practically a monopoly. 

These important operations, with others which naturally 
resulted from them, changed the face of the country. Some 
neighborhoods lost their wild, shaggy appearance, and be- 
gan to assume the pastoral aspects whidi are their present 
charm. Others were disfigured by unsightly banks of shale 
and refuse from the mines, while the smoking chimneys 
of factories and mills polluted the atmosphere. Life in 
such localities was neither so wholesome nor so happy as 
when it had been spent on the heath and the upland. Cities 
and trade grew at the expense of flesh and blood; em- 
ployers were heedless of the physical and moral weU-being 
of their workmen. At the worst the unsanitary cottages of 
rustic hamlets were surrounded by fields and forests where 
the peasants could breathe pure air ; now they were huddled 
together without regard for health and decency. The ugly 



JOHN WE8LET 273 

stories of vice and crime already touched upon were sequences 
of these abuses. As soon as it was discovered that child 
labcMT was profitable, the greedy clutch of capital seized the 
little ones whom parents or guardians surrendered at a ten* 
der age to prolonged hours of dreary and dangerous toil. 
Enervated hordes, ill-fed, ill-dothed, without education or 
religion, swarmed in municipalities which supplanted the 
citthedral towns in conmiercial importance. Edinburgh, 
Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Liverpool, 
Manchester, and Birmingham became the centers of the 
nation, and diverted the volume of trade to the northern 
provinces* 

The dense ignorance then prevalent contributed to the 
evils attendant upon industrialism and the congestion of 
manufacturing towns. It also prompted one of the educa- 
tional movements that stand to the credit of Anglicanism. 
In 1609 Doctor Bray founded the Society for Promoting 
Christian Knowledge, which in turn established numer- 
ous schools, especially in the larger cities. Thirty years 
later Griffith Jones organized in Wales a stafiF of sdiool- 
masters who traveled throughout the Principality and taught 
adults to read the Bible. In 1775 the Kingdom could muster 
only 1193 schools with 26,920 pupils. The emergency was 
80 grave that in 1782, Robert Raikes established his first 
Sunday School at Gloucester. The idea did not originate 
with Raikes: Wesley held Sunday classes for children 
m Savannah during 1737 ; Theophilus Lindsey at Catterick 
m Yorkshire in 1769; Hannah Ball at High Wycombe in 
the same year; and Jenkin Morgan near Uandiloes in 1770. 
These schools combined secular with sacred instruction well 
on into the next century. Sudi provisions were of course 
inadequate ; there was no national educational policy until 
many years afterwards, and Wesley's reiterated insistence 
upon biowledge as well as piety was due to the fact that 
in addition to folly and vice he was confronted at every 
turn by illiteracy and superstition. 



274 THREB RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 



n 

The predominant feature of English religious thought in 
the eighteenth century was its universal acoeptance of rea- 
son as the criterion of truth. It might be strenuously con- 
tended by opposing schools that a given doctrine or miracle 
was or was not agreeable to reason, but that the issue was 
to be decided by reason was never questioned by either 
party to the dispute. The words of Bishop Gibson in his 
second Pastoral Letter, 1730, indicate the position occupied 
in common by all theol(^^ians of the period : " It is univer- 
sally acknowledged that revelation itself is to stand or fall 
by the test of reason." To the same eflFect wrote Tillotson, 
Butler, Rogers, Foster, Warburton, and other divines. 
They were agreed upon and taught the doctrines of 
Locke, the father of English Rationalism, that ''Reason 
is natural revelation, whereby the eternal Father of light, 
and fountain of all Knowledge, conmiunicates to mankind 
that portion of truth whidi he has laid within the reach of 
their natural faculties. Revelation is natural reason en- 
larged by a new set of discoveries conununicated by Grod 
inunediately, whidi reason vouches the truth of by the testi- 
mony and proof it gives that they come from God. So that 
he that takes away reason to make way for revelation, puts 
out the light of both ; and does much the same as if he 
would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to 
receive the remote light of an invisible star by a telescope." ^ 

This theory, which Dr. Loofs calls "rational supra-natural- 
ism," deduced religious belief from an intellectual process 
— just the reverse of its actual history. Primarily all 
dynamic reUgious belief issues out of religious experi- 
ence, and the necessity of coordinating that experience with 
other contents of one's mental world arises later. In 
other words, religious experience is the raw material of vital 

1 ''Essay " ; Book IV, oh. 10, sec. 4. 



JOHN WESLEY 275 

theolc^gr : ''men spake from God being moved by the Holy 
Ghost." 

The praiseworthy purpose which inspired the attempt 
of moralists and thinkers to rationalize religion was two- 
fold. First, they sought to check the growing inmiorality 
by preserving in dialectical form the principles of ethical 
and religious conduct. The problem being one of moral 
depravity rather than of theological heresy, they labored 
less in the interests of dogma than in those of virtue. Hence 
their theme was a prudential ethic, cogently enforced by 
Scriptural warrants of final rewards and punishments. While 
this rationalized morality of consequences held the field, 
dogmatic theology died out, except with a few obscure writers, 
and it was not long before Christianity, as Mark Pattison ob- 
s^ves, appeared made for nothing else but to be proved. 
Reason, first heralded as the basis of faith, gradually became 
its substitute. The mind was too busy examining and testing 
the evidences of Christianity to appropriate its life and power. 
The oifly quality in Scripture dwelt upon was its credibil- 
ity. Dr. Johnson denounced the process as ''Old Bailey 
theology," in which "the apostles were being tried once a 
week for the capital crime of forgery." It would not be 
just, however, to accept as true this undiscriminating criti- 
cism, for the religious thought of the rationalizing age had 
varying degrees of merit and fell within two distinct periods. 
In the earlier, the endeavor was to demonstrate the com- 
patibility of BibUcal revelation with reason; in the later, 
which dates from about 1750 onwards and is mainly repre- 
sented by the schools of Paley and Whately, attention was 
confined to the genuineness and authenticity of the Scrip- 
tures. Neither, of course, was religious instruction in the 
real meaning of the term, but the former did in a measure 
concern itself with vital matters of revelation, and by so 
much it was superior to the later evidential period, which 
was incessantly grinding out artificial proofs that proved 
nothing except the unreality of the whole procedure. 



276 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

A second cause for the rationalizing process was attributable 
to its conflict with the deists, who, casting aside the fetters of 
prescriptive rights, positive codes, and sdiolastic systems, 
set themselves to foUow exclusively the light of nature. 
Thomas Hobbes, more radical than Sir Francis Bacon, 
prematurely conceived a universal construction of knowledge, 
which would include society and man within its verifiable 
explanations. His daring inquiries were remarkable for 
what they suggested rath^ than for what they accom- 
plished, and their influence can be traced in many 
directions. Midway between Bacon and Locke, and in 
contact with each only at a single point, Hobbes gave a 
decided impulse to the ethical speculation which has since 
been carried on by his countrymen, and his skepticism evoked 
those intellectual tendencies which weakened authority and 
established the supremacy of reason. 

The inductive method, as taught by Bacon, and adopted 
by the Royal Society, the senior association for scientific 
researdi in the kingdom, gained ascendency over the ablest 
minds among the clergy. The six folios of Stillingfleet, who 
died Bishop of Worcester in 1699, mark the transition from 
the contention with Rome to the declaration of war against 
Locke. The debtic controversy raged during the first four 
decades of the century, and then gradually subsided. By 
the time of Bolingbroke's death in 1751 interest in the ques- 
tion was practically at an end. His executor, Mallet, pub- 
lished his works three years later, but there was very 
little demand for them. According to Boswell, Johnson 
voiced the sentiments of well-principled men when he 
said concerning Bolingbroke, ''Sir, he was a scoundrel, and 
a coward ; a scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against 
religion and morality; a coward, because he had not 
resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a 
beggarly Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death." 

The controversy was by no means the mere empty sound 
and folly of words which some have supposed ; on the con- 



JOHN WESLEY 277 

timiy, the objections which occasioned it were acutely 
fek by many who, though not always equal to sustained 
thinking, were detennined not to be imposed upon by un- 
substantiated dogma, whatever name it might assume. 
As the dispute developed, the sufficiency of natural religion 
became its pivotal issue. The deists contended that the 
inherent law of right and duty was sufficient, and so abso- 
lutely perfect that God Himself could add nothing to it. 
On the other hand, Anglican doctors maintained that nat- 
ural religion required to be supplemented by a supernat- 
ural revelation, and that neither excluded or was contrary 
to the other; indeed, both were essential, the former 
as the foundation, the latter as the superstructure, of the 
Temple of Truth. Accordingly, with M the ingenuity and 
erudition at their disposal, they strove to demonstrate the 
mutual harmony of natural and revealed religion. Chris- 
tianity was placed on a philosophical basis, and its claims 
reconciled, ostensibly at any rate, with those affirmations 
of the rational consciousness that were unanimously ao 
oepted. Their theology and philosophy were blended 
in an effort of the inteUect to become liberalized, com- 
prehensive, even latitudinarian. They wrought in the 
belief that their doctrines could be demonstrated as being 
not only products of revelation, but also a body of necessary 
truths, and apparently they were unaware that such gener- 
alizations do not seriously affect the majority, who yield to 
sentiment rather than to reason. 

The willingness of the English theologians to listen to the 
case for deism, and to meet it with the legitimate weap- 
ons of argument, stands in favorable contrast to the ob- 
scurantist attitude of Bossuet and his fellow ecclesiastics 
of the French Church, who were implacable against even the 
shadow of doubt, and strenuously asserted the authority of 
the Church, as expressed by Councils and Popes in their 
definitive agreement, in matters of faith and doctrine. The 
questions which were answered in England received no 



278 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

sufficient reply in France, where attempts made to siq;>* 
press unbelief served to propagate it, thus dignifying those 
heterodoxies which cuhmnated in the works of the En- 
cyclopedists. This resort to force instead of argument in 
dealing with opponents was typical of the methods of the 
Gallican Churdi in that age, and resulted in the calamities 
which have since befallen her^ 

The AngUcan orthodox party had every advantage that 
talent, learning, and prestige could bestow, while the deists, 
although they included Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the 
originator of the sect, Matthew Tindal, William WoUaston, 
John Toland, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Bolingbroke, 
Anthony Collins, Thomas Chubb, and Henry Dodwell, 
presented a marked disparity of resources. Sir Leslie 
Stephen refers to their volumes as ''shabby and shrivelled 
little octavos, generally anonymous, such as lurk in the 
comers of dusty shelves, and seem to be the predestined prey 
of moths." Against them were arrayed Bentley, the fore- 
most critic of the period; Locke, its greatest philosopher; 
Berkeley and Clarke, keenest of disputants; Waterland, a 
scholar of wide range ; and Butler, distinguished far above the 
rest by a largeness of outlook and a moral considerateness 
diffused over all his work — a series of formidable apologists 
bent on the destruction of deism. For them fought others, 
who stood without the Establishment, such as Leslie and 
Law among Non-Jurors, and Lardner, Foster, and Doddridge 
among Dissenters. Thj^y had little difficxJty in finding the 
vulnerable points of their adversaries, for whom the ordi- 
nary feeling was ''a combination of the odium theologicum 
with the contempt of the finished scholar for the mere dab- 
bler in letters. . . . They are but a ragged regiment, whose 
whole ammunition of learning was a trifle when compared 
with the abundant stores of a single light of orthodoxy; 
whilst in speculative ability most of them were children by 
the side of their ablest antagonists. Swift's sweeping asser- 
tion, that their literary power would hardly have attracted 



JOHN WESLEY 



279 



attention if employed upon any other topic, seems to be 
generally justified." ^ 

Yet such excellence is sometimes its own deterrent, and 
so it proved in this instance. The people at large were 
untouched by the discussion; the Church suffered because 
her altar fires burnt low ; placid insbtence upon the exter- 
nals of faith rather than upon its inward reality worked havoc 
among the clergy, whose activities were directed toward 
unprofitable and lifeless discourses which expounded a creed 
divested of all resemblance to New Testament Christianity, 
except for a tadt acknowledgment of the veracity of the 
Gospel narratives and a beUef in the dogma of the Trinity. 
The clarity and atmosphere of ascertained conviction were 
lacking in the sermons they preached, conscious that few 
believed them, scarcely beUeving what they said themselves. 
The vapid rhetoric of Blair was deemed the ideal of homiletic 
art even by those who posed as arbiters of Uterary taste 
and doctrinal correctness. As the dispute became more 
trivial and meaningless, the ministry suffered a further 
decline in zeal, influence, and integrity. It was one task, 
assuredly not unimportant, to cope with the deists' pro- 
test against tradition and with their misrepresentations 
of history; it was another, and not so easy a task, to 
withstand their criticisms of ChiUingworth's position that 
"the Bible only is the religion of Protestants"; and the 
most difficult of all, to quicken the reUgious instincts of the 
nation, which had been allowed to remain dormant lest 
they should prove troublesome. For if the deists failed in 
their leading design to assert the sufficiency of natural reli- 
gion, and their cult became a reproach even amongst those 
who were in no wise defenders of orthodoxy, the Anglicans 
and their allies made the unhappy mistake of occupying 
only the outworks of faith, while its citadel, which is the 
personal experience of the power of revealed truth, was do- 



*8ir Leslie Stephen: "English Thought in the Eighteenth Century 
Vol. I, p. S7. 



ft 



280 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

aerted. This poor strategy left them with little more than 
the creed of their antagonists, abstract and argumentative, 
and separated from all that was individual, peculiar, and 
intense. The substance of theology concerns a worid largely 
beyond the sphere accessible to human reason, and when 
they proposed to treat their inductions as equivalents for 
Christianity, they overlooked the danger that in the process 
the latter might be divested of its vital elements. 

The outcome has been succinctly summarized as follows : 
''Upon the whole, the writings of that period are service- 
able to us chiefly, as showing what can, and what cannot, 
be effected by conmion-sense thinking in theology. . . . 
If the religious history of the eij^teenth century proves 
anything it is this : Tliat good sense, the best good sense, 
when it sets to work with the materiab of human nature 
and Scripture to construct a reUgion, wm find its way to an 
ethical code, irreproachable in its contents, and based on a 
just estimate and wise observation of the facts of life, rati- 
fied by Divine sanctions in the shape of hope and fear. . . . 
This the eighteenth century did and did well. It has 
enforced the truths of natural morality with a solidity of 
argument and variety of proof which they have not received 
since the Stoical epoch, if then. But there its ability 
ended. When it came to the supernatural part of Chris- 
tianity its embarrassment began. It was forced to keep it 
as much in the background as possible, or to bolster it up 
by lame and inadequate reasonings. The philosophy of 
common sense had done its own work; it attempted more 
only to show, by its failure, that some higher organon was 
needed for the establishment of supernatural truth." * 

That common sense, by which is meant the sense men 
have in common, has its place in theology and in religion, 
few will deny. But the fatal defect of the (Jeorgian apolo- 
gists lay in their sole dependence upon it. They were also 
too much of one kind, men cast in the same mold, who, 

1 Mark Pattison : "Essays" ; Vol. II» pp. 84-86. 



JOHN WESLEY 281 

whfle representing positive and conservative opinion, were 
unanimously agreed that emotionalism was useless and 
harmful. Mediocrity in M else save what they held as 
practical wisdom was their habit; and their beliefs, while 
having a similitude of reasonableness, were at heart narrow 
and ineffectual. The inexorable march of ideas has de- 
prived their thinking of its pertinency, yet its concentration 
on the moral aspects of faith inadvertently prepared the 
way for that reaction of the religious emotions against an 
exclusively intellectual emphasb which made possible the 
Evangelical Revival. 

The gains of their victory over the deists were relatively 
meager : after the controversy had collapsed, its negative 
side came to the front, and to such effect that infidelity, 
and stiU more indifference, was conunonly avowed in polite 
circles. Christianity was looked upon as merely an amiable 
superstition, which served as a desirable safeguard of society, 
and for that reason should be maintained. In the '' Adver- 
tisement'' to his ''Analogy" Bishop Butler says: ''It is 
come I know not how, to be taken for granted, by many 
persons, that Christianity is not so mudi as a subject of 
inquiry; but that it is, now at length, discovered to be 
fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if nothing re- 
mained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and 
ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals for its having so long 
interrupted the pleasures of the world." And in his charge 
to the clergy of the diocese of Durham, delivered in 1751, 
speaking of the general decay of religion in the nation, he 
declares that the saddest feature of tiie age "is an avowed 
scorn of religion in some and a growing disregard of it in 
the generality." Testimony of a like kind is furnished 
by works of other writers. Butler's "Three Sermons on 
Human Nature," while profound and illuminating, them- 
selves reveal the chief defects of the moral philosophy he 
expounded. Even the "Analogy" confined itself to the pro- 
vincial issues of the day, being in this respect greatly inferior 



282 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

to Pascal's "Pensfees," which was concerned with specula- 
tions upon the higher and more universal reason. But its 
chief weakness consisted in reducing religion to a Probabit 
ism unable to control human nature in behalf of spiritual 
development. Nor could Butler's style do justice to the 
native force of his metaphysic: "so far from having the 
pleasures of eloquence, it had not even the comfort of 
perspicuity." The absence of any freedom for flight into 
the upper regions of revelation prompted Tholuck's criti- 
cism : " we weary of a long journey on foot, especially through 
deep sand." That is it in a word: the theology of the 
eighteenth century had no wings. 

The studied moderation of Butler's argument was adopted 
by the clergy, and literature likewise felt the detriment of 
submission to an undue subjectivism. The marked dif- 
ference between the poetry of Dryden and that of Pope, or 
the prose of Swift and that of Addison, was analogous to the 
contrast between the pulpit orators of the periods they 
severally represented. The persistent needs of human 
nature found no i^lief in the presentation of an atten- 
uated Gospel powerless to make new conquests, or appease 
the spiritual hunger of men, or kindle that enthusiasm 
which was the bugbear of the period. Not content with 
separating themselves from the slightest suspicion of this 
offense, the clergy were equally eager to protect the good 
name of the apostles from its defilement. The substitu- 
tion of an ethical for a spiritual basis of religion ended, as it 
must always end, in languor and humiliation; for religion 
is devitalized the moment it is lowered to the position of 
a mere purveyor of motive to morality. Accommodated 
beliefs and articles were reiterated and argued until they 
became obscure, justifying the satirical remark of Collins, 
that nobody doubted the existence of Deity until the Boyle 
lectures had undertaken to prove it. 

The seriousness of the proWem was aggravated by the gen- 
eral social degeneracy, though this eventually furnished some 



JOHN WESLEY 283 

means for its solution. The seething, festering masses of 
unleavened himtianity had no native aversion to goodness; 
indeed at bottom they were incurably religious, and when the 
surfeit of sin began to be felt they craved a purer life. But 
skepticism had nothing to offer them, and the ministry was 
little better off : that which it did offer was not bread, and 
the parochial system throughout England was ossified. The 
energy of the clergy was further dissipated by internal strife 
and by quarrels with rival sects, socially obscure but safe- 
guarded in their freedom by the Act of Toleration. Chief 
among the controversies within the Church were the non- 
juror schism and the dispute over the doctrine of "divine 
right." * During the reigns of the first two Georges, these 
causes of dissension, together with the system of political 
appointments to the episcopacy, seriously impaired the 
harmony and lowered the doctrinal standards and religious 
ideals of the Establishment. 

Any indictment of the clergy must be qualified by the fact 
that thousands of livings were without parsonages and their 
incomes utterly insufficient for the maintenance of the self- 
respect, let alone the comfort, of the incumbents. Bishop 
Burnet states in hb History that after Queen Anne's Bounty 
had somewhat mitigated the poverty of the lesser clergy, there 
were stiU hundreds of curacies with an income of less than 
twenty pounds, and thousands with less than fifty pounds. 
It is not surprising that non-residence became the rule or 
that Church fabrics fell into decay. On the other hand, it 
can be charged against bishops and deans that they made 
fortunes, and used their extensive patronage for private 
purposes. The gulf between the rich and the poor clerics 
was broad and deep ; indeed, the rich frequently plundered 
the Church while the poor suffered the consequences. The 



1 This doctrine was the one upon which the Anglican Church was agreed 
and which it emphasised. It owed its origin to the nationalism which pre- 
vafled at the Reformation, and was intended to offset the papal daim to 
supremacy. 



284 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

chosen few who moved in the upper ranks of society reserved 
their attention for the affluent, and the dull round of parish 
duty was left to their subordinates. 

Indolent and worldly ministers were found within and 
without the Establishment, more anxious to be deemed 
respectable and rational than to become effective servants 
of the Grospel to their parishioners. Even the zeal of the 
more excellent was tempered by their indulgence in mate- 
rial pleasures, which Doddridge attempted to justify because 
of the benefit to trade. Yet care must be taken not to make 
the condemnation too sweeping. The sacred memories of sudi 
shepherds of the flock as Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, the 
judicious Hooker, George Herbert of Bemerton, Bishop Vfjir 
son, Isaac Watts, and Nathaniel Lardner were treasured in 
rectories and manses throughout the land. It remains true, 
however, after all extenuations and exceptions, that spiritual 
as well as material destitution marked the ministry at large. 
The parson, with frayed cassock and seedy appearance, 
was too often the lickspittle of the local magnate, content 
to purchase favor by enduring his insults and obscenities. 
His education and manners in most instances were no more 
than might be expected in an age so sordid that it cut off 
the supplies necessary for trained spiritual overseers. Some 
of these clergymen lived godly and useful lives, and many 
others might have done so had they not been reduced to prac- 
tical vagabondage. Hired to read prayers in the houses of 
the great at ten shillings a month, or appointed as private 
chaplain to some noble family where the master treated him 
as a menial and the servants despised him as a parasite, the 
cleric without a benefice was jibed at as a "mess-John," a 
"Levite," and a "trencherman"; placed below the salt at 
table, compelled to listen with feigned or real enjoyment 
to many a bibulous jest, and dismissed when the pastries 
appeared. Sometimes he was married off to a woman of 
no social standing or even of damaged reputation. Treated 
thus by patrons and parishioners, how could the unfortunate 



JOHN WESLEY 285 

man be otherwise than craven or cunning, as circumstances 
seemed to demand? Nor was it entirely to his discredit 
that he should have sought to mend his fortunes by dubious 
courses, and assuredly the ecclesiastics who enjoyed the 
stipends of pluralities were not the men to remonstrate. 
The bishops appointed by the Hanoverian Court were 
first considered with regard, not to their fitness, but to 
their political (sympathies. The cautious worldliness which 
diaracteriased tibese prelates did not prevent grave scan- 
dals. Some were enthroned by proxy ; others never visited 
their sees; distant parts of the dioceses were left without 
supervision, and in not a few instances without ministrar 
tioDs of any kind. Generally speaking, the clergy were not 
in any sense deq)ly religious, and to this fact is primarily 
due the tradition of shame which clings to the Church of the 
ei^teenth century. 

Puritanism had f iJlen from its high estate long before 
that period and was in the most abject years of its 
deterioration. The glories of such patriots, scholars, and 
saints as Hampden, Pym, Owen, and Baxter had faded, 
and the hard angularity of mind of the Dissenters 
]n^udiced the nation against them. Their participation 
in political embroilments, with the subsequent persecutions 
and deprivations inflicted upon them, had undermined their 
influence and destroyed the higher aims which once ani- 
mated Nonconformity. Chapeb and conventicles were 
frequented by adherents who prided themselves on their 
independency, but whose doctrines had lost their appeal. 
The pluralist, the controversialist, the man-pleasing, place- 
hunting prelate, the priest of disgraceful life, and the sec- 
tarian minister who moodily ruminated on his social sub- 
jection or preached Socinianism, effectually deprived the 
nation of religious instruction and guidance. 

Passion for work, perseverance, self-sacrifice, tranquil 
fidelity, magnanimity, devotion to the future, were not 
unknown, but the Nonconformist divine yielded to 



286 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the conditions described, which also held the parson of 
the Established Church in bondage, and forced eadi 
to obey the conventional rule. The inertia and blind- 
ness of both underlay and accentuated the grievous moral 
situation. National conduct can be reformed in one 
way only: by the recovery of the consciousness of the 
Eternal in a renewed sense of those relations between God 
and man which make the creature truly devout; and any 
nation which is not in this meaning a Church will not long 
remain a State. Herein lay the essential infirmity of the 
English people : they had forgotten (xod ; and, because they 
had forgotten God, they fearfully forgot themselves. What 
freedom they had, subserved the riotous pleasures and pur- 
suits upon which the best and wisest among them looked with 
grave apprehension. The appreciation of the duties and 
responsibilities of moral beings, and the ambition to domestic 
cate the virtues and to purify society with the principles of 
Christianity, had alike vanished. Religion, in its truest 
significance, as the life of God in the soul of man, the saving 
element in creeds and sects, the source of evangelizing 
aggressiveness and of what Mrs. Humphry Ward calls "a 
sense of social compunction," was little known by the men 
and women of the eighteenth century. Because of this 
fatal ignorance the intellectual classes became the prey of 
infidelity; the clerical, of indifiference ; the profane, of 
blasphemy and Ucense; and the masses, of tiupitude and 
lawlessness. 

in 

This, then, was the nation which confronted Wesley with 
its ahnost msuperable tyranny of wrong thmking and wrong 
doing. Yet such a state could not persist forever among a 
people whose past had been deeply ingrained with Christian 
ideas and whose territories were covered with symbols of 
religious devotion. In his "Vision of Saints," Lewis Morris 



JOHN WESLEY 287 

sees the ''apostolic fonn'^ of Wesley ''blessing our land/' 
and speaks of his having 

"Relit the ezpiiing fire, which sloth and sense 
And the sad world's unfaith had well-nigh quenched 
And left in ashes." 

The flame then kindled by the regenerate soul of this master 
qpirit rose high and spread far. But before he began his 
work other men had prepared the way for it. Reference 
has been made to the writings of Liaw and also to the 
Moravian teachings that led Wesley into Christian life 
and peace. Prior to these, however, was the establish- 
ment in the Anglican Chiu'ch of religious societies which 
had an organic connection with earlier German pietism, and 
anticipated the class meeting which afterwards became the 
nucleus of Methodism. These associations were founded 
l^ Dr. Smithies of St. Giles' Chiu-ch, Cripplegate, and Dr. 
Homeck, Lutheran minister at the Savoy Chapel; their 
IMTincipal features being a close connection with the State 
Church and a pronounced evangelistic tendency. When 
they declined in usefulness other kindred organizations arose, 
less restricted in their aims, which in turn gave birth, in 1670, 
to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign 
Parts, and, in 1698, to the Society for Promoting Christian 
Knowledge. 

Such signs and tokens were by no means limited to Eng- 
land. In Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1729, the very 
year the Oxford Methodists formed the Holy Club, a 
revival which profoundly affected the entire Colony took 
place under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, who de- 
dared, "The new Jerusalem had begun to come down 
from heaven, and perhaps never were more prelibations of 
heaven's glory given." Simultaneously the provinces of 
Wales felt a similar impulse, where Howel Harris was, to 
quote Whitefield, "a burning and shining light, a barrier 
against profanity and inunorality, and an indefatigable 



288 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

promoter of the Gospel of Christ/^ Scotland also exp^ 
rienced an awakening of which the Reverend James Robe 
of Ejlsyth published an accomit in 1742, telling of its 
spread to many cities and towns of the northern kingdom. 
Thus in places so far apart as Grermany and New England, 
and under pastors and evangelists as widely separated in 
theology and method as Edwards, Harris, and Zinzendorf, 
thousands of penitents received blessing, and their lives bore 
witness to the genuineness of the change. 

Almost inmiediately after his conversion Wesley visited 
the Moravian settlement at Hermhut, in order that by fur- 
ther conversation with "those holy men he might establish 
his soul." On his way thither he was received at Marien- 
bom by Count Zinzendorf. It would appear that each was 
disappointed in the other, and Wesley proceeded on July 19, 
1738, to Hermhut, where he remained for three weeks, atr 
tending the services of the Brethren, and conversing with 
the teachers and elders upon their doctrines and discipline. 
He conceived a warm affection for them, and especially fcnr 
that remarkable saiht. Christian David, who deserves a 
more adequate remembrance. An unlettered man, he was 
twenty years of age before he saw a Bible ; yet at twenty- 
seven he had become a prominent preacher among his 
countrymen, afterwards establishing the first missions in 
Greenland, and making excursions into Holland, Denmark, 
and England. Wesley^ scholar and priest as he was, sat 
at his feet, and wrote to his brother Samuel, "God has 
given me at length the desire of my heart. I am with a 
church whose conversation is in heaven; in whom is the 
mind that was in Christ, and who so walk as He walked. . . . 
Oh how high and holy a thing Christianity is! and how 
widely distinct from that — I know not what — which is so 
called, though it neither purifies the heart, nor renews the 
life, after the image of our blessed Redeemer!" Yet a 
hint of his subsequent rejection of some articles of the Morar 
vian teaching was conveyed in the courteous letter of thanks 



JOHN WESLEY 289 

addreaaed to Zinzendorf and dated from London on Sep- 
tember 16, in which he says: ''The love and zeal of our 
brethren in Holland and Grermany, particularly at Hermhut, 
have stirred up many among us, who will not be comforted 
till they also partake of the great and precious promises. I 
hope to see them at least once more, were it only to speak 
freely on a few things which I did not approve, perhaps be- 
cause I did not understand them." ^ What those things 
were can be surmised from the contents of a second letter, 
which was not dispatched, complaining of their adulation of 
the Count and of their conununion; of their reserve and 
dissimulation; in brief, of those failings which are more 
or less incident to a life of subjective piety unrelated to 
human affairs. 

Wesley now rejoined Charles in labors among the social 
wreckage of the metropolis, preaching as often as po^ 
sible, and ministering to the prisoners in the jails. The 
brothers also obtained an interview with Dr. Gibson, the 
Bishop of London, that they might explain their methods 
and secure his approval. This prelate, who was highly re- 
spected for tact and prudence, failed to appreciate the oppor- 
tunity he now had to render a lasting service both to the 
cause of religion and to his Church. The Anglican epis- 
copacy has often shown an ineptitude for wise and cour- 
ageous action at similar crises, and in this respect com- 
pares unfavorably with the more alert hierarchy of Rome. 
The Wesleys were in no sense aliens or rebels; in fact 
both were stricter AngUcans than the bishop himself, 
whose timid low churchmanship appeared in his answer 
to their question, "Are the Societies conventicles?" "I 
think not," he replied; "however, you can read the acts 
and laws as well as I, — I determine nothing," — an un- 
happy conclusion applicable to himself and his brethren in 
more senses than one. 

Others, though equally helpless, were not so acquiescent 

« R. Southey : "life of Wesley" ; pp. 104-106. 



290 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

as Gibson. The doughty Warburton, afterwards Bishop of 
Gloucester, that ''knock-kneed giant'' of debate who had 
distinguished himself in the deistic controvert as a belli- 
cose cleric of whom it may be said 

"That twice he routed all his foes 
And twice he dew the slain/' 

now fell foul of Methodism. Writing to an acquaintance, he 
inquired, "Have you heard of our new set of fanatics, called 
the Methodists? There is one Wesley, who told a friend of 
mine that he had lived most deliciously last summer in 
Greorgia, sleeping imder trees, and feeding on boiled maize 
sauced with the ashes of oak leaves ; and that he will return 
thither, and then will cast off his English dress, and wear a 
dried skin, like the savages, the better to ingratiate himself 
with them. It would be well for virtue and religion if this 
humor would lay hold generally of our over-heated bigots, 
and send them to cool themselves in the Indian marshes." ^ 
This ranting abuse, of which Warburton was more than 
once guilty, was the keynote of other attacks made upon 
the Wesleys, and showed that they had little to expect 
from the clergy except misrepresentation and slander. 
By the close of the year John was almost imiformly 
excluded from the pulpits of the Establishment. While 
the storm of opposition was closing in upon him and his 
followers he met with his brother Charles, George White- 
field and others of like mind at Fetter Lane to celebrate 
the last hours of that annus mirabilis of 1738 in solemn 
acts of prayer, praise, and renewed consecration. 

Whitefield, who has already been named as an Oxford 
student, a member of the Holy Club, and a close friend 
and admirer of Wesley, was the yoimgest and at that time 
the best known of the three men. He was bom December 
16, 1714, at the Bell Inn, Gloucester, of which his father was 
then the tenant. His general worth and gift for elocution 

^ L. Tyerznan : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. I, p. 208. 



JOHN WESLEY 291 

procured him friends who assisted him in obtaining a Uni- 
versity education. He was ordained deacon in 1736, and 
deliv^^ his first sermon in the magnificent Cathedral of 
his native city. He then began an itinerary through 
the western provinces of England, and also in London, 
where he attracted inunense audiences ; indeed, his name 
quickly became a household word in Bath, Bristol, and the 
capital. After his return from Georgia to receive priest's 
orders and collect money for the orphanage he had foimded 
there, he was included in the marked disapproval the clergy 
had shown toward the Wesleys, and with characteristic 
impetuosity he at once conmienced field preaching. When 
the churches of Bristol were closed against him he re- 
paired to Rose Hill, just outside the city, and there faced 
the grimy pitmen and laborers who were the terror of the 
locality, subduing them by his dramatic utterance. The 
entranced listeners quailed beneath his fervid, searching 
appeab ; their deadened sensibilities were so aroused that, 
as he afterwards described the scene, tears of penitence 
channeled "white gutters on their blackened cheeks." As 
the throngs increased, he wrote, — "The open firmament 
above me, the prospect of adjacent fields with the sight of 
thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horse- 
back| and some in the trees, and at all times affected and 
drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added 
the solemnity of approaching evening, was almost too much 
for me and quite overcame me." He left Bristol escorted 
by a guard of honor composed of his converts and friends 
and with a handsome subscription for a charity school to be 
established among them; a project eventually carried out 
by Wesley at Kingswood. 

Before the midsummer of 1739 Whitefield repeated his 
triumphs in London, where his audiences at Hyde Park, 
Blackheath, Moorfields, and Kennington Common were the 
sensation of the town. He asserts that eighty thousand 
persons assembled at one time; although this estimate 



292 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

was probably exaggerated, there can be no doubt 
that few have addressed larger gatherings for a similar 
purpose or served them to a better end. The Thames wata*- 
men could not ferry over all the people determined to hear 
him, suburbs and slums were emptied while his sermons 
were in progress, and their effect was acknowledged by the 
educated as well as the illiterate. Foremost among his 
supporters was Liady Himtingdon, regarded by some as the 
most remarkable woman of her age and coimtiy, an aristo- 
crat whose life was "a beautiful course of hallowed labor" 
and her death "the serene setting of a sim of brilliant hue." 
Among others of rank who flocked to hear him were the 
Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cumberland, the Duchess 
of Ancaster, Lady Townshend, Lady Franklin, Lady Hin- 
chinbroke, Lord Bolingbroke, Lord Chesterfield, Lord 
Lyttleton, Lord North, Bubb Doddington, George Selwyn, 
and William Pitt. David Garrick remarked that he would 
give his whole fortime to be able to pronounce the single 
word ''Mesopotamia" with the pathos and power he had 
heard Whitefield put into it. Horace Walpole, who had a 
keen eye for foibles, noted that "Methodism in the me- 
tropolis is more fashionable than anything but brag. The 
women play very deep at both, as deep, it is much suspected, 
as the matrons of Rome did at the mysteries of Bona Dea." 
And again, writing to Sir Horace Mann, his lifelong corre- 
spondent, he said, " If you ever think of returning to Eng- 
land, you must prepare yourself for Methodism. . . . Lady 
Frances Shirley has chosen this way of bestowing the dr^s 
of her beauty : Mr. Lyttleton is very near making the same 
sacrifice of the dregs of all the characters he has worn. The 
Methodists love your big sinners, as proper subjects to work 
on, and, indeed, they have a plentiful harvest. Flagrance 
was never more in fashion, drinking is at the high water 
mark." 

That a young clergyman not yet twenty-six should have 
compelled the attention Whitefield received from high and 



JOHN WESLEY 293 

lowly was in itself significant. His facial appearance was 
not altogether prepossessing, but in earlier manhood his 
well-proportioned figure and superb voice made him, like 
Danton, the tribune of the open spaces. Exuberant physi- 
cal energy, sincerity of conviction and earnestness of manner, 
lent weight even to his unguarded statements. He could 
denounce the treacheries of sin, describe the doom of the 
sinner, enforce the remedies of the Grospel, and comfort the 
sorrows of the penitent with winged and irresistible words. 
Dr. Doddridge, Dr. Isaac Watts, and others competent to 
judge objected to his excessive emotionalism; but, al- 
though its modification might have avoided some undesir- 
able results, it would have deprived him of his chief element 
of power as an imrivaled orator. He was neither a philoso- 
pher nor a theologian, but, what was more rare than either, 
an evangelist whose heart had been fired and his lips 
anointed to proclaim the saving message of the Cross to a 
moribund generation. 

The most profitable outcome of his work was its formative 
influence upon Wesley, who not only emulated Whitefield's 
example as a field preacher, but garnered much of the 
harvest of his sowing. Early in March, 1739, he received 
a message from Whitefield urgently soliciting his presence 
and help in Bristol. Fully employed as he was at tiie time, 
Wesley was reluctant to leave London, and his brother 
Charles vehemently opposed his doing this. In their per- 
plexity they reverted to the customary practice of sortes 
BibUoB, the results of which were not encouraging imtil 
Charles, making a last attempt, opened at the words, — 
"Son of man, behold, I take from thee the desires of thine 
eyes with a stroke ; yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, 
neither shall thy tears run down." Upon this he withdrew 
his opposition, and John decided to go to Bristol. 

This was the tumuig point in Wesley's public career. 
He was about to take a step that would separate him from 
his ecclesiastical superiors and brethren, and cost him the 



294 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

confidence and affection of the Church of his birth and 
training, nor is it likely that he was sustained by any pre- 
vision of the outcome which waited upon his temerity. 
Preaching on unconsecrated ground,^ to say nothing of 
addressing promiscuous gatherings which were never more 
secularized in feeling than at that time, was considered by 
even the best of Anglicans a disorderly act, a disturbance of 
the peace of Church and State. Reluctant to the last, on 
hearing Whitefield preach in the open air, Wesley com- 
mented, "I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this 
strange way of which he set me an example on Sunday; 
having been all my life till very lately so tenacious of every 
point relating to decency and order, that I should have 
thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been 
done in a church." Notwithstanding, on April 2, 1739, a 
date next in importance to that of his conversion, he ''sub- 
mitted to be more vile," and standing on a grassy mound 
addressed a great crowd from the words, "The Spirit of 
the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to 
preach the Gospel to the poor." The appropriateness of 
the text to the events which had brought him to that place 
and hour was only equaled by its prophetic character. He 
deliberately rejected the earthly prizes of his calling that he 
might proclaim the religion of the New Testament to men 
and women who were looked upon by the more refined as 
hopeless barbarians. Yet no Christian statesman could 
have issued a better justification for this extraordinary pro- 
cedure than is contained in the opening paragraphs of 
his "Earnest Appeal to Men of Faith and Religion." After 
comparing the formal and lifeless professions then prevalent 
with the renewing energy the Methodists had experienced, 
he showed how he and his friends had stumbled in the 
gloom of past days, having none to guide them into "the 
straight way to the religion of love, even by fait-h." "By 
this faith," he continued, "we are saved from all uneasi- 
ness of mind, from the anguish of a woimded spirit, from 



JOHN WESLEY 295 

disoontenty from fear and sorrow of heart, and from that 
inexpressible listlessness and weariness, both of the world and 
ourselves, which we had so helplessly labored imder for 
many years, especially when we were out of the hurry of the 
worid and sunk into calm reflection. In this we find that 
love of Grod and of all mankind which we had elsewhere 
sought in vain. This, we know and feel, and therefore 
cannot but declare, saves every one that partakes of it both 
from sin and misery, from every unhappy and every unloved 
temper." ^ 

This manifesto, so lucid, emphatic, and unanswerable 
by those who accepted Christianity at all, is quoted as a 
first-rate specimen of the statements which exposed Wesley 
to the censure of Anglican dignitaries and of the learned and 
the worldly. The ecclesiastical authorities were provoked 
against Methodism because it violated their rule and rebuked 
their failure ; the devotees of fashion and culture because it 
disturbed their complacency and pride. Neither had any 
desire to leave their protected shores and venture after 
Wesley into the agitated deeps of undisciplined human life. 
They were repelled by the noise and confusion of its emo- 
tional outbreaks and were too pimctiliously correct to be 
anything more than nominally religious. Whitefield was 
patronized by some among them who endured his opinions 
for the pleasure of listening to his oratory, but Wesley's 
putting of the same truths aroused their indignant remon- 
strance. Yet his "Appeal" and his sermons were in sub- 
stance the accepted doctrines of their own Church, and better 
still, a fair presentation of the teaching and spirit of the 
New Testament. In them he showed himself a master of 
the proper sentiment and the fitting word. Without strain- 
ing after grandiloquence, in language the chief notes of which 
were sincerity, simplicity, and restraint, with every appear- 
ance of imstudied utterance, he discovered the secrets of 
many hearts and applied to them the blessings of pardon and 

1 John Telford : "Ihe life of John Wesley" ; pp. 112-113. 



296 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

restoration. Old fustian and purple patches were not 
tolerated, yet the phrase that uplifts, the feeling that is most 
intense when most repressed, the intellectual rather than 
the clamorous accent, enabled him to make the deepest im- 
pression of any preacher of his age. His speech combined 
abimdance with economy, the little ¥dth the much. Its 
form was concise, its meaning infinite, its character luminous. 
There were more accomplished thinkers and rhetoricians 
than Wesley, but as an advocate of religion and an organizer 
of its forces he was unsurpassed. The level reaches and 
tranquil flow of his discourse were sometimes stirred by a 
divine afflatus of which his hearers afterwards spoke with 
bated breath ; the pillars of the sanctuary seemed to tremble, 
the Eternal One Himself bowed the heavens and came down, 
while all the people stood in awe of Him, and the souls of 
the worshipers were shaken by the winds of God. John 
Nelson, a well-poised Yorkshireman, has left a forceful de- 
scription of Wesley which amplifies the difference between 
him and Whitefield in that respect. '' Whitefield was to me 
as a man who could play well on an instrument, for his 
preaching was pleasant to me and I loved the man . . . but 
I did not understand him. I was like a wandering bird 
cast out of its nest till Mr. John Wesley came to preach 
his first sermon at Moorfields. ... As soon as he got 
upon the stand, he stroked back his hair and tiu'ned his 
face towards where I stood, and, I thought, fixed his eyes 
upon me. His countenance fixed such an awful dread upon 
me, before I heard him speak, that it made my heart beat 
like the pendulum of a clock ; and when he did speak, I 
thought his whole discourse was aimed at me. When 
he had done, I said, 'This man can tell me the secrets of 
my heart ; he hath not left me there ; for he hath showed 
the remedy, even the blood of Jesus,' ... I durst not look 
up, for I imagined all the people were looking at me. Be- 
fore Mr. Wesley concluded his sermon he cried out, 'Let 
the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man 



JOHN WESLEY 297 

his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He 
will have merpy upon him ; and to our Grod, for He will 
abundantly pardon.' I said if that be true, I will turn to 
God toKlay." 

Although Wesley was short of stature and slight of build, 
his personal appearance was benign and ccmimanding. 
His carriage was erect and graceful, and in that time of wigs 
he wore his own hair long, parted in the middle, and falling 
upon his shoulders with a slight curl. Austerity and be- 
nevolence were harmoniously blended in his bearing; his 
voice, which he carefully modulated, was melodious and pen- 
etrating ; his movements agile and dignified. The slightly 
feminine cast of his clean shaven face and robed figure was 
balanced ^y the masculine strength of his profile, with its 
Roman nose and firm mouth. In the gallery of beautiful 
and impressive faces of renowned men, such as those of 
Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, and the youthful Bums, a 
place has been rightly given to that of Wesley, who resem- 
bled Milton more than any other great Englishman, not only 
in physical appearance but to some extent in spiritual com- 
plexion. Richard Watson Gilder in his Ode to Wesley, 
exclaims: 



'In those dear, piercing, piteous eyes behold 
The very soul ^at over England flamed I" 



They retained to the last the searching expression which 
Nelson had noted, and numerous contemporaries spoke of the 
glance, swift to encourage, steadfast to control, before which 
the dainty exquisite Beau Nash and the mobs of the Mid- 
land shires alike shrank. 

Whitefield's energies were divided long before he died, 
and Charles Wesley's itinerant preaching, which began 
with promise, practically ended after his marriage, but John 
continued his beneficent joumeyings to the end of life. In 
them he kept to the centers of industrial population, leav- 
ing the remoter regions to be afterwards evangelized by his 



298 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

helpers. London, Bristol, and Newcastle were the points of 
an isosceles triangle which included the principal areas of 
his mission. Not a moment of the long day was lost; 
he rose at four, frequently preached at five, and then 
rode, or in his older years drove, over wretdied roads to his 
appointments. Nothing was allowed to disturb the schedule, 
the intervals of which, when he tarried at an inn or at the 
home of a friend, were occupied in reading or in making 
notes, in writing tracts and pamphlets and in conducting an 
interminable correspondence. Duty wisely and scrupu- 
lously carried out according to a fixed program never had 
a more faithful disciple. His love of orderliness, a good 
index of the mind, was seen not only in the neatness of his 
dress but in every particular of his lifb>^%(Vhe4?v^4ie might 
be, he was satisfied, absorbed, detached, free from vexation 
of spirit, and able to pursue his meditations, whether among 
the wild hills of Wales or tossing on the Irish Sea, or in the 
bleak and inhospitable fastnesses of the Cornish coast. He 
crossed St. Greorge's Channel nearly fifty times, and traveled 
250,000 miles on land — this when there were no turnpikes 
in the north of England, and the London stage coaches 
did not run beyond York. In June, 1750, he was nearly 
twenty hours in the saddle and covered ninety miles in one 
day; in 1778 he speaks of having made 280 miles in 48 
hours, and in the winter weather of Scotland he rode an equal 
distance in six days. His northern route in February, 1745, 
was one of the severest he ever undertook. Gateshead 
Fell was covered with snow, no roads were visible; wind, 
hail, and sleet, accompanied by intense cold, made the coun- 
try one sheet of impassable ice. The horses fell down and 
had to be led by Wesley and his companions, who were 
guided by a Newcastle man into the town. The following 
winter he was crusted from head to foot by a blizzard as he 
struggled on from Birmingham to Stafford. In 1747 the 
drifts almost swallowed him upon Stamford Heath. In his 
eighty-third year he was as fearlessly energetic as ever. While 



JOHN WESLEY 299 

traveDing in the '' Delectable Duchy" he came to Hayle, 
on his way to preach at St. Ives. The sands between the 
towns were covered with a rising tide, and a sea captain 
b^;ged the old hero to wait until it had receded. But he 
had to be at St. Ives by a given time, and he called to his 
coachman, "Take the sea I take the sea I" At first the horses 
waded; ere long they were swinmiing, and the man on 
the box feared that all would be drowned. Wesley put hb 
head out of the carriage window to encourage him — " What 
is your name, driver?" he inquired. "Peter, sir," was the 
reply. "Peter, fear not; thou shalt not sink," exclaimed 
the patriarch. When they reached St. Ives, after attend- 
ing to Peter's comfort, he went into the pulpit, drenched 
as he was, and preached. The philosophical coolness and 
brevity ¥dth which he recorded these and similar adven- 
tures show that he regaitled them as merely incidental to 
that cause he had assigned as the sole purpose of his exist- 
ence, and to which he consecrated all his gifts. He delivered 
forty-two thousand sermons in fifty years, an average of 
over fifteen a week. He was beyond seventy when thirty 
thousand people gathered to hear him in the natural amphi- 
theater at Gwennap Pit, Cornwall. Ten years later he 
wrote, "I have entered the eighty-third year of my age. 
I am a wonder to myself, I am never tired, either with 
preaching, writing, or travelling." By no preconcerted 
scheme, nor under the impulse of the moment, but calmly, 
deliberately, and with the love that endures to the end, 
Wesley became the most devoted, laborious, and successful 
evangelist the Christian Church has known since Apostolic 
days. 

He had read with amazement of the physical contortions 
and convulsions during the New England Revival, little 
dreaming that his renewed ministry would produce such phe- 
nomena. He had no more than begun it, however, when at 
a service in Baldwin Street Meeting House, Bristol, he could 
scarcely be heard for the groanings and wailings of stricken 



300 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

penitents. In the audience sat a Friend who was annoyed 
by what appeared to him unseemly pretense, till he himsdf 
was carried away by the same resistless feeling, for the time 
being losing all self-possession, and declaring on hb recovery, 
"Now I know that thou art a prophet of the Lord/' Air 
though the greater number of these seizures occurred in 
small crowded rooms, there were instances of persons affected 
in like manner in their homes. John Haydon, by profession 
an Anglican, and a man of good standing, who had hitherto 
regarded such outbreaks as of the devil, while seated in his 
own house, reading a sermon on "Salvation by Faith," 
suddenly fell writhing to the floor. Wesley, who was in the 
vicinity, hastened to Haydon's relief. "Aye," cried the 
smitten one on his recovery, "this is he who I said was a 
deceiver of the people ; but God has overtaken me. I said 
it was all a delusion ; but this is no* delusion." These ebulli- 
tions were in the main as imsought by Wesley as they were 
surprising to him, nor did the whole series amount to more 
than a passing incident. His Journal and letters mention 
only about sixty cases, an insignificant number when the 
thousands of his converts are recalled ; a few were extremely 
painful and prolonged, the rest comparatively mild and brief* 
His explanation of them was derived from the dreams, 
trances, and visions of Biblical report. But he added that 
after a time natural depravity polluted the work of grace,, 
which Satan cunningly imitated in order to defeat its ends ; 
so that, while the hand of Deity was undoubtedly present in 
these mysterious events, Satan's was no less evident — "a 
singular cooperation," as Sir Leslie Stephen observes, "be- 
tween God and the devil." Many subjects of these 
manifestations, however, proved by their after life the 
reality of a gratifying change of heart coincident with the 
seizures. Later simulations, some of which were quickly 
detected and silenced, modified Wesley's belief in their 
value. In a letter to his brother Samuel, who was alarmed 
by the wild rumors which spread abroad concerning John's 



JOHN WESLEY 301 

preaching, he protested that his work should not be judged 
by outward signs, whatever might be their cause, but by 
its true element; that quickening spirit, a greater wonder 
than any other recorded, which remade society, and brought 
into the Kingdom of God men and women whose iniquity 
had been notorious. He urged that such regenerated souls 
were living arguments which could not be successfully 
disputed. 

The psychological aspects of the question merit a fuller 
treatment than can be given here. It seems strange that 
this loss of self-control should have first occurred under 
Wesley, who could not, in the usual sense of the term, be 
caUed an emotional preacher. The explanation is probably 
to be found in his very restraint. While Whitefield, with his 
torrential eloquence, and Charles Wesley, by his impassioned 
appeal, deeply stirred the heart, their own tears and ecstasies 
suggested to their hearers these more normal avenues for 
the expression of excited feelings. On the other hand, the 
steady beat of Wesley's plain, measiued discourse, expound- ; 
ing hitherto unfamiliar doctrines which searched the con-( 
sciences of a benighted people as with the candle of the 
Lord, was enforced by a solemnity of manner and a peculiar 
yet repressed intensity overwhelming in their influence. 
Unlike his brother or Whitefield, he discouraged by his 
outward composure the facile discharge of agitations which 
he nevertheless aroused in far higher degree than either 
of them. Hence the only outlet for the volcanic emotions 
he kindled in the miners of Kingswood and Newcastle was 
in that sympathetic nervous action which those emotions 
induced.^ 

The hostility of official AngUcanism towards his mission, 
which, as we have seen, showed itself from the beginning, 
was naturally infiamed by these irregularities; and it 
increased with the rapid growth of the movement. There 

> For a diflCUBBioo of this subject see Professor Frederick M. Davenport's 
▼ohime, "Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals.** 



302 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

was not suflScient expansiveness in a State Church governed 
by rule and rote to admit, much less assimilate, the extra- 
neous practices of the Wesleys and Whitefield. Macaulay 
speculates that the Papacy would have absorbed the enthu- 
siasm and adopted the new organization for the benefit oi the 
Holy See. ''At Rome the Countess of Huntingdon would 
have been given a place in the calendar as St. Selina, . . . 
Elizabeth Fry would have been the first Superior of the 
Blessed Order of Sisters of the Jails. John Wesley would 
have become General of a new society devoted to the honor 
and interests of the Church." Without by any means in- 
dorsing another oft-quoted passage, in which Cardinal New- 
man laments the callous perversity of the Establishment, 
it was at least more applicable to Wesley than to any 
other Anglican since the Reformation: ''Oh, my mother! 
whence is it unto thee that thou hast good things poured 
upon thee and canst not keep them, and bearest children 
yet darest not own them? . . . How is it that whatev^ 
is generous in purpose and tender and deep in devotion, 
thy flower and thy promise falls from thy bosom and finds 
no hope within thy arms?" The Church which too often 
tolerated laxity and idleness promptly stigmatized Wesley's 
effort to remedy these evils as a breach of ecclesiastical 
discipline. It could see the occasional extravagances and 
mistakes of Methodism, but was blind to its religious value. 
Thus, when Wesley solicited the countenance of Butler, 
then Bishop of Bristol, even he, the bright particular star 
of the episcopacy, replied : " Sir, since you ask my advice, 
I will give it freely — you have no business here ; you are 
not commissioned to preach in this diocese. Therefore I 
advise you to go hence." Wesley had but one defense: 
he was a churchman no less than his lordship, with no desire 
to disturb the order which had been habitual to both, yet, 
when that order sought to check the influx of spiritual life 
which he had every reason to believe was divinely bestowed, 
he was constrained to take his own course. He openly 



JOHN WESLEY 303 

avowed: ''God, in Scripture, commands me, according to 
my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the mcked, con- 
firm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another's 
; that is, in effect not to do it at all, seeing I have no 
of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then 
shall I hear? God or man? I look upon all the world as 
my parish ; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I 
am, I judge it meet, right and my boimden duty to declare 
unto all tiiat are willing to hear, the glad tidings of sal- 
vation." ^ 

Bishop Gibson, whose interview with the Wesleys is men- 
tioned earlier in this chapter, showed in his later references 
a more pronounced antagonism to their mission, classing 
them Yntii ''Deists and Papists," and condemning their re- 
spective errors as "greatly prejudicial to religion and danger- 
ous to the souls of men." An anonymous tract ascribed to 
him, and which at least received his approval, vigorously 
berated Whitefield for violating Church discipline; the 
Wesleys for having had the effrontery "to preach in the 
fields and other open places, and by public advertisements 
to invite the rabble to be their hearers" ; and the Methodists 
in general for daring to remain in the Anglican communion. 
Oibson returned to his arraignment, describing them as 
^'enemies of the Church who give shameful disturbance to 
the parochial clergy, and use every unwarrantable method 
to prejudice their people against them and to seduce their 
flocks from them." Wesley kept silent as long as silence 
seemed wise, but, notwithstanding his esteem for the epis- 
copal office and for Gibson personally, he now felt that the 
Inshop had exceeded all bounds, and he published a chasten- 
ing rejoinder, which, apart from its specific aim, deserves 
mention. The asseveration that the bishop was "an angel 
of the Chiu'ch of Christ, one of the stars in God's right 
hand, calling together all the subordinate pastors, for whom 
he is to give an accoimt to God, and directing them in 

1 L. T^ennan : "life and Times of John Weeley" ; Vol. I, p. 236. 



304 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the name of the great Shepherd of the sheep, the First 
Begotten from the dead" — is one of the noblest passages 
Wesley ever penned. His dignified rebuke was acocnnr 
panied by an argmnent which dwelt upon the breakdown 
of the parochial system, and vindicated Methodism as a 
source of supply for the religious needs of the people. He 
concluded widi a solemn warning which reversed their por- 
tions, leaving the aged diocesan the accused and himself 
the accuser: ''My lord, the time is short; I am past the 
noon of life, and my remaining days flee away as a shadow. 
Your lordship is old and full of days. It cannot, therefore, 
be long before we shall both drop thb house of earth, and 
stand naked before God; no, nor before we shall see the 
great white throne coming down from heaven and He that 
sitteth thereon. . . . Will you then rejoice in your success? 
The Lord God grant it may not be said in that hour, 
'These have perished in their iniquity: but their blood I 
require at thy hands.'" 

The next episcopal assailant, George Lavington, Bishop of 
Exeter, was incomparably inferior to Butler and also to Gibson. 
Following the usual line of Englishmen of the day, who at 
once assigned any beliefs or actions they did not understand 
to the malignant machinations of Rome, he published in 1749 
an anonymous pamphlet entitled, "The Enthusiasm of 
Methodists and Papists compared." This precious produc- 
tion, which was nothing better than a continent of mud, 
was issued in two parts, the last being worse than the first. 
His attack sank to its lowest depth of vileness when Laving- 
ton pretended to argue that the Eleusinian mysteries, with 
their gross physical symbolism, were "a strange system of 
heathen Methodism." Wesley could well have afforded to 
ignore such scmrility; but the natural man in him pre- 
vailed, and he met Lavington with a naked blade, exposing 
his garbled quotations, limping logic, and bad granunar, and 
ending by indignantly challenging him to come out from his 
hiding place and drop his mask. This unusual burst of 



JOHN WB8LET 305 

righteous indignation did not prevent him from having 
later and firiendly intercourse with Lavington. They met 
in the autunm of 1762, and partook of the Lord's Supper 
together. The bishop died a few weeks later, and his epi- 
taph in Exeter Cathedral eulogizes him as an overseer " who 
never ceased to improve his talents nor to employ them to 
the noblest purposes ; . . . a Man, a Christian, and a Prel- 
ate, prepared, by habitual meditation, to resign life without 
regret, to meet death without terror." It would be difficult 
to identify from this description the unscrupulous contro- 
versialist whose prevarications and invectives earned the 
contempt of right-minded men. Ten years after the Laving- 
ton episode Warburton reappeared, and led the van of 
mitred brethren and college dons against these detestable 
renegades who menaced the peace of the community. Origi- 
nally intended for the law, Warburton had drifted into 
divinity, carrying with him those pugnacious tendencies 
and arrogandes which were hit off in the phrase, ''There b 
but one God, and Warburton is His Attorney-General." 
Yet, overbearing, reckless, and abusive as he was, he did 
not hide under anonymity, and the vigor and honesty of 
his attacks made him a formidable opponent. The last and 
the most honorable of anti-Methodist bishops was Dr. 
George Home, President of Magdalen College, afterwards 
appointed to the see of Norwich. He entered the debate 
when its virulence had subsided, and in any case his amiable 
and refined disposition made it impossible for him to proceed 
to the extremes of the earlier disputants. While sincerely 
believing that Methodism led to Antinomian practices, he 
was amenable to correction, and thirty years later, on 
Wesley's asking for the use of a church in Norwich, Home 
assured the incumbent that there was no reason to refuse 
the request. 

So far nothing had occurred to separate Methodism 
from the parent Church ; Wesley still regarded hb Societies 
and helpers as exbting solely for the purposes of religious 



306 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

culture, and despite the strained relations they, like their 
Founder, were loyal members of the Establishment. The 
Nonconformists had their own ministry and ordinances, 
but Wesley was careful to avoid instituting either, or in any 
way needlessly offending the susceptibilities of the clergy. 
He used different names for his organizations, and insisted 
that they should meet at other than the stated times for 
Anglican services. Further, his followers were urged to 
attend their respective parish churches and to conmiuni- 
cate there. Unfortunately, in many instances they were 
rudely treated, and given to understand that they were in- 
grates and rebels. As they increased in numbers, this 
deprivation was deeply felt, and the Wesleys were glad to 
avail themselves of the offer of Mr. Deleznot, a Huguenot 
pastor, to lend them his sanctuary in Hermitage Street, 
Wapping, for the administration of the Lord's Supper. A 
thousand members from the Foundery partook of the Eu- 
charist there ; and Charles Wesley was forced to administer 
it to the Kingswood Society in their school building, declar- 
ing, stout cleric though he was, that, if no other place had 
been accessible, he would have commimicated in the open. 
In the last decades of Wesley's life a marked reaction was 
perceptible among the clergy themselves, many of whom 
found matter for reflection in the marvelous changes for 
the better which his work had wrought. An attitude of 
tolerance found its way into their common habits by a 
process of pacific penetration. Evangelical sentiments be- 
gan to leaven the Anglican fold, and some who could not 
adopt Wesley's methods nevertheless yielded to his teadi- 
ing. This doubtless contributed to his prolonged but imr 
practicable attempt to maintain the fiction of union between 
Anglicanism and Methodism, in which there could be little 
meaning so long as the two communions were dissimilar in 
spirit and practice, and the clergy strove to unchurch the 
converts who, as they supposed, outraged ecclesiastical 
procedure. The growing impossibility of such a relation at 



JOHN WBSLEY 307 

kst dawned on his reluctant mind. He was not less percep- 
tive than others, though in this instance less willing to admit 
the distressing but palpable fact of which he wrote three 
years before his death, "A kind of separation has already 
taken place and will inevitably spread, through slow de- 
grees." He also addressed a remonstrance to one of the 
bishops, and said, "The Methodists in general, my lord, 
are members of the Church of England. They hold all her 
doctrines, attend her service, and partake of her sacraments. 
They do not willingly do harm to any one, but do what good 
they can to all. To encoimige each other herein, they, fre- 
quently spend an hour together in prayer and mutual exhor- 
tation. Permit me then to ask, Cui boriof for what rea- 
sonable end would your lordship drive these people out of 
the Church? Are they not as quiet, as inoffensive, nay, as 
pbus, as any of their neighbors ? Except perhaps here and 
there a hairbrained man, who knows not what he is about. 
Do you ask, 'Who drives them out of the Church?' Your 
lordship does; and that in the most cruel manner. . . . 
Th^ desire a license to worship Grod after their own con- 
science. Your lordship refuses it ; and then punishes them 
for not having a license. So your lordship leaves them only 
this alternative, 'Leave the Church or starve.'" ^ 

Of all ideas toleration, while so much less than equality, 
would seem to be the very last in the general mind. When 
the fervid pioneers of Methodist principles struck directly at 
the wickechiess of their day, they could not long escape the 
lesentment and then the violence of the mob, incited by 
ignorance and drink, and sometimes by the clergy or their 
agents. Lawless outbreaks occurred in the Midlands, the 
North, Cornwall, and Ireland. The local parsons and mag- 
istrates frequently abetted the persecution, and dealt harshly 
with its victims. These administrators of petty justice 
were infuriated by the vehement exhortations which burst 
upon their neighborhoods, oppressed as they were by 

1 L. Tymnmai : "Life and Tunes of John Wesley" ; Vol. Ill, p. 613. 



308 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

wrong and sodden in poverty and vice. They looked upcm 
the evangelists as enemies of the peace, or as Jesuits in 
disguise. Hate and calumny, superstition and bigotry, 
found vent in many places, and nowhere more than at 
Wednesbury in Sta£Fordshire, a town which has long since 
atoned for its outrageous treatment of Wesley by its loy- 
alty to him and to his Church. During the smnmer and 
autumn of 1743 houses and shops were plundered and gutted, 
their contents destroyed, and the occupants maltreated, the 
members of the Society being in hourly jeopardy. Wesley 
writes, ''I received a full account of the terrible riots. . . . 
I was not surprised at all ; neither should I have wondered 
if, after the advice they had so often received from the 
pulpit as well as from the episcopal chair, the zealous high 
churchmen had rose and cut all that were Methodists in 
pieces." ^ The situation, created by the unwise conduct of 
the preacher in charge, aggravated by the angry protestations 
of Mr. Egginton^ the local clergyman, and by the vicious 
propensities of the miners and iron workers, who were even 
worse than those of Kingswood or the keelmen of Newcastle, 
compelled a suspension of Methodist services for some 
weeks, and finally required the personal attention of Wesley 
himself. He rode into the town on October 20, and 
preached at noon in the open air. Three hours later a 
turbulent crew appeared before the house where he was 
staying, and demanded that he should come forth. After 
some parleying, he accompanied them to the magistrate, 
who, being in bed, refused to see them, and whose son 
advised the ringleaders that they should release their 
captive and quietly disperse. Instead, they trudged on to 
Walsall, an adjacent town, where another magistrate also 
declined to interfere. The mob had scarcely left the 
place before a second and more dangerous one appeared, 
led by the doughty prize fighter, "honest Munchin," and 

^"Journal of John Wesley"; edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumock; 
Vol. m. p. 79. 



JOHN WBSLET 809 

swept all before it. Wesley was now at the mercy of this 
contingent, and for a tune his life was in grave peril, 
lliefle ''fierce Ephesian beasts/' as his brother Charles 
termed than, cried ''Kill him !" and some even attempted 
to brain him with their cudgels. But his tranquil demeanor 
subdued those nearest to him, and the rest reluctantly fell 
back while he passed through their midst and returned to 
Wednesbury, escorted by a body guard recruited from their 
own ranks. The next morning, as he rode through the town, 
he was saluted with such cordial affection that he could 
scarcely believe what he had seen and heard. Charles, who 
met him at Nottingham, bruised, tattered, and torn, said that 
he looked like a soldier of Christ fresh from the fray. 

Others were not so fortunate. Thomas Walsh was im- 
prisoned at Brandon, and took his revenge by preaching 
through the barred windows of his cell to the crowd outside. 
Alexander Mather's house was pulled about his ears in Wol- 
verhampton, and at Boston in Lincolnshire he was left for 
dead. At York, John Nelson was beaten into unconscious- 
ness, and afterwards forced to enlist in the army. Thomas 
Olivers was pursued at Yarmouth, and barely escaped with 
his life. The list of these veterans of the Cross could be 
extended indefinitely. From 1742 to 1750 hardly a month 
elapsed without references in Wesley's Journal to simi- 
lar scenes. At Penfield a baited bull was let loose on 
the congregation; and at Plymouth and Bolton howling 
fanatics, dancing with rage such as had never been seen 
before in creatures called men, hunted the preacher like 
a pack of wolves. There is nowhere a hint that any of 
these humble helpers retreated before such outrages: 
indeed they showed the same fortitude and courage which 
were characteristic of the Wesleys. Some, like Thomas 
Walsh, died while still young; others lived to see the 
harvests that, in the abundance of their reaping, redeemed 
the tears and blood in which they had been sown. The 
meanest peasants rose above the sorrow and confusion of 



310 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the time, and took a part in the molding of the destinies 
of the nation. Mob leaders became dass leaders, and 
directed their prowess toward spiritual ends. The pugilist 
who was foremost in the Wednesbury riot afterwards joined 
the Society there, and made a good confession of his faith. 
The services of the growing Church were conducted by lay 
preachers and itinerants who had once purposed to destroy 
it, but now gladly yielded obedience to the leader whose 
genius compacted them into a healthy and harmonious 
organization. 



CHAPTER VIII 
CONSOLIDATION AND EXPANSION 



311 



Thk epoch ends, the worid is still. 

The age has talk'd and woric'd its fill — 

The famous orators have shcme. 

The famous poets sung and gone, 

The famous men of war have fought, 

The famous speculators thought. 

The famous players, sculptors, wrought. 

The famous painters fill'd their wall. 

The famous critics judged it all. 

The combatants are parted now — 

Uphung the spear, unbent the bow. 

The puissant crown'd, the weak laid low. 

And in the after silence sweet. 

Now strifes are hush'd, our ear doth meet, 

Ascending pure, the bell^ike fame 

Of this or that down-trodden name, 

Delicate spirits, push'd away 

In the hot press of the noon-day. 

And o'er the plain, where the dead age 

Did its now silent warfare wage — 

O'er that wide plain, now wrapt in gloom. 

Where many a splendor finds its tomb, 

Many spent fames and fallen mights — 

The one or two immortal lights 

Rise slowly up into the sky 

To shine there everlastingly, 

Like stars over the bounding hill. 

The epoch ends, the world is still. 

Matthew Arnold : Bacchanalia; or the New Ag$. 



312 



CHAPTER Vra 

CONSOLIDATION AND EXPANSION 

Wesley's withdrawal from Fetter Lane — The Foundery — Contpo- 
▼ersy with Whitefield — Sermon on Free Grace and Predestina- 
tion — Continuance of Calvinistic controversy — Toplady — Thomas 
4Uid Ro^dand Hill — Wesley's clerical supporters — Fletcher and Grim- 
shaw — Lay Preachers — Their sufferings — Wesley's care for them 
— The Class Meeting and other Methodist institutions — First Meth- 
odist Conference — Weslesr's theological position — Methodism in 
North America — Philip Embury and Barbara Heck — Bishop As- 
buiy — Bishop Coke — Wesley and Coke's ordination — Dc«d of 
Declaration — Death of Charles Wesley — Last Days of John Wesley. 



Before Methodism was solidified and shaped to his pur- 
pose, Wesley had to encounter internal as well as external 
strife. Nor is this to be wondered at, in view of its recent 
origin, the dissimilar views of its supporters, and the 
enthusiasm, not always salutary, of its converts. The 
Fetter Lane Society, founded on tJie advice of Peter Bohler, 
and composed chiefly of Moravians, showed, as early as 1739^ 
the inherent diflFerences which separated German and Angli- 
can types of religious life. For a time Wesley calmed the 
contentious spirits, but the exuberance of his followers 
was repugnant to the passivity of the Moravian group, 
whose leader, Philip Molther, advised the discontinuance of 
reading the Scriptures, of prayer, and of good works. He 
urged that expectant believers, undisturbed by such employ- 
ments, might passively await the assured fulfillment of the 
promises of the Gospel. Once established in this manner, 
they were at liberty to observe or neglect the ordinances, as 
they saw fit. Wesley continued to act as peace-maker, en- 

313 



314 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

deavoring by seasonable means to correct an attitude whidi 
would have killed his enterprise. But the outcome was 
such as might have been expected, and he and Charles 
were at last convinced that any further attempt at union 
between Moravianism and Methodism would be a surrender 
of the ideals of both for the sake of a temporary truce. 
On July 16, 1740, the Society resolved that John should 
not be allowed to preach there again. On the following 
Lord's Day evening he arose in his place and read a brief 
explanation of his position, which among other things coi>> 
travened the Moravian teaching concerning ordinances. 
After this he and a few sympathizers withdrew. 

They repaired to the Foundery, where their associates 
gladly received them into a union which became the first 
distinctive Methodist Society, itself the unit of the future 
Church. The outcome of these internecine troubles was 
decidedly helpful to Wesley's efforts, which now had a free 
course. The Foundery remained his headquarters until 
1778, when City Road Chapel was erected. As the name 
indicates, it was formerly a government ordnance factory 
which, after being wrecked by an explosion, lay in ruins 
until purchased by Wesley. Here he established his depot 
for religious literature ; the edifice was consecrated by the 
presence of his venerable mother, who spent her last days 
within its precincts, and died there on July 23, 1742. The 
building stood in Windmill Street, near Finsbmy Square, 
and has long since disappeared; the present Wesleyan 
Methodist Book Room and City Road Chapel are coi>> 
tiguous to its site, and continue its sacred traditions. 

Although his intercourse with the Moravians was now at 
an end, Wesley always realized his extensive obligation to 
such men as Peter Bohler and Christian David. The 
separation was dictated by his conviction that he had gone 
almost too far for safety in the direction of their mys- 
ticism; when this was remedied, he recalled them with 
gratitude, and his later references to them were kindly 



JOHN WESLEY 315 

and respectful. Nor was his caution unjustified: had he 
not halted and realigned his forces, he would have forfeited 
to an artificial i>eace the responsibilities and results of half 
a century's war upon sin in all its forms, secret or open. 
''Stand still!" was their exhortation. "Necessity is laid 
upon me; I must go forward/' was the substance of his 
reply. 

Far more important in its scope and results was the 
doctrinal dispute between Whitefield and Wesley. In 
this case the dogma of predestination was the cause of 
dissension, — that Grordian knot which no theologian nor 
philosopher can untie; the insoluble problem of Divine 
Sovereignty and the freedom of human will as bearing on 
mortal destiny. We have observed that during his prep- 
aration for the ministry Wesley had revolted against the 
extreme interpretation of the Anglican article which treats 
on the question, and that his mother agreed with him. His 
view was, that while Omniscience necessarily foreknew 
men's future state, that state was entirely determined by 
their own act of personal acceptance or rejection of the 
Gospel. In 1740, he published his sermon on "Free Grace," 
preached in the previous summer. It was the utterance of 
one who saw only a few great principles, but expounded 
them with clarity and earnestness. The Calvinistic theory 
of election was summed up as follows: "By virtue of an 
eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of Grod, one part 
of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly 
damned ; it being impossible that any of the former should 
be damned, or that any of the latter should be saved. To 
say that Christ does not intend to save all sinners is to 
represent Him as a gross deceiver of the people, as mocking 
His hapless creatures, as pretending the love which He had 
not. He in whose mouth was no guUe, you make full of 
deceit, void of common sincerity. Such blasphemy as this 
one would think might make the ear of a Christian to tingle. 
So does this doctrine represent the most holy Grod as worse 



316 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

than the devil, as both more false, more crue!, and more 
unjust." 

Miss Wedgwood speaks of the ''provoking glibness" of the 
discourse, and of Wesley's incapacity for perceiving diffi- 
culties "which is the characteristic of an early stage of 
culture/' He certainly did not meet the argument that, 
if the design of Christ is to save all and the result is 
He only saves some. His work is to that extent a failure. 
Nor can the horrors of the lost be extenuated by relieving 
the Almighty of responsibility for their doom. Man's free 
will is a transparent mockery if, too weak to stand alone, he 
is placed amidst temptations which inevitably seduce the 
masses of mankind and consign them to eternal reprobation. 
Neither reason nor revelation, wisely interpreted, entirdy 
supports the eschatology of the Arminian or that of the 
Calvinist. They do not warrant the notion of eternity as a 
perpetual prolongation of time: it is rather one of the 
attributes of Him Who b incomprehensible, and theologians 
invade His Being when they thus attempt to measure or 
announce His judgments. Out of this invasion have arisai 
certain repulsive conceptions of the penalties of perdition 
for which there is often but a slight basis of truth. Yet 
Wesley's chastisement of Calvinism was an effective effort 
to modify the awful dogma which left nothing to hiunan 
choice, and to soften the pitilessness of a theology which 
protected its logic at the expense of every instinct of justice. 
Notwithstanding Peter Bohler's crude assertion that "all 
the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell," 
for "how can all be universally redeemed if all are not 
finally saved," Wesley heartily accepted the orthodox 
teachings concerning human depravity and everlasting 
punishment for wilful transgression of the divine law and 
conscious rejection of the divine mercy. He knew nothing 
of the modem temper, deeply felt by Protestantism, which 
assigns rights to man as well as to Deity, conceiving of all 
divine-human relations from an ethical rather than from 



JOHN WESLEY 317 

arbitrary standpoint. One of the postulates of contem- 
rary theology is that punishment must be remedial if it 
to be just, and must terminate if it is not to be futile. Nor 
es he seem to have considered the impemuinence of evil, 

St. John reveals it: a more or less mundane phenom- 
on which passes away, in contrast to the essential reality 

good, which alone abides. He did not hesitate to pro- 
dm the terrors of the Law, although they were not the 
qde of his preaching. And it must be remembered that 
more balanced opinion would have been of little avail for 
e majority of his audiences, to whom moderation on such 
L issue might have appeared as a decision for, rather than 
ainst, their open wickedness. It is a hard saying but a 
le one, and not without support in a more enlightened 
e, that many individuals are only moved by three or four 
"cumscribed fears : those of hunger ; of force ; of law ; or 

the dread hereafter. And many who heard Wesley's 
nundations with guilty and trembling hearts frequently 
oved that if the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, 
e love of Grod is its end. 

Whitefield, on the other hand, had always leaned towards 
e doctrinal position originally derived from Grenevan 
urces. Hard and consistent thinking was alien to bis 
ture, and his expositions of Calvinism, the most consistent 
systems, were fragmentary and disjointed. He was con- 
dt in this matter to submit to one of the greatest minds 
at ever combined power in thought with equal power 

speech and action. Jonathan Edwards, the foremost 
tellect America can boast, was primarily a philosopher 
ther than a theologian, whose excessive speculations marred 
I religious thinking, and who used them to bring into pain- 
I prominence those severe dogmas of the Puritan the- 
racy, the reaction against which was found in earlier 
litarianism and later in the transcendentalism of Emerson, 
oder different circiunstances this recluse of New England 
d Princeton might have developed a metaphysical system 



318 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

comparable for its intellectual influence with that of Hume 
or Kant ; as it was, he derived his chief inspiration frmn a 
nearly obsolete theology which, but for the impetus he 
supplied its flagging energies, would probably not have 
known the renaissance it enjoyed. A survey of his narrowa* 
range shows how steadfastly credal formuke persist^ even 
after reason and truth seem to have uprooted them. Yet, 
if prophets have a right to be unreasonable, Edwards was 
thus privileged, for he grasped the essentials on which 
real morality depends, though, while expanding the doctrine 
of the absolute Sovereignty of Grod on lines necessary 
to that end, he carefully refrained from dealing likewise with 
others not so necessary to his main purpose. Even in such 
superior natures as his the windows of the mind are all too 
limited for an ample prospect of things pertaining to other 
worlds than this. And it must not be forgotten that what- 
ever else he did or left undone Edwards knew how to awaken 
the best feelings and impulses of men, to stimulate their 
faith, and to kindle and keep alive the religious zeal of the 
commonwealth. His writings are full of spiritual subtleties 
and great verities, tinged with the melancholy of a lofty 
spirit who was much misunderstood. 

Whitefield*s admirers were frequently more fervent than 
helpful, and their unqualified homage gave him.no hint of any 
of his defects. Sir James Stephen speaks of him as ''leaping 
over a state of pupilage" to become "at once a teacher and 
a dogmatist." His convictions upon Calvinistic doctrines 
must have been strong, or he would not for a moment have 
sacrificed for them his friendship with Wesley. But election 
and reprobation as expressed by him were not the scandalous 
Theism which their worst forms presented. Their presence 
can rather be detected under such sweet and exultant phrases 
as the "sovereign," "electing," "distinguishing" love of the 
Eternal Father, whose "irresistible call" had brought him 
out of darkness into the light of "the chosen"; "a mere 
earthen vessel," meriting naught but wrath, but filled with 



JOHN WESLEY 319 

undeserved merdes. This was the language of the impas- 
sbned orator, who felt the presence of his audience, but did 
not comprehend the basic phases of Calvinistic teaching. ' 

In New England these prevailed for a period sufficiently 
extended to reveal their lamentable consequences. Chiefly 
because of the sheer fatalism which separated the elect 
from the non-elect, the clergy opposed the religious educa- 
tion of the young, and proscribed missionary activities. In 
the Northern States slavery was regarded as a regrettable 
necessity; below Mason and Dixon's line it was accepted 
as a Scriptural provision, by which Whitefield, among numer- 
ous other clergymen, felt free to profit. The mechanical 
and lifeless rationalism of this theory, as held by disciples 
who had neither Edwards' genius nor his devotion, created 
endless disputings, and drove many people into sects of 
religious liberalism. Some of these supplanted the im- 
possible and irresponsible egoism which had hitherto been 
postulated as the determinant of Divine action, with the 
ideal of God as the Universal Father, and of all men as 
essentially and permanently related to Him. Others, in 
their rebound from a relentless system, went much further, 
and formed that rationalizing caste which has been an 
influential factor in American Unitarianism. Such, then, 
were the beliefs which Whitefield proposed to incorporate 
into Methodism, and had Wesley not anticipated the pro- 
tests of Bushnell and Beecher, the evolution of evangelical 
Christianity might have followed very different lines. 

Writing from London on June 25, 1739, to Wesley at 
Bristol, Whitefield refers with alarm to his colleague's 
mtention to print a sermon on predestination. "It shocks 
me to think of it ; what will be the consequences but con- 
troversy? If people ask me my opinion, what shall I do? 
I have a critical part to act, Grod enable me to behave aright I 
Silence on both sides will be best. It is noised abroad al- 
ready, that there is a division between you and me ; oh, my 
heart within me is grieved!" When a copy of Wesley's 



320 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

sermon on "Free Grace" was sent to Whitefidd at Savannah, 
he entered into a lengthy correspondence with the author, 
which, at first affectionate enough, grew less conciliatory 
as it proceeded. He prepared a formal answer to the 
sermon ''in the spirit of candid friendship " ; but the friend- 
ship was not so obvious as the candor. Charles Wesley, to 
whom he submitted it before publication, advised its withr 
drawal. Nevertheless it was published, and WhitefieM 
notified John that hereafter he was resolved to preach against 
him and his brother wherever he went. Wesley remonstrated 
with him on the unwisdom of such a course, and criticized 
the pamphlet for its random rhetoric and fiippancy. In 
March, 1741, he wrote : "Mr. Whitefield, being returned to 
England, entirely separated from Mr. Wesley and his friends, 
because they did not hold the decrees. Here was the first 
breach, which warm men persuaded Mr. Whitefield to make 
merely for a difference of opinion. Those who believed 
universal redemption had no desire to separate; but those 
who held particular redemption would not hear of any 
accommodation, being determined to have no fellowship 
with men that were in such dangerous errors. So there were 
now two sorts of Methodists : those for particular and those 
for general redemption." ^ Happily, however, personal 
rancor subsided; Howel Harris interposed to reconcile 
them, and Whitefield made a handsome apology for the 
allusions in his pamphlet to Wesley's habit of casting lots. 
On April 23, 1742, they spent "an agreeable hour" to- 
gether, concerning which Wesley made the self-complacent 
comment, "I believe he is sincere in all he says concerning 
his earnest desire of joining hand in hand with all that love 
the Lord Jesus Christ. But if (as some would persuade me) 
he is not, the loss is all on his own side. I am just as I am. 
I go on my way, whether he goes with me or stays behind." * 

» "Wesley's Works" ; Vol. VIII. p. 336. 

* "Journal of Rev. John Wesley" ; edited by Rev. NehemiAh Cumock; 
Vol. III. p. 4. 



JOHN WESLEY 321 

A less dubious note was struck toward the dose of 1755, 
when Wesley declared: ''Disputings are now no more; 
we love one another, and jom hand in hand to promote the 
cause of our conunon Master." ^ 

But the ties which prevented an irreparable breach be- 
tween th^n did not bind their followers, and after White- 
field's death the controversy broke out again in uproar- 
ious fashion. The London Conference in 1770 sent forth 
a counterblast against Antinomianism, which rebuked this 
deduction from Calvinism for its ethical rather than for 
its theological errors. Lady Huntingdon, with some of the 
ministers who inherited the work and opinions of White- 
field, took umbrage at this, the more so because Methodism 
was drifting away from the Anglican Church. Her desire 
that it should remain within the Establishment, and her 
impatience with Wesley's Arminianism, assumed such violent 
forms that she vowed she would go to the flames in pro- 
test against the ''infamous Minutes" of the Conference. 
Whatever may have been her ladyship's cravings for martyr- 
dom, she was apparently more willing to inflict punishment 
on others than suffer it herself. Neither she nor her partisans 
had arrived at the state of intellectual freedom in which, 
while holding to one's own conclusions, it is possible to believe 
that others who think differently may be right, or, at any 
rate, equaUy honest. Accordingly, she summarily dismissed 
the learned and able Joseph Benson from his tutorship at 
Trevecca College, and even the saintly Fletcher was so 
harassed that he could not remain there. Wesley's magis- 
terial expostulations with the Countess had no effect : she 
was just as accustomed as he was to having her own way, 
and "Pope John" and "Pope Joan" joined issue. The 
Honorable and Reverend Walter Shirley entered the lists 
m aid of his titled relative, and sent out a circular letter 
declaiming against the action of the Conference. Their 

> "Journal of Rev. John Wesley" ; edited by Rev. Nehemiah Cumock; 
Vol. IV. p. 140. 

T 



322 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

jittack ended in a fiasco, the Countess su£Pered the unusual 
experience of a decided reverse, and Shirley felt obliged 
to apologize for his unseemly language. 

His strictures evoked the defense of Arminianism by 
John Fletcher and Thomas Olivers, while Augustus Top- 
lady, Sir Thomas Hill, and his better known brother Rowland 
became their antagonists. The honors of the acrimonious 
discussion were with Fletcher, whose "Checks to Antino- 
mianism" were more admirable for their Christian tempa 
than for their philosophical grasp of the difficult problems 
about which others wrangled while he at least reasoned. 
Toplady's contributions are best passed over in charitable 
silence, in view of the fact that he was the author of one of 
the noblest hymns in the language. The then youthful 
Rowland Hill's talent was perverted to abusive epithets and 
studied insolence : Wesley, according to this son of a land- 
owning Shropshire family, was "the lying apostle of the 
Foundery"; "a designing wolf"; "a dealer in stolen wares"; 
" as unprincipled as a rook and as silly as a jackdaw," " first 
pilfering his neighbors' plumage, and then going forth dis- 
playing his borrowed tail to the eyes of a laughing world." 
Such ramping recalled Lavington's escapade, and, like it, 
had no bearing on the question. Wesley replied to Hill 
in his pamphlet entitled, "Some Remarks on Mr. Hill's 
Review of all the Doctrines taught by Mr. John Wesley," 
in which he also "drew the sword and threw away the 
scabbard." "I now look back," said he, "on a train of 
incidents that have occurred for many months last past, 
and adore a wise and gracious Providence, ordering all 
things well! When the circular letter was first dispersed 
throughout Great Britain and Ireland, I did not conceive 
the immense good which God was about to bring out of that 
evil. But no sooner did Mr. Fletcher's first Letters appear 
than the scene began to open ; and the design of Providence 
opened more and more, when Mr. Shirley's Narrative and 
Mr. Hill's Letters, constrained him to write his Second and 



JOHN WESLEY 323 

Tliird Checks to Antinomianism. It was then indisputably 
dear, that neither my brother nor I had borne a sufiScient 
testimony to the truth. ... I will no more desire any Ar- 
minian, so called, to remain only on the defensive. Rather, 
chase the fiend, reprobation, to his own hell, and every doc- 
trine connected with it. Let none pity or spare one limb of 
either speculative or practical Antinomianism, or of any doo 
trine that naturally tends thereto ; only remembering that, 
however we are treated by men, who have a dispensation 
from the vulgar rules of justice and mercy, we are not to fight 
them at their own weapons, to return railing for railing. 
Those who plead the cause of the God of love are to imitate 
Him they serve; and, however provoked, to use no other 
weapons than those of truth and love, of Scripture and 
reason.'' ^ 

This outspoken document scarcely exemplified the charity 
it advised, but it eliminated Calvinism from Methodist 
theology. After the purification and the later secession of 
some fanatical advocates of perfectionism, Wesley found 
himself at the head of a homogeneous and aggressive body, 
delivered from doctrinal uncertainty, and animated by 
unshaken confidence in its mission. 

II 

While his independence of the world helped him to 
know it as no worldling can, and to guard his infant cause 
against its foes, he was not without the steadfast sympathy 
and friendship of a group of Anglican clergymen, some of 
whom stood by him to the last. The first of these was Vincent 
Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham, Kent, a man of whom it may 
be said, in Jowett's phrase, that for him things sacred and 
profane lay near together but yet were never confused. Al- 
though seldom in the public eye, he counseled the coun- 
selors, and few things of importance were undertaken by 

> L. Tyerman : "life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. Ill, p. 144. 



324 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the Wesleys without his approval. Another was William 
Grimshaw, vicar of Haworth, a moorland town in the heart 
of the West Riding of Yorkshire, since associated with the 
famous daughters of his successor, the Reverend Patrick 
Bronte. Grimshaw was an eccentric but frank, fearless, 
and companionable man, large in natiu^ as in statiu^, and a 
warm advocate of Methodism so long as it remained within 
the Established Church. Another was John Berridge, of 
Everton, in the Midlands, a useful and widely known col- 
league, whom Wesley loved to visit. But the extravagant 
conduct of Berridge and the prostrations and ravings of 
his converts were excesses Wesley found it difficult to 
explain. 

The ripest, most apt and perfect saint of Anglican Meth- 
odism was Fletcher of Madeley, a naturalized Swiss of 
patrician descent, whose holiness of character impressed even 
Voltaire, and is still an inspiration and a power. His memory 
is encircled by an ethereal luster which has given him a unique 
place in the annals of his own Church and in those of Meth- 
odism. Many devout men and women of all persuasions 
have derived their best ideals and conceptions of evangel- 
ical Christianity from his personal example. Disregarding 
his parent's intention that he should enter the ministry, 
Fletcher, like many of his countrymen, sought employment 
as a soldier of fortune, and being frustrated in this attempt, 
repaired to England, where he secured a position as tutor 
in the family of Mr. Thomas Hill of Tern Hall, Shropshire.* 
While residing with his patron in London, he became an 
earnest Christian, and at once showed that capacity for the 
religious life in which he has had few equals. An ardent 
love for New Testament truth and inward purity possessed 
him. He was set apart to the pastorate in his twenty- 
eighth year, and during the first months after his ordination 
ministered at Atcham Church, an ancient structure of 
Norman foundation, standing near one of the loveliest 

> Now called Attingham Hall and the seat of the Berwioks. 



JOHN WESLEY 325 

windings of the Severn River. In this rural paradise, sur- 
rounded by a landscape full of unmarketable beauties of 
glade and hedgerow, where, beyond the skirting woods of 
Attingham and Haughmond, the spires of Shrewsbury pierce 
the horizon and the gray walls of the former Cistercian Abbey 
of Buildwas are seen in the adjacent valley, Fletcher entered 
upon the work of his life. Two livings were offered him, one 
of comparative ease, the other, at Madeley, an industrial 
parish seven miles distant, small in stipend and overflowing 
with vice and iniquity. He chose the latter, and there began 
that ministry which could not be confined to any locality. 
At first wantonly opposed, at last tenderly loved, in a then 
obscure village Fletcher led a life crowded with these alter- 
nations, but crowned in the sequel by the unbounded rev- 
erence of his parishioners and many others who held him 
well-nigh infallible in the higher matters that pertain to 
the spirit. His unadorned story, like that of St. Francis, 
whom he resembled in sanctity, is as fascinating as any 
romance of medieval religion. 

His frail body could not adequately sustain the intensity 
of his meek but unquenchable soul, and when, at length, it 
gave way, he spent his last Lord's Day in the sanctuary at 
the altar of the Holy Conununion, and was carried thence 
to his death-bed amid the blessings of his people. His 
wife, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, survived him many years, 
and was herself counted among the saints of Methodism. 
Wesley, who had chosen Fletcher as his successor, mourned 
his decease, and testified of him: ''Many exemplary men 
have I known, holy in heart and life, within fourscore years ; 
but one equal to him I have not known, one so inwardly 
and outwardly devoted to (rod. So unblamable a character, 
in every respect, I have not found either in Europe or 
America ; and I scarce expect to find such another on this 
side of eternity." ^ 

Other assistance came, however, and Wesley soon 

> L. T^orman : "Life and Tunes of John Wesley!' ; Vol. III. p. 464. 



326 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

obtained an active corps of workers. In the first days 
of the movement, preaching was confined to ministers 
of episcopal ordination, but its spread in wider areas 
where the Anglican pastors were unfriendly led to develop- 
ments which eventuaUy separated Methodism from the older 
Church. On occasions when no such clergyman was pres- 
ent to address the congregations, lay helpers had ventured 
to do so. Of these were Joseph Humphreys, John Cennick, 
and Thomas Maxfield. As early as 1738, Humphreys had 
assisted Wesley at Fetter Lane, and after 1740 the other 
two were identified with the more distinct Methodism at 
the Foundery. By the end of that year the Wesleys were 
isolated: Whitefield was in America; Grambold and Brig- 
ham had joined the Moravians; and Anglicans? generaUy 
had washed their hands of the enterprise. Under these 
circumstances the forerunners of the itinerant preachers 
appeared. Cennick was a man of some cultiu^, the Master 
of Kingswood School, who celebrated his conversion in 
several well-known hymns, among which are those beginning 

"Children of the Heavenly Kmg" 
and 

"Thou dear Redeemer, dying Lamb." 



Requested to reprove him for expounding the Scriptures 
to a congregation disappointed of its minister, on the con- 
trary Wesley so encouraged him that he gave his spare 
time to preaching and exposition in the neighborhood of 
Bristol. Yet when Wesley received word there that Thomas 
Maxfield had also "turned preacher/' and in the London 
Society at that, he was greatly disquieted. One surmises 
that his dismay was due to the relative importance of the 
Foundery and to the difference between Cennick and Max- 
field, rather than to Maxfield's presiunption. A man of 
unstable disposition, the latter had been converted under 
Wesley's preaching at Bristol on May 20, 1739, and became 
the servant and companion of his brother Charles. John 



9f 



JOHN WESLEY 327 

kow hurried to London, determined to silence him, but 
here he received an imexpected caution from his mother: 
'You know what my sentiments have been/' said Mrs. 
Lesley. ''You cannot suspect me of favoring anything of 
his kind, but take care what you do with respect to that 
'^oung man, for he is as surely called to preach as you are." 
le yielded to her advice to hear Maxfield for himself, and. 
Iter doing so, the matter ended with his hearty sanction. 
Vithin a year there were twenty recognized lay preachers 
Q the various Societies, an innovation which again annoyed 
he dergy of the Establishment. ''I know your brother 
Tell/' remarked Dr. Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh, to 
Charles Wesley. "I could never credit all I heard respect- 
Qg him and you; but one thing in your conduct I could 
lever account for — your employing laymen." "My lord, 
ejoined Charles, "the fault is yours and your brethren's. 
' How so ? " asked the Archbi shop. " Because you hold your 
leace, and the stones cry out," answered Charies. "But 
\ am told," urged his Grace, "that they are unlearned men." 
'Some are," said Charles, adding with a flash, "and so the 
lumb ass rebukes the prophet," whereupon the Archbishop 
isked no further questions.^ 

Tlie truth that laws and institutions are not made, but 
;row out of necessity, was illustrated by this emergence 
rom the neglected people of their spiritual guides and 
Those who were chosen for such offices carried 
Gospel into places where Wesley, ubiquitous as he 
vas, could never have penetrated. Their advent into 
lis evangelizing scheme delivered it from the contingencies 
diich might have arisen at his death; the work ceased to 
lang on the thread of a single existence, and the confident 
mphedes of its opponents that the movement would soon 
lerish were doomed to remain unfulfilled. Within twelve 
^ears eighty-five helpers had already entered the service, of 
Krhom six had died, ten had retired, one had been expelled, 

1 L. Tyennan : "life and Timea of John Wealey " ; Vol. I, p. 277. 



328 THREE REUOIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and sixty-eight were in active employment. At the Leeds 
Conference in 1755 rules r^;ulating their conduct were for- 
mulated and published by Wesley. They were expected 
to be always earnestly alive to their duty, patterns of self- 
denial; to drink only water, to rise at four, to fast 
on Fridays, to visit from house to house, to insist on a 
definite religious experience in the m^nbers, and to make 
a quarterly report of their labors. No one else could 
have required such self-effaoement with any hope of 
obtaining it from men characteristically independent. 
He did not make these demands, however, in the spirit of 
mere supremacy, but because he was satisfied that they 
were absolutely essential to the welfare of his workers and 
the success of their work. On their part, the preachers were 
content to submit to ordinances which the ruler himself 
was the first to obey. When he was criticized for investing 
himself with arbitrary power, he answered artlessly, "If by 
arbitrary power you mean a power which I exercise singly, 
without any colleagues therein, this b certainly true, but I 
see no hurt in it." There was little, because his love for 
these obscure laborers was that of a father for his children, 
and theirs for him was blended with a reverent awe. Once 
his prejudices were overcome, none rejoiced in their presence 
and progress more than did Wesley. He knew them in- 
timately, read their respective traits with a discerning eye, 
watched over their temporal and spiritual wants, was patient 
with their misunderstandings, mourned over their defections, 
which were few, and covered the pages of his Journal with 
accounts of their struggles and trimnphs. The hardships of 
their lot were such as even he had not known, save for a 
brief period. They were subjected to inhuman treatment long 
after their leader, by general consent, had obtained exemp- 
tion from the penalties the world is wont to inflict on 
prophets of the truth. Relentlessly pursued by their enemies, 
denounced, ridiculed, caricatured, threatened, maltreated; 
penniless and a-hungered, sometimes sick unto death ; and 



JOHN WESLEY 329 

all for no other reason than their exercise of the liberty 
to testify concerning the Gospel; yet as a rule they 
were found faithful to the end. A word of praise from 
Wesley's lips was as eagerly prized as is the cross for valor 
by the soldier on the battle-field. The testimony of a con- 
science void of offense and the bliss of a regenerated life 
were at once the secret of their heroical character and the 
burden of their message. 

Doubtless there were violations of good taste, prudence, 
and sobriety of judgment, but, when the origin, training and 
environment of the first itinerants are considered, these 
mistakes appear relatively slight. It is apparent that they 
not only met a national religious emergency, but that on 
the whole they were the best equipped men to meet it. The 
gulf which separated the lettered cleric from the artisan 
and the peasant was imknown to them. After the manner 
of those of the New Testament these democratic disciples 
consorted with the multitude, and captured many strong- 
holds of sin which had withstood the parochial clergy. 
They introduced to homes ravaged by vice and crime the 
thrift and industry, the domestic piety and rectitude of 
conduct which form the hearth where the soul of a country 
is nurtured and protected. Wesley's estimate of them was 
judicious: "In the one thing which they profess to know 
they are not ignorant men. I trust there is not one of them 
who is not able to go through such an examination in sub- 
stantial, practical, experimental divinity as few of our can- 
didates for holy orders even in the University (I speak it 
with sorrow and shame and in tender love), are able to do." 
He had his full share of the scholar's hate of ignorance ; none 
knew better the advantages of an educated ministry, and he 
was at great pains in aiding his helpers to gain knowledge. 
"Your talent in preaching does not increase," he wrote to 
one of these. "It is lively, but not deep. There is little 
variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only 
can supply this, with daily meditation and daily prayer. 



330 THRBB RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

. . . Whether you like it or not, read and pray duly. 
It is for your lifel There is no other way; else you will 
be a trifler all your days and a pretty, superficial preadier. 
Do justice to your own soul ; give it time and means to grow; 
do not starve yourself any longer." He lectured to than 
on "Pearson on the Creed," "Aldrich's Logic," and similar 
works; discussed their difficulties, instructed them in the 
art of correct thinking and speaking, and arranged the course 
of their studies. His "Notes on the New Testament," 
taken from Bengel, and the "Rules for Action and Utter^ 
ance" were written primarily for than, and his "Christian 
Library," an abridgment of some fifty well-known works, 
while meant for a larger public, was also intended for his 
helpers. Whatever came from his pen was eageriy read by 
them in order that they might become a more efficient 
fighting unit under his generalship. The time was not 
ripe for constitutional Methodism: indeed a division of 
its government at this stage would have been equiva- 
lent to placing an army confronting the enemy under a 
conunittee of half-trained officers. It was necessary that the 
preachers should cultivate a talent for administration before 
they could safely be intrusted with its powers. This was a 
wise policy, preserving the integrity of the movement from the 
undesirable elements which a few zealots were eager to intro- 
duce. Although an autocrat, Wesley was generally careful 
to ascertain as far as possible the wishes of his preachers. 
No Protestant clergyman ever exercised a more fascinating 
influence over his brethren. The charm was personal, 
whether diffused through his conversation, his correspon- 
dence, or his kindly acts. His preachers, old and young, 
were free to offer suggestions, which he readily adopted 
if they conunended themselves to his judgment; and 
Henry Moore, who took advantage of this privilege more 
frequently than did his brethren, was relished for his 
freedom of speech. When a younger minister's frank 
expression of opinion provoked the blunt and militant 



JOHN WESLEY 331 

Thomas Rankin to chide him for impertinence, Wesley at 
once interposed in his defense, and added, ''I will thank 
the yomigest man among you to tell me of any fault you see 
in me; in so doing, I shall consider him my best friend." 
Tills was his usual bearing in a singular position not easily 
understood in this day of distributed ecclesiastical authority. 
While he lived, his absolutism was tempered and adjusted 
by his paternal conduct ; after he died, not even the Confer- 
ence, in its collective wisdom, could exercise it as he had 
done without encoimtering resistance and material loss. 

The fact that one great soul made his ideas and convic- 
tions the sources of spiritual vitality for generations of men 
and women is impressive. Wesley's Christian nature, en- 
dowed with an intellectual energy unrivaled in its attrac- 
tion for the plain folk, made him the figure of his century 
which brightens on the historic canvas while other figures 
fade. The bishops and statesmen whom he could not per- 
suade nor prompt, who would not hearken to his counsel and 
despised his reproof, wax dimmer and dinuner, while he looms 
larger and more influential. But this would have been 
impossible had he not extended his work through the helpers 
whom he brought to the rescue of a degraded populace and 
controlled and directed with singular fimmess united with 
equally remarkable tact. Thus it was not only his renovated 
forms of theological faith or his unique individuality coin- 
ciding with opportimity or necessity, but the fertility of 
his organizing genius and, most of all, the devotion of his 
preachers, that accounted for the spread of Methodism. 

Some of his subordinates were designated "half itinerants," 
sudi as John Haime, William Shent, William Roberts, 
Charles Perronet, John Furz, Jonathan Jones, Jonathan 
Maskew, James Roquet, John Fisher, Matthew Lowes, 
John Brown, and Enoch Williams; others, "chief local 
preachers," such as Joseph Jones, Thomas Maxfield, Thomas 
Westall, Francis Walker, Joseph Tucker, William Tucker, 
James Morris, Eleazer Webster, John Bakewell, Alexander 



332 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Mather, Thomas Colbeck, Titus Knight, John Slooomb, 
and Michael Calender. Southey, in reviewing these lists, 
describes the appearance of John Haime, the soldier evange- 
list, dwelling on his mean and common features, his smaD, 
inexpressive eyes, scanty eyebrows and short, broad, vulgar 
nose, "in a face of ordinary proportions which seemed to 
mark out a subject who would have been content to travd 
a jog-trot along the high-road of mortality, and have looked 
for no greater delight than that of smoking and boozing in 
the chimney comer. And yet," adds Southey, ''John Hidme 
passed his whole life in a continued spiritual ague." ^ True, 
Haime had his disordered humors, and he was troubled 
about many things. But his case showed that when religion 
reaches and uplifts the lowest in the human scale illimitable 
are the hopes it inspires of what humanity may be permitted 
to attain. On May 11, 1745, he stood in the stricken ranks 
at Fontenoy and was among the last to retreat. When 
the army camped in Flanders, Haime, although he had 
never seen Wesley, preached his doctrines to his comrades, 
and led them to the Cross. They went into action 
singing Methodist hymns, and died on the field praising 
God for His salvation. John Downes, who left sixpence 
as his total fortune, and was forced to relinquish preaching 
because of ill-health, was a mathematician and a mechanical 
expert, and best of all, a godly and an honorable man. 
Thomas Walsh, one of the Irish converts of 1749, in some 
respects the foremost member of the pioneer band, was dis- 
tinguished not only for his fervid piety, but also for his learn- 
ing. Wesley regarded him as the best Biblical scholar he 
had ever known. His proficiency in Hebrew and Greek 
was such that he read these languages as easily as he did his 
native Erse, and could tell how often and where a given word 
occurred in the original Scriptures. "The life of Thomas 
Walsh," said Southey, "might almost convince even a 
Catholic that saints are to be found in other communions 

» *'Life of Wesley" ; pp. 292-298. 



JOHN WESLEY 333 

as well as in the Church of Rome. . . . His soul seemed 
absorbed in Grod; and from the serenity and something 
resembling splendour which appeared on his countenance 
and in all his gestures afterwards, it might easily be dis- 
covered what he had been about." ^ He was widely accepted 
among his own people, to whom he became an ambassador 
of Christ Jesus for nine years before he died at the early age 
of twenty-eight. 

Among the six preachers admitted at the Limerick Con- 
ference of August, 1752, the first held in Ireland, was Philip 
Guier, Master of the Grerman school at Ballingran. Of the 
seven thousand Grermans who in 1709 had been driven by 
persecution from the Palatinate of the Rhine to England, 
three thousand were sent to America, and the majority of 
the remainder settled in or around Limerick, where Guier 
taught Embury his letters and instructed Thomas Walsh 
in the faith. The leader of Methodism at Limerick until 
his death in 1778, Guier tended the little flock so assiduously 
that a hundred years later his name was still a haUing sign 
of the people for the itinerants. John Jane certainly earned 
a place in the roll of self-sacrificing devotees. Unable to 
purchase a horse, he undertook his journeys on foot, and 
Wesley once met him at Holyhead without food or means, 
but in capital spirits after a long tramp from Bristol, during 
which he had spent seven nights on the road and managed 
to exist with only three shillings to his account. Weakened 
by privations and exposures, he died a few months later, 
sateen pence and his clothes being his total estate — 
"enough," said Wesley, "for any unmarried preacher of the 
Gospel to leave his executors." The list of these worthies 
could be enlarged indefinitely, and even so late as the early 
Victorian period, the Primitive Methodist exhorters and 
preachers were subjected to similar hardships. 

Southey's criticism that as a rule Wesley's men "possessed 
no other qualifications than a good stock of animal spirits 

» "Life of Wesley"; pp. 381-388. 



334 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and a ready flow of words, a talent which of all others is 
least connected with sound intellect/' would make them the 
merest accident in a tremendous moral conflict of which they 
were actuaUy the center. On the contrary, their preaching 
served to emphasize the fact that the tongue is eloquent in 
its own language and the heart in its own religion. That 
religion was sheltered in their deepest consciousness, and 
for it they wrought and suffered greatly, finding in its ideals 
the true life of the spirit and an inspiration to disinterested 
action. 

m 

Wesley's success as an organizer was further due to his 
resourcefulness in adopting or modifying methods and plans 
already existing as well as those he formulated himself. 
Neither the name nor the idea of the Societies originated 
with him, and he refers to his own use of them as f oUows : 
"The first rise of Methodism was in Nov«nber, 1729, when 
four of us met together at Oxford; the second was at 
Savannah in April, 1736, when twenty or thirty persons 
met at my house; the last was at London, when forty or 
fifty of us agreed to meet together every Wednesday evening, 
in order to free conversation, begun and ended with singing 
and prayer." ^ The Society in Aldersgate Street, where 
he was converted, was held under Anglican auspices pre- 
viously to Molther's appearance, and so was that at Fetter 
Lane. Three years after the exodus to the Foundery, 
distinctively Methodist organizations had spread from 
London to Bristol, Kingswood, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and 
were soon multiplied throughout the kingdom. A book of 
rules for their guidance, which was issued at Newcastle in 
1743, and signed by the Wesleys, contained their definition 
of a Society as "a company of men having the form and 
seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray 

^ Ecclesiastical History, IV, p. 175, quoted by Canon J. H. Overton : 
"John Wesley"; p. 121. 



JOHN WESLEY 335 

together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch 
over one another in love, that they may help each other 
to work out their own salvation/' They naturally de- 
sired feUowship, and in providing for it Wesley reverted 
to the practice of the Apostolic Church, where he found 
the authorization of those measures without which his 
congregations would have been impaired if not destroyed. 
The institution most typical of Methodism was the class 
meeting, which began at Bristol in 1742. In order to 
raise funds for the extinction of the debt upon the Horse 
Fair Chapel, one Captain Fry proposed that every mem- 
ber should give a penny a week. The objection was 
made that some were too poor to afford this modest sum, 
whereupon Fry volunteered to underwrite the contri- 
butions of eleven such members, and suggested that 
others should do likewise. His advice was taken, the entire 
Society was divided into groups of twelve, the responsible 
member being called the leader, and the rest his class. In 
this way originated the fiscal system which has since been 
employed for the support of the ministry, and also that 
communion of saints which has had no superior. 

The watch night service, which was akin to the mgilcB 
of the early Church, was at first held monthly, but later, on 
New Year's eve only. The quarterly meeting arose out of 
the necessity for pastoral supervision of the Societies and class 
meetings, and gradually became the local church coiut for 
the circuits assigned to the preachers, who also gave tickets 
to the members in good standing. The band meetings 
and love feasts were intended to cultivate in their at- 
tendants a grateful sense of Grod's mercies, and self- 
examination concerning their state, sins, and temptations. 
The penitents* meeting is suflBciently described by its 
name, the hynms and exhortations being such as were 
suitable for mourners who had lost their assurance of for- 
giveness. It is evident that these means for religious growth 
were more nearly a reproduction of those of the New 



336 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Testament than many others then extant, and that nothing 
had been done as yet to contravene the ideals of Angli- 
canism concerning the priesthood of the clergy. On this 
issue even Wesley contended that the priest was a repre- 
sentative character, with derivative functions, and traces of 
his conception have appeared in some of his ministerial 
followers. We return to the class meeting because it was 
the soul of the peculiar fraternity and social worship whidi 
have been the cohesive bonds of Wesleyanism. Within its 
hallowed circle the sinful were warned to "flee from the wrath 
to come," the careless were reproved, the backsliders re- 
covered, the faint-hearted encouraged, and the presump- 
tuous restrained. As the fundamental part of a polity 
which was dictated by necessity rather than expediency, 
it directed spiritual energies, and conserved the divine 
life out of which these arose. It gave Wesley and his 
members an inviolable retreat for tiieir souls' safety; it 
freed them for the most aggressive evangelism England 
and America have known ; it coordinated in one Christian 
democracy colliers, laborers, artisans, ironworkers, me^ 
chants and scholars, and fused them into a brotherhood 
whose main objects were to live soberly and righteously, 
and grow daily in the knowledge and love of their Re- 
deemer. It also produced an extensive hagiology, in which 
for the first time the miner and the plowman had their 
proportionate numbers and distinction. The majority 
of its adherents came from a harassing environment 
to the cherished spot where they learned to endure 
as seeing Him Who is invisible. "It can scarce be 
conceived," wrote Wesley, "what advantages have been 
reaped from this prudential regulation. Many now 
experience that Christian fellowship of which they had 
not so much as an idea before." The leaders essayed the 
difficult task of spiritual culture, and despite many draw- 
backs discharged its duties with courage, fidelity, and wisdouL 
Such an intercourse could not fail to be mutually helpful 



JOHN WESLEY 337 

and enriching. It was at once the outer court and the inner 
sanctuary of that temple of living souls which arose before 
the unbelieving gaze of bigoted clerics and cynical secular- 
istSy and while it was held dear the missionary spirit of 
Methodism remained invincible. 

The first Conference convened at the Foundery on Monday, 
June 25, 1744, and remained in session for five days. It 
consisted of ten members : the two Wesleys, John Hodges, 
Rector of Wenvo, Henry Piers, Vicar of Bexley, Samuel 
Taylor, Vicar of Quinton, John Meriton, an incumbent in 
the Isle of Man, and four lay preachers, Thomas Richards, 
Thomas Maxfield, John Bennett, and John Downes. Al- 
though of these last named only Downes remained with 
Wesley to the end, they were the representatives of the lay 
pieaehers who in Britain now occupy ten out of every 
twelve of the pulpits of Methodism. Small in numbers as 
the Conference was, this did not prevent it from devising 
a lai^ program. On the Lord's Day previous to the open- 
ing session the Holy Communion was administered to the 
London Society of over two thousand members. Charles 
Wesley delivered the official sermon, which was followed 
by a series of discussions on doctrine and order, when it 
was resolved to maintain Anglican standards both by 
preaching and example. The new disciples were urged to 
build one another up in faith and diligence in order that 
Scriptural holiness might be spread throughout the land. 
The itinerants were minutely directed as to their general 
conduct, and exhorted to remember that ''a preacher is to 
mind every point, great or small, in the Methodist discipline. 
Therefore you will need all the grace and sense you have, 
and to have all your wits about you." 

These ten men, the majority of whom were Anglican 
clergymen, created the annual Conference, over forty-seven 
sessions of which Wesley himself presided, and which has 
met for one hundred and seventy-two successive years. 
The Conferences of American and Australian Methodism, 



338 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

both annual and quadrennial, were afterwards modeled 
upon it. As organizations they have spread a network of 
jurisdiction throughout the English-speaking world and 
over missionary lands, becoming the high courts of l^isla- 
tion and executive control, and conveying the spirit and 
doctrines of their Founder to every quarter of the globe. 

The apparent innovation of Wesley's teachings was largdy 
due to the fact that what is seen or heard for the first time, 
however ancient, appears novel. He did little more than 
expound the principles of Christianity contained in the 
Articles of the Church of England, and interpreted by 
Moravianism. This led him to the regenerated life which 
is supreme over ecclesiasticism and dogmatism. From 
Moravianism he also derived some major conceptions of 
how that life was received and propagated. In its ex- 
ample he saw the possibility of forming vital groups within 
the Church rather than of founding an independent com- 
munion, and enacted his measures accordingly. He deemed 
the position of the Scriptures impregnable, and wrote of 
them in the Preface to his Sermons. "Let me be homo 
unius libri. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. 
I sit down alone : only God is here. In his presence I read 
His book ; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there 
a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? I lift up 
my heart to the Father of lights, and ask him to let me know 
His will. I then search after and consider parallel passages 
of Scripture. I meditate thereon with all the attention and 
earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt 
still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things 
of God; and then the writings whereby, being dead, they 
yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach." ^ 

His language shows that few men have been less 
hampered in their religious energies by the critical in- 
tellectual atmosphere. While he never regarded regularity 
in minor theological issues as of supreme importance, he 

i L. Tyerman : *'Life and Times of John Wealey" ; Vol. I, p. 532. 



JOHN WESLEY 339 

always insisted upon the necessity of repentance, regenera- 
tion, and justification by faith. These, though separable 
in thought, were quite inseparable in fact. "The moment 
we are justified by the grace of God through the redemption 
that is in Jesus, we are also bom of the Spirit. . . . Jus- 
tification implies only a relative, the new birth, a real change. 
God in justifying us does something for us; in begetting 
118 again He does the work in us. By justification, instead 
at enemies we become children; by sanctification, instead 
of sinners we become saints. The first restores us to the 
favour, the other to the image of God." 

His view of regeneration was inconsistent. In his 
''Treatise on Baptism," published in 1756, he states that 
"By baptism, we, who were 'by nature children of wrath,* 
are made the children of God. And this regeneration, which 
our Church, in so many places, ascribes to Baptism, b more 
than barely being admitted into the Church, though com- 
monly connected therewith : being 'grafted into the body of 
Christ's Church, we are made the children of God by adop- 
tion and grace.''' Again in his sermon on the New Birth 
he says, "It is certain our Church supposes that all who are 
baptized in their infancy are, at the same time, born again ; 
and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of 
Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objec- 
tion of any weight against this that we cannot comprehend 
how this work can be wrought in infants. For neither can 
we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years." ^ 
This was sound Anglicanism, but when Wesley faced the 
truth that regenerated infants developed into unmistakable 
Burners, he promptly abandoned it. Becoming impatient 
with the futility of arguing back to any presumptive change 
m infancy, he exclaimed, "How entirely idle are the com- 
mon disputes on this head! I tell a sinner, 'You must 
be bom again I' 'No,' say you, 'he was born again in bap- 
tism; therefore he cannot be born again.' Alas, what 

* L. Tyerman : ''life and Times of John Wealey " ; Vol. II, pp. 264-265. 



340 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

trifling is this I What if he was then a child of God ? He 
is now manifestly a child of the devil. Therefore do not play 
upon words. He must go through an entire change of 
heart. . . . Remember that if either he or you die without 
it, your baptism will be so far from profiting you that it 
will greatly increase your damnation." Here, as was his 
custom, Wesley concerned himself with the facts of the 
case and left the theories to take care of themselves. The 
two standards are hard to reconcile, nor did he attempt their 
reconciliation; he preferred to dwell on the transformation 
which God effects in the soul when He raises it from the 
death of sin to the life of righteousness, recreating it in 
Christ Jesus, and renewing it in His own likeness. At 
that moment the affections were transferred from things tem- 
poral to things eternal ; pride became humility, and passion 
meekness ; hatred, envy, and malice were supplanted by a 
sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. He 
did not insist upon the instantaneousness of this revolution, 
although he had been told by Bohler that it occurred at a 
given moment. "I contend, not for circmnstance, but for 
the substance," he observed. "So you can attain it another 
way, do ; only see that you do attain it." 

His sermon on "The Duty of Constant Communion," 
published in 1788, shows that he looked upon the Eucharist 
as the food of souls, giving strength for the performance 
of duty, and leading its recipients toward perfection. He 
held both Sacraments in such reverence that he persist- 
ently refused to allow either of them to be administered by 
any except episcopally ordained clergymen. Nevertheless he 
was not a Sacramentarian in the sense that permits out- 
ward and visible signs to displace an inward and renewing 
grace; a grace, as he avowed, received by faith, not by 
material media, and which depends upon the witness of the 
Holy Spirit and the assurance of the believer's heart, rather 
than upon confonnity in communicating. Again, this assur- 
ance differed from the tenet of final perseverance ; it could be 



JOHN WESLEY 341 

forfeited by lack of faith or lapse of conduct; it was active 
only in those who continued steadfast in well-doing, and 
who brought forth the fruits of righteousness in their daily 
Hves. It was also diametrically opposed to the governing 
concept of sacerdotalism, Anglican as well as Roman, which 
repudiates the idea of the believer's certainty of forgiveness, 
save on priestly authority. In the medieval Church the 
mystics alone professed this independent certitude; Wyc- 
li£Fe rejected it absolutely ; Calvin found no sufficient place 
for it in his deterministic scheme; Luther, though it was 
contained in his teaching on salvation by faith, receded from 
it in proportion as he narrowed the meaning of faith to 
intellectual acceptance of dogma. The Church of England 
was conmiitted, by the implication of her Homilies, if not 
by their specific declarations, to the doctrine of assurance; 
but this had been completely overlooked, and Wesley's 
teaching was invested, even in the minds of her leading 
instructors, with a dangerous if not heretical tendency, "an- 
other illustration," as Dr. Workman remarks, ''of the 
familiar truth that the working creeds of a Church are by 
no means the full contents of its official symbols." 

The doctrine of Christian perfection was the crown 
of Wesley's teaching, and the corollary of his appeal to 
experience. A genuine consciousness of sonship in the be- 
liever implies the possibility that such consciousness may 
become complete, and this as a present possibility, else 
the experience would not be in consciousness. Its inward 
truth has been common, as an experience rather than as 
a doctrine, to saints of all ages. It has been misinter- 
preted through regarding time as an actuality rather than 
as a quality of consciousness, the latter being Wesley's 
understanding of it. Those who would dismiss it either 
as an egoistical delusion or an iridescent dream, which, 
like that of St. Francis, cannot overcome contact with the 
earth, may perhaps be induced to turn to it again by the 
observation of Professor Huxley, that perfectibility is the 



342 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

one rational goal of progressive existence. This suggests 
the further reflection that the life everlasting would se^n 
to demand the final unity of all being in the likeness and 
will of God. Wesley derived his ideal from those Scriptural 
passages which enjoin unreserved surrender to Christ Jesus, 
and a heart overflowing with love toward Grod and man. He 
not only expounded these graces without faltering, but also 
verified the type of Christian life they produced by an 
open discussion of its results. Wherever they were prac- 
ticed he noted a quickening among his people, and thb 
caused him to preach perfection more constantly, as of the 
utmost importance for the growth of believers. Writing to 
Adam Clarke in November, 1790, he says, "To retain the 
grace of Grod, is much more than to gain it ; hardly one in 
three does this. And this should be strongly and explicitly 
urged upon all who have tasted of perfect love. If we can 
prove that any of our local preachers or leaders, either 
directly or indirectly, speak against it, let him be a local 
preacher or leader no longer . . . how impossible it is to 
retain pure love without growing therein." ^ To Robert 
Brackenbury he wrote in the same year, "This doctrine is 
the grand depositiun which God has lodged with the people 
called Methodists; and, for the sake of propagating this 
chiefly, He appeared to have raised them up." * He 
commented on the Society at Otley in Yorkshire: "Here 
began that glorious work of sanctification which now from 
time to time spread through most parts of England and all 
the south and west of Ireland. And wherever the work of 
sanctification increased, the whole work of God increased 
in all its branches." He had visited the Otley Methodists 
and examined them one by one. Some of them he doubted, 
but of the majority he wrote, "Unless they told wilful and 
deliberate lies, it was plain : (1) That they felt no inward sin, 
and, to the best of their knowledge, committed no outward 

» L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. III. p. 633. 
« Ibid., p. 625. 



JOHN WESLEY 343 

mn. (2) That they saw and loved God every moment, and 
prayed, rejoiced, and gave thanks evermore. (3) That they 
had constantly as clear a witness from God of sanctifica- 
tion as they had of justification. In this/' he added, ''I do 
rejoice and will rejoice. . . . I would to God, thousands had 
experienced thus much; let them afterwards experience 
as much more as Grod pleases." ^ 

In his "Plain Account of Christian Perfection^' he dwelt 
upon it at length, but despite his avowals many devout 
Methodists have held that while these higher levels 
are divinely authorized, they are not always humanly 
possible. Nor was Wesley under any delusion concerning 
the measure of his own sanctification. He never claimed 
for himself that the goal was won: on the contrary, it 
was ever before him, and his language was that of antici- 
pation rather than acquirement. He scrupulously avoided 
the phrase, "sinless perfection," yet the term perfection 
was itself susceptible of abuse, both from the indi£Ferent 
and from those whose zeal outran their knowledge. Stand- 
ing midway between these extremists was a group of men 
and women who satisfied his highest hopes. Cardinal 
Newman's test of the claim of a Church to be in the 
apostolic succession by its ability to produce saints was 
not only met by John Fletcher and Thomas Walsh, to 
whose splendor and serenity the world could offer no bribe, 
but also by such children of Methodism as Hannah Ball, 
Nancy Bolton, Hester Rogers, Martha Thompson, William 
Bramwell, Roger Crane, Ezekiel Cooper, Thomas Taylor, 
David Stoner, William Carvosso, Thomas Collins, Benja- 
min M. Adams, Bishop Marvin, William Owen of Old 
Park, and nimiberless others — elect souls who verified the 
reality of Christ's word, "I am come that they might have 
life, and that they might have it more abundantly." 

The contrast furnished by the unseemly ebullitions of a 
cult of perfectionists in the London Society grieved Wesley, 

> L. Tyerman : "life and Times of John Wealey" ; Vol. II, p. 417. 



344 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and alanned the more sedate brethren. Thomas Maxfidd, 
among other heady emotionalists, began by professing entire 
sanctification, and ended in hysterical delusions. Upon 
being rebuked by the preachers, he displayed a temptf 
anything but holy, and Fletcher, anxious for the pres^ 
ervation of genuine spirituality, wrote to Wesley: ''Many 
of our brethren are overshooting sober Christianity in 
London. . . . The corruption of the best things b always 
the most corrupt." When Wesley returned there, in 
October, 1762, he found the Society rent in twain, and 
Maxfield and his sympathizers inclined to further mischirf. 
They had withdrawn from fellowship, and one of them, George 
Bell, a former soldier and a noisy fellow whose obsessions 
were incurable, became a full-blown prophet of the Millennial 
Advent, which he solemnly announced would take place on 
February 28, 1763. God had done with preaching and 
ordinances, and His presence was now strictly limited to 
the assemblies of the Bellites. These lurid apocalypses 
led astray the unwary, and Wesley's patience with them 
ceased to be a virtue. But Maxfield, who through the good 
offices of Wesley had obtained ordination from the Bbhop 
of Londonderry, had been prominent in Methodism, and 
Wesley was reluctant to silence the preacher who had received 
the commendation of his mother. Finally Maxfield with- 
drew from the Society, taking two hundred of its mem- 
bers with him, to whom he ministered for twenty years 
after the schism. It is gratifying to add that toward the 
close of his life he came to a better mind; friendly rela- 
tions with his old associates were resumed ; Wesley preached 
in his church, and visited him in his last illness. The dissen- 
sions cost the London Society four hundred members, a 
loss from which it did not recover for a long period. In 
the sequence, however, the purging was beneficial. Phari- 
saism was halted, and credulity and irrational exaltation 
were discontinued. Similar disturbances in later times have 
raised the question whether the distinction between regen- 



JOHN WESLEY 346 

eration and sanctification is valid in actual experience, or 
whether the latter is simply an intensified expression of 
regeneration. In any case, the moral b that doctrines 
ahoukl be as catholic in scope and simplicity as the 
nature of the truths they are intended to set forth will 
allow. Methodism was bound to keep alight on its altars 
the flame of holiness, though perhaps they might have been 
more effectually guarded against strange fires. Be this as 
it may, in nothing did Wesley show hb sagacity more admi- 
rably than in his refusal to yield to senseless vaporings on the 
one hand, or, on the other, to lassitude and indifference. 

While the heart is not another kind of reason, it is a 
recx)gnized faculty for discerning truth. It represents 
implicit judgments, the relative values of different senti- 
ments and purposes, and supplies the regulating principles 
of life. Upon it Wesley relied for these gifts in the enforce- 
ment of his teachings. With Plato and St. Paul and other 
prophets, he perceived by its illumination things eternal, 
and that these could be attained by mortals. He modified 
these implicit judgments, and fashioned them into the 
stated bdiefs now known as Wesleyan theology. It was 
not always easy to do this, but he persevered until he felt 
he had alike satisfied the claims of reason and of religion. 
Hb success was apparent in those who received his message : 
they were no longer ensnared in a melancholy rotation of 
sinning and repenting, but having gained the liberty of the 
children of God, became a people " for His own possession," 
unafraid in the day of battle, and who made a specific 
contribution not only to the life and thought of Protestant- 
ism, but to "the total of truth and vantage of mankind." 
He also transferred the basis of the doctrine of assur- 
ance from the objective grounds of the Church and the 
Sacraments to those of an experimental witness within the 
believer. Although he substituted an infallible Book for 
an infallible Church, it was not necessary to the structure 
of which he was the architect. Methodbt theology b not 



346 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

SO highly articulated that its living growth cannot supply 
the wastes incurred by large variations of thought or advances 
in knowledge. Its assignment of experience as the final 
criterion of religious truth guards it from the liabilities of 
less fortunate systems which dare not yield one premise 
without endangering the entire argument. But its claim 
for the validity of introspection and its subordination of 
the objective to the subjective were kept within bounds, 
and it is "the conjunction of belief in the authority of an 
organic Church with insistence upon the value and reality 
of individual experience as the final test which gives to 
Methodism its special position in the Catholic Church."^ 
The sectarian asceticism which clouded English society 
with the gloom of bigotry was not unknown in Wes- 
leyanism. Until the Tractarians taught the needed lesson 
that all life was sanctified in Christ, a suspicion of culture 
and of the aesthetic conscience was found in Methodism as 
a natiuul revulsion against their abuse elsewhere. 

Its inner history b a record of the freedom and univer- 
sality of the Gospel operating on a scale which has seldom, 
if ever, been equaled since the earliest ages, when, as it 
seemed to the first missionaries of the Cross, the resto- 
ration of all things was at hand. Unquestionably it is 
the purest phase of New Testament Christianity which has 
arisen in modern times. One is filled no less with wonder 
at the measure of its achievements than with the conviction 
of its origin in the counsels of Eternity. Without adventi- 
tious aids or questionable alliances, despised and rejected 
by the wise and great of the world, employing for its propa- 
ganda the unfettered Evangel mediated through Wesley, 
and relying solely upon the Holy Spirit for its success, the 
little company which first followed him has multiplied in 
many lands, and in some is the dominant Protestantism of 
this era. As such it must be explained, either by the scientific 

* "A New History of Methodism"; edited by W. J. TownflODd, H. B.. 
Workman, and O. Eayrs ; Vol. I, p. 16. 



JOHN WESLEY 347 

methods which now prevail in the study of the past, or 
treated as a religions mystery without any perceptible cause. 
Theories which limit the conveyance of saving grace to 
prescribed channels of apostolical succession will have to be 
acconmiodated to the magnitudes of this latest offspring 
from the higher powers, or suffer the fate of hypotheses 
which ignore integral facts. 

The most vivid delineation of the inner life of Methodism 
is found in the hymns of Charles Wesley, which have glorified 
Christian worship more than any other similar lyrics, with 
the possible exception of those written by Isaac Watts. 
They set forth, intimate as distinguished from legalistic 
religion, radiant with the beauty of holiness and the arts 
of consolation, and overflowing with tenderness and joy. 
The cry of penitence, the answer of faith, the defiance of 
death, the sound as of a trumpet, the opened vials, the 
broken seals, the solemn doom of Judgment, the trimnphant 
certainty of an immortality of passionless renown, and all 
the signs and wonders of the Kingdom's triiunph, were more 
persuasively and exultingly expressed in them than in any 
other productions of sacred literature since the Reforma- 
tion. Their principal theme was the adoration of the 
Everlasting Father for His supreme gift in Jesus Christ 
and for the love He b always seeking to impart through 
Him to His children. 

" Tis Love I 'tis Love I Thou diedst for me I 
I hear Thy whisper in my heart ; 
The morning breaks, the shadows flee, 
Pure universal Love Thou art ; 
To me, to all. Thy mercies move ; 
Thy nature and Thy name is Love." 

The peasants who turned from their ancestral fanes to 
worship in the humble meeting-houses where such praises 
rang forth were amply rewarded by the strength and 
comfort they imparted. Here the Real Presence was 
manifested before their reverent faith while with sacred 



348 THREE REUOIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

song they made melody in their hearts. In their in- 
sistence upon personal sin, personal forgiveness, and per- 
sonal assurance, the hynms echo the individualism wtixh 
is a dominant note of the Grospel in its essential applicati(Ni, 
but they do not express those larger social aspects of reli- 
gion which are now monopolizing the vision of the Church. 
Charles's productiveness was amazing ; he wrote over six 
thousand compositions, of very unequal quality, but num- 
bering some unsurpassed in any language. He was in a 
marked degree the creature of his inspiration. Sometimes 
his poetic impulse hardly lifted him above the flatness of 
doggerel, again it suddenly failed after a biu^t of promise, 
but, in those sustained flights of lyrical rapture which it 
occasionally made, it opened for the poet a passage to the 
skies and raised him as on seraph wings to the very throne 
of God. His hynm, "Jesus, Lover of my soul," stands at 
the siunmit of odes of its order ; that on "Wrestling Jacob" 
Isaac Watts averred to be among the finest ever written; 
"Rejoice, the Lord is King" is an entirely different but 
equally noble example of his powers. These and others of a 
notably high character have been woven into the very fiber 
of millions of souls, and in them we come to the sanctmn sanc- 
torum of Christian faith. Nor is it too much to affirm that 
they are one of the strongest bonds of universal Christian 
fellowship. The limitations under which poetry must always 
move are more severely felt in hymnal composition than in 
other forms of its expression. Dr. Johnson declared that 
metrical songs meant for Christian worship could not be 
poetry, since it was necessary to exclude from them that play 
of imagination which would violate orthodoxy. On the 
contrary, this term has little meaning in hymnology: a 
sacred lyric need but arouse the devout sentiments that 
control human nature to secure a place in the services of 
every sect. There is no better evidence of the underlying 
unity of truly religious natures than their independence of 
theological speculations when they find a hynm which 



JOHN WESLEY 349 

blends their spirits with the Spirit of the Eternal. True, 
they revert toi their creeds again, but stanzas that voice with 
^wing phrase the unconquerable beliefs of men also fashion 
them, and in this respect Charles Wesley gave the people 
much of their theology. 

John's fastidious taste revised his brother's poetry and 
modified its exuberances. His own translations of the 
Moravian hymns, while somewhat bald and literal, were 
excellent; among them are Scheffler's ''I thank Thee, un- 
created One," and Terstegeen's "Thou hidden love of God 
unknown/' which has in it ''a sound as of the sound of the 
sea." John Bakewell and Ekiward Perronett also wrote 
some choice lyrics, but it was reserved for Thomas Olivers 
to rival even Charles Wesley in his sublime ascription to 
the Everlasting : 

"The Grod of Abraham praise, — 
Who reigns enthroned above, 
Ancient of Everlasting days 
And Grod of love. 
Jehovah, Great I Am, 
By earth and heaven conf est ; 
I bow, and bless the sacred name 
Forever blest." 

Commenting on this hymn of the little Welsh preacher, whom 
Toplady ridiculed as an ignorant cobbler, James Mont- 
gomery said, ''There is not in our language a lyric of more 
majestic style, more elevated, or more glorious imagery. 
Its structure indeed is unattractive on account of the short 
lines, but like a stately pile of architecture severe and simple 
in design, it strikes less on the first view than after deliber- 
ate examination." The realization of divine grace which 
gave Methodbm its first outburst of Christian song had 
many other far-reaching effects, but none of these compare 
with the influence of its sacred poetry over all classes, and 
especially over the poor and illiterate multitudes who 
were thereby taught to worship God aright. Dr. James 



350 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Martineau asserted that the ''Collection of Hymns for the 
Use of the People called Methodists," issued in 1780, was, 
''after the Scriptures, the grandest instrument of popular 
religious culture that Christendom has ever produced." 

The beginning remains always the most notable moment, 
and this carries the genesis of Methodism beyond the reach 
of artificial growths in ecclesiastical order into the heart 
of primitive Christianity. At the risk of repetition it 
must be said that its practices were reaUy reproductions 
of those which first established the teaching of Jesus. And 
in these lay its authority, for "when a religion has become 
an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over ; the spring is 
dry ; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone 
the prophets in their turn. The new Church, in spite of 
whatever hmnan goodness it may foster, can be henceforth 
counted on as a stanch ally in every attempt to stifle the 
spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings 
of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own 
supply of inspiration." ^ There could be no better descrip- 
tion of the conditions which Methodism met and overcame 
in the power of a holier faith and purpose. God has or- 
dained that life should be endowed with an almost unerring 
discrimination in favor of its necessities and against that 
which is inimical to its welfare. Applying the ordinance to 
religion, we find that when any particular form of Christian- 
ity seemed requisite, it emerged from the implicit to the 
explicit stage, was then adopted as a governing factor, and 
finally passed away with the ending of its usefulness. This 
process affords an argument for the predetermination of the 
end which such forms have been made to subserve, and 
although the theologian and the priest may mourn its 
operation, it furnishes a basis for belief in a superintending 
Power. This belief is strengthened by the fact that, be- 
neath these changes in the superficial region of revealed 
religion, there is always an irreducible body of truth 

1 William James : * 'Varieties of Religiotu Experienoe" ; p. 337. 



JOHN WESLEY 361 

necessary to life. Upon this sure foundation, John Wesley 
tniilt his theology and his Church. 

Before dealing with the memorable legislation of the year 
1784, which made the Societies in Britain and America to 
all intents and purposes self-regulating, it is necessary to 
speak of the introduction of Methodism into the colonies 
of North America, since its presence there precipitated 
its separation from Anglicanism. Wesleyan teaching had 
been carried to New York by Philip Embury and Barbara 
Heck, who were among the immigrants from Limerick in 
1764 and 1766. Embury's devotion languished in his new 
surroundings until Barbara Heck revived it,^ when, to- 
gether with other friends, they began services in a private 
house. Captain Webb, an officer of the forty-second 
r^^iment of British infantry stationed at Albany, who had 
been converted under Wesley at Bristol, joined the little 
company at New York, and in 1768 a chapel was erected 
in John Street, Embury making the pulpit with his own 
hands, and preaching the first sermon on October 30. From 
these origins and those at the log meeting house on Sam's 
Creek, Maryland, and at Lovely Lane, Baltimore, arose 
the Methodism which was destined to surpass the parent 
body in numbers. The English Conference of 1769, held at 
Leeds, received and responded to an appeal for help from the 
American brethren by appointing Richard Boardman and 
Jacob Pilmoor as their pastors, and subscribing fifty pounds 
towards the debt on John Street Church, and twenty pounds 
for the expenses of the new ministers. Pilmoor was stationed 
at Philadelphia, and Boardman in New York. Lloyd's 
Evening Post of London, amused by these bold measures, 
almounced that other promotions would soon be listed: 
•'The Rev'd. George Whitefield to be Archbishop of Bos- 
ton, Rev'd. William Romaine to be Bishop of New York, 
Rev'd. John Wesley to be Bishop of Pennsylvania, the 

* Despite common report some modem Methodists have informed the 
author that Embury did not lose his seal. 



352 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Rev'd. Martin Madan to be Bishop of the Carolinas, 
Rev'd. Walter Shirley to be Bishop of Virginia and Rev'd. 
Charles Wesley to be Bishop of Nova Scotia ; " a squib in 
which a clown for once came near to prophecy. 

Before the War of Independence, American Methodism 
had a membership of 3148, yet in 1777 the minutes of the 
English Conference do not even mention the branch in the 
colonies. "They inform me," said Wesley, "that all the 
Methodists there are firm for the Government and on that 
account persecuted by the rebek, only not to the death; 
that the preachers are still threatened but not stopped, and 
that the work of God increases much in Maryland and 
Virginia." He was strongly opposed to the Revolution; 
and his pamphlet, issued in 1775, "A Calm Address to our 
American Colonies," which prociu^ for him the thanks of 
the British government, added greatly to the distresses and 
di£Sculties of his disciples in the West. The pamphlet was 
an almost literal transcription of that imdiluted sample of 
fatuous Toryism and hackwork, Johnson's "Taxation no 
Tyranny," and Wesley's wholesale appropriation laid him 
open to the charge of plagiarism. His friends in America 
suppressed it, a kindness indeed in view of the fact that its 
sentiments flatly contradicted some of his earlier utterances. 
In a letter to Lord North against that minister's policy, 
he wrote, "All my prejudices are against the Americans; 
for I am a High Churchman, the son of a High Church- 
man, bred up, from my childhood, in the highest notion of 
passive obedience and non-resistance; and yet, in spite of 
all my long-rooted prejudices, I cannot avoid thinking, if 
I think at all, that an oppressed people asked for nothing 
more than their legal rights, and that in the most modest 
and inoffensive manner that the nature of the thing would 
allow. But, waiving all considerations of right and wrong, 
I ask, is it conunon-sense to use force towards the Ameri- 
cans? These men will not be frightened: and, it seems, 
they will not be conquered as easily as was at first imagined, 



JOHN WESLBY 353 

ihey will jNt)bably dispute every inch of ground; and, if 
th^ die, die sword in hand." ^ 

No nobler or more impressive figure rose above the politi-* 
cal and religious confusion of the Revolution than that of 
the great Englishman and bishop of American Methodism, 
Francis Asbury. Although many of the Episcopal clergy 
and five of his own colleagues withdrew from their pastoral 
charges, he refused to follow their example, suppressed his 
natural sympathies with his native land, and never ceased 
to preach and toil among his scattered and afflicted members. 
He was bom on August 20, 1745, at Handsworth, near 
Birmingham, a few miles from the locality where Wesley 
underwent his fiercest persecution and won one of his most 
signal triumphs. Blessed in his parentage, and always 
spiritually disposed, Asbury, then in his fourteenth year, 
hearing of the Wednesbury riots, went to the scene of the 
disturbance to find out what kind of piety it was that had 
aroused and then subdued the hostility of the mob. He 
returned a Methodist, and a warm advocate of Methodism. 
About three years later he began to hold public meetings, 
and when other places were closed against him had recourse 
to his father's house, where he exhorted and prayed with 
the neighbors. When he was twenty-one, Wesley enrolled 
him among his itinerants, and in 1771 sent him to Maryland. 
Asbury felt some misgivings that he had perhaps undertaken 
a venture beyond his powers, and wrote in his Journal, 
"If Grod does not acknowledge me in America, I will soon 
return to England." With this resolution he sailed from 
Bristol, never to see his relatives or Wesley again. But 
though the seas separated them, the ideals and doctrines 
of Methodism were embodied and proclaimed by him as by 
no other preacher except Wesley himself, whom he equaled, 
if indeed he did not exceed him, in privations and labors. 
The text of his first sermon at Baltimore was a suitable motto 
for forty-five years of illustrious service: "I determined 

>L. Tyerman: '*Life and Times of John Wealey"; Vol. Ill, p. 198. 
2a 



354 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and 
Him crucified." Sorely grieved and hampered by the quarrd 
between the two nations, the one the country of his birth, 
the other of his adoption, he was nevertheless sustained by 
the ambition that the newly acquired freedom of the United 
States should be enlightened and purified by the saving kno^- 
edge of God. His was that higher patriotism which soared 
beyond strife and blundering, and, when every attachment 
to the past became an avenue of pain, and his choice for 
the future caused many to malign him, he transcended the 
darkness and dismay and became an historic pleader for the 
peace and federation of the Kingdom of Christ. 

Asbury showed an adaptability for the Republic and 
its institutions beyond that of any other clergyman of 
English birth. He came from the artisans and laborers of 
the Midland shires to the plain folk of the Eastern States, 
unembarrassed by social or ecclesiastical prejudices. One 
fears to speculate on what might have been the fate of 
American Methodism had such a cleric as Charles Wesley 
controlled it at the critical juncture. Fortunately for his 
own reputation and for his brother's work, this was not the 
case. Although Asbury had few intellectual gifts comparable 
with theirs, he possessed a loyalty, a determination, and a 
soundness of judgment which enabled him to hold intact the 
thin lines of his little army until the propitious moment came 
for advance and conquest. 

Tall, gaunt, and ascetic in appearance, clad in a plain 
drab suit, a stock, and a low, broad-brimmed hat, and 
married only to the Church, twice yearly he rode along the 
Atlantic seaboard from Connecticut to the Carolinas, and 
westward through the mountains to the farther slopes of the 
Alleghanies, then the frontiers of civilization. He forded 
rivers and followed trails which led to the solitudes of the 
virgin forest. Indian savages or white fugitives from justice 
were frequently his only companions in the wilderness. If 
his horse cast a shoe, he bound the hoof with bull's hide and 



JOHN WESLEY 355 

pushed on. In a time when steamboats and raihoads were 
unknown and coaches rare, he made his tours of four to five 
thousand miles annually, preaching at least once a day, and 
three times on the Lord's Day. The families he encountered 
in these londy joumeyings were not always decent or hospi- 
table, but he never called on them without prayer, or left 
them without a blessing. Quarterly meetings, camp meet- 
ings, and seven annual Conferences, all widely apart, were 
the rallying points of his activity, and he visited them at 
least once a year, besides writing a thousand letters annually 
to his preachers and helpers. This prodigious exertion was 
accomplished under constant bodily suffering ; yet aches and 
pains, chills and fever, were mere trifles to his superior spirit, 
and could not dismay him. A diligent student, he became 
proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, was a master of the 
Holy Scriptures, and had a respectable acquaintance with 
other branches of literature. In his old age, when weak and 
crippled by infirmity, he reluctantly consented to use a 
light carriage. He clung to his office with tenacity, con- 
tinually ordaining preachers, planting churches, sending 
fourth pioneers, and like the bird which sees not the case- 
ment for the sky, he was slow to learn that neither his ardor 
nor his austerity could be imparted to others without their 
consent. But these were only spots on his sun, and, bishop 
though he was, as all men knew, his spirit of beautiful 
humility was shown in his charge that after his death no 
mention should be made of him, nor any biography be 
written. He died on March 31, 1816, at the house of his 
dd friend Greorge Arnold, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, 
where he had tarried on his way to the Conference at 
Baltimore. 

Some results of his unremitting devotion are seen in the 
growth of the movement during his episcopate. At his ordi- 
nation, in 1784, there were eighty-three itinerants traveling 
forty-six circuits, and less than fifteen thousand members; 
at his death there were over seven hundred preachers 



356 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

ministering to more than two hundred and eleven thousand 
members. Among the noble band of circuit riders, who 
emulated their bishop's example of sacrificial service, wofe 
Jesse Lee, Enoch Greorge, Thomas Ware, Hope Hull, 
Ezekiel Cooper, Freeborn Garrettson, Benjamin Abbott, 
John Emory, William McKendree, Robert Roberts, John 
Dickins — a succession of prophets of God, of whom the 
Church and the Republic they lived to serve may well be 
proud. 

The Societies were organized under Wesley's plan, and 
guided by his wishes ; the class meeting, the love feast, and 
the quarterly and annual Conferences being duplicates of 
those in Great Britain. At first New England was averse 
to Methodism, but in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, 
the Southern States, and on the ever receding frontiers it 
had a free field, and soon became an important factor, some 
of its preachers helping to build cities and conunonwealths 
as well as churches. They came at an opportune moment; 
the pastoral office in America had defaulted in respect to 
the Sacraments, the majority of the Anglican clergy had 
been dispersed by the conflict with Britain, and those who 
remained were at a low ebb of learning and religion. Bishop 
White lamented that "the Church of England was becoming 
more and more unpopular, a useless burden on the com- 
munity." Dr. Hawks relates that a large number of its 
edifices in Virginia were ruined, and twenty-three out of 
ninety-five parishes forsaken.^ Under these circumstances 
the Methodists began to inquire why their own ministers 
should not have authority to administer the Holy Com- 
munion. For the time, Thomas Rankin induced the 
preachers to await Mr. Wesley's advice, but the agitation 
increased, until in 1779 it widened into an actual breach 
between the Northern preachers, who pleaded for patient 
delay, and those south of Philadelphia, who asked for full 

1 For a description of the American Episcopal Clergy in Virginia, 
"Richard Carvel." by Winston Churchill. 



JOHN WESLEY 357 

ministerial rights. The latter were temporarily concUiated 
by Asbury's promise that he would appeal to the Founder 
for an adjustment of the matter. The interests of souls 
were at stake, and the demands actuated by this considera- 
tion brooked no further parleying. 

Wesley had already met the clergyman whom he was 
about to designate as Asbury's senior colleague, and whose 
name is connected with acts which led to the constitution 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America. Thomas 
Coke, a gentleman conmioner of Jesus College, Oxford, 
became Wesley's first lieutenant, visiting the Societies in 
Ireland alternately with him and exercising some of his 
delegated authority. Coke was the founder of the Foreign 
Missionary Society and one of its most generous supporters, 
and he wrought earnestly in behalf of Home Missions in 
England and Wales. Asbury, on hearing of his death, spoke 
of him as ''a minister of Christ, in zeal, in labors, and 
in services the greatest man of the last century." Not- 
withstanding his many excellencies. Coke's restless energies 
were not always judiciously directed. On more than one 
occasion his ambitions excited resentment, nor does Dr. 
Stevens's defense of him quite remove the impression that he 
had entertained designs upon the superintendency to which 
he was ordained. Yet as an Oxford graduate, a priest of 
the Church of England, a doctor of laws, and a more gifted 
preacher than Asbury, Coke would naturally be preferred 
for that office. Wesley did not proceed in the matter 
without deliberation, and only after he had failed in his 
efforts to persuade Dr. Lowth, then Bishop of London, to 
ordain a preacher that the pastoral necessities of Ameri- 
can Methodists might be regularly met. Hitherto he had 
been correct in his contention that nothing he had set in 
motion was inconsistent with his position as an Anglican 
clergyman. But he was now confronted by a condition, 
not a theory; and one accentuated by political misunder- 
standings eventuating in war and separation. Nor did 



358 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

he have any means at hand to supply the imperative 
requirements of his American members. Fletcher of Made- 
ley was so sensible of their neglected state that he would have 
gone to its relief had his health permitted, and he besought 
Wesley, by whom he was esteemed above other advisers, 
to accede to the request of the American Methodists and 
grant them an ordained ministry. It was superfluous to ask 
for Charles Wesley's opinion ; since he would have sacrificed 
the Methodism of the Republic to Anglican conceptions 
of unity and order. Coke only consented to go on the 
stipulation that Wesley should give him ''by the imposi- 
tion of hands the power of ordaining others." Accordingly, 
without haste, and in the full knowledge that he was 
about to incur the lasting disapproval of his Church, 
Wesley smnmoned Coke, with two itinerants, Richard What- 
coat and Thomas Vasey, to Bristol, and there on the 20th 
of September, 1784, in his private chamber, he set apart 
the itinerant preachers as presbyters, and laid hb hands on 
Coke, consecrating him ''to the office of Superintendent of 
the work in America." 

He instructed Coke to take with him the two newly made 
presbyters, and in like mann^ set apart Asbury, first as a 
deacon, then as a presbyter, and then as his associate in 
the superintendency. Forms of ordination for deacons, 
elders, and superintendents were prepared by Wesley, which 
indicated that acts and terms he had purposely avoided at 
home were now to be authorized in America. Thus he 
assumed episcopal functions, and, if the ordination of Coke 
meant anything at all, it signified that he had received the 
same functions from Wesley, subject to the ratification of 
the American preachers. It was so understood and approved 
by them; at the Christmas Conference of Baltimore, on 
December 27th of the same year, the selection of Coke was 
confirmed, and Asbury was elected by the Conference and 
consecrated by Coke, assisted by several presbyters. Several 
presbyters and deacons were also elected and ordained on 



JOHN WESLEY 359 

the following day. In this manner began the Methodist 
Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It was 
the first Church thus established in the young Republic, shar- 
ing its hopes and fears, and occupying a continental expanse 
which gave it ample room for its singular admixture of auto- 
cratic and democratic traits in a system approved by Wesley, 
Fletcher, Coke, Asbury , and its own preachers. In May, 1 789, 
its chief pastors presented an address to President Washing- 
ton beginning with the superscription "We, the bishops of 
the Methodist Episcopal Church " ; and since then its life and 
work have been incorporated with those of the nation in 
which it is to-day the largest Protestant denomination. 

After the irrevocable step was taken the hitherto unques- 
tioned rule of Wesley was no longer absolute. The arbitrary 
change of the title of superintendent to that of bishop 
irritated him because of the adventitious dignities it sug- 
gested, but he was powerless to prevent it. Nor could the 
fiberties he had granted to the ministry abroad be finally 
withheld at home, and after a prolonged interval they became 
the unquestioned right of all the preachers there. At the 
American Methodist Conference in 1789 the first question 
asked was, "Who are the persons that exercise the episcopal 
office in the Methodist Churcn in Europe and America?" 
The answer was, "John Wesley, Thomas Coke, and Francis 
Asbury by regular order and succession." Although their 
office was strictly defined as such and not as an order, 
these phrases must have sounded grandiloquently imper- 
tinent in the ears of ecclesiastics who had hitherto monop- 
olized them. Apart from this they had several advan- 
tages; and not the least, that the colorless character and 
deferential attitude of a hybrid organization were abolished. 
The language of the New Testament was also used to 
describe other institutions and offices of the Church, whose 
episcopacy has since been held, not in any sense as the em- 
bodiment of an apostolic succession, but as a personalized 
and historic center of unity, administration, and efficiency. 



360 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Charles Wesley reproached his brother for the bold and un- 
expected procedure which frustrated his hopes, and appeared 
to him as ''the beginning of a schism as causeless and un- 
provoked as the American Revolution.'' His complaints 
and groanings were vented in a letter to the Rev. Dr. 
Chandler, dated April 28, 1785: ''I never lost my dread 
of separation, or ceased to guard our Societies against it. I 
can scarcely yet believe it, that, in his eighty-second year, 
my brother, my old, intimate friend and companion, should 
have assmned the episcopal character, ordained elders, 
consecrated a bishop, and sent him to ordain our lay preachers 
in America. I was then in Bristol, at his elbow ; yet he nev^ 
gave me the least hint of his intention." Charles further 
affirmed that Lord Mansfield, the Chief Justice of England, 
had told him a year before that ordination was separa- 
tion ; and such it was from the standpoint of the church- 
manship which he represented. To what, then, beyond the 
necessitous circumstances already related is to be attributed 
Wesley's conviction that he had a right to discard the prin- 
ciples his brother so strenuously upheld ? He had read in 1746 
Lord King's account of the Primitive Church, from which 
he derived the teaching that bishops and presbyters were 
originally one order. In his *' Notes on the New Testament" 
he cautiously commented that ''perhaps elders and bishops 
were the same . . . and their names were used promiscu- 
ously in the first ages." In 1756 he stated that he still believed 
the episcopal form of Church government to be Scriptural 
and apostolical, but that it was prescribed in Scripture he 
did not believe. This opinion, which he once zealously 
espoused, he had been heartily ashamed of since studying 
Bishop Stillingfleet's "Irenicon." Canon Overton laments 
that so well-read and thoughtful a man as Wesley should 
have attached any weight to the youthful utterances of 
these two men. King and Stillingfleet, who afterwards re- 
canted.* Nevertheless they leavened Wesley's churchman- 

i**The Evangelical Ravival"; p. 18. 



JOHN WESLEY 361 

ship, and he now wrote to Charles that he firmly believed 
himself to be ''a Scriptural episcopos as much as any man in 
England." The uninterrupted succession, he declared else- 
where, was ''a rope of sand ; a fable that no man could 
prove." 

The endless debates on this affirmation have no place 
here ; they have been best summed up in Bishop Lightf oot's 
verdict that the episcopal office did not arise out of the 
apostc^cal by succession, but out of the presbyteral by 
localization.^ This conclusion has found powerful advocates 
in modem scholarship,^ and if it is valid, Weisley's acts were 
in keeping with the ancient order. On the other hand, for 
forty years he had carefully abstained from them, and had 
even said that for an unordained preacher to administer 
within his Societies was a sin which he dared not tolerate, 
although by sending out scores of preachers without ordina- 
tion, he had really made apostolic succession an anachronism 
so far as he was concerned. Of course his setting apart of 
Coke was indefensible from the standpoint of Anglicanism. 
"What could Wesley confer upon Coke which Coke might 
not equally have conferred upon Wesley?" queries Canon 
Overton. And the answer is, if given according to the 
Canon's conception of ordination, nothing. But a large 
body of Christians have denied the dogma of apostolical 
succession; they have resented its imputations, and have 
liberated themselves from its oppressions. Wesley, at least, 
gave Coke the premiership in a great Church, with the 
practical results that followed, and Canon Overton adds, 
with justice, that the true explanation of his conduct in 

> See the references to this question in the subsequent chapters on Newman. 

' For an interesting discussion on this question see "Some Remarks on 
Bishop Lightf oot's Dissertation on the Christian Ministry/' by Charles 
Wordsworth, D.D., Bishop of St. Andrews ; also "The Leaves of the Tree: 
Studies in Biography," by Arthur Christopher Benson. Whatever contra- 
diction of misunderstandings Bishop Lighifoot afterwards made he did not 
letraet the main statements of his Essay on the Christian Ministry, 
found in the Appendix to his ** Conunentary on the Epistle to the Philip- 
pians.' 



362 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

this, as in other things, was the practical character of his 
mind, which led him to make everything subservient to 
his work of restoring the image of Grod in the soul of man. 

An unprejudiced review of the matter, which in thouf^t, 
purpose, and accomplishment covered nearly half a century, 
shows that any inconsistencies — and there were some — 
did not affect the integrity of Wesley's main position. He 
treated ordinances and offices as means of grace which should 
be held paramount so long as they promoted Christianity. 
When they ceased to do this they were set aside, and 
he took occasion, under necessity, to make the freedom 
and accessibility of God's Kingdom wider than antiquity 
had decreed. What he said will be long remembered, what 
he did will be conserved in the general outcome. The vast 
majority of his sons and daughters in the family of Metho- 
dism partake of the Living Bread in their own sanctuaries, 
unhindered by any consciousness of the warfare he waged 
with himself and others for their birthright; and those 
who have reflected upon it partake with no less faith because 
of the course he adopted.* 

The Deed of Declaration which was executed on February 
28, 1784, and a few days later enrolled in Chancery, has 
been called the Magna Charta of Wesleyan Methodism. It 
substituted for Wesley a permanent body of one himdred 
ministers, selected by him and authorized to bear the re- 
sponsibilities and discharge the duties of the supervision of 
the Societies. This instrument was adopted none too soon ; 
he was now an old man, and though still vigorous, could 
no longer be expected to take oversight of the Church in 
England, Ireland, and America, which in 1790 numbered 
nearly one hundred and fifty thousand members. He 
unwillingly restricted his hitherto incessant joiu-neyings, 
and approached a peaceful twilight which the night of death 

^ See the Methodist Review for July-August, 1915, for a very able article 
by the Rev. Dr. J. M. Buckley on the Methodist Episcopacy; also the 
Christian Advocate for September the 30th, 1915. 



JOHN WESLEY 363 

to disturb, moving among the people of the three 
kingdoms as the most apostolic figure of his generation. 
In Ireland as much as in Great Britain his last appear- 
ances were scenes of affectionate farewell and open sorrow 
at his departure. The accusations that he was a Jesuit, a 
Jacobite, a fanatic, a former rumseller, and a wily hypo- 
crite, had gone never to return. Many Anglican clergymen 
and their congregations gave him a respectful hearing, and 
he received more invitations to preach before them than he 
could accept. "I am become," he said in 1785, "I know 
not how, a most honorable man. The scandal of the Cross 
is ceased, and all, rich and poor. Papists and Protestants, 
behave with courtesy, nay, with seeming good will." "It 
was, I believe," wrote Crabb Robinson, "in October, 1790, 
and not long before his death, that I heard John Wesley in 
the great round Meeting House at Colchester. He stood 
in a wide pulpit, and on each side of him stood a minister, 
and the two held him up, having their hands under his arm- 
pits. His feeble voice was scarcely audible, but his reverend 
countenance, especially his long white locks, formed a pic- 
ture never to be forgotten. There was a vast crowd of 
lovers and admirers ; ... of the kind I never saw anything 
comparable to it in after life."^ In a farewell letter dated 
February 1, 1791, addressed to Ezekiel Cooper, an Ameri- 
can preacher known as the Lycurgus of his Church, Wesley 
told of his infirmities and how that time had shaken his hand 
and death was not far behind. Although eighty-six years 
of age, he enjoyed comparative freedom from pain: his 
sight and strength had failed, but he could still "scrawl a 
few lines and creep though not run." He concluded with 
the consoling prediction that his work would remain and 
bear fruit, and that Methodists were one throughout the 
world and would ever continue one, 

'" Though mountains rise and oceans roll. 
To sever us in vain.' ** 

1 Henry Crabb Robinson's Diary ; Vol. I, p. 19. 



364 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Whitefield died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1770, 
about the time Asbury entered the field from which the 
famous orator was suddenly removed. Charles Wesley, 
though nearly five years younger than John, died on Mardi 
29th, 1788, His imequ^ed brother, on whom rested the 
glow of his approaching translation, was preaching in Staf- 
fordshire at the time. At the very moment when Charles 
passed away, the congregation, unconscious of this, was 
singing his hymn, 



Come, let us join our friends above 
That have obtained the price." 



Wesley did not hear of his death until the day after the 
funeral. He deeply felt the separation, and a fortnight 
later, when attempting to give out another of Charles's 
hymns on ''Wrestling Jacob," he faltered at the lines, 



'My company before is gone. 
And I am left alone with Thee;' 



sat down in the pulpit, and buried his face in his hands* 
The singing ceased, and the people wept with him. In a 
little while he regained self-control, and proceeded with the 
service. He hastened to London from the North, that he 
might console the widow and children of the departed poet. 
His sermon at Leatherhead, Surrey, on Wednesday the 23d 
of February, was his last public utterance ; the text being, 
" Seek ye the Lord while He may be found ; call upon Him 
while He is near." With this message of mercy and exhorta- 
tion his peerless ministry ended as it had begun, in the 
urgency of compassion, the strength of righteousness, the 
light of love, and the demonstration of the Spirit. The 
next day he spent with Mr. Wolff at Balham, and there 
penned his well-known letter to William Wilberforce, con- 
cluding with the stirring appeal, "O! be not weary in well 
doing. Go on, in the name of God, and in the power of His 
might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw 



JOHN WESLEY 365 

the sun, shall vanish away before it. . . ."^ It was entirely 
appropriate that the warfare he had waged for sixty years 
upon the cruelty of society toward the fallen and the help- 
less should conclude with this impassioned protest against 
human bondage. 

Returning to his house in City Road on Friday, the 25th, 
he spent the remaining hours in prayer and praise. During 
an interval he asked those around him that his sermon on 
" The Love of God to fallen man " should be scattered broad- 
cast and given to everybody. Later, he blessed them, and 
lifting his hand in grateful triumph, exclaimed, "The best 
of all is, God is with us I'' Shortly afterwards, on March 
the second, 1791, this splendid being put on immortality. 

Epilogue 

The history of Methodism beyond its leading events in 
the eighteenth century has been necessarily excluded from 
this account. Speaking generally, it followed three main 
lines of development : the rise and progress of the Evangeli- 
cal Revival; the organization of the Methodist Churches 
therefrom ; and their more f amilar expansions of the modem 
period, which by no means exhaust the results of the 
movement, for in many instances its palpable and its 
hidden influences have blended with the life of the nations 
it affected, purifying and strengthening them for domestic, 
social, and political reforms. Nor have the limits imposed 
here allowed us to dwell at length upon the multifarious 
details of Wesley's personal career, which abound in 
the biographies of Southey, Watson, LeliSvre, Tyerman, 
Telford, Fitchett, and Winchester, the books of Workman, 
and also in Wesley's self-revelatory Journals. He had 
the serenity of one who is at home in his own mind, who 
draws his water from his own fountain, and by means of 
whose inward light the path ahead is always plain. These 

> L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wealey " ; Vol. III. p. 650. 



366 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

outstanding qualities, and others which have been men- 
tioned, reveal with unusual directness their heavenly sources. 
Like the large-minded man in Aristotle's ''Ethics "he thought 
himself equal to grand moral achievements, and was justified 
to the extent that the rare virtue of absolute disinterested- 
ness gradually became a ruling factor in his conduct. He 
lavished all his energies and some of his best years upon the 
search for divine illumination. This obtained, he at once 
became the director of a religious crusade which has hdped 
to upraise the race. The means he employed were exposed 
to reprobation, but they proved stronger than the formidable 
display of earthly and ecclesiastical powers arrayed against 
them. Nor is it possible to escape the conclusion that in 
all these things his course and destiny were not self-chosen, 
after the usual meaning of the phrase, but in a special and 
peculiar sense shaped by the guidance of his Maker. For 
God has always been pleased to build his best bridges with 
hiunan piers, never allowing their faults to impede the work- 
manship when men were solicitous that they should not 
do so. 

The leisure of mind which followed the stirring epoch in 
which Wesley acted so creatively has produced a niunber 
of tributes vindicating him in every quarter of his historical 
firmament. Mr. Augustine Birrell says that " no man lived 
nearer the center than John Wesley, neither Clive nor Pitt, 
neither Mansfield nor Johnson. You cannot cut him out of 
our national life. No single figure influenced so many 
minds, no single voice touched so many hearts. No other 
man did such a life's work for England." ^ Macaulay's 
better known eulogy is equally generous. The famous 
essayist compared him with Richelieu, whose genius so- 
lidified the French nation and stimulated the authority 
of its monarchy. In like manner Wesley's weak chain of 
organizations was lengthened link by link, and as . they 
developed he formulated rules for their guidance, until 

I "John Wesley," in "Essays and Addresaes" ; p. 35. 



JOHN WESLEY 367 

Methodism became nothing less than an army intent on the 
moral conquest of the race. 

An eighteenth century man, he shared in no small degree 
the strange contradictions of his age. His character was 
both simple and complex because it was in some measure 
the reflection of the people in which he moved, whose national 
teicture has been thickly packed and plaited fold upon fold 
by an endless variety of custom and habit. In a correspond- 
ing way he dealt with many-sided truths and situations, 
undeterred by dread of paradox or the inconsistency of poli- 
cies which might appear to lead in opposite directions. His 
experiences were both extensive and remarkable, and per- 
haps this may explain the supernatural aspect which he 
gave to them. Yet in matters where he was not directly 
interested he was capable of a becoming skepticism, and his 
belief in witchcraft and in the doctrine of particular Provi- 
dence, which he sometimes carried to great lengths, showed 
no more credulity than did the notions of Addison, the pride 
of Oxford, whose " Essays on the Evidences of Christianity " 
include stories as absurd as the Cock Lane ghost, and for- 
geries as rank as William Henry Ireland's "Vortigem." 
Exact and vigorous in his thinking, Wesley's ideas were as far 
removed from what is meretricious or vulgar as were those 
of the best classics with which he was familiar. In his 
case great talents and considerable learning proved their 
suitability for a world-wide and permanent religious propa- 
gandism, and his career as an evangelist, who was also a 
man of culture, is an effective answer to those who deprecate 
the value of intellectual attainments in such efforts. There 
have been many imitators of Wesley, but, as yet, he has 
had no successor. 

His steadfast mind discouraged the fitful gleams of self- 
deception from which he was not entirely free. Hasty 
or false assumptions were distasteful to his more robust 
processes of thought, and any tendency to purely emotional 
excitement in himself or in others was generally subdued 



368 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

by his innate oonservatiam. Clerics and philosophers whose 
prejudices he encountered dubbed him a fanatic; the be- 
lievers whose faith he aided eictolled him as a saint and a 
sage. He went quietly forward, living down rancor and 
disregarding praise, examining and restating his doctrinal 
views and qualifying them by their hold on life. A per- 
vading reasonableness gave weight to his utterance, and its 
sincerity and restraint enabled him to overcome his critics. 
In the excitement attending a great revival he did not for- 
feit his sanity, his poise, his love of books, or his good breed- 
ing. His prescience as a statesman preserved that which 
he had won by aggressive attacks upon d^eneracy and 
vice. And throughout life he readily yielded to truths 
hitherto neglected, or to aught else when refusal to yield 
would have been less than right or rational. 

Although his conversion was beyond doubt, he repeatedly 
returned to it, allowing neither foregone conclusions nor 
deference to pious opinion to check his constant scrutiny 
of the basis of lus assurance. In many of his confessions 
one knows not whether the feeling is deeper than the reflec- 
tion, or the reflection deeper than the feeling. If some of 
his instinctive recognitions of God were in their nature mys- 
tical rather than intellectual, it would be difficult to overesti- 
mate the corrective value of such a religion of the heart 
when contrasted with that latitudinarianism which denied 
the possibility of Wesley's transfer into the boundless realm 
of the living, moving, progressive Spirit who led him into 
light, wisdom, and truth; into the very presence and per- 
suasion of the Soul of souls. A sense of spiritual union 
springing from his voluntary surrender to Christ was 
strengthened by grave and habitual meditation, until he 
reached the plane where contradictions cease, Pondering 
the highest he knew till it became more than his ideal, he 
appropriated it as a part of himself, thus blending his life 
with the life everlasting that he might do God's work in the 
world. 



JOHN WESLEY 360 

Although he was compelled to act without her approval, 
and, indeed, in the face of her undeserved rebuke, the 
Anglican Chiurch was always dear to him, and the liturgi- 
cal forms of her worship harmonized with his sense of 
order and of the beauty of holiness. That by her opposi- 
tion she lost the greatest opportimity she has yet had to 
strengthen her ranks and become a truly national church 
is beyond question ; but this loss was compensated by the 
gains to the Ejngdom of God which resulted from Wesley's 
independence of ecclesiasticism. Dr. Joseph Beaumont, in 
speaking of his attitude toward the Establishment, likened 
it to that of a strong rower who looks one way while every 
stroke of the oar propels him in the opposite direction. 
Further light is cast upon Wesley's relations to Anglicanism 
by excerpts given here from a letter, hitherto unpublished as 
fuDy as here, written by Dr. Adam Clarke to Mr. Humphrey 
Sandwith, and dated from Bridlington, on October 1, 1832 : — 

''I have been a preacher in the Methodist Connexion more 
than half a century: and have been a travelling Preacher 
47 years, and I ever found many people in most places of 
the Connexion very uneasy at not having the Sacrament 
of the Lord's Supper administered in our own Chapels, by 
our own Preachers. Mr. J. Wesley mildly recommended the 
people to go to the Church and Sacrament. Mr. C. Wesley 
threatened them with danmation, if they did not : for even 
in very early times the contrary disposition appeared in 
many Societies. In 1783, at the Bristol Conference where 
I was admitted into full Connexion, I heard Mr. Charles 
Wesley preach in Temple Church, on Matt. xi. 5. 'The 
Mind receive their sight, and the lame walk,' etc., in which 
Discourse, and on that part, the lame walk, he spoke the fol- 
lowing words, which I shall never forget : — * My brethren, 
the lame man, that was healed by Peter and John at the 
beautiful gate of the Temple went into the Temple with 
the Apostles to worship God : — ; They who are healed under 
the ministry of my Brother and myself, go with us into the 
2b 



370 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Church : — Abide in the Church — if you leave the Church, 
God will leave you, or you will go halting all the days of your 
life, should you even get to heaven at last : — but abide m 
the good old Ship, and some on Boards, and some on broken 
pieces of the Ship, and you'll all get safe to Land.' On 
this I make no comment. 



It was only when the cry became tmiversalf and the people 
were in danger of being everywhere divided or scattered, 
and a party of Rich men, principally Trustees in the Con- 
nexion, rose up to prevent any concessions to be made to 
the people, and it was too evident, that those very men aimed 
not only, as they professed, to keep the people to the Church, 
but to nde them and the Preachers too, that the Preachers in 
general declared in behalf of the Societies; and then, and 
not till then, did I argue in their behalf. 



At the London Conference, in 1788, Dr. Coke, thinking we 
were in danger of losing our people, and that our avowed 
connexion vrith the Church hindered our work, proposed in 
Conference, that 'the whole Methodist Body should make a 
formal separation from the Church.' In this Dr. Coke was 
not only earnest, but vehement. It was stated, *that it was 
impossible to keep up the Connexion with it, that all the 
Churches in the nation could not accommodate our Congre- 
gations, nor the Conmiunion Tables receive the members 
of our Societies, as Communicants; and that as they gen- 
erally called out for the Sacrament from the hands of tiieir 
own Preachers, they should have it,' etc. After the Doctor 
had said what he wished at the time Mr. Wesley rose up and 
with great calmness said : — ' Dr. Coke would tear all from top 
to bottom — I wiU not tear, but unstitch.' He had begun 
to unstitch. Witness the ordination for America and for 
Scotland and his calling Mr. Myles the year after to come 



JOHN WESLEY 371 

within the rails of the communion-place in Dublin, to assist 
him by giving the Cup! — It has been said, 'the members of 
oar Societies were taken out of the Church, and in forming 
Sodeties out of its members, we made a Schism in the Church.' 
This is a total mistake. I know well what has been, and 
what is the composition of our Societies. Our Societies 
were formed from those, who were wandering upon the dark 
numniains, that belonged to no Christian Church; but were 
awakened by the preaching of the Methodists, who had 
pursued them through the wilderness of this world to the 
High-ways and the Hedges, — to the Markets and the 
Fairs, — to the Hills and Dales, — who set up the Standard 
of the Cross in the Streets and Lanes of the Cities, in the 
Villages, in Bams, and Farmers' Kitchens, etc. — and all 
this in such a way, and to such an extent, as never had been 
done before, since the Apostolic age. They threw their 
drag-net into the troubled ocean of irreli^ous Society, and 
brought to shore both bad and good : and the very best of 
them needed the salvation of God : and out of those, who in 
general had no Christian Conmiunion with any Church 
were formed by the mighty power of the God of all grace 
the Methodists' Societies. Thus they travelled into the 
wilderness, and brought back the stray sheep, that, had it 
not been for their endeavours, would in all likelihood have 
perished on the Dark Mountains. Our Founders were 
Ministers of the Established Church, — but what good did 
they do as Ministers in that Church? — They were obliged 
to go aver its pale, in order to reach the lost sheep of the house 
of Israel. Had they continued regular in that Church, 
Methodism would not now be found in our ecclesiastical 
vocabulary. And since we, as a Body, threw aside the 
trammels of our prejudices, God has doubly, trebly blessed 
us in our work." ^ 
Such was the attitude of Wesley when he stood on the 

* The eztraotB are inserted here by the kind permiBsion of the Rev. W. L. 
Watkizwon, D.D., who ia the owner of the letter. 



372 THREE REUOI0U8 LEADERS OF OXFORD 

verge of the grave. The cry for honorable independenoe 
came from an influential minority of his preachers who re- 
sented the indignities to which they ware subjected and the 
anomalous position in which they ware expected to do thdr 
work, but their leader's attachment to Anglicanism for a 
time prevented the fulfillment of their desires. Whether 
or not their proposals would have secured the stability and 
prosperity of the infant Chiurch is still an open question. 
Those who hold that its Founder made the most intelligent 
and timely provision possible have to meet the fact that a 
large minority of the Methodists enrolled in Great Britain 
are outside Wesleyanism, principally because of schisms 
concerning the vexed questions of ministerial authority 
and relevant issues. Doctrinal difficulties were a n^ligible 
quantity in these disputes, which, whatever their causes, 
have greatly hindered Methodism. Its more progressive 
members sometimes formulated their claims regardless of 
evidence and experience; the conservatives clung to the 
status quo with unwise persistence ; the consequences were 
lamentable accusations and disruptions. Many of the de- 
mands for advanced legislation which formerly aroused 
intense opposition have since been granted by the parent 
body, whose adjustment of clerical and lay authority has 
only been obtained after many years of cautious experiment. 
The growth of Methodism in the United States, where it 
was not overshadowed by a State Church, afforded no 
sufficient argument for a like policy in Britain, where Wesley's 
revered name and unique position deferred the advantages 
afterwards secured at considerable cost. 

His rule, while not perfect, was unblemished by the 
caprice, selfishness, or tyranny which have generally accom- 
panied the sense of unrestrained power, and made so many 
great men bad men. Never since the eras when the Church 
held sway over every action has any ecclesiastic possessed a 
more complete autocracy, or more straitly guarded it as a 
trust deposited with him by God for the welfare of the people. 



JOHN WESLEY 373 

Leslie Stephen complains of his disagreeable temper, 
but there are surprisingly few instances of its exhibition. 
On the contrary, he knew how to cloak his occasional severity 
and arbitrariness with an urbane or a patriarchal manner. 
Audacity balanced by caution, fimmess vailed by benevo- 
lence, inflexibility compensated by goodness, and a courage 
that revealed, when necessary, the fire beneath his calm ex- 
terior, were the chief features of lus administrative capacity. 

Some accounts of his unfortunate marriage with Mrs. 
Vazeille have not been entirely just to that lady, a dis- 
passionate view of whose conduct shows her to have been a 
much abused woman, who suffered 'more severely than her 
husband. Wesley, notwithstanding the best intentions, did 
not properly discharge the duties of married life, nor devote 
himself to Mrs. Wesley with the ardor he showed for his 
mission. He was as mistaken in his conception of her as 
she was in her jealousies of him; and his bearing toward 
other women, while morally blameless, was indiscreet in view 
of her extreme sensitiveness. Wrapped a little too exclusively 
in his rectitude, he addressed her in terms which added fuel 
to the flame of her anger, and which were better suited to a 
rebellious preacher than to a wife who indulged the morbid 
susceptibilities of her ill-regulated heart. In after years 
he told Henry Moore that the schooling of sorrow which his 
marriage brought to him had been overruled* for good, since 
if Mrs. Wesley had been a better wife, he might by seeking 
to please her have proved unfaithful to his calling. 

The light and shade of ordinary existence were as 
foreign to Wesley as the joys of domestic life. He had to 
yield to a pressure from all sides which injured his more 
human qualities. His declaration that he dared no more 
fret than curse indicated a self-consciousness which was also 
shown in his lack of humor, and one cannot avoid a feeling 
of thankfulness that at intervals he let himself go and 
found relief. Yet the English people, however racy in 
their exchanges, distrust a jocular clergyman ; and Wesley 



374 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

could never have gained their confidence had he scintillated 
rather than shone. The classes to which he chiefly appealed 
highly esteemed seriousness in the ministerial chanu:ter; 
they would only have been puzzled by such brilliant by-i^y 
in Wesley as Sydney Smith indulged, and doubtless would 
have resented it. Dr. Johnson, craving further conversa- 
tion with Wesley, and failing to obtain it, growled about his 
absorption in his work. He abstained from social int^- 
course, even when it was as an arch through which 

"Gleamed the untravelled worid," 

and he was openly bored by the aristocratic circles which 
Whitefield admired and courted. When he chose, he could 
be a most delightful companion, but his steadfast gaze was 
on the religious needs of the race, and on 

"... The whole of the world's tears, 
And all the trouble of her labouring ships. 
And all the trouble of her myriad years." 

Like St. Paul at Athens, he passed, not unheeding, yet un- 
moved, through scenes which would have enchained a lesser 
spirit. This aloofness injured his followers more than it in- 
jured him, for while he regarded some things as secular which 
in essence were sacred enough, be was always a liberal thinker 
and a sympathetic student of men and affairs. 

He lacked the boldness of imagination which could frame 
philosophical or theological hypotheses and generalizations. 
His intellect was of the prosaical sort, uninfluenced by those 
higher but more hazardous motions which characterized his 
contemporary, Jonathan Edwards. His sentimentalism and 
taste for the romantic, like his drift toward Moravian mysti- 
cism, were flnally mastered by his will and his reason. A 
feeling which did not evince itself in action counted for 
little: he measured mental and moral processes by their 
results in conduct; the only indications of a change of 
heart he felt free to accept were a sensible regeneration and 



JOHN WESLEY 375 

its outward evidence in purity of life and conversation. He 
perceived that in the great matters of existence people are 
not convinced by argument. Good logic may remove diffi- 
culties which impede belief, but faith has its origin in a 
moral temper, and when this is absent the most cogent 
dialectics are wasted. Intellectual operations have never 
been readily adjusted to those religious impulses, which, 
though they remain among the deeper mysteries of human 
being, have yet been powerful enough to transform its en- 
tire character, and direct it into new channels. Thus, while 
there is a Wesleyan theology, a Wesleyan hynmology, and a 
Wesleyan type of religious experience, there is no Wesleyan 
philosophy. His system was never endangered by such 
streams of metaphysical speculation as flowed in Calvinism. 
For this and lesser reasons certain authors have supported 
the charges of his earlier opponents that Wesley swung the 
pendulum from the intellectual to the emotional side of 
Christianity. What he really did was to demonstrate the 
values of spiritual experience to such a degree that philosophy 
was compelled to acknowledge them. That he did this un- 
wittingly does not detract from its importance, and the 
latest modem thought has confessed that his movement 
re-enthroned a religious consciousness which must be recog- 
nized and respected. 

His Journal contains many allusions to literature in 
general, with reflections and conunents upon particular works 
of numerous authors, as for example, Machiavelli's " Prince," 
of which he observes that it engendered in European govern- 
ment universal enmity and strife, its policies being bound 
by no moral obligation to God or man, and thriving on 
destruction. Mandeville's "Fable of the Bees," a very 
shrewd and advanced commentary on national hypocrisies, 
which asserted that private vices were public virtues, was 
even more abandoned than "The Prince." Marcus Aurelius 
was "one of those many who shall come from the East and 
the West and sit down with Abraham, while nominal 



376 THREE REUGI0U8 LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Christians are shut out." Rousseau was ''a shallow yet 
supercilious infidel, two degrees below Voltaire/' Ignatius 
Loyola, whose career he studied with care, was ''surely 
one of the greatest of men that was ever engaged in the 
support of so bad a cause/' one who set out ''with a full 
persuasion that he might use guile to promote ... the 
interests of his Church, and acted in all things consistent 
with his principles/' Of the Puritans he wrote, "I stand in 
amaze, first, at the execrable spirit of persecution which 
drove these venerable men out of the Church, and with 
which Queen Elizabeth's clergy were as deeply tinctured as 
ever Queen Mary's were : secondly, at the weakness of those 
holy confessors, many of whom spent so much of their time 
and strength in disputing about surplices and hoods or 
kneeling at the Lord's Supper/' There were deeper ele- 
ments in the Puritan controversy than are indicated by thb 
criticism, which is, however, admissible so far as it goes. 
On reading Richard Baxter's "History of the Councils," 
he vigorously denounced their evil side: "How has one 
Council been perpetually cursing another, and delivering 
all over to Satan, whether predecessors or contemporaries, 
though generally trifling, sometimes false and frequently 
unintelligible and self-contradictory?" 

His judgments were not always within the mark, yet 
the desire to be just made him aware of the good in disputing 
sectaries, whose religious life was a unity at its source. 
Anglican, Nonconformist, and even Roman Catholic divines, 
theologians, and exegetes shared in the approval he generously 
bestowed where he deemed it deserved. In art, although 
he saw the weakness of design in the great cartoons of 
Raphael, his opinions were negligible. Music was always 
his delight, especially the oratorio, in which England has 
excelled. In his later years he loved to linger among the 
monuments of Westminster Abbey, where his own has since 
received its place. 

Wesley could not be called a great scholar, in the present 



JOHN WESLEY 377 

technical sense of the tenn, although the University training 
he received, which was linked with the names of such men as 
Blackstone, the legal conmientator, Lowth, the lecturer on 
Isaiah, the Wartons, especially Thomas, who was poet 
laureate, Addison, and Dr. Johnson, can be truly said 
to have left its mark on England. Oxford's thinkers of the 
eighteenth century acquiesced in the supremacy of Aristotle, 
and contributed little to the progress of organized or meta- 
physical inquiry. Erudition was constantly endangered by 
the acerbities of political partisanship, and few of the dons 
shared in the rapid expansion of learning which characterized 
their rivals at Cambridge. Alexander Knox states, however, 
that Wesley had an attachment to the English Platonists, 
including Taylor, Smith, Cudworth, Worthington, and 
Lucas. His life of ceaseless joumeyings and labors gave 
him little time for literary interests, and it is greatly to his 
credit that he read as widely and wrote as accurately as he 
did. His Journal, which is among the first half dozen works 
of the era, shows the difficulties under which he pursued 
his studies. Neither tempestuous winds nor dripping skies, 
summer heat nor winter cold, breakdowns on the road nor 
impassable highways, threatening mobs nor the necessities 
of his Societies, could restrain his avidity for books, and, 
above all, for the One Book with which he was most con- 
versant. Blessed with a compact and sinewy frame, and 
an equable temperament, he neither hurried nor chafed, 
nor did he suffer any reaction from his toils. The anxieties 
which corrode the lives of those who wear themselves out 
in battling for temporalities were unknown to him: the 
inspiration of his aims sustained him against every cir- 
cumstance. During eighty-eight years he lost but one 
night's sleep, and at all times his composure enabled him 
to withdraw within himself. His seat in the saddle or the 
chaise became a cloister where he read and meditated, 
regardless of his surroundings. 
There he planned his sermons and writings and reprints 



378 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of other men's works, which had an enormous circulation 
and influence. The magazine which he established in 1778 
is now the oldest periodical of its kind in Great Britain. The 
entire list of his publications would form a volume in itsdf, 
and a glance at their contents enables one to realize the 
tireless energy and skill of the man. They ranged from the 
standard doctrines of a growing church to the quaint pre- 
scriptions of "Primitive Physic," and most of them were 
eagerly accepted and practised by the multitudes to wh(»n his 
word was law. His style was decidedly inferior to that of 
Newman and other masters: he did not have nor did he 
desire to have the subtleties of thought and expression 
which were the great Tractarian's. In answer to the query, 
"What is it that constitutes a good style?" he said, "I 
never think of it at all, but just set down the words that 
come first. Only when I transcribe anything for the press, 
then I think it my duty to see that every phrase be dear, 
pure, proper, and easy. Conciseness, which is now as it 
were natural to me, brings quantum suffidt of strength." ^ 
Sir Leslie Stephen observes, "He shows remarkable literary 
power ; but we feel that his writings are means to a direct 
practical end, rather than valuable in themselves, dther in 
form or substance. It would be difficult to find any letters 
more direct, fordble, and pithy in expression. . . . The 
compression gives emphasis and never causes confusion." * 
In summary, if culture consists in knowing much of the 
best that has been thought and said, in breadth of outlook 
and intellectual sympathy, then it cannot be denied that 
Wesley was a cultured man. Pagan masters, heretics of 
the ancient Church, and "excellent Unitarians," like Thomas 
Firmin, whose biography he conunended to his followers, 
were included in his appreciative review. As early as 1745 
he issued a letter to his people which has a message for them 
to-day. " Have a care of anger, dislike or contempt toward 

' L. Tyerman : "Life and Times of John Wesley" ; Vol. III. p. 657. 
s ** English Thought in the Eighteenth Century" ; Vol. II. p. 409. 



JOHN WESLEY 379 

those whose opinions differ from yours. You are daily 
accused of this (and indeed what is it where you are not 
accused ?), but beware of giving any ground for such accusa- 
tion. Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let 
every one enjoy the f uU and free liberty of thinking for him- 
self. Let every man use his own judgment, since every 
man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every 
approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution. 
If you cannot reason or persuade a man into truth, never 
attempt to force him into it. If love will not compel him to 
come in, leave him to God, the Judge of all." "The Meth- 
odists/' he said at another time, "do not impose, in order 
to the admission of persons to their Society, any opinions 
whatsoever. Let them hold particular or general redemp- 
tion, absolute or conditional decrees; let them be Church- 
men or Dissenters, Presbyterians or Independents, it is no 
obstacle. Let them choose one mode of baptism, it is no 
bar to their admission. The Presbyterian may be a Presby- 
terian still; the Independent or Anabaptist use his own 
mode of worship. So may the Quaker, and none will con- 
tend with him about it. They think and let think. One 
condition and one only is required — a real desire to save 
their soul. Where this is, it is enough ; they desire no more ; 
they lay stress upon nothing else; they ask only, 'Is thy 
heart therein as my heart? If it be, give me thy hand.'" 
He was alive to the defects of many who make much of 
religious feeling or strict dogmatic statements, yet are 
lamentably deficient in Christian charity. His own catho- 
licity was accompanied by a chivalrous bearing towards 
opponents, to be ascribed, not to the indifiPerence which 
treats doctrines and creeds as superfluous, but to his certi- 
tude concerning what he held as of faith, and to the more 
perfect love which casts out fear. The character such faith 
and love create is of far more importance than intellec- 
tual gifts. Too often highly rationalized convictions are 
found in men of weak purpose or low motive, and though 



380 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

opinions are an important part of character, and never 
more so than when they affect sacred matters, they should 
not be confused with it. 

While his complex personality was not faultless, two 
things were never possible for Wesley: to betray even 
for a moment his religious vocation, or to hesitate at any 
sacrifice in its behalf. No one could be less careful of his 
own interests ; he despised mercenary considerations, and 
the end of life found him as poor as he was at his birtL 
The narrowing lust of gold was abolished in him by his 
literal compliance with the word of the Master, a word 
which has always been one of the very last His followers 
are willing to apply to themselves. Wesley met it with 
thoroughness by giving away everything he had, and on his 
own showing he never possessed a hundred pounds which he 
could call his own. He brought himself and his followers 
within the divine injunction, " If thou wouldest be perfect, 
go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor;" and his 
latest discourses contain frequent warnings against the 
demoralization of unconsecrated wealth. This is but one, 
and yet how sufficient an illustration of that profoundly re- 
ligious spirit which dictated his affairs and sought through 
them to do the Highest Will. During a long and exalted 
career, of which he himself was the straitest censor, he 
occupied a height on which the light was always beating ; 
content to be an inexplicable mystery to those who, actuated 
by a less devout or comprehensive temper, shared neither 
his convictions nor his experiences, and to fulfill the Apostle's 
ideal, " I live, yet not I, Christ liveth in me." He believed 
that God, in assuming human flesh, living sinlessly in its 
limitations, and dying for sinners, had effected that recon- 
ciliation between Himself and man which b the greatest 
achievement in moral history. This doctrine of the Person 
of our Lord he unfeignedly accepted ; this, and this alone, 
was for him the unquestioned basis of his confidence and joy. 
He neither modified nor minimized it. It was "the creed 



JOHN WESLBT 381 

id creeds, involved in, and arising out of, the work of works." 
The Church no less than the individual lived in and by its 
central truth; the collapse of religion quickly followed its 
abandonment. In that faith is to be found the intrinsic 
explanation of Wesley's moral greatness, and the devotion 
it inspired has always been the salient characteristic of 
those, who, like him, have attained holiness in the patience 
of Jesus Christ. 

No spirit shines by its own radiance, and none can trans- 
mit more light than its purity enables it to receive. The 
strength and range of Wesley's illumination reflect the 
doseness of his fellowship with the Light of lights. The 
faith and works of the saint, the evangelist, the statesman, 
the theologian, and the builder of the Church were derived 
directly from his risen Lord. Had Christ entered the room 
in Aldersgate Street as He did that other room in Jerusalem, 
visible to the worshiping gaze of Hb disciples, and silencing 
the doubts of Thomas, Wesley could not have left it more 
determined to follow Him in His ministry of mercy and 
redemption. From that moment he was borne upward 
and onward by a supreme affection to freedom and to power 
as the anointed servant of his century and of the nations. 
As it is the function of fire to give light and warmth, so it 
was the function of his new-found love to spread the sense of 
love. His conversion discovered him an ecclesiastic ensnared 
in legalisms ; it made him the greatest prophet and evan- 
gelist the English-speaking people have known. Everything 
lived at his touch, and as an agent of religious revolution 
he earned the praise and reverence of those who imitated 
his example, whether in his own or in other conununions. 

Undeterred by the appalling contrasts between his tastes 
and habits and those of the degraded masses, he entered the 
dreary haunts of physical and moral destitution, a spiritual 
Ardiimedes, who had found his leverage and proposed to 
ui»Bise the lost and the abandoned, not only to decency, 
but to holiness. He foresaw, gathered from these waste 



382 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

places, an ideal Church of r^enerated souls, broadly and 
securely based on love and social duty. Toward that divine 
society the faith of mankind is ever steadily growing, a 
society not of antagonisms, but of concord, not of artificial 
separation, but of spiritual unity — the Bride for whose 
coming her Heavenly Bridegroom waits. 

If Wesley presented an extraordinary combination of 
characteristics seldom found in any individual, it is also of 
the first importance to remember that, unlike strong men in 
other spheres, he had the satisfaction of carrying out his own 
ideas. The sequence of events placed him in the unique 
position for which his qualities were exactly fitted ; even the 
contradictions of his age enlarged his capacity for arousing 
and handling passional forces that previously had no outlet 
in religion. He made such diligent use of his entire equip- 
ment that the Church which was his own embodiment be- 
came to Britain and America the purveyor of his affection, 
his courage, his prudence, his detestation of sin, his love of 
the sinner, and his faith in a Higher Power. Memory fre- 
quently tells a tale almost as flattering as that of hope, but 
few characters appear in the teeming fields of retrospect 
which justify its optimism more than does that of Wesley. 
Happy is the nation which gave him to the highest possible 
service. Incalculable are the obligations North America and 
the world at large owe her for such a gift. Blessed are the 
people in whose midst he moved, vigorous without vehemence, 
neither loud nor labored, but as a fixed star of truth and 
goodness, a pattern of private excellence and public virtue. 

And while he is regarded with ever deepening reverence 
and gratitude, not the least cause for thankfulness is the assur- 
ance that He who sent him forth as the angel of the churches, 
to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the 
disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make 
ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him," can and will, 
in His infinite goodness, grant His Israel another prince 
who shall continue Wesley's work. 



JOHN WESLEY 



383 



IMPORTANT DATES IN WESLEY'S LIFE 

1725 Ordained Deacon. 

1726 Elected Fellow of Lincoln College. 

1727 Degree of M.A. conferred at Oxford, February 14, 
1727-28 Curate at Epw(»rth and Wroote. 

1729-35 Tutor at Oxford. 

1736-38 Georgia, America. 

1739-91 Itinerated in England, Scotland, and Ireland. 

Presided at the following Conferences : 



1744 


London 


1760 


Bristol 


1776 


London 


1745 


Bristol 


1761 


London 


1777 


Bristol 


1746 


Bristol 


1762 


lieeds 


1778 


Leeds 


1747 


London 


1763 


London 


1779 


liondon 


1748 


Bristol 


1764 


Bristol 


1780 


Bristc^ 


1749 


London 


1765 


Manchester 


1781 


Leeds 


1750 


Bristol 


1766 


Leeds 


1782 


London 


1751 


Bristol 


1767 


London 


1783 


Bristol 


1752 


Bristol 


1768 


Bristol 


1784 


Leeds 


1753 


Leeds 


1769 


Leeds 


1785 


London 


1854 


London 


1770 


London 


1786 


Bristol 


1755 


Leeds 


1771 


Bristol 


1787 


Manchester 


1756 


Bristol 


1772 


Leeds 


1788 


London 


1757 


London 


1773 


London 


1789 


Leeds 


1758 


Bristol 


1774 


Bristol 


1790 


Bristc^ 


1759 


London 


1775 


Leeds 







Bom at Epworth, June 28, 1703. 

Died at City Road, London, March 2, 1791, aged 88 years. 



384 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 



BIBUOGRAPHY 

BiBBELi^ Augustine. Essays and Addresses. 

Davenpobt, F. M. Primitive Traits in Rdigious Revivals. 

EncydopoBdia Britannica. Article on Wesley. VoL XXVm. 11th 
edition. 

Faulkner, J. A. The Methodists. 

FrrcHETT, W. H. Wesley and His Century. 

GooLEY, A D. Oxford in the Eighteenth Century. 

Greqort, J. Robinson. A History of Methodism. 

Inge, W. R. Studies of English Mystics. 

Jackson, Thobcas. Life pf Charles Wesley. 

James, William. Varieties of Rdigious Eiperience. 

Leckt, W. E. H. History of Eng^d in the Eighteenth Century. 

Mains, G. P. Francis Asbury. 

McCabtht, Justin. The Four (jeorges. 

Methodism, A New Hietory of. Edited by W. J. Townaend, H. B. Work- 
man, and (jeorge Eayrs. 

OvEBTON, J. H. John Wesley. 

Overton, J. H. The Evangdical Revival in the Eighteenth Century. 

Pattison, Mark. Essays. 

RiGG, J. H. The living Wesl^. 

RoscoE, E. S. The English Scene in the Eighteenth Century. 

Seeley, J. R. The Expansion of En^and. 

Simon, J. S. The Revival of Religion in the Eighteenth Century. 

Snell, F. J. Wesley and Methodism. 

SouTHEY, Robert. Life of Wesley. 

Stephen, Sir Lbbue. English lliought in the Eighteenth Century- 

Sydnet, W. C. England and the English in the Eighteenth Century' 

Telford, John. Life of Charles Wesley. 

Telford, John. John Wesley. 

Tyerman, Luke. Life and Times of Rev. John Wesley. 

Tyerman, Luke. The Oxford Methodists. 

Wedgwood, Juua. John Wesley and the Evangelical Reaction <^^ 
the Eighteenth Century. 

Winchester, C. T. John Wesley. 

Wesley's Journal. Standard Edition. Edited by Nehemiah Cumod^^ 



BOOK III 
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 

AND 

THE OXFORD MOVEMENT OF 1833-1845 



386 



And when the stream 
Whidi overflowed the soul was passed aw^r» 
A consdousness remained that it had left» 
Deposited upon the silent shore 
Of memory, images and precious thoughts. 
That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed. 

Wobdswobth: The Excursum, Book VII. 



386 



CHAPTER IX 
TBE NINETEENTH CENTURY RENAISSANCE 



387 



Without doubt, if rdigion could ronain in the pure realm of sen- 
timent, it would be b^ond the juriadiction of sdenoe; but religioii 
expresses and realises itself in doctrines and instituti<His wfaidi cannot 
be exempted from criticism. These doctrines, whidi bear upon their 
face the indelible date of their birth, implicate as to the constitutioii 
of the universe, the histoiy of the eariy ages of humanity, the origin 
and nature of the writings in the canonical Scriptures, certain notions 
borrowed from the philosophy and general science of a bygone period 
of human histoiy. To force them upon the philoeophy and science of 
to-day and to-morrow is not merdy to commit an aiiadux>ni8m; it is 
to enter upon a deq)erate conflict in which the authority of the past is 
defeated in advance. 

Hiis is why traditional theology appears always to be in distress; 
one by one she abandons her ancient positions, having been unable to 
find security or a basb of defence in any of them. 

AUGUBTE SaBATIBB. 



388 



CHAPTER IX 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY RENAISSANCE 

Newman and the Oxford Movement — Historical preparation — 
Method of study — Political and economic antecedents — Dawn of 
a new era — Utilitarianism — Kant's ethic — Lessing — Schleier- 
macher's new theology — Renaissance of science — Thomas Carlyle 

— Wordsworth — High and Low Church parties — Broad Church 
thinkers — Coleridge's Neoplatonism — Historical and Biblical criti- 
ciam — Milman's "History of the Jews" — Hie Cambridge apostles 

— Connop Thiriwall — The Oxford Noetics — Richard Whately — 
Dr. Lioyd and the Prayer Book — Hie nation Anti-Catholic and Eras- 
tian — The TVactarian reaction. 

No modem religious revival has received more attention 
from writers of literary distinction than the Oxford Move- 
ment of the early Victorian period. The main reason for 
any fmilier reference to it is that each succeeding generation 
sees it from a different point of view, and fashions for itself 
its own conceptions of the issues which the Movement pro- 
jected into art, poetry, ecclesiasticism, theology, and religion. 
Moreover, the transcendent personality of John Henry 
Newman is inseparably associated with that particular epoch 
in Anglicanism, and has been a perennial source of attraction 
for representatives of every school of thought. Dr. A. E. 
Abbott, Thomas Huxley, James Martineau, Dean Burgon, 
Dean Church, Thomas Mozley, Principal Fairbairn, Wilfred 
Ward, and Algernon Cecil are distinguished names selected 
at random from a host of contemporaries and biographers 
who have been identified in the effort to shape a true history 
both of the Movement itself and of Newman as its most 
commanding figure. His pervasive infiuence upon religion 

389 



390 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

and human life gave rise to endless controversies, in which 
friend and foe were alike inspired by the sentiment that he 
belonged not only to his own but to following eras, and thou^ 
no longer for many of them what he was for the first group d 
followers at Oxford, still for all, and for those who should 
come after them, one of the spiritual geniuses of the race. 

The memorable year of 1833 marked an awakening in 
the Established Church of England, due in large measure 
to the conjunction of Newman with John Keble and Richard 
Hurrell Froude at Oriel CoU^e. That awakening trans- 
formed the ecclesiastical ideals of High Anglicanism: it 
manifestly affected the worship and ritual of churches derived 
from Puritanism, and it materially modified the attitude 
of the British nation toward the Papacy. Principles and 
opinions which seemed farthest removed from the actual 
surface consciousness of Englishmen were recovered and 
disseminated with astonishing vigor and success. Doctrines 
and ordinances that had become well-nigh obsolete and indeed 
difficult to understand were quickened by the interpretative 
imagination of this new cult of Catholic Anglicans. 

The principal outlines of their propaganda have long been 
familiar, and although its legitimacy has been seriously 
questioned, those who write to prove that the Oxford Move- 
ment did not confer lasting blessings upon the Church as a 
whole waste their own time and that of their readers. Yet 
at its worst it has been a source of strife and schism rather 
than of peace and unity among believers in one Lord and one 
Gospel. Its advocates were prone to set aside things evi- 
denced in behalf of things assumed. Their habit of ignoring 
realities which refused to be accommodated to their peculiar 
theories, and of wrongly distributing cause and effect, nar- 
rowed their outlook, confused their judgments, and cheap- 
ened their estimates. However, the one important matter 
about the sun is not its spots, but its light and heat, and 
although there were extensive discolorations and false ap- 
pearances in the radiance which arose at Oxford during the 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 391 

last century, at least it dispelled the indifference and doubt 
which had hitherto thwarted the progress of the Established 
Church. 

The type of Anglicanism to which Keble and Froude, and, 
through them, Newman belonged was not common either 
among the clergy or the laity. It originated, not only from 
the days of Laud and the Neoplatonists, but also from the 
teachings of the Latin Fathers, and from the traditions of 
medieval Christianity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 
The deposiium fidei of these periods, though frequently 
n^ected, was always latent in Anglicanism ; when given 
an opportunity by the failm^e of Calvinistic Evangeli- 
calism, and stimulated by a series of political agitations, it 
suddenly sprang into prominence, showed an unexpected 
vitality, and assaOed some time-honored theories which had 
hitherto contained the substance of loyal churchmanship. 

But while what may be called the historic leaven of TVac- 
tarianism ^ existed long prior to its emergence, its charac- 
teristic forms and tendencies were determined by the local 
atmosphere and by current events. It is therefore necessary 
to ascertain as fully as may be possible its direct and indirect 
causes, the motives which governed its initiators, their rela- 
tive importance, their particular efforts, their relations with 
other clerical parties, their political, social, philosophical, 
and religious environments, and the sum total of these various 
factors. Some such comprehensive survey, which seeks to 
examine and combine into coherent unity a great variety of 
dements, many of which are ostensibly unrelated, is never 
more requisite than when dealing with the operations of the 
human mind in the realm of religious speculation. For no- 
where else does the blended life of thought and action become 
80 subtle and intricate, or spread its roots over such widely 
separated areas. It draws its sustenance from sources which 

> Christopher Benson (1798-186S), Canon of Worcester and Master of 
the Temple, an £!vangelical of the more liberal sort, is credited with the 
invention Ol the name "Tractarian" as applied to Newman and his ool- 



392 THREE RBUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

betray no kinship among themadves. And even when the 
lines of research are extended beyond the ordinary, contrib- 
utory facts are likely to remain outside them. The pro- 
posed method of investigation b exacting, and any attempt 
to follow it must at best be but approximate. Yet it is as 
indispensable for a veritable history as for a judicial verdict 
upon its material, and should lead to that last and best 
result — a sympathetic knowledge of the whole. 

Nor can it be forgotten that beyond and far above the 
assertions and disputes which confront us at every turn is a 
ceaseless moral force, a divine tribunal, which rq^ulates 
their claims, and admits or rejects their pleas, so that any 
effort to find the exact points of continuity between past and 
present Anglicanism, to connect its apparently isolated eras, 
and rightly present their meanings, should be reverent in 
spirit as well as catholic in purpose. 



During the opening decades of the nineteenth century, 
Europe was absorbed in the dramatic and overwhelming 
career of Napoleon the Great. His name was on every tongue, 
the menace of his measures in peace or war disturbed every 
heart. Great Britain's integrity was at stake; even the 
destruction of her commerce and the capture of her out- 
lying provinces and dependencies were contingencies entirely 
overshadowed by the threatened invasion of the Homeland 
itself. The energies of the nation were monopolized by the 
political dangers of a ravaging time. There was neither 
opening nor inclination for matters of less immediate con- 
cern ; these, however imperative in themselves, were post- 
poned to a more convenient season. What vitality the 
Church possessed spent itself in subservience to the antag- 
onisms of theological and political partisanship, or in de- 
nouncing the tenets inculcated by the Revolutionists of 
France. The ideas mediated through Voltaire, Rousseau, 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 393 

Diderot, and other savants and philosophers to men of fearful 
and decisive action, such as Mirabeau, Bamave, Danton, 
Desmoulins, and the Terrorists, were originally adopted 
from English history, political philosophy, and romance. 
For enlightened Frenchmen England became the dream- 
land of freedom of conscience, and those who knew her 
language of liberty began to evince an independence of 
thought which foreboded the hiuricane that followed. But 
although the ansemic organism of France had been flooded 
with life by Scotch and English thinkers and economists, the 
vast majority of sober if shortsighted Britons heeded Burke's 
magnificent warnings, and refused to have any dealings with 
a r^eneration disfigured by prodigious cruelties and excesses. 
Even those who regarded with a measure of approval the 
doctrines of liberty, equality, and fraternity deferred their 
consideration. A strong reactionary temper pervaded society 
and nullified the demand for domestic reforms. 

The Crown had been subjected to repeated humiliations 
by the inteUectual, and still more the moral frailty of succes- 
sive monarchs. Aristocratic circles dictated the wobbling 
experiments of a Government incapable of self-improvement 
and without that steadfast support which a policy of justice 
toward the oppressed might have obtained. The narrow 
and despotic caliber of such publicists as Sidmouth, Castle- 
reagh, Eldon, and Liverpool displayed a skill that wore many 
oi the aspects of intrigue against the popular welfare and 
defeated every proposition in its behalf. Even more enlight- 
ened statesmen, including Tierney, Brougham, and Mackin- 
tosh, who urged legal propriety in the numerous trials for 
sedition and treason, and less drastic punishment for lawless 
outbreaks, were prompt to disclaim any relation with the 
deluded Radicals. The gross and open corruption of an 
extremely limited franchise by noble and wealthy families; 
the political and religious disabilities to which large and grow- 
ing towns and cities were subjected, while insignificant and 
in some instances nearly extinct constituencies were over- 



394 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

represented in Parliament, aroused the wrath of industrial 
magnates who owed their positions to their own enterjmse 
and their exploitation of labor. Whigs and Tories w^e more 
at variance with the masses than with each other. Nor 
would this composite and depressing picture of the aristoc- 
racy, the landowners, and the merchants be cQmjdete with- 
out a reference to the official nepotists and place-hunters 
who 

" leech-like, to their faintiiig country ' dung/ " 



heartily despising the proletariat and defending the minis- 
ters who rewarded them with jobs, titles, and pensions. 

The universities and the pubUc schools which fed them had 
too often fostered obscurantism in preference to light and 
freedom. Reflecting, as they did, stolid prejudices and cus- 
toms, they became the haunts of ultra-conservatism rather 
than dispensaries of knowledge at any risk, encouraging that 
love of truth "for which youlli is the inevitable season." At 
Oxford, as nowhere else, were to be found the last ponderous 
links of the shattered chains of feudalism, chafing her temper 
and hampering her advance. The scrutiny of spiritual or 
secular authority at once offended her well-drilled instincts. 
Tastes and habits inherited and inborn, arising from the 
depths of her inmiemorial past, protested against change 
of any kind. 

At this critical juncture the bishops and heads of colleges 
were found in alliance with other stable elements of polite 
society against that painful revulsion to actual life which 
sharply disturbed their stock notions and comfortable exist- 
ence. So long as the dread of Napoleon's hegemony lasted, 
revolt against them and against governmental control by 
the landed proprietors, although incipient, was held in check. 
Once released, it became aggressively persistent; allegiance 
to the monarchy visibly declined, the prescriptive rights of 
prelates and peers were rudely assailed, and acquiescence in 
the rule of existing hierarchies of Church and State was with- 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 395 

drawn. From 1812 to 1832 these privileged orders were 
made the objects of popular attack. The leaders of the 
onslaught represented nearly every rank and condition of 
society, and those who made it effective were men of birth 
and breeding. But its underlying causes existed in the 
general discontent, wretchedness, and poverty. 

Artisans and peasants, crushed by the burden of the 
largest debt ever yet incurred by any nation, were not al- 
lowed to participate in public affairs. The destitution which 
crowded on the heels of an artificial prosperity, due to war 
tariffs and inflated prices, led to misery and disaffection 
among the poor. For the time, labor-saving machinery, 
which eventually gave England her commercial supremacy, 
bore hard on the hand-craftsmen. Agriculture was pros- 
trated, farms went out of cultivation, half the inhabitants of 
many rural parishes were reduced to beggary, and the price 
of iron, the staple product in manufactures, fell fifty per 
cent. As a consequence bread riots were frequent, and had 
to be repressed by the use of the military arm. 

This widespread distress was not only accentuated by the 
selfishness and incapacity of the Government, but exagger- 
ated by the fiery harangues of patriots and demagogues. 
Among the exponents of a larger freedom whose motives were 
ancere, William Cobbett was remarkable, rather for his em- 
bodiment of the hopes and fears of the yeomanry than for any 
consistent scheme of reform. Amazing as were his extrav- 
agances, his exhaustless store of passionate and picturesque 
rhetoric, racy of the soil, enabled him to wield such an ex- 
tensive sway that Hazlitt declared he formed a Fourth 
Estate in himself. The violence of pamphleteers and orators 
like Hobhouse and Hunt, and the satirical and denunciatory 
poetry of Byron and Shelley, excited public indignation until 
it became permanent and dangerous. 

Such a lamentable state of affairs was further aggravated 
by the eternal problem of Ireland, where those outside the 
pale of Ulster looked upon those within it as occupants of a 



396 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

stolen territory. The history of the »ster island pronounoed 
judgment upon Englishmen as strong, resourorful, but un- 
scrupulous rulers. The wrongs inflicted upon Roman 
Catholic natives because of their ancestral faith were kept 
alive by vivid recollection and frequent recurrence. The 
name and fellowship of Britons were abominated. The 
news of their supremacy at home or abroad was heard with 
loathing, the anticipation of their defeat nurtured as the 
best of consolations.^ These woes at last found a trumpet 
voice in Daniel O'Connell, whose pleading for the annul- 
ment of the penal laws against their religion entranced his 
countrymen. His arraignments of this bigoted discrimina- 
tion marked the turning of the tide of Toryism, whidi at 
last had overreached itself and, despite the unique influence 
of the Duke of Wellington, then the ''foremost captain of 
his time," began to run swiftly in the opposite directi<m. 

The Dissenters now rallied their forces for the total repeal 
of the Corporation Act and the Test Act.* Among other 
persons of consequence the Duke of Sussex, Lord Holland, 
and Lord John Russell came to their aid, and insisted upon 
a complete restoration of the civil and religious rights oi 
three million subjects who belonged to Nonconformist 
churches. These Acts were an evil legacy from the reign of 
Charles H, and the question of their repeal had been shirked 
from 1790 until 1828. In operation they had gradually sunk 
beneath the level of contempt, and were denounced for inject- 
ing the venom of theological quarrels into political discussion, 
and profaning religion with the vices of worldly ambition, 
thus making it both hateful to man and offensive to God. 
Lord Eldon predicted that their removal from the statute- 

^ W. S. Lilly: "Characteristics from the Writings of John Henry New- 
man"; pp. 16S-169. 

* The Test Act compelled all persons holding office of profit or trust under 
the Crown to take the oath of allegiance, to receive the Sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England, and to sub- 
scribe to the declaration against Transubstantiation. The Corporation 
Act, of like import, militated against the ascendency of Nonconfonnists 
in cities and towns. . 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 397 

book, which took place in 1826, would speedily be followed 
by a Catholic Emancipation Bill. The event justified his 
forecast ; O'Connell's election to Parliament in the same year 
raised the question in such an acute form that Wellington 
and Peel found themselves powerless to quell the agitation 
which ensued, and on April 13, 1829, that measure became 
law. 

The long-delayed abolition of these anomalies was only the 
prelude for an extension of the electoral franchise obtained 
three years later under Lord Grey's premiership. The 
Tories realigned their shattered ranks to save the constitu- 
tion, as they declared, from the invasions of an insolent 
rabble bent on destroying the Crown, the Church, the landed 
system, and whatever else made England truly great. The 
nobles were impervious to social pressure ; the isolation im- 
posed upon them by their position made them contemp- 
tuous of changes near at hand ; changes they could not 
prevent, but which they scorned with the fury of outraged 
pride and injured self-interest. Their wild prophecies of 
irremediable evil were groundless. The Reform Bill intro- 
duced by Lord Grey contained nothing inconsistent with the 
principles or practices of England's unwritten constitution, 
or that in any way violated the precedents upon which it was 
founded. Pitt had contended for the aristocracy as against 
the usurpations of the personal rule of George the Third; 
Grey contended for the bankers and manufacturers as against 
the monopolies of the aristocracy. The democracy which 
had borne the weight of the Napoleonic wars lay outside the 
range of Whig statesmanship. 

Nothing was done to remove the economic grievances from 
which the nation suffered, and many other notorious wrongs 
were left unredressed. Yet the Bill encountered such deter- 
mined opposition, prepared to go to any length for its defeat, 
that a more comprehensive enactment could not have been 
secured without incurring the risks of civil war. If the 
formidable and weighty reasonings of Grey and Russell could 



398 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

not be refuted, the Bill could at least be voted down in that 
Malakoff of Toryism, the House of Lords ; and voted down 
it was. Twenty-one bishops registered themselves in the 
total majority of forty-one against it. 

Upon its rejection the people rose in resistless strength, 
and converted Grey's proposals into law. Disturbances at 
Bristol, Nottingham, Derby, and other industrial centers 
showed that no faction could hold its own against the will 
of an aroused commonwealth, and after being presented to 
the House three times in twelve months, the Bill again passed 
the Commons. A hundred and fifty thousand men met at 
Birmingham, formerly the scene of the depredations of a 
Church and King mob which destroyed Dr. Priestley's house, 
and petitioned William IV to create as many new peers as 
might be necessary to ensure the success of the measure. 
It was no longer a question of what the Lords would do with 
the Bill, but of what the country would do with the Lords. 
At the final moment, and just in time to prolong the Hanove- 
rian dynasty for happier days, the King yidded, the Bill 
passed both Houses, and received the royal assent. The 
peers, who had withdrawn their opposition, skulked in dubs 
and country mansions, careless to dissemble their chagrin. 

Although this broadening of the suffrage was too restricted 
to accomplish any immediate revolutionary changes, it 
renewed the youth of England without forfeiting the ad- 
vantages of her rich experience. It battered down some 
strongholds of privilege, released a forward impulse for the 
causes of religious and civil equity, preserved the realm from 
internecine strife, and placed its government on a surer basis 
of confidence and good will. Boundaries were prescribed 
for the haughty claims of a hereditary peerage, and the en- 
croachments of a self-perpetuating oligarchy received a 
decided repulse. Best of all, and most condudve to the 
welfare of the nation. Lord Grey's victory animated the 
public mind with a spirit of courage, patience, and generous 
enthusiasm. It enabled men to bide their time and devote 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 399 

themselves afresh to the justice and freedom for which the 
Bill of 1832 supplied a precedent. Hope rather than reali- 
zation inspired the rejoicings which everywhere prevailed. 
Nor was that hope to be made ashamed. It found its 
fruition in an orderly and lawful development of popular 
control under which Britain has become the mother and the 
maker of States, and which has furnished the model for 
similar constitutional efforts. 

II 

The political and social conditions which gave birth to those 
events that precipitated the Oxford Movement were naturally 
followed by a revival of philosophical speculation, which 
raised new issues for theology and controverted current 
orthodoxy with unwonted boldness. Reflective minds, 
freed from the distractions due to international difficulties, 
reverted to the more congenial pursuits of intellectual and 
ethical inquiry. "The several religious parties, disengaged 
from their civic campaign, were sent home to their spiritual 
husbandry, and thrown upon their intrinsic resources of 
genius and character. The time, ever so critical for Church 
and doctrine, had come at last, — the time of searching 
thought and quiet work. Other charity than would serve 
jqpon the hustings, — a deeper gospel than was known at 
apocalyptic tea tables, — a piety stimulant of no platform 
cheers, became indispensable in evidence and expression of 
the Christian life.*' ^ 

Among the currents of reforming thought which flowed 
into the stream of nineteenth centiuy philosophy the first 
in order, though not in merit, was the ethical system of the 
Benthamites, known as Utilitarianism. No divination of 
impending changes which arose on the ruins of the Napoleonic 
i^me was more keen and resolute than that of these thinkers, 
who followed in the wake of Locke's seventeenth centiuy 

> James Martineau : "Essays, Reviews, and Addresses" ; Vol. I, p. 222. 



400 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

empiricism, and also reproduced the strength and the weak- 
ness of eighteenth century philosophy. In the midst of 
intellectual and social unrest, of doubt, perplexity, and 
hesitation, the writings of the Benthamite's were distinguished 
for their cool acumen, fearlessness, dogmatic assurance, and 
for a fastidious integrity which gave them a wide popularity. 
They were not collections of desultory remarks, but orderly 
and articulated discussions of absorbing themes whidi per- 
mitted no deviation. Their beginnings had referen6e to 
their conclusions, and almost every part had some relation, 
and frequently a dose one, to other parts. 

Jeremy Bentham concentrated his attention on jurispru- 
dence, James Mill on psychology, and John Stuart Mill ex- 
pounded a new political economy. Although the subjects 
with which they dealt were too full of the contentions 
brought about by the growth of knowledge for thdr works 
to become permanent authorities, nevertheless thqr were 
erudite, thorough, far-reaching ; notable for skillful capacity 
and high aims. The writers were principally concerned to 
discover the meaning and obligation of the moral bode under 
which men lived. Finding, as they contended, nothing save 
contradictions, they resolved to begin de novo. Their un- 
flinching application of reason to moral phenomena led them 
to a complete abandonment of prevailing ethical creeds. 
Thus deprived of any assistance from the past, they fixed at- 
tention on man himself as the one indispensable reality. 

Utilitarianism defined matter as "the permanent possibil- 
ity of sensation," and mind as ''the permanent possibility 
of feeling." Experience was the sole source of knowledge, 
and the mind derived its entire fund of materiab through the 
senses, a priori and intuitive elements of every kind being 
rejected. The so-called primary truths or innate ideas 
were only habits of the mind which time and repetition had 
rendered irresistible. The mind, the Benthamites averred, 
contributed nothing of itself to the structure of knowledge. 
John Stuart Mill went so far as to deny the principle of con- 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 401 

tradiction, and declared that we were not even sure that we 
were not sure. When Hume conceded the necessary truth 
of the axioms of Euclid, Mill rebelled against the concession, 
and urged that ''there might be another world in which two 
and two make five." ''My mind is but a series of feelings/' 
he remarked, "a thread of consciousness, however supple- 
mented by the believed possibilities of consciousness, which 
are not, though they might be realized." 

Although Mill disliked the inference, and tried to escape 
it, these views were closely affiliated with necessitarianism. 
"An act of will," quoting from his own words, "is a moral 
effect which follows the corresponding moral causes as cer- 
tainly and invariably as physical effects follow their physical 
causes." This and similar statements which dealt with the 
subtleties of human nature lacked Mill's customaiy deamess 
and accuracy. Their looseness and confusion have since 
been remarked by more critical philosophers, to whom it was 
obvious that they aimed a mortal blow at ethical freedom, 
and annulled that personal responsibility which is the source 
of moral character. 

The attack on the integrity and reality of mind as the nexus 
of personality and on the will as the decisive factor in con- 
duct has now spent its force. It endeavored to undermine 
the only intelligent basis for experience, notwithstanding 
that on experience the Utilitarians rested their whole case. 
From H alone they sought to derive the laws which govern 
mental and moral life, but they gave no satisfactory explana- 
tion of the unity of consciousness which is presupposed in 
every form of intellectual activity. Apart from that unity, 
such self-evident functions of mind as discrimination and 
combination are altogether impossible. The mind itself, 
reduced to a mere series of feelings, is destroyed as a real 
agent. And in his oscillations between idealism and mate- 
rialism. Mill was frequently compelled to recognize personal- 
ity, the existence of which he sought to disprove. 

The assertion that individual and universal happiness 
2d 



402 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

according to reason was the noiost desirable end, was a 
further and incurable defect in Utilitarianism and also 
a virtual impeachment of its entire ethical position. The 
qualitative distinction between one form of happiness and 
another required a moral sense to discern it. For Bentham 
push-pin was as good as poetry provided it afforded equal 
pleasure. Mill shied at this ludicrous deduction, and aveired 
that it was better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satis- 
fied. Many critics heartily echoed Mill's plea, but he could 
not urge it and remain consistent. His observation dis- 
placed pleasure as the standard and goal in itself. Carlyle 
chuckled over the lameness of Mill's logic in the statement 
that each person's happiness was a good to that person, and 
therefore the general happiness a good to the aggr^ate of 
persons. Even later Utilitarians, without any admiration 
for the Sage of Chelsea's somewhat uncouth retort, have felt 
equally impatient with reasonings that entailed such a 
sordid and unlovely view of human nature. 

A theory which denied the existence of a priori ideas and 
the trustworthiness of the moral sense necessarily obliterated 
the fundamental distinction between right and wrong, and 
ended by enthroning social utility, with personal happiness 
for its inspiring motive, as the paramount law of conduct. 
The bases of faith were thus swept away, and conscience 
was merged into enlightened self-interest, the prevalence of 
which would presently demonstrate that Christianity was 
superfluous. 

In rebuttal, it has been shown that the true relation 
between the individual and social welfare is not sentimental 
but rational. On the ground that man is incapable of 
finding contentment in gratified feeling, but capable of self* 
realization in a conmion good, the opponents of Utilitarian- 
ism were justified in setting aside argiunents founded on 
comparisons of pleasures. The conviction that the emotional 
nature provides no ground of authority for moral conduct, 
and that conscience and reason do thb, and do it in all 




JOHN HENRY NEWMAN Xi 403 



realms^ awakened Thomas Arnold's antipathy to Ben- 
thamism and Newmanism alike as ''the two grand coim- 
terfeits forged at the opposite extremes of error. The one 
merged the conscience in self-interest, the other in priest- 
craft : the one identified moral and sentient good, the other 
separated moral and spiritual. Both extinguished the 
proper personality and individual sacredness of man ; the one 
treating him as a thing to be mechanically shaped, the other 
as a thing to be mysteriously conjured with. In opposition 
to both systems, which sought for human conduct some exter- 
nal guide, the one in social utility, the other in church author- 
ity, Arnold held fast to the internal guidance which he 
maintained God had given to all, and through which His Will 
was practicable and Himself accessible to all.'' ^ 

The repelling effect of the Utilitarian ethic upon confident 
believers in a Divine order, who held with passionate inten- 
sity definite views of the constant workings of that order in 
the world, can scarcely be imagined now. Set forth, as it 
was, in penetrating ways, the creed owed as much to the 
weakness of its antagonists as to its inherent strength, and 
released a militant spirit with which the Church seemed 
unable to cope. Enjoying nothing of that noble intimacy 
with the inner facts of life which illuminates philosophical 
speculation, its stark individualism made a powerful appeal 
to those who delighted in things which perish with the 
using, and who looked upon pleasure as the sole end of 
being. 

Yet on its better side this philosophy rebuked the indiffer- 
ence of churchmen and religionists to social disparities. It 
gave pause to the cold-blooded rapture with which some 
Evangelicals portrayed the doom of the material imiverse. 
It originated and set in motion many useful and wisely 
considered reforms, and by its thoroughgoing treatment of 
personality it compelled theologians to reexamine moral 
and religious intuitions, and to seek less assailable grounds 

> James Martineau : ''EasayB, Reviews, and Addresses" ; Vol. I, pp. 73-74. 



404 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

for their opinions. They were admonished to remember that 
Christianity should be reasonable as well as devout ; should 
invigorate the intelligence as well as transform character; 
that it should neither darken the consdence nor scandalise 
the mind. But behind the efforts of the Benthamites to 
explain man lay that belittling estimate of human nature 
which impaired their discourse and thwarted their entei^ 
prises. Notwithstanding that their economic teachings have 
borne fruit in many directions, their system as a whole is a 
warning that a sufficient doctrine of man's essential nobility 
must lie at the foundation of any speculation or action which 
proposes the betterment of the race.^ 

Among other opponents to Benthamism, the Tractarians 
donned their armor and entered upon a campaign in which 
they proved, if not invulnerable, at any rate, uncomi»omi»- 
ing antagonists, who neither gave nor asked for quarter. 
Yet John Stuart Mill, the latest oracle of rationalistic inspira^ 
tion, had much to say for these determined adversaries. " He 
used to tell us," remarked Lord Morl^r, ''that the Oxford 
Theologians had done for England something like what 
Guizot, Villemain, Michelet, Cousin had done a little earlier 
for France ; they had opened, broadened, deepened the issues 
and meanings of European history ; they had reminded us 
that history is European, that it is quite unintelligible if 
treated as merely local. Moreover, thought should recognize 
thought and mind always welcome mind ; and the Oxford 
men had at least brought argument, learning, and even phi- 
losophy of a sort to bear upon the narrow and frigid conven- 
tions of the reigning system in church and college, in pulpits 
and professional chairs. They had made the church ashamed 
of the evil of her ways, they had determined that spirit of 
improvement from within, which, if this sect-ridden country 
is ever really to be taught, must proceed pari passu with 
assault from without.'" ^ 

^ For a further treatment of Utilitarianism see the author's ▼olume on 
*' Charles Darwin and Other English Thinkers" ; pp. 91-139. 
•••Life of Gladstone"; Vol. I, pp. 163. 164. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 405 

The ethical speculations enumerated were quickened by 
the inflow of Teutonic thought, whether to deluge or to 
irrigate, which b^an about this time at the Universities 
of Oxford and Cambridge. In Germany Hmne's appeal to 
the world of the five senses had long ceased to charm superior 
minds. A succession of poets and thinkers emulated one 
another in brushing aside the sandy sophisms of Locke and 
the conclusions of his school. They destroyed the after- 
math of eighteenth century deism which encouraged the 
notion of an absentee God, and they reinvested His creation 
with spiritual significance and splendor. The infinite and 
finite elements in man and nature were reiterated by Goethe 
and Kant, Hegel and Lessing, Fichte and Schiller. Meta- 
physics was reestablished upon an ampler basis, psychology 
assumed a subordinate place, and the universe was viewed by 
tiiem as pidsating with the mystery and majesty of endless 
life and purpose. 

Lnmanuel Kant continued the apologetic of Butler in 
behalf of supematuralism, but he went far beyond the Eng- 
lish doctor's Probabilism, and rejected the mischievous idea 
that the chief end of religion was to promote morality. His 
reasoning demonstrated that in the sequence such a notion 
was inimical to religion. Disinterestedness was the essence 
of virtue ; wherever ulterior motives prevailed, and however 
derived, they were subversive of genuine morality. The 
scarcely disguised Utilitarianism of Paley, who defined virtue 
as the doing of good to mankind in obedience to the will of 
God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness, made virtue 
to spring from self-seeking, and found its sanction in rewards 
and punishments. This other-world selfishness, as it has 
been justly termed, was set aside by the categorical impera- 
tive of Kant, which rested morality on duty, and defined 
religion as the love of goodness for its own sake, and the 
cheerful acceptance of duty without regard to gain or loss, 
because it was the manifested will of the Eternal. 

On that day in the year when the faculty of the University 



406 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of Koenigsberg went to the town church to worship, Kant 
paused at the entrance of the sacred edifice and returned 
home to his study, thus revealing his attitude toward Lu- 
theran theology and discipline. Yet inadequate as his inter- 
pretation of religion was in the direction of practical devo^ 
tion, it served to vindicate faith on its philosophical side, and 
to rescue it from the oblivion to which some advanced thinkera 
had consigned it, transferring it to an invigorating intellectual 
climate, in which evasive conformity or patronizing sui>erior- 
ity was no longer the accepted mark of culture. 

Lessing felt as keenly as Kant the necessity for a rejuve- 
nated ethic and religion. But realizing that he was without 
the capacity to bring this about, he invoked the advent of a 
stronger thinker. The Messiah of the new era was Schleier- 
macher, with whom Luther's reform retiuned to its creative 
principle — justification by the faith of the heart — and 
Protestantism entered upon a new phase. 

His Moravian antecedents endowed Schleiermacher with a 
warm intense piety, not unduly dogmatic. His philosophical 
caste was fashioned in the dialectic of Plato and Spinoza. 
He strove to reconcile sentiment and reason, and to find a 
scientific theory for faith. His " Discourses upon Religion,'* 
which appeared in 1799, blended the passion for religion, 
which is in truth a great romanticism, with the play of a 
marvelous sympathy, which, again, is only another aspect of 
imagination. The happy abstractions of the scholar were 
varied by the fervid aspirations of the saint. His readers 
felt the emission from his words of something pure and kind- 
ling, which evoked their better selves. Those in whom piety 
was at odds with mental temperament and circumstances 
were reconciled by the teachings of a prophet who could not 
conceive of religion except in terms of the subjective con- 
sciousness and apart from anything external. The divine 
life in man had its residence in the emotions, and was as care- 
fully separated from dogmatic authority as it was from ethical 
precepts. Independent, because in itself supreme, religion, 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 407 

acoording to the famous German preacher and theologian, 
was an ineffable commmiion between the heart and God. " It 
vindicates for itself its own sphere and its own character only 
by abandoning entirely the provinces of science and practice ; 
and when it has raised itself beside them, the whole field is 
for the first time completely filled and hmnan natrn^ per- 
fected. Religion reveals itself as the necessary and indis- 
pensable third, as the natural complement of knowledge and 
conduct, not inferior to them in worth and dignity.*' * 

The origin and development of experiences must be ana- 
lyzed before reliable data could be obtained. Hence the proper 
subject for religious inquiry was the mind engaged and ab- 
sorbed in the knowledge that Grod is all and in all. In brief, 
the entire question of the nature of religion and its expression 
was transferred from philosophy to psychology, and its 
authority was found in no creed nor volume, still less in an 
ecclesiastical organization, but in the attested experiences of 
the devout. External standards could not bind tiie spiritual 
man ; he judged all things ; within his breast and nowhere 
else, the divine law registered those decisions from which 
there was no appeal. Theology, therefore, was not specula- 
tive but expressive. Its subject matter consisted of the facts 
of Christian experience, and its function was to formulate 
these without reference to the problems of metaphysics or 
the discoveries of physical science. 

But while every believer's personal consciousness of sin 
vanquished and overcome by the mediation of Christ con- 
stituted for him the ultimate ground of his confidence, it was 
impossible for him to isolate this experience from that of 
others similarly blessed. A nature steeped in the life of 
faith climg to the principle of association, without which it 
could not reach its fullest possibilities. Furthermore, the 
immanence of God in humanity, an idea fimdamental to 
Schleiermacher's entire system, was directly related to the 

1 Quoted by Arthur C. McGifFert: "The Rise of Modern Religious 
Ideas" ; pp. 66 el aeg. 



408 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

rise and structure of the Church as its manifestation. 
On these two immovable pillars he founded ha stiength and 
security, conceiving her, not as an institution, nor as an 
hierarchy, but as the congr^;ation of faithful souls, in whose 
corporate existence the dwelling of the Divine Spirit for- 
bade schisms, casting out the self-will and discords which 
created them, and fusing its members into one living body 
which radiated a glowing fellowship to every part. 

This transfer of the seat of religious authority to e3q>m- 
ence, while still preserving the place and int^^ty of the 
Bible and the Church, delivered believers from apprehension 
concerning those changes which attend expansion in knowl- 
edge. The Church, steadfast in the spiritual conscious 
ness of her children, was under no necessity to practice 
methods which, while they stifled doubt, failed to reach the 
truth. Her path was cleared of sacerdotal and credal 
obstacles; vulnerable theories of Biblical inerrancy and 
ecclesiastical infallibility, which could not survive the tests 
now being brought to bear upon them, were rel^^ated to the 
rear. The growth of Grod's Kingdom was hastened by this 
spirit of courageous candor, which welcomed truth for its 
own sake, let it emanate whence it may. 

The sources of Schleiermacher's views are traceable 
to the Greek Fathers of the second centiuy, in particular 
to Clement of Alexandria. Both in its positive and negative 
elements Schleiermacher's mind was as entirely Greek as 
St. Augustine's was entirely Latin. The juristic theology of 
the latter was dissolved under the imaginative mystical 
quality of Schleiermacher's conceptions. He resented con- 
crete things, and preferred to think of Christianity as a li\'ing 
organism endowed with the potentiality for continuous 
growth. Hence, the content of the spiritual consciousness 
was always being increased, and this increase was the material 
for a progressive as opposed to a static theology. The Augus- 
tinian doctrines of total depravity, atonement in the terms 
of sacrificial Judaism, and the endless punishment of the 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 409 

unr^enerate, were set aside as repugnant to God and man. 
The conception of God as a Being between Whom and His 
creatures yawned an impassable gulf was rejected as deroga- 
tory to the self-conununicating life and love of the Eternal 
Father. On the contrary^ Schleiermacher proclaimed an 
illimitable range of possibilities as the chief feature of divine 
and human intercourse. And although such boundlessness 
was too vague and shadowy for less refined and mystical 
inteUectSy or for those which were attached to dogmatic and 
symbolic forms, it was equally true that in recovering and 
amplifying the idea of God which had prevailed in the ancient 
Churchy Schleiermacher smnmoned the leaders of his own 
and after times to a fountain of suggestiveness which has 
fertilized many areas of Christian thought and replenished 
the inspiration for Christian living.^ 

To him belongs, therefore, the honor of giving a fresh 
impulse and direction to metaphysics and theology. He 
showed that there could be an experimental science of 
religion, which observed, classified, and elucidated spiritual 
phenomena. Thus, in the words of Sabatier, to obtain 
independence for religion and for the science of religion 
its uncontested supremacy was the most eminent service 
which Schleiermacher rendered at once to faith and philos- 
ophy. His interpretations were instrumental in emphasiz- 
ing much that is highest and best in the life of the spirit. 
Directly or indirectly, he left a permanent impress on Prot- 
estantism, both in Europe and America, and even ecclesias- 
tics who have refused to make any terms with Modernism 
and for whom an unchanging order is the governing power of 
faith, have felt to some extent the vivifying touch of this 
luminary of his age. 

The new blossoming of the European mind, largely due 
to the fundamental brain work of German metaphysicians 
and scholars, began to manifest itself in science and 

> Alexander V. G. Allen: "The Ck)ntinuity of ChriBtian Thought"; 
p. 397. 



410 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

history. The publication of Sir Charles Lyell's "Principles 
of Geology" heralded the advent of Evolution, with its 
inunense range of biological facts, and caused nothing short 
of a panic in those circles already gravdy perturbed by po- 
litical and theological liberalism. Its "wild theories and pre- 
posterous conclusions," which were more easily denounced 
than answered, contravened the cosmogonies of Genesis, 
and the coincidence of the appearance of Lyell's volume with 
the formation of the British Association for the Advanc^nent 
of Science seemed darkly ominous to the orthodox. To make 
matters worse, the book steadily won approval from experts 
competent to judge, and marked the beginning of a serious 
attempt to arrange scientific phenomena in more coordi- 
nated forms. Lyell's work and its extensive implications 
altered the whole tone of Darwin's thinking, who declared 
that but for the inspiration derived from Lyell his own con- 
clusions might never have been obtained. "I have long 
wished," he wrote in 1845, " not so much for your sake as for 
my own feelings of honesty, to acknowledge more plainly 
than by mere reference how much I owe to you. Those 
authors who, like you, educate people's minds, as weU as 
teach them special facts, can never, I should think, have full 
justice done to them except by posterity." These inquiries, 
while possessing the romantic interest attached to excursions 
in hitherto imknown fields, were also conspicuous for their 
intellectual impressiveness and fidelity to detail. They were 
vindicated in a revolution foreshadowed by Newman m his 
"Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine," and 
which gave coherence and meaning to the accumulations of 
natural knowledge. The entire field of human eflFort acquired 
new promise and dignity. For although geology and biology 
were the cradles of the evolutionary hypothesis, its ramifica- 
tions spread rapidly into many other spheres. Statesmen, 
sociologists, reformers, and theologians were inoculated with 
the theory of progressive development and determined to 
parallel its story in nature with a similar unfolding in politics, 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 411 

ethics, and religion. In directing the gaze of mankind toward 
an ideal all the more attractive because its frontiers were lost 
in the radiance of a possible perfectibility, Lyell and Dar- 
win did the greatest service men can render to their fellows. 
They showed that creation and man were not isolated units, 
that the creature had a princely inheritance from an inter- 
minable past, the recesses of which were beyond discernment, 
and its irrepressible energies mobilized in himself. 

Thomas Carlyle, who, together with Wordsworth, directed 
some of these conceptions into popular channels, was perhaps 
the most important literary accessory in the revolt against tra- 
dition. While scornful of conventional opinions, he was at 
heart hostile toward materialism. As an author, virile, vehe- 
ment and iconoclastic in temper ; as a thinker, intuitional rather 
than logical, impatient with the letter and mechanism of his- 
tory, this shaggy Titan, who was so eager for the realities and 
forces underneath outward events, gave a more cosmopolitan 
range to English literature. Carlyle was so constructed that 
*^e prophet who reveals and the hero who acts could be his 
only guides." He stirred the lethargy and aroused the resent- 
ment of his readers by his antagonisms rather than by his 
sympathies. His habitual eccentricities of style and method, 
and his absorption in the higher learning of the philosophers 
who resided between the Rhine and the Oder offended more 
sedate and careful scholars, who doubted the soundness of 
many of his conclusions. But these shortcomings and 
prejudices were compensated by his reverence for truth, his 
imaginative grasp of facts, and his fascinating humanness. 
His superabundant vitality and candor gave the first clear 
expression to the struggling heart of a desolate yet aspiring 
time, making a clean breast of many repressed unbeliefs and 
noble hatreds. He generated a tempest which swept away 
some shams, whether in Church or State, and cleared the 
ground for affirmative thinkers. 

Yet so far from being purely destructive, he was always 
mindful of the ''Everlasting Yea," and if he inspired rather 



412 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

than illuminated, he certainly provided an immediate foot- 
hold for faith and loyalty at a moment when some ancient 
landmarks were being removed. The infinite nature of 
duty was the token of the Divine Presence which never 
forsook him. Only in submission before that Presence could 
any worthy freedom be found. The higher self within was 
the one medium of contact with the Supreme Will. Through 
obedience and renunciation the soul entered its divine king- 
dom. It was Carlyle's powerful presentation of such truths 
as these, far more than his vitriolic objurgations against 
cant or the pretensions and quackeries, real or imaginary, 
which he detested, that gave him a tremendous hold upon 
his admirers. They saw in him the survival of a moral 
code inherited from generations of honest God-fearing 
ancestors, at first stifled by doubt and questioning, and then 
majestically quickened and purified under the stress of 
deepened insight and the sense of high responsibility. How 
much they owed to him cannot be easily computed, but that 
his early writings may be reckoned among the chief forces 
of liberation working in those years is beyond dispute. 
"Whilst the schools of the Economists were laboriously de- 
molishing the homes of prejudice and superstition, Carlyle's 
battering ram made such a noisy assault upon them that 
all were bound to listen." ^ His discordant smnmons to 
sincerity was heard in every walk of life, rousing opposition 
as well as discipleship, and further disquieting the ecclesias- 
tical centers which were already alarmed by what they 
deemed the impious aberrations of the world. 

Thus the period was one of confusion, in which devout men 
were timid, nervous, and, for the most part, resourceless. 
The transposition of values had driven Wordsworth from his 
earlier radicalism into a practical alliance with the Tories. 
The evolution of his opinions was both straightforward and 
intelligible, but it affected his productive powers, which 

1 F. Warre Cornish: "A History of the En^^iah Chinch in the Nine- 
teenth Century" ; Vol. I, p. 196. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 413 

henceforth were intennittent in their effusions. The aodal 
anarchies of France as represented by the ''Terror/' and 
William Godwin's "Enquiry G>noeming Political Justice/' 
which was calmly subversive of marriage and similar in- 
stitutionSy compelled Wordsworth to abandon his liberalism 
in behalf of the quiet of an ideal state, in which the bonds 
of domestic piety were strengthened by the contemplation of 
God in nature, thus conserving the spirit of the simple 
society in which he had been bred.^ 

Beset on every side by a renascent philosophy, theology, 
science, and literature, diurchmen in Germany and France, 
and later in England, saw their systems subjected to severe 
<Nxieals; the past, at the instigation of the growth of 
knowledge, rose up to grapple with its own progenies in the 
present. The heart of things as they were was ruthlessly 
torn open and scrutinized. What existing party could abide 
the hour of reckoning? The polite and titled cliques which 
loathed democracy were on the defensive. The prelates 
and dignitaries of the Establishment scented danger every- 
where. For dreamers and poets the day of Utopia had 
dawned. Would the Church herself, as the last hope, prove 
equal to the emergency, or be made a show of in the open as 
natively incapable of readjustment to its necessities? 



in 

The answer must be sought in the condition of the two 
predominant parties into which Anglicanism, speaking 
generally, was divided. These were known respectively as 
High and Low Churchmen. The fonner included non-jurors, 
other irreconcilables, and a large proportion of the ortho- 
dox, a tenn applied to those who accepted the Reforma- 
tion and the Prayer Book, and who, although sacramental 
in theory, were content with a minimum of ritual and observ- 

> "Dietioiiaiy of National Biography" ; Vol. LXIII, article on Worda- 



414 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

ance. The Low ChurchmeQ consisted of both EvangeUcals 
and Latitudinarians. Indeed, at the b^inning of the nine- 
teenth century these tenns were loosely used, and there was 
no very wide divergence, either in doctrine or practice, be- 
tween the two main groups or their subdivisions. Alexand^ 
Knox observed that the old High Church race was fatigued, 
the majority being men of the world, if not of yesterday. 
They boasted their direct succession from a series of learned 
divines beginning with Hooker and ending with Waterland, 
who embodied for them the authentic and unchanging mind 
of their communion. Passionless, scholarly, contemptuous 
of zeal, content to take things as they found them, they 
coveted reasonableness and repudiated emotionalism. Their 
preaching spent itself in a balanced presentation of Carolinian 
theology and in a steady effort to avoid every kind of ex- 
travagance. 

"The better members," says Dean Church, "were highly 
cultivated, benevolent men, intolerant of irregularities both 
of doctrine and life, whose lives were governed by an un- 
ostentatious but solid and unfaltering piety, ready to burst 
forth, on occasion, into fervid devotion." ^ Their whole- 
some though restrained ministry was too frequently coun- 
teracted by pluralist and fortune-loving brethren, many 
of whom were nothing more than country gentlemen m. 
Holy Orders who used the advantages of their calling for the 
pursuit of personal interests and pleasures. Thanks to the 
regenerating effects of Tractarianism, this type of cleric has 
long since disappeared, and nothing more than a mbty 
reminiscence of the sporting parson, or the clergyman who 
held his oflSce as a sort of perquisite, lingers in rural regions. 

Although their number was far smaller than has been com- 
monly supposed, the Evangelicals furnished the prevailing 
religious and philanthropic tendencies of the first generations 
of the century. They were related to the Revival from which 
they took their name, with two very marked differences; 

» "The Oxford Movement" ; p. 10. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 415 

that they owned no allegiance to Methodism as a sect, and 
aooepted the Calvinism of Whitefield, Toplady, and Hill as 
against the Arminianism of Wesley and Fletcher. High 
Churchmen accused them, not without reason, of being 
morbid pietists, whose jaundiced vision regarded an enjoy- 
able world as a dreary wilderness overshadowed by impend- 
ing doom. This antipathy was too often synonymous with 
a mistaken hatred of all that made life beautiful, combined 
with a quick appreciation of whatever added to its material 
comfort. Their favorite teachers and guides were such men 
as Hervey, Romaine, Cecil, Newton, Thomas Scott, and 
Charles Simeon. The Evangelicals were students of the 
Bible, deeply versed in its contents, pronounced literalists, 
experts in the doctrinal views they accepted, and frequently 
more than equal to the controversialists they were called 
upon to meet. Nevertheless, they were too circumscribed in 
range and deficient in imagination and sympathy to supply 
an adequate theology for the age. ''The history of the 
Evangelical Revival illustrates the limits of religious move- 
ments which spring up in the absence of any vigorous rivals 
without a definite philosophical basis. They flourish for a 
# time because they satisfy a real emotional craving ; but they 
have within them the seeds of decay. A form of faith which 
has no charms for thinkers ends by repelling from itself even 
the thinkers who have grown up under its influence. In the 
second generation the able disciples revolted against the 
strict dogmatism of their fathers, and sought for some more 
liberal form of creed, or some more potent intellectual 
naFCOtic. . . . When the heart usurps the functions of the 
head, even a progressive development will appear to be 
retrograde."^ Their instruction was subordinated to the 
dogma of election and its corollaries, insistence upon which 
engendered that aversion felt at Oxford toward Calvinism, 
wli^re it supplied one of the first incentives to the Tractarian 

>8ir Leslie Stephen: "History of EngUoh Thought in the Eighteenth 
Centuiy" ; Vol. II, pp. 431 and 435. 



416 THREE RBUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Movement. Their fatalism indined many of them to 
Premiilenarianism as a refuge from the approaching catas- 
trophes of the present dispensation. The breadth and verve 
of Luther, or the logical array and indsiveness of Calvin, or 
the '' platform of discipline " of Knox and the earlier Puritans 
was not in them nor in their followers. 

Social conditions had slowly changed their once unbending 
bearing in an environment which laid stress on what was 
fastidious or ingenious or genteel: almost insensibly they 
inhaled the subtle poison of these requirements, and devd- 
oped an accommodating spirit toward th^n. Despite de- 
terioration, however, the more intense Evangelicals warred 
against prevalent evils in Church and State, thus incurring 
proscription as enthusiasts and bigots. Their preaching 
lent weight to the charge; it abounded in credal phrases 
which had lost their significance, and left untouched large 
and vital needs of human life. References to ethical obli- 
gation and the necessity for righteous conduct were dis- 
paraged if they seemed to dash with salvation by faith and 
for the dect alone. The result was that their homilies 
seldom ventured beyond the rudiments of the Grospel, pre* 
ferring the well-worn track of a call to repentance and a 
conditional assurance of pardon.^ Arrogant exdusiveness, a 
sure sign of decay, began to show itself among them. They 
set themselves apart as the truly religious, the chosen depos- 
itaries of Christian verity, culture, and experience, with a 
dialect of their own ; and were indined to regard those who 
were not of their persuasion as worldlings and soothsayers. 

It was but one remove from this temper to the materialism 
which believed in making the best of both worlds, projecting 
the theory of rewards and pimishments into the future with 
reckless profusion, and emphasizing it as the chief stimulus 

* Sydney Smith wrote : " The great object of modem sermona is to haiard 
nothing. Their characteristic is decent debility, which alike guards their 
authors from ludicrous errors and precludes them from striking beauties. 
Every man of sense in taking up an English sermon expects to find it a 
tedious essay." 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 417 

to godly living. Their progenitors had braved the anger of 
Georgian bishops by exhortations and practices that drew 
all classes to their churches. The descendants were found 
in the rich and fashionable pulpits of London and the 
provinces. Yet, notwithstanding this decline in value 
and breadth of service, a large contingent of Anglicans 
still dung to the Low Church, cherishing its devout in- 
heritance and earnestly expecting a renewal of those gifts 
and graces which were now its fondest traditions. Famous 
divines strengthened and adorned the wider ranks of 
Evangelicalism, but few such were found within the pale of 
the Establishment. Robert Hall, John Foster, William Jay 
of Bath, Edward Irving, the eccentric genius, and in Scotland, 
Thomas Chalmers, represented the vigor and fearlessness of 
an earlier day and maintained the excellence of Evangelical 
preaching. 

It should be added that, notwithstanding its waning fires, 
the party conferred upon humanity some of its foremost 
benefactors. The men and women whose unstinted labors 
and sacrifices were instrumental in founding the foreign 
missionary propaganda, in obtaining clemency for the Hindu 
and freedom for the slave, in abolishing cruel penal laws 
and purifying noisome prisons, as a rule, owed allegiance to 
the Clapham sect vividly described by Macaulay, or to its 
lesser rival, the Clapton Sect, and were active and influential 
members of the evangelical wing of the Church. 

Standing apart from High and Low Churchmen were cer- 
tain thinkers and writers to whom the term Broad Churchmen 
has since been conveniently applied. These may be divided 
into two sections, the philosophical, which began with Samuel 
Taylor Coleridge and passed on to such typical divines as 
FVederick Denison Maurice, and later, Brooke Foss Westcott ; 
and the critical or historical, represented by Henry Hart 
Mihnan, Newell Connop Thirlwall, Julius Charles Hare, 
Thomas Arnold, and Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. The Platonic 
gospel of Coleridge discarded the apologetic of Paley, which 
2b 



418 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

found all good in happiness^ and the empiricism of Locke, 
which posited all knowledge in phenomena as derived by 
reflection from what the senses reveal. With Schleiermadier, 
Ck)leridge traced the sources of religious faith to experience, 
but he also aflirmed the existence of an intellectual organ for 
the apprehension of God. This he defined as the Recuon, 
which was loftier in nature, and dealt with higher truths than 
the Understanding. For while the Understanding was wholly 
dependent upon perception for its data, and generalized from 
the material presented by the senses, the Reason was con- 
cerned intuitively and immediately with necessary and 
universal truths. The former operated in the world of time 
and space, and was in a measure shared by animals, whose 
instinct was only a lower kind of ''adaptive intelligence.^' 
The latter fulfilled its oflSce in the spiritual sphere, and its 
presence in man proved his affinity with a supernatural order 
as certainly as the Understanding related him to the physical 
creation. The Reason had two functions : the cognitive, from 
which proceeded all ontological thinking, ideas of cause, 
imity, infinitude, and the like ; and the active, from which 
arose the postulates of moral action, such as obligation, 
freedom, and personality. 

This, of course, was another way of stating Kant's resolu- 
tion of the Reason into its components, the speculative and 
the practical, and the indebtedness of Coleridge to the founder 
of the critical philosophy is everywhere apparent. From 
Kant and Schelling his metaphysic received its primary 
impulse. 

Both functions of the Reason, argued Coleridge, were 
fulfilled in definite religious faith. The speculative element 
could give the conception of an Absolute Being, but since its 
content was purely ontological it could not predicate His 
character. On the other hand the practical element, or 
moral consciousness, revealed the Absolute as the Holy One, 
who was "visible" in that degree in which the perceiving 
heart was pure. The Reason which discharged this double 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 419 

function was not a detached personal faculty, but the imma- 
nence in human apprehension of the Divine Reason, " the light 
which lighteth every man/* the link between the Creator and 
the creature, and the essential medium for that fellowship 
which apprises men of spiritual realities. Since the basic ideas 
of religion were derived from the Reason, thus understood, 
it followed that the deistic view of ''natural religion" was 
precluded as a contradiction in terms. 

The psychological analysis of the soul was supplemented by 
the reverse process. Having worked upwards from the data 
of human consciousness to the Divine Being, Coleridge pro- 
ceeded on a descending path from the Absolute One to His 
manifestations in the finite. The Logos or Son of the Father 
was the one mediator between God and the universe, sus- 
taining cosmic relations to all that is, directing the eternal 
process in history, and inspiring the soul with moral and 
spiritual truth. In Jesus, the Son attained a concrete per- 
sonal expression, which while specialized in a profoundly 
impressive manner, was neither exclusive nor final in 
the sense that He had withdrawn from the rest of mankind. 
Humanity as a whole felt the throbbings of His light and life, 
without Whom nothing could exist. Thus the particular 
Incarnation the Gospels recorded revealed and realized the all- 
pervading truth that the race was the oflFspring of God, Who 
through self-manifestation and utmost sacrifice ever sought 
to reclaim and reconcile His errant children. 

The apprehension of this fundamental truth made possible 
the new birth which was the chief purpose of the Son's 
redemptive mission, and which consisted, not in an improved 
self, but in "a Divine other-than-self.'* The mind of Christ 
blended with the mind of believers, and a life of the 
Spirit was inaugurated, a life of trust and love, a life of 
closest and most intimate communion with the Father, 
through the Son. The two paths of ontological dialectic and 
psychological examination converged to the point where God 
and man met in a living union. The powerless abstractions 



420 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

of deism gave place to a Holy Father whose love, worship, 
and service evoked and satisfied the deepest feelings of 
regenerate hearts, which intuitively demanded a Personal 
Deity rather than a principle as the source of their salvation 
and the center of their faith. 

I If this Christianized Platonism was a reaction from the 
sterile thinking and materialized necessity of current philos- 
ophies, it was no less opposed to some main articles of 
the reigning Calvimstic theology. The opposition was 
interpretative rather than negative. Coleridge admitted 
the fact of sin and the consequent alienation of every soul 
from the Everlasting Will, so that man was always the object 
of a necessary redemption. But Calvinism had formulated a 
doctrine of Original Sin issuing in that hereditary depravity 
which infected the entire race at birth. Upon this it pro- 
ceeded to construct a scheme of atonement, viewed as a 
propitiation of the wrath of Divine justice by means of the 
penalty which fell upon Christ. Sin, contended Coleridge, 
was a moral not a natural fact, and therefore could not be 
bom in man, but must be the outcome of his own volition : 
the only Original Sin was that which each man himself 
originated. The aim of redemption was not to discharge an 
ancestral debt which involved all men, but to deliver them 
from the dominion of iniquity which had its seat in the de- 
flected will ; in brief, to recreate them in Christ Jesus. 

In the matter of Biblical criticism, Coleridge sympathized 
with the historico-rationalistic methods of Grermany. His 
system, like Schleiermacher's, was sufficiently expansive to 
incorporate the results of the new scholarship without detri- 
ment to the objectives of faith, as he understood them. Too 
susceptible to impressions of various kinds to be always con- 
sistent, too mystical and remote to be always clear, neverthe- 
less Coleridge imparted a needed impetus to the spiritualizing 
of theology in England, where he was esteemed by his dis- 
ciples as the greatest religious thinker of his time. Just so 
surely as Carlyle widened and deepened the insular channels 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 421 

of literature, so surely Coleridge, notwithstanding his occa- 
sional obliquities, challenged the champions of an orthodoxy 
which had hidden behind the authority of the Church or the 
Bible and used the medium of a hidebound theology. New- 
man, speaking for many others who agreed with him in little 
else, protested against Coleridge's speculations, and said 
that they took for granted a liberty which no Christian could 
tolerate, and carried him to conclusions which were often 
heathen rather than Christian. Yet he admitted that 
Coleridge "installed a higher philosophy into inquiring minds 
than they had hitherto been accustomed to accept. In this 
way he made trial of his age, and succeeded in interesting its 
genius in the cause of Catholic truth." ^ 

Prominent among the critical and historical group of 
scholars was Henry Hart Milman, who, after a most cred- 
itable career at Oxford, became Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, 
London, in 1849. While retaining some of the intellectual 
habits of the eighteenth century, Milman was markedly 
friendly to the larger ideas of the succeeding era, holding 
himself free to accept and spread their light, however trying 
it might prove to older perspectives. His cautious and 
independent nature allowed nothing to pass without exam- 
ination, and he was too devoted to truth to accept or reject 
conclusion^ merely because of their age or novelty. If he 
was not exactly the forerunner of Higher Criticism in Eng- 
land, he was a pioneer in that school of criticism which has 
since developed fruitful inquiries in many directions, and 
especially in the study of the Holy Scriptures. His " History 
of the Jews," which appeared in 1829, marked an epoch in 
the historical scholarship of Anglicanism, and was at least 
fifty years in advance of the times. Dean Stanley, who was 
in some respects Milman's successor, described the work as 
''the first decisive inroad of German theology into England, 
the first palpable indication that the Bible could be treated 
like any other book ; that the characters and events of sacred 

^''Apologia"; p. 97. 



422 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

history could be treated at once critically and reverently." 
Its inferences and suggestions, even more than its actual 
statements, led to such a furore that the publication of the 
manuals in which it was one of a series came to a sudd^ 
end. Oxford joined in the outcry against it, and Newman 
reviewed it adversely in the British Critic. Once the 
right of entry into the hitherto inclosed field of Biblical 
history was ceded, important consequences were bound to 
follow. Philosophers and theologians might indulge in 
ceaseless disputes without arriving at any agreement ; under 
Milman's treatment the records of Scripture were no longer 
matters of opinion, but of fact, dependent upon accurate 
knowledge derived from the scientific study of their contents. 
To men who held that the inspired writings were inmiune 
from research, his method appeared nothing better than an 
abomination of German infidelity introduced into the English 
•Church at a moment when she was imperilled by a crumbling 
ethic and a vanishing faith. 

The slumbering tenacities of the Universities were now 
slowly awakening. At Cambridge those who resented the 
dogmatism of arrogant ignorance, and advocated a sound 
and reasonable view of life, formed a coterie of better spirits 
known as the Apostles Club. Impatient with the banalities 
of purblind regularity, Thirl wall, Hare, and Maurice,^ to- 
gether with others not already named, such as John Sterling, 
Adam Sedgwick, Richard Chenevix Trench, Arthur Hallam, 
Alfred Tennyson, and Charles Duller, attached themselves 
either to Coleridge or to more spacious beUefs in politics 
and religion. They earnestly desired a dispassionate 
and penetrative spiritual life and thought, and, while loyal 
to the substance of Christian teaching, asked for a searching 
revision of current creeds which would render them accept- 
able to changed conditions. Thus the clerical edicts against 
further quest for truth wrought eflFectively in the opposite 
direction. 

^ Maurice belonged to both Universities. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 423 

Thirlwall^ afterwards Bishop of St. Davids, was con- 
spicuous even among these eminent men as one of the 
princeliest intellects of the century. With Hare, who could 
not be assigned to any particular theological cult, he 
labored to supplant the formulae then in vogue by more 
accurate and progressive principles. Among their many 
services in this direction they collaborated in the translation 
of Niebuhr's "History of Rome," which Hare supported by 
his "Vindication of Niebuhr" against the charge of skepti- 
cism. In 1825 Thirlwall published Schleiermacher's " Critical 
Essay on the Gospel of St. Luke," containing an introduc- 
tion that revealed his extensive acquaintance with German 
theology, a field of learning as yet hardly known to 
English students. Thirlwall's endowments and catho- 
licity of outlook made him a competent and trustworthy 
guide for those who cared to follow him. In 1834 he 
petitioned and wrote in favor of the admission of Free 
Churchmen to university degrees. He also condemned the 
collegiate lectures in divinity and compulsory attendance at 
Chapel, "with its constant repetition of a heartless mechani- 
cal service." This pamphlet was issued on May 21, 1834; 
five days later Dr. Christopher Wordsworth, Master of 
Trinity, wrote to the author, asking him to resign his appoint- 
ment as assistant-tutor; Thirlwall at once complied. 
In 1840 Lord Melbourne offered him the bishopric of St. 
Davids, a see the soUtude and retirement of which exactly 
suited his philosophical and literary tastes. He rarely 
quitted "Chaos," as he called his library, except to attend to 
the duties of his diocese. 

Seldom was a severer strain of self-suppression necessary 
at a moment when the natural desire should have been to 
obtain information, and to bring to the common stock what- 
ever of well-considered suggestion or of legitimate criticism 
might be available for the attainment of those reforms 
on which the future of the Church depended. Thirlwall 
was well qualified to further such aims, but his great 



424 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

qualities as a thinker without passion or prejudice, and the 
fearlessness with which he expressed his views on disputed 
questions, separated him from the clergy and the bishops. 
His first charge was a broadly concdved defense of the 
Tractarians, then the anathema of all parties. He was one 
of the few prelates who refused to inhibit Bishop Colenso of 
Natal for his heretical expositions on the Pentateuch. Among 
important legislative acts that won his approval, of which 
two at least have since been ratified by the nation, were 
the admission of Jews to Parliament, the granting of State 
funds for the Roman Catholic College at Maynoolii, and the 
disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Ireland. A per- 
vading sanity characterized the workings of his mind; he 
humanized the episcopacy of which he was an unusual but 
influential member, and endeavored to secure the inclusive 
policy and action of the Church in a nation emphat- 
ically Protestant, and to preserve it from being controlled 
by an obscurantist sacerdotalism. Partisan opposition could 
not separate him from these resolves. His devout reason- 
ableness counted for infinitely more with far-sighted men 
and women than abstract systems deduced from assumed 
first principles. His massive intelligence and sagacious 
judgment were as deserving of reverence as the tender and 
fragrant piety of Charles Marriott. The fear which Words- 
worth says 

"has a hundred eyes, that all agree 
To plague her beating heart," 

was unknown to Connop Thirlwall. He believed in man 
because he believed supremely in God and in the ultimate 
triumph of His will. 

While the genius of German philosophy was welcomed 
by the Cambridge men, who passed quickly from admiration 
to penetration of the new soul and an understanding of its 
meanings, Oxford was alert under other forms; forms less 
pliable, less evenly just, less open to the inflow of continental 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 425 

thought and the modification of assured facts: more 
dialectical, dogmatic, and imaginative. Oriel, in particular, 
stood forth as the center of a succession of more or less per- 
ceptive men. Under Provost Eveleigh it was the first college 
to throw open its fellowships to competition and to ask for 
the institution of university class lists. From the days of 
Copleston to those of Hampden it harbored a breadth then 
unknown elsewhere in Oxford. Its reputation for liberalism 
was enhanced by a resident band known as the Noetics, 
who "fought to Ae stumps of their intellects." They repre- 
sented the conunon loyalties and sympathies of Oxonians, 
intermingled with an extensive variety of gifts and opinions, 
and accompanied by a mutual concession of the rights of 
inquiry. The evangelical, sacerdotal, mystical, and rational 
aspects of religion were freely discussed, and, notwithstand- 
ing a certain aridity of mind which characterized some of the 
Noetics, out of the ferment they stimulated Tractarianism 
arose. 

The most prominent figure among them was Richard 
Whately, afterwards Archbishop of Dublin, who had an 
exceptional knowledge of and power over his acquaintances. 
So far as he may be classified at all, Whately belonged to the 
Liberal wing, but there was no necessary incompatibility 
between his position and a definite traditional standpoint. 
In fact, his theory of the Church was the acknowledged 
precursor of a more advanced doctrine. But he was too 
original and self-contained to be a good partisan. Contem- 
porary Evangelicals deemed him a typical Latitudinarian 
of the previous century; High Churchmen rested some of 
their conclusions upon his premises ; Broad Churchmen have 
claimed him as one of their founders. His communicating 
qualities as a thinker were demonstrated by their operation 
in such divergent directions. Upon none did he exercise 
them more freely, and for a time successfully, than upon 
Newman, and the part Whately played in his career will be 
mentioned later. 



426 THREE REUQIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Whatever else the Noetics questioned they were con- 
vinced that the Church of England must change her course 
or presently be wrecked. The first to forfend this eventuat- 
ity, and to articulate the claims of High Anglicanism, was 
Dr. Charles Lloyd, who had been Sir Robert Peel's tutor, was 
appointed in 1822 Divinity Professor at Oxford, prcHnoted to 
the bishopric of that see in 1827, and died in 1829. Those 
who resorted to his lectures, among whom were Pusey, New- 
man, Hurrell Froude, and the Wilberforces, heard for the 
first time an exposition of the history and structure of the 
Prayer Book as a translation and adaptation of the Missal 
and the Breviary. Engrossing contentions with rational- 
istic deism had obscured these antecedents of the Litany, 
the study of which enabled Lloyd's students to discern that 
the Church was far more than a mere creature of the State. 

He announced in a tentative form the doctrines to which 
the Tractarians were subsequently converted. These were 
afterwards more completely stated by Newman, who said: 
"We were upholding that primitive Christianity which was 
delivered for all time by the early teachers of the Church, 
and which was registered and attested in the Anglican formu- 
laries and by Anglican divines. That ancient religion had 
well-nigh faded out of the land throughout the political 
changes of the last one hundred and fifty years, and it must 
be restored. It would be, in fact, a second Reformation — 
a better Reformation — for it would be a retimi not to the 
sixteenth century, but to the seventeenth." ^ 

This transformation of the nature and claims of the 
Anglican Communion insisted upon her place in the 
Church Universal as an organized society founded by her 
Divine Lord, independently of the will of the State. She 
was regarded as the one true and sufficient source, in Eng- 
land and among English speaking men, of instruction in 
faith, worship, and morals. The spiritual authority con- 
ferred by Christ upon the Apostles was, under the guidance 

» "Apologia"; p. 43. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 427 

of the Holy Spirit, transmitted by them to their successors, 
to be exercised in conformity with the original conmiission. 
Its discipline and edification were the sole prerogatives of 
the bishops, who maintained by ordination an mibroken 
line of descent from the New Testament Church, as a solenm 
trust belonging solely to them and to the priesthood which, 
to use the cryptic speech of High Church clerics, had the 
inalienable power of the keys. They and they alone were 
entitled to administer the Sacraments as the appointed means 
of regenerating and renewing grace. 

These theories minified the Evangelical principle which 
treated the community or the Chiu*ch as secondary and placed 
the individual face to face with God. They magnified the 
external and corporate existence of the Church as opposed 
to the purely internal life of the believer. The fact that 
attenuated catenas of this kind were out of date as bonds 
of union was not known to the Tractarians. Their idea of 
origins has since succumbed to historical evidence, which 
takes the question no farther back than the cautious state- 
ment of the Ordinal that the three orders of bishops, presby- 
ters, and deacons existed from the time of the Apostles. 
Even at that they were limited to the precedent of St. John 
and the region of Asia Minor. As to whether the ordination 
was of the esse of the Church or only of the bene esse, An- 
glican divines could be quoted in both directions. Hall, 
Taylor, Laud, Montague, Gauden, Barrow, Beveridge, Hicks, 
Brett, Hughes, Daubeny, Van Mildert, and Heber ranged 
themselves on the side of the necessity of the episcopate. 
Against them were Hooker, Andrewes, Usher, Cosin, Leigh- 
ton, Burnet, Sherlock, and Thorp. Non-episcopal orders are 
now described, even by High Churchmen, as irregular rather 
than invalid. The difference is significant, and while the 
Church of England stands for episcopacy with resolute deter- 
mination, it evinces more reasonableness than did the more 
ardent Tractarian advocates of the theory. 

The bishops of the first decades of the nineteenth century 



428 THREE REUQIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

bore no resemblance to some of the magnates ^oae 
names have just been quoted. The long tenure of 
Latitudinarianism had demoralized their spiritual force 
and leadership. Many among them had been appointed for 
political or family reasons : once enthroned, they subsided 
into their natural insignificance, and it was left to Samuel 
Wilberforce to become the restorer of their office. The 
early Tractarians rendered them submissive obedience until 
it was clear that they did not propose to secure that free- 
dom of speech and action for the Church which was^necessaiy 
to her welfare. Yet it should be remembered that the bishops 
shared the temper of the nation, which was frankly Erastian 
and anti-Catholic. The English people had seen unmoved a 
series of religious and ecclesiastical revolutions, facilitated and 
encouraged by their own indifference. Henry VIII, by his will 
alone, sealed the national faith and prescribed the forms of 
the Church; Edward VI abolished the Catholic doctrine 
his father preferred, and brought in an undiluted Protestan- 
tism, while Mary's accession was the signal for that rehabilitSr 
tion of Papal authority against which her sister Elizabeth in 
turn rebelled. At the time in question, apart from a few 
scattered clergymen and enthusiasts of Oxford there seemed 
to be no desire for changes, least of all for such as offended 
the strongest instincts of the people. The bishops believed it 
their duty to maintain the dignity of the Crown from which 
they had received their preferment : to leave authoritative 
reforms to the government, and to administer the existing 
order as they found it. Although at fault in their neg- 
lect of spiritual affairs and in their excessive subservience 
to the State, they were not without justification for the 
policy they pursued. 

This fragmentary review of the period when a new heaven 
and a new earth emerged to view can now be recapitulated. 
The mighty deeps had been broken up by the French Revolu- 
tion and its sequel in the Napoleonic wars. Then came a 
swell of soul at home and abroad which bore forward on its 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 429 

crest a series of poets, prophets, thinkers, and statesmen, with 
every kind of talent and genius in human affairs. Although 
they assailed or defended vested interests and creeds, the one 
constructive project which engaged all alike was the rebuild- 
ing of the social structive. The sons of the new liberalism 
urged this on the basis of religious and political reform. The 
defenders of rank and privilege preserved as best they could 
the remnants of their station in life. The traditionalists, 
whether Roman or Anglican, resumed their pleas for the 
sanctions of custom and antiquity which had been interrupted 
by the revolutionary epoch. Serious men for whom religion 
meant the most awful and most personal thing on earth 
were dismayed: theologians were either retroactive or 
cautiously progressive, philosophers were averse to current 
orthodoxy, and scientists, absorbed in their first vision of 
the wonder of physical phenomena, were advancing theories 
which had to run the gauntlet of a bitter opposition. The 
need for unified processes of thought and action was apparent. 
But none seemed to have that gift of generalization which 
could bring the era to a focus, or show its bearing upon 
the forces of a growing communism to be realized by the 
spread of intelligent and identical aims among all classes. 
Yet the difficulties and perils of the situation have been exag- 
gerated. It was not in any sense a widespread crisis; the 
stem discipline of war or of a conmion calamity had no place 
in its history. There was no leveling of the artificial differ- 
ences which separate man from man. The depths of life 
were still left unplumbed. The majority of the people 
remained indifferent to the perpetual strife of the clericals 
and anti-clericals. The religious instincts and emotions, 
which are as remote from dogma as they are from politics, 
asserted themselves independently of the clash of opinions 
between the clergy and their opponents. Neither the Oxford 
Movement nor any other stir in the troubled affairs of the 
time had power to reveal on a large scale the essentials of 
human being ; to obliterate social caste, to transform surface 



430 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

existence to simple sincerity of word and deed, and, as in a day 
of supreme searching trial, to banish the dross of base desire 
and ignoble triviality and purify the national character. 
Neither the High nor the Low Church party was conspic- 
uous for clarity of thought or warmth of sentiment; both 
were deficient in philosophical essentiab ; both were deprived 
of sufficient intellectual guidance. And if their constantly 
accumulating obligations to the advandng mind of the 
times found them without the means of payment, from the 
moral and religious standpoints their condition was even 
worse. Dean Church declared that Tractarianism to a large 
measure had its spring in the consciences and character of its 
leaders reacting against the prevalent slackness in the religious 
life of their fellow churchmen, many of whom were afflicted 
with a strange blindness to the austerity of the New Testa- 
ment. Yet when all these factors have been weired, the 
origin and results of the High Church Revival remain some- 
what of a mystery, in the interpretation of which hasty 
judgments are to be deprecated. For the profound changes 
which have been wrought by modem life and thought were 
then no more than embryonic. In addition to the political 
developments named, a system of compulsory" education 
has since been established throughout the British Empire. 
Ecclesiastical claims that once seemed essential to the in- 
terests of religion have been set aside and an unaccustomed 
breadth imparted to the symbols and standards of theological 
opinion. The scientific temper which was formerly an out- 
cast is at last dominant in art and literature. The entire 
conception of society and of the functions and duties of 
government has been enormously extended. The Tracta- 
rians were under the duress of the sacerdotalism already 
described. In behalf of a divinely authorized Church they 
were indifferent toward immediate or prospective better- 
ment, and disparaged what was near at hand for the sake 
of what was afar off. They set forth much that was 
romantic and, to the British mind, obscure, in terms that 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 431 

sounded like a grotesque perversion of facts and rhetoric. 
A reaction to Catholicism which seemed to be bom out of 
due time was thus equipped and treated with a homage 
having in it the note of an older world. Nor were they sub- 
ject to that discipline which accepted what was prejudicial 
to previous convictions, if it was true, or rejected what seemed 
favorable, if it was unaccompanied by substantial proof. 
Nevertheless, they made headway in an age when science 
b^an to vaunt itself as competent to deal with philosophy 
and religion. Among a people avowedly Protestant, the 
Tractarians managed to baffle their assailants, overcome ap- 
parently insuperable difficulties, and, armed with weapons 
despised as archaic, to continue the struggle against the 
rationalism of the eighteenth century. 

The chief agent in this achievement was a child of Cal- 
vinistic Evangelicalism and a son of Oxford, devoted to the 
medievalism which prevailed in its institutions as in its 
architecture. "Destined, like Wesley, to traverse the cen- 
tury; like him to exercise on all who came near him a 
miraculous influence of attraction or repulsion ; like him also 
to be rejected of his University and his Churchy and to set a 
large movement going in many directions," ^ Newman, 
though not the actual originator of Tractarianism, was its 
regal personality, its leader of radiating power. He gave 
it life, breath, being ; apart from him, and his intrepid genius, 
it is highly problematical whether it could have attained a 
permanent existence. And after he had ceased to be a 
member of the Church of his birth his unprecedented pre- 
dominance was long felt in her history. His Anglican career 
was another proof that the exceptional man is the solution of 
problems which yield to nothing else: the man with that 
touch of heart and brain which cannot be defined, but which 
aU instinctively recognize as sufficient for the occasion. 
Such was Newman ; he flashed through the mass of medioc- 
rity that vital light without which no development of ordi- 
nary qualities can prosper. 

^ Dr. William Bany : "Cardinal Newman" ; p. 6. 



I 



CHAPTER X 
NEWRIAN'S DEVELOPMENT AND PERSONALITY 



4S3 



The stage on which what is caUed the Oxford Movement ran 
through its course had a special characttf of its own, unlike the dr- 
cumstances in which other religious efforts had done their work. Tlie 
scene of Jansenism had been a great capital, a brilliant society, the 
precincts of a court, the oeUs of a convent, the studies and libraries of 
the doctors of the Sorbonne, the council chambers ci the Vatican. 

The scene of this new Movement was as like as it could be in our 
modem world to a Greek ttoKk or an Italian self-centered dty of the 
Middle Ages. Oxford stood by itself in its meadows by the rivers, 
having its relations with all England, but, like its sister at Cambridge, 
living a life (^ its own, unlike that of any other :qx>t in England, with 
its privileged powers and exemptions from the general law, with its 
special mode of government and police, its usages and tastes aod tradi- 
tions, and even costumes which the rest of England looked at from 
outside, much interested but much puziled, or knew only by transient 
visits. And Oxford was as proud and jealous ci its own ways as Athens 
or Florence, and like them it had its quaint fashions of p6lity ; its demo- 
cratic Convocation and its oligarchy ; its social ranks ; its discipline, 
severe in theory, and usually lax in fact ; its self-governed bodies and 
corporations within itself; its faculties and colleges, like the guilds 
and ''arts" of Florence; its internal rivalries and discords; its "sets" 
and factions. Like these, too, it professed a special recognition of 
the supremacy of religion ; it claimed to be a home of worship and 
religious training, — Dominus illuminatio mea, — a claim too often 
failed in the habits and tempers of life. 

Dean Chubch : The Oaford Movement; pp. 159-160. 



434 



CHAPTER X 

Newman's development and personaltit 

Newman's various aspects — Birth and parentage — Charles and 
F^ands Newman — A sister's portrayal — Mystical idealism — School- 
days — His conversion — Thomas Scott — William Law — John New- 
ton — Impressionable yet independent — Personal influence — The 
"Apologia" — First Oxford phase — Success and failure — Dr. 
Whately — Ordained — Appearance — Opposite qualities — Deepen- 
ing solitude — Anglican Calvinism and High Church doctrine — 
Dieamer and Dogmatist — Blanco White — Hurrell Froude — Keble 
— Newman's pessimism — Illness and bereavement — Break with 
liberalism — Revivdism — Romanticism — Appeal to Antiquity — 
Angdc^Qgy — Dr. Hawkins — Vicar of St. Mary's — Disagreement with 
Hawkins — The Arians — Newman as a pr^u^her — His continental 
tour — Vhat to Naples, Rome and Sicily — Influences of the Journey — 
Interviews with Dr. Wiseman — Newman's illness — His poems. 



Nkwman was an exemplification of his own contention that 
the aame object may be viewed by various observers under 
such different aspects as to make their accounts of it appear 
mcfte or less contradictory. To some he was the religious 
philosopher, the Pascal of his period ; to others he was the 
great doctor, whose work on the Arians would be read and 
studied by future generations as a model of its kind. To a 
certain type of admirers he was the superb preacher, the 
Chrysostom of St. Mary's, Oxford, and of the Oratories of 
Brompton and of Edgbaston ; to a less favorable group he 
was nothing more than a cunning master of English prose, 
a writer of incomparable artistry and seductive charm, who 
made siren words do duty for rational and coherent think- 
nig. Lord Morley, from whom we quote, observes that 
style has worked many a miracle before now, but none 

435 



436 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

more wonderful than Newman's.^ Again, some asserted 
that his knowledge of the first centuries of Church h]st(»y 
entitled him to rank among the foremost ecclesiastical his- 
torians, while for apologists and disputants his merit 
lay in his controversial skill. Both Modernists and Tradi- 
tionalists have claimed him as their own. Catholic Angli- 
cans revere his proud yet melancholy memory because he 
was their great pleader at a critical moment and in an anoma- 
lous position. Perhaps his most notable achievement was 
thb: that he actually raised the Roman Conmiunion to 
which he seceded out of the contemptuous misunderstand- 
ing and deep dislike of his countrymen to a place in thdr 
recognition, if not esteem, which before his appearance 
would have seemed unattainable. His presence in the midst 
of her was an incalculable help to the Roman hierardiy, 
which did not, however, fully appreciate his value. The 
fact that the most brilliant and gifted son of the Church of 
England was content to be the eremite of Edgbaston, be- 
cause of his exceeding love for antiquity and for a system 
they had despised and rejected, never ceased to puzzle and 
chasten eager Protestants. For them and many besides, 
John Henry Newman was, and still is, the grand enigma. 

He was bom in Old Broad Street, London, on the 21st of 
February, 1801, the eldest of six children, three sons and 
three daughters. His father, John Newman, a banker in that 
city, is said to have traced his descent from the Newmans 
who were small landed proprietors of Cambridgeshire. 
They claimed Dutch extraction, and in an earlier generation 
spelt their name "Newmann," a form which has given rise 
to the conjecture that they were of Hebrew origin, but there 
is no conclusive evidence that such was the case. Although 
the "Apologia" is silent about the elder Newman, his son's 
"Letters and Correspondence" contain numerous and aflFeo- 
tionate references to him. He was a Freemason ot high 
standing; a man of the world, prosaic, honest, choleric^ 

1 "Miscellanies" ; (Fourth Series), p. 161. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 437 

enterprising, full of good sense; animated by a love of 
justice and a hatred of oppression and fraud. Newman 
eulogized his forbearance and generosity as a father, and 
while the son's genius was all his own, he inherited from him 
a taste for classical music and an excellent capacity for 
business. 

lake another famous contemporary, James Martineau, 
Newman also sprang from Huguenot stock. His mother, 
Jemima Fourdinier, belonged to the French Protestant 
family of that name long and honorably established in Lon- 
don as merchants. For her he cherished a filial love, 
which was not, however, without occasional moods of 
self-assertion and flashes of an exacting disposition. She 
had some part in his earlier religious development, but was 
temperamentally unable to follow his leadership in later 
days, and he spoke with regret of the differences on reli- 
gious matters which separated them, and that he missed the 
sympathy and praise she could not conscientiously bestow.^ 

His introduction to literatiure began while listening to her 
reading of ''The Lay of the Last Minstrel," and when 
**Waverley" and "Guy Mannering" appeared, he spent 
the early hours of summer mornings in bed eagerly devour- 
ing them. Scott was always one of his favorite authors, 
but the Holy Scriptures were his constant companion : from 
the dawn of his understanding he was trained in their pre- 
cepts, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that he 
knew the Bible by heart. In old age he described in beauti- 
ful and pathetic language the hold it had upon him and how 
impossible it was to elude or even lessen the sweet influences 
of this, his first and last treasured possession. 

A fleeting glimpse is caught of him as a child playing in 
Bloomsbury Square with young Benjamin Disraeli, but 
his best remembered home was at Ham, then a rural 
retreat, near Richmond-on-Thames. Its charms always 
lingered in his recollections, and in his eightieth year he 

> "Letters and Correepondenoe" ; Vol. II, pp. 176-177. 



438 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

^iax>te : ''I dreamed about it when a schoolboy as if it were 
paradise. It would be here where the angel faces appeared 
^ loved long since but lost awhile."' Hb two brothers 
shared the intellectual endowments of the family, but Charles 
Robert, who stood next to him in age, was eccentric to the 
verge of insanity, and the purposes of his life were defeated 
by his personal habits. Francis William, the youngest of 
the three, had a more successful undergraduate career at 
Oxford than John, obtaining a double first dass in 1826 and 
a fellowship at Balliol in the same year. Aft^ a diversified 
and eventful life as a missionary in Persia and professor in 
several sdioob, he was appointed to the chair oi Latin in 
University College, London, where he remained from 1846 
to 1869, an extended tenure during which his versatiUly in 
writing on many and different themes attracted wide atten- 
tion. Some of these were of such an erudite or fantastic 
nature as to defy popular api»ehension. He was a mudi 
misunderstood and disappointed man, whose life and work 
were in striking contrast to those of hb ddest brother. The 
one drifted toward the shelter of an infalliUe dogma, the 
other toward the tempestuous seas of doubt. Cariyle 
spoke kindly of Francis as "an ardently inquiring soul, of 
fine university and other attainments, of sharp-cutting rest- 
lessly advancing intellect, and the mildest pious enthusiasm, 
whose worth, since better known to all the world. Sterling 
highly estimated." ^ Of the three sbters the eldest, Harriet 
Elizabeth, married Thomas Mozley, the author of the 
"Reminiscences," a work necessary to students of Newman; 
the second, Jemima Charlotte, married John Mozley of 
Derby ; and the third and favorite sister, Mary Sophia, died 
unmarried in 1828. 

Harriet's portrayal of John Henry as a young man, while 
showing a sister's partiality, is significant and candid. He 
was inclined to be philosophical, observant, consid^iate 
of others, dainty in his tastes, and extremely shy; his 

i "Life of John Sterling" ; p. 184. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 439 

views were moderate, his judgments measured, his regard for 
truth absolute. Social intercourse of any kind bored him, 
and his dislike of {Muise or blame induced him to practice an 
unusual reserve which hid even from his parents the fact, 
not without its pathos, that the son lived in another world 
than theirs. God intended him, as he supposed, to be lonely, 
and his mind was so framed that he was in a large measure 
beyond the reach of those around him. He found consola- 
tion in music, and became so proficient on the violin that 
Himnas Mozley assures us he would have equaled Paganini 
had he not become a doctor of the Church. 

His reveries bemused him, a sense of things ethereal, 
subtle, remote, haunted him ; he loved to surrender himself 
to vague and formless imaginings: unknown influences, 
magical powers and adumbrations entranced his youthful 
spirit. He lay passive and luxuriant in their embrace while 
tfai^ wafted him to an upper realm, wherein, as he says — ''I 
thiNi^t life might be a dream, or I an angel, and all the worid 
a deception, my fellow angels by a playful device concealing 
themselves from me, and deceiving me with the semblance 
ci a material world." ^ This persuasion of the illusory 
nature of sensible phenomena came early in his life and per- 
sisted to its dose. He moved freely in the home and the 
social circle, contributing to their pleasure by his accom- 
{dishments, but always separated from them by an imponder- 
able barrier. For the moment in these things, he was never 
ci them. Like an occasional visitant from another sphere, 
who might choose at intervals to dwell among appearances as 
unsubstantial as his own experience was vividly real, yet 
without being deceived by them or capitulating to their 
charms, so Newman came and went. Life everywhere hid 
beneath its delusions something better to be gained. This 
nearness to the invisible aroused his superstitious fears, and 
he states that for some time previous to his conversion he used 
constantly to cross himself on going into the dark.' 

1 "Apologia" ; p. 2. > Ibid,, p. 2. 



440 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

At the age of seven he was placed in a private academy 
at EaUng conducted on Eton lines by Dr. George Nidiolas. 
Thomas Huxley, whose father was a tutor there, was also 
a later pupil, and the high reputaticm of the school was 
increased by the fact that it helped to shape the lives d 
two such entirely different men as Huxley and Newman. 
Although he showed no interest in the favorite pursuits ot his 
companions, his character and gifts soon elicited their esteem 
and confidence. He was of a studious turn and quick api»e- 
hension, and Dr. Nicholas, to whom he became greatly at- 
tached, was accustomed to say that no boy had run from the 
bottom to the top of the school as rapidly as John Newman. 
Still he lost something by not being a public school man, 
for, while he acquired an accurate knowledge of mathematr 
ics, he was deficient in Latin. He used to r^^ard with ad- 
miration the facile and elegant construing which a pupil of 
very ordinary talents would bring with him from the sixth 
form of Rugby or Winchester ; yet he assisted in rendering 
the plays of Terence which were frequently given at the 
school, and acted the parts of Davus in the ''Andria'' and of 
Pythias in the "Eunuchus." He wrote both prose and verse 
with grace and flexibility; at first he imitated Addison; 
later Johnson's sonorous roll could be detected in his efforts ; 
then the stately cadences of Gibbon manifestly affected him ; 
finally he found himself, and began to show traces of that 
artistic construction wherein by practice his style became so 
nearly perfect, so complete, as to suffice for the permanence 
of his works. 

His preternatural religiousness was greatly stimulated 
after he matriculated at Oxford by his conversion, of which 
he says in the "Apologia,'' "I am still more certain than that 
I have hands or feet." After seventy years had elapsed it 
was difficult for him to realize his continuous identity before 
and after August 18, 1816.^ The sudden uprush and con- 
summation of continuous processes which drew so dear a line 

* ** Letters and Correspondence'* ; p. 19. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 441 

between the two periods is discussed at length in the ''Apolo- 
gia" : "I fell under the influences of a definite Creed, and 
received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, 
through Grod's mercy, have never been effaced or obscured. 
Above and beyond the conversations and sermons of the 
excellent man, long dead, the Reverend Walter Mayers, of 
Pembroke College, Oxford, who was the human means of 
this beginning of divine faith in me, was the effect of the books 
which he put into my hands, all of the school of Calvin. 
One of the first books I read was a work of Romaine's; 
I neither recollect the title nor the contents, except one doc- 
trine, which of course I do not include among those which I 
believe to have come from a divine source, viz., the doctrine of 
final perseverance. I received it at once, and believed that 
the inward conversion of which I was conscious would last 
into the next life, and that I was elected to eternal glory. 
I have no consciousness that this belief had any tendency 
whatever to lead me to be careless about pleasing God. 
I retained it till the age of twenty-one, when it gradually 
faded away ; but I believe that it had some influence on my 
opinions, in the direction of those childish imaginations which 
I have already mentioned, viz., in isolating me from the ob- 
jects which surrounded me, in confirming me in my mistrust 
of the reality of material phenomena, and making me rest in 
the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously 
self-evident beings, myself and my Creator." ^ This account 
of his inmost experiences is important for several reasons. 
It unveils the secret motives and aspirations which he felt 
and favored at this juncture ; it shows that from adolescence 
onward his intellectual life was as full of contrasts as his 
emotional, and that his excessive sensibility was the explana- 
tion at once of his frailty and his strength. Even in the 
moment of their real awakening, his religious instincts found 
other than normal outlets. In his comparison of the impres- 
sive change which supervened in him with other remarkable 

* " Apologia •• ; p. 4. 



442 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

personal experiences which demonstrated Christianity's 
regenerating effectiveness, he was careful to state that 
his own had none of their special diaracteristics. It 
was without violent feeling : he did not pass through the 
prescribed stages of conviction of sin, toror, despair, 
and acceptance of a free and full salvation followed by 
joy and peace. His emotions were peculiar to himself. 
While he considered that he was predestined to salvation, 
his mind did not dwell upon the general fate ci man- 
kind, but only upon the mercy di^layed toward him- 
self. Indeed, normal Evangelicals doubted whether he 
had been regenerated at all, and when in 1821 he tried to 
write a description oi the inwardness of this reality he added 
in a n6te, ''I speak of conversion with great diffidence, bdng 
obliged to adopt the language of books. My own fedings, 
as far as I can remember, were so different from any account 
I have ever read, that I dare not go by what may be an 
individual case." ^ 

To the imsophisticated believer, triumphant in a newborn 
realization of his personal Saviour, a logically coherent 
dogmatic system such as Newman accepted is, for the tone 
being, a secondary consideration. In the words of Thomas i 
Kempis, the soul which has heard the Eternal Voice is de- 
livered from its opinions ; the greatness which is from above 
does not spend its first strength on such details. The avowed 
absence in him of conviction of sin and of the consequent 
enraptured sense of deliverance from sin deepens the mys- 
tery of the process. It was an influx of divine life, but 
that life appears to have been conveyed through channels 
unknown to the general consciousness of Christians re- 
specting their conversion. If in this crucial hour such 
was Newman's case, it may help to explain his constant 
endeavors to defend his faith. Hort remarked of him, "A 
more inspiring teacher it would be difficult to find, but the 

» Wilfred Ward: "The life of John Henry Cardinal Newman" ; Vol. I, 
p. 30. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 443 

power of building up was not one of his gifts." ^ '' Certainly, 
books with a system abound in his work, but he does not need 
much pressing to make him admit the essential brittleness 
and contingency of these provisional structures."* His 
survey of divine things, begun with much apparent confi- 
dence, is often shadowed by reflections that what has been 
said is "but a dream, the wanton exercise, rather than 
the practical conclusions of the intellect." "Such," he 
continues, "is the feeling of minds unversed in the disap- 
pointments ci the world, incredulous how much it has 
of promise, how little of substance; what intricacy and 
confusion beset the most certain truths ; how much must be 
taken on trust in order to be possessed ; how little can be 
realized except by an effort of the will ; how great a part of 
enjoyment lies in resignation." ' This reasoning is accept- 
able to those upward striving men of whom Matthew Arnold 
speaks, who walk by sight and not by faith, yet have no open 
vision. But it plays a minor part in that warm certitude 
which is the product of living faith in the revelation of the 
Lord Jesus Christ. 

In summary, as a child Newman felt with unusual intensity 
the sense of the presence of GrodJ He has already told us 
in solemn and memorable phrases of the moment when 
the stUl pool within his heart became a living fountain, 
divinely thrilled by the spiritual quickening which blended 
his innermost being with the love, the onmipotenoe, and the 
nearness of the Almighty. Ever afterwards this event was 
a ruling factor in his religious attainments, but the essence 
of the Gospel of Redemption did not seem to be luminous to 
hb apprehension. 

Among other writers who contributed to his spiritual 
welfare was Thomas Scott, the conmientator, of Aston San- 
ford, "to whom" he averred, "humanly speaking I almost 
owe my soul." Scott, who had been won from Socinianism 

> '*Life and Letters" ; Vol. II, p. 424. 

s Henri Bremond : "The Mystery of Newman" ; p. 330. 

> "Prophetioal Office" ; Lecture XIV, pp. 392-303. 



444 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

by John Newton^ the friend of Cowper, denied and abjured 
the "detestable doctrine'' of predestination, and planted 
deep in Newman's mind "that fundamental truth of religifHit 
a zealous faith in the Holy Trinity." Law's "Serious Call" 
convinced him of the relentless wiurf are between the powers of 
light and those of darkness, and he took for granted the hard- 
and-fast dualism which was afterwards injurious to his 
interpretation of life.^ The doctrine of eternal rewards and 
punishments he accepted with full inward assent, as delivered 
by our Lord Himself, though he tried in various ways to 
soften the truth of endless retribution so that it would be 
less terrible to his apprehension. He made hb first acquaint- 
ance with the Fathers through the long extracts from St 
Augustine and St. Ambrose given in Joseph Milner's Church 
History. Simultaneously with these, of which he was nothing 
short of enamoured, he read Newton's ' " Dissertations on the 
Prophecies," and became firmly convinced that the Pope was 
the Antichrist predicted by the prophet Daniel, and also by 
St. Paul and St. John. He complains of his imagination 
being "stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 
1843 ; it had been obliterated from my reason and judgment 
at an earlier date ; but the thought remained upon me as a 
sort of false conscience." ' 

* We have already noted the extent of Law's influence over Gibbon, Wes- 
ley, and other dissimilar men ; it is interesting to observe that Dr. Johnson 
also testified to the power of that writer. *'I became/' he says, referring to 
his early youth, "a sort of lax talker against religion, . . . and this lasted 
till I went to Oxford, where it would not be suffered. When at Oxford, I 
took up Law's ' Serious Call to a Holy Life,' expecting to find it a dull book, 
as such books generally are, and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law 
quite an overmatch for me ; and this was the first occasion of my thinking 
in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational enquiry . . ." 
"From this time forward," adds Boswell, "religion was the predominant 
object of his thought. . . . He much commended Law's 'Serious Call,' 
which he said was the finest piece of hortatory theology in any language/' 
(Boswell's "Life of Dr. Johnson" ; Everyman's Library, Vol. I, pp. 32-33, 
and 390.) Law was also one of the favorite authors of Richard Huirell 
Froude. 

> Thomas Newton, 1704-1782, Bishop of Bristol and Dean of St. Paul's, 
London. In 1754 he lost his father and his wife, and distracted his grief by 
composing these Dissertations. 

•"Apologia"; p. 7. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 446 

From the moment that Newman entered Oxford his life 
continued to be in the main the record of a series of 
varied influences poured into his highly receptive nature. 
His vigorous and expanding intellect displayed an unusual 
aptitude for imbibing the thoughts and ideas of others. 
This unique impressionability had an unfortunate bearing 
an his course both as an undergraduate and a fellow of the 
University. It was the cause of that perpetual modification 
<Nr relinquishment of principles which has fastened upon a 
man of conmiendable motives the reputation for fickleness 
and vacillation. The successive formations of his beliefs 
resembled the accumulating deposits of an alluvial soil. 
Yet as the strata underneath the soil remain stable, so 
despite his hospitality toward different views Newman 
retained a steady and fixed individuality. '^ Perhaps," 
says Mrs. Mozley, ''no man, passing through a course of 
change, ever remained more substantially the same through 
the lapse of years and revolution of circumstances and 
opinions." ^ He selected from the instructions and advices 
he received those elements which seemed necessary, and, this 
done, he did not hesitate, in many instances, to discard the 
mentor. ''John," observed his sister, "can be the most 
amiable, the most generous of men ; he can make people 
passionately devoted to him. But to become his friend the 
condition sine qua rum is to see everything with his eyes and 
to accept him as guide." ^ 

In a University sermon preached on January 22, 1832, he 
dealt with personal infiuence as the means of disseminating 
truth. Conunenting on the text "Out of weakness were 
made strong," he asked, how came it that, notwithstanding 
persecution, those who first proclaimed the Christian dis- 
pensation gained that lodgment in the world which has con- 
tinued to the present day, enabling them to perpetuate princi- 
jies distasteful to the majority even of those who professed to 

> '* Letters and Ck>rre8pondenoe of John Henry Newman" ; Vol. I, p. 1. 

> VmnoB Newman: **The Early Life of Charles Newman" ; p. 72. 



446 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

receive them ? The answer was that the evangd overcame 
the vast obstacles confronting it, not because it was uphdd 
by a S3rstem, or by books, or by argument, or by any t^n- 
poral power, but by a few highly endowed spirits who shone 
in the reflected light of Christ's perfect life, and ocmimuni- 
cated their radiance to lesser luminaries. Hiey were enough 
to carry on God's noiseless work, and their successors in 
holy character and service rescued the generations that 
followed.^ 

Newman was a first-class example of transmitted influ- 
ence ; both receiving it himself and imparting it to others, 
sometimes inexplicably, almost always with unusual facility 
and leavening power. Although this readiness hindered 
him from dealing adequately with many scattered facts and 
discriminations lying beyond the range even of his percipient 
spirit, it contributed to the fecundity of a heart rarely 
equaled for its skill in contemplating those outflowing 
tides from the Supreme Being, which men call life when th^r 
rise in us, and death when they ebb again to Him. 

The " Apologia " is an acknowledged masterpiece of literaiy 
portraiture. Certain passages in it are of the highest quality ; 
the characterizations are as fine and dose as need be ; bold 
and pitilessly outright. Its self-revelation and self-criticism 
show much candor and strength, mingled with a delicate 
evasiveness or an eloquent silence about some persons and 
events which betrays the author's feeUngs toward them. A 
wholly detached and disinterested observation of his own 
career was hardly to be expected, indeed, was not within his 
power, yet the volume is of primary importance for those 
who would understand how this raw bashful youth, who at 
first seemed likely to dwarf his mental stature through 
diffidence and modesty, was rescued from his extreme reti- 
cence and an overweening anxiety to guard against solecisms. 
He began his first phase at Oxford as an ardent Calvinistic 
Evangelical, with a reproachful and pensive view of life 

> Oxford University Sermons ; pp. 75-97. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 447 

which drew him away from transitory things toward an exclu- 
sive concern for the spiritual side of existence. The Univer- 
sity of which he afterwards became an avatar was steeped in 
the traditions of immemorial generations. Its guarded and 
venerable precincts represented dignity, wealth, and undis- 
puted place. Its history embraced the hot issues of his 
own and opposite creeds. The romance of its yesterdays 
had not infrequently become the reality of its to-morrows. 
Schoolmen and Medievalists, Roman Catholics and Protes- 
tants, Humanists and High Churchmen, Anglicans and 
Puritans, in turn had contributed to the intellectual and 
moral atmosphere which was now Newman's vital breath. 
Although his scholarly attainments were nothing remark- 
able, — indeed he was never noted for extensive or profound 
learning, — yet his first tutor at Trinity, the Reverend 
Thomas Short, formed a high opinion of his abilities, and 
encouraged him to compete for the only academic distinction 
he won as an undergraduate, a scholarship of sixty pounds, 
tenable for nine years. Thb proved a timely assistance, for 
in the following year, 1819, the bank in which his father was 
a partner suspended payment, and although all obligations 
were met, their discharge crippled the resources of the family. 
Nothing remained but his mother's jointure. In these de- 
dining fortunes Newman read the call to a higher and more 
congenial profession than that of the law, for which he had 
actually been preparing, having kept a few terms at Lincoln's 
Inn.^ The loss of opportunity in other quarters naturally 
increased his anxiety to do well in the final University ex- 
amination ; the result was further disaster. It was scarcely 
surprising that, although he had passed with credit his first 
examination, a youth not yet twenty should have fallen 
short in his efforts to win the highest honors. He was below 
the average age of candidates for the B.A. degree; he had 
read too discursively and was unable, in the time that re- 
mained, to remedy the deficiency. His energies were never 

^ Thomas Mosley : "Reminisoences** ; Vol. I, p. 16. 



448 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

more diligently employed/ but they were misdirected. He 
worked to the point of exhaustion, and, being called up 
earlier than he expected, was compelled, after making sure 
of his degree, to retire altogether. ''My nerves," he wrote to 
his father, ''quite forsook me, and I failed." When the 
lists were published his name did not appear on the mathe- 
matical side of the paper, and in classics it was found in the 
lower division of the second class which went by the contemp- 
tuous term of "under the line." Anxious to remain at 
Oxford, he received private pupils and read for a fellowship 
at Oriel, then the center of the intellectualism of the Univer- 
sity. The coveted election was won exactly a year after his 
graduation, on the 12th of April, 1822, a day whidi he ever 
felt the turning point of his life and of all days most memo- 
rable. " It raised him," he says, writing in the third person, 
"from obscurity and need, to competency and reputation. 
He never wished anything better or higher than 'to live and 
die a Fellow of Oriel' and he was constant all through his 
life in his thankful remembrance of this great merpy of 
Divine providence." ^ It was then that he met John Keble 
for the first time. "How is that hour fixed in my memory 
after the changes of forty-two years, forty-two years this 
very day on which I write 1 I have lately had a letter in my 
hands, which I sent at the time to my great friend, John 
William Bowden. ... 'I had to hasten to the Tower,* I 
say to him, ' to receive the congratulations of all the Fellows. 
I bore it till Keble took my hand, and then felt so abashed 
and unworthy of the honor done me, that I seemed desirous 
of quite sinking into the ground.' His had been the first 
name which I had heard spoken of, with reverence rather 
than admiration, when I came up to Oxford. When one 
day I was walking in High Street with my dear earliest friend 
just mentioned, with what eagerness did he cry out ' There's 
Keble I' and with what awe did I look at him." * 

* "Letters and Correspondence" ; Vol. I, p. 64. 
•"Apologia"; p. 17. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 449 

The one, however, to whom Newman owed most at this 
juncture was Dr. Whately , who saw with his accustomed keen- 
ness the promise of great things in the newly elected fellow. 
''He was a man of generous and warm heart . . . particularly 
loyal to his friends. . . . While I was still awkward and 
timid in 1822 he took me by the hand and acted toward me 
the part of a gentle and encouraging instructor. He, emphat- 
ically, opened my mind, and taught me how to think." ^ 
But teacher and scholar were built on entirely different lines. 
Whately was a loud and breezy conversationalist, brimful of 
accurate information on many subjects, and by no means loth 
to impart it. He overflowed with rough humor, and was 
impervious to self-reproach for his numerous breaches of 
university etiquette. Imbued with a resolute sense of jus- 
tice; zealous, courageous, (X)nscientious, he boldly en- 
countered obstruction and misconception, and rendered 
valuable service to the cause of education and of a reasonable 
religious belief. In his intercoiurse he was wont to use others 
as instruments by which to shape and define his own views, 
a habit the more readily cultivated because of his freedom 
from party spirit. 

Newman was equally steadfast and uncompromising. By 
this time the seductive charm of his fascinating per- 
sonality, so mild yet so invincible, began to assert itself in 
unmistakable ways. He spoke and acted as the man of 
interior life who held the secret of an illimitable purpose, 
which in the eyes of his associates invested him with an 
indefinable superiority. His combination of gentle manners 
and responsive kindness with unseizable reserve and inca- 
pacity for subordination was a deceptive but formidable 
obstacle between him and Whately. They began to drift 
apart : Whately openly, and Newman tacitly, resented inter- 
ference, and the more the older man provoked the younger 
one's independence, the nearer they came to the inevitable 
separation. Newman seems to have forced the issue, and 

•"Apologia"; p. 11. 
2a 



450 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

confessed that although he had meant to dedicate his first 
book to Whately, the intention was abandoned, and that 
after the year 1834, Whately "made himself dead to me." 
Dr. Abbott asserts that Newman was mainly responsible 
for the rupture.^ He spoke of the anguish which it inflicted 
on him to pass Whately in the street coldly, but this senti- 
ment was hardly consistent with the tone of a letter which he 
¥rrote to the now Archbishop, and in which he said: "On 
honest reflection I cannot conceal from myself that it was 
generally a relief to see so little of your Grace when you were 
in Oxford ; and it is a greater relief now to have an opportu- 
nity of saying so to yourself.'' He proceeded to explain at 
great length his reasons for this extraordinary statement, so 
charged with personal feeling. Whately's support of the 
Irish Church Temporalities Act, passed in August 14, 1833, 
^hich prospectively abolished two archbishoprics, and re- 
duced the suffragan bbhoprics by consolidation from eighteen 
to ten, had provoked a painful resentment in Newman, who 
referred with utter aversion to the secular and imbelieving 
policy in which Whately was implicated. Hie letter men- 
tioned, which was a mixture of piety and presumption, was 
written in 1834, when Newman was no more than an ordinary 
member of the University, while Whately, who had been 
warmly attached to him, was his senior, his former patron, 
and a high dignitary of the Anglican hierarchy. Evidently 
these considerations counted for little. However Newman 
may protest that "in memory" there were few men whom 
he loved so much as Whately, the Archbishop was no longer 
of consequence. Newman's sentiment toward him was not 
one of personal hostility, but rather of ecclesiastical and 
theological antipathy. More than a year previously he 
had said in a letter to Bowden, "As to poor Whately, it is 
melancholy. Of course, to know him now is quite impossible, 
yet he has so many goqd qualities that it is impossible also 
not to feel for him ... for a man more void of, what are 

^ "Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman*' ; Vol. I, p. 304. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 451 

commonly called^ seliBsh ends does not exist." ^ Such an 
attitude explains the fatality which beset so many of New- 
man's associations. He frequently expressed it in passages 
similar to that which declares that ''every individual soul is a 
dosed world, and that the most intimate friendship does not 
succeed in penetrating the solid wall behind which each of us, 
in spite of himself, is hiding." ^ As yet only the surface 
of his spirit had been ruffled by the first gust which 
heralded other storms. It had flung up its chill spray, and 
sunk again to suave placidity. But anger in any form is a 
great revealer, and no air of high-bred indifference toward 
those who did not agree with his unyielding certitude could 
effectually conceal the reservations to which even New- 
man's admirers have never been quite reconciled.' 

He was ordained on Trinity Sunday, June 13, 1824, and 
at the suggestion of Edward Bouverie Pusey, also a fellow 
of Oriel, he became curate of St. Clement's Church, Oxford. 
He had felt a preference for foreign missionary work, which 
accentuated his desire to be free from any domestic rela- 
tionships, and he began to practice those abstentions in 
which religious enthusiasm takes shape in sacrifice. The 
heart which could but durst not love remained faithful to 
the vow never to surrender to any creature that which was 
meant for God alone. He questioned the direction of his 

1 "Letters and Correepondenoe" ; Vol. I, p. 395. Five yean later he 
mod Whately met. ** He ia so good-hearted a man that it passed o£P well," was 
Newman's comment. {Ibid., II, p. 238.) A friend looking back to a day when 
Whately, then Archbishop of Dublin, was in Oxford," remembers accusing Mr. 
Newman to his face of being able to cast aside his friends without a thought, 
when they fairiy took part against what he considered the truth." (/^wi. 
Vol. I, p. 88.) 

* Bremond : "The Mystery of Newman" ; p. 29. 

'The inferences which Dr. Abbott draws from Newman's letter to 
Whately appear to be somewhat overstrained. The reader is referred to 
the entire correspondence contained in the second volume of Newman's 
Letters, pp. 61-63. Mozley says, "He would have been ready to love and 
admire Whately to the end, but for the inexorable condition of friendship 
imposed by Whately, absolute and implicit agreement in thought, word, 
and deed. This agreement, from the first, Newman could not accord.'.' 
"Beminiscencee"; Vol. I, pp. 29-30. 



452 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

lif e, whither it was leading him^ and of what worth it was to 
other souls, with a startling perspicacity. These unusual 
refinements of thought and aim, seldom found in one so 
young, were reflected in his physical appearance. James 
Anthony Froude described him as "above the middle height, 
slight and spare. His head was large, his face remarkably 
like that of Julius Csesar. The forehead, the shape of the 
ears and the nose, were almost the same. The lines of the 
mouth were very peculiar, and I should say exactly the same. 
I have often tiiought of the resemblance, and believe it 
extended to temperament. In both there was an original 
force of character which refused to be moulded by drcum- 
stances, which was to make its own way, and become a power 
m the world ; clearness of intellectual perception, a disdain 
for conventionalities, a temper imperious and wilful, but 
along with it a most attaching gentleness, sweetness, single- 
ness of heart and purpose. Both were formed by nature to 
conmiand others, both had the faculty of attracting to them- 
selves the passionate devotion of their friends and followers, 
and in both cases, too, perhaps the devotion was rather due 
to the personal ascendency of the leader than to the cause 
which he represented. It was Caesar, not the principles of 
the empire, which overthrew Pompey and the constitution. 
'Credo in Newmannum' was a common phrase at Oxford, 
and is still unconsciously the faith of nine tenths of the Eng- 
lish converts to Rome." ^ 

The clerical cast of his countenance was diminished by its 
Dantean severity, which indicated an exalted and influential 
personality, animated by a passion for divine truth and for 
a better order of daily life. In his social interchanges he 
was at once simple and complex, reserved and approachable, 
constrained and genial. These opposite qualities drew to him 
many and very different men who found in their variety 
some conmion interest. Meanwhile, as Dr. Barry observes, 
he paid the penalty of genius in a deepemng solitude; a 

I "The Oxford Counter-Reformation" in "Short StudieB"; Vol. IV. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 463 

shadowy figure in those days, his feet were set upon a strange 
path toward a goal which few foresaw and from which there 
was no turning. After Hurrell Froude's death no one took 
his place in Ne¥rman's affections. Never again did he sur- 
render the pass key to his spurit : the strong man armed kept 
his own house, and during the spiritual conflict of his last 
phase at Oxford, he excluded even those who stood nearest 
to him, and went forward almost without witnesses. 

n 

The reaction from the creed of Calvinism had long been 
felt when this youthful recluse entered Trinity College. At 
first the continental reformers won a widening way in Angli- 
canism, and during the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies the '^ Institutes" of the Grenevan theologian prevailed 
at Oxford and Cambridge. Archbishop Whitgift had striven 
to amend the Thirty-nine Articles by inserting in them the 
salient features of Calvin's doctrines. Those doctrines 
thrived because they constituted an authoritative standard 
against the inroads of the Jesuit controversialists, and in- 
stilled those religious and political convictions which pro- 
tected the integrity of the nation and of the Church 
against the intrigues of the Papacy. But they also usurped 
the Protestant right of private judgment by an arbitrary 
theory of Biblical interpretation. The Calvinists deified the 
Scriptures, the Romanists deified the Church. Both rever- 
enced the framework of religion to the detriment of religion 
itself. Presently the Independents began to complain that 



« 



New presbyter is but old {viest writ large," 



and at the other extreme the hierarchical tendencies of the 
Church of England reasserted themselves. The episcopate 
and the Sacraments were elevated until they became repug- 
nant to Puritans of every stripe. Ritual grew more sacerdo- 
tal in meaning and more profuse in display. The warfare 



454 THREE RBUGI0U8 LEADERS OF OXFORD 



between the factionists increased in virulence. The stiff- 
necked individualism ot the sectaries was forever associated 
with great deeds and great men, but it antagonized that 
veneration for the solidarity of the visible Church and for its 
governing priesthood which prevailed in the Laudian sdiooL 
The articles oi predestination and election were deprecated 
by those who argued that Christian life and history, as 
vouched for by personal experience, rested on a more enduring 
basis than arbitrary decrees. 

These factors in the evolution of Anglicanism had their 
sources in racial sentiment, in political and religious quarrels, 
in the statecraft of princes and bishops, and, supremdy, in 
the ceaseless energies which resulted from even a limited 
degree of the freedom which such leaders as lidton 
appropriated to the fullest extent. The toleration eventu- 
ally forced upon Englishmen by their struggles for dvil and 
religious equality led to a placidity and contentment that 
induced the lassitude and decay of the eighteenth century, 
which, in turn, gave an opportunity to the Evangelical 
Revival. 

Newman's search for a divine philosophy confronted these 
peculiarities of opinion in the forms in which they had passed 
over into his era. The Noetics, who questioned everything 
in order to ascertain its characteristics and external relations, 
belonged to the rationalistic group in that they subjected 
orthodoxy to reason. They had introduced Newman to a 
larger world where the beliefs of his home life lost their 
significance. Hawkins, not yet Provost of Oriel, taught him 
that the Bible was to be imderstood in the light of a living 
tradition. From Whately he learned that the Christian 
Church was a divine appointment, and, as a substantial 
visible body, independent of the State, endowed with rights, 
prerogatives, and powers of its own. His pastoral service 
at St. Clement's convinced him that the faith he had received 
from John Newton and Thomas Scott would not work in a 
parish, and that Calvinism was not a key to the phenomena 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 455 

of human nature as they occur in the world. His alienation 
from these doctrines was a gradual process, extending over 
his first phase at Oriel, and some traces of their former hold 
upon him remained visible to the end. But from the moment 
he came to Oxford the doom of his earliest creed was assured. 
Its emotional and peculiar content was subordinated to 
an objective and concrete faith, succeeded by a dogmatic 
ecdesiasticism that found its logical conclusion in the Church 
of Rome. His restless spirit showed its dissatisfaction with 
the specific gifts of these transitory states to his peace and 
welfare, nor was his assurance so perfected as to be beyond 
disturbance, even in the final outcome. 

As we have seen, he was a dreamer, full of eloquent and 
radiant imageries, and a poet, having the poetical tempersr 
ment and mastery of poetic form which exuded an atmos- 
phere redolent of his own personality. The higher loveliness 
which springs out of poignant introspection suffused his 
utterances. Dr. E. A. Abbott complained that Newman's 
imagination dominated his reason; it certainly carried 
him far away from the charted routes of investigation. 
The undue subjectivism, not to say egoism, of his nature 
received no salutary restraint from the best results of 
modem thought. He had none of that admirable curiosity 
which would have driven him to inquire of those experts in 
philosophy and religion who had recreated the ideas of some 
of his contemporaries. Dean Stanley exclaimed: ''How 
different the fortunes of the Church of England if Newman 
had been able to read Grerman I " Mark Pattison declared 
that all the grand development of human reason, from 
Aristotle to Hegel, was a sealed book to Newman, who 
himself confessed in old age, ''I never read a word of Kant, 
I never read a word of Coleridge." 

Nor was his imagination, when left to itself, at all flexible. 
Underneath its surface fluctuations he was conscious of 
a hardness and a centralization which nothing beyond 
him could touch. ''I have changed in many things,'' he 



456 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

said, "in this I have not changed. From the age of fifteoi 
dogma has been the fundamental i»inciple of my religion; 
I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; 
religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery. 
As well can there be filial love without the fact of a father, as 
devotion without the fact of a Supreme Being. What I held 
in 1816, I held in 1833, and I hold in 1864. Please God, I 
shall hold it to the end. Even when I was under Dr. Whate- 
ly's influence I had no temptation to be less zealous for the 
great dogmas of the faith." ^ For Newman, Christian belief 
and character were determined by an unquestioning accept- 
ance of this position. He wrought earnestly to understand 
and apply credal statements received upon authority, which 
he believed could not be neglected without incurring Heaven's 
displeasure. His reliance was increasingly placed upon the 
Church and her institutions. Moored to this anchorage, he 
felt that he was safe and better able to measure the strength 
of the cmrents which bore mankind either from or toward her 
welcome haven. Under her protection, he craved a close 
fellowship with God, compared with which the honors and 
intercourse of the University sank into nothingness. The 
prizes and emoluments others coveted never allured him; 
fame itself was but a mere breath, an empty soimd, a vibra- 
tion of the air in words. The maxims of Thomas Scott, 
"Holiness rather than Peace," and "Growth the only evi- 
dence of Life," were his chosen guides, the mottoes of a 
heart intent on the vision of eternal realities through the 
medium of the divine society on earth. 

His unquestioning acceptance of the ipsissima verba of 
Holy Writ was another evidence of the innate conservatism 
which blended with his progressiveness, another tribute of his 
spirit to the stability of the historic past. From first to last 
he treated every text, every expression, every emblem, every 
idea the Bible contained as a settled and saving truth, to be 
developed later, perhaps, by the Church, but never to be 

» ••Apologia"; p. 49. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 457 

doubted. His severe adherence to concrete and explicit 
authority found an outlet in this notion of Biblical infalli- 
bility, which he maintained practically unmodified after his 
submission to Rome. Unafraid of the inconsistency which 
is ''the hobgoblin of little minds/' he carried to the Roman 
Cardinalate one of the basic teachings of his hereditary Prot^ 
estantism. Anything savoring of exegetical research and 
criticism was distasteful to him, and if the results of construc- 
tive scholarship trespassed on hb theological dogmatism he 
promptly ignored them. For him, at tiiis stage, spiritual 
culture was synonymous with absolute trust in the Holy 
Scriptures and in the Church of England as their guardian. 
Contradictions could no more be permitted in the prescribed 
principles of religion than in those of astronomy or chemistry. 
On the entire issue he might well have held the Authorized 
Version inspired for any critical use he ever made of it. 
A keen observer has remarked that whereas the Vatican 
Council had declared the whole Bible has God for its author, 
Newman's belief was that God was its editor. 

Blanco White detected these strivings between the old and 
the new, and predicted that Newman's preference for history 
over experience as the revelation of whatever was true and 
holy would unfailingly draw him within Latin Christianity, 
the home of that conception. White was qualified to judge : 
he had formerly been a priest in Spain, was afterwards an 
Oxford man, a traveler, a student of literatiu'es, and a power- 
ful writer on philosophical and religious subjects untroubled 
by the thoughts of yesterday. But his volatile and erratic 
temperament could exercise no restraint upon Newman, now 
beset by a host of reflections he revealed to none. On the 
very day he fulfilled White's prophecy and accepted the rule 
<rf Rome, White himself renounced that of Canterbury: 
thus they separated, journeying in opposite directions. 
Chief among the reflections mentioned was the persuasion 
that an inevitable nemesis and reaction permeated life, an 
idea which rendered Newman sensitive to signs and tokens 



458 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

in whatever happened. Ordinaiy events were viewed in the 
light of a special Providence, which graciously intervened 
to provide these stepping stones on a dark and perilous road. 
His daily routine was never in his own keeping, his ordinations 
were from above. Confident of this, he became impersonal 
in his ambitions, cherishing his calling as Christ's anointed 
messenger beyond any other pursuit, and saying of it : 

"Deep in my heart that gift I hide, 

I change it not away 
For patriot warrior's hour of pride 

Or statesman's tranquil sway ; 
For poet's fire, or pleader's skill 
To pierce the soul and tame the will." 

His break with Whately was due, not as some have as- 
serted, to their disagreement over Sir Robert Peel's candida- 
ture at Oxford as the reluctant advocate of Catholic Emanci- 
pation, when Newman was found in the camp of vociferous 
Orangemen and No-Popery zealots, but to his growing separa- 
tion from the Noetics, whose offense lay in their being the 
forerunners of a reasonable theology. Equally dissatisfied 
with the immovable orthodoxy of Evangelicals and the dull 
pompous inertness of High Chiu'chmen, the Noetics dis- 
countenanced both factions and cultivated a spirit of modera- 
tion and sympathy impossible within either. Newman's 
Evangelicalism had not deterred them from receiving him 
with respect and kindness,^ nor was the broadening effect 
of their intimacy entirely lost upon him. On the contrary. 
Dr. Wilfred Ward states that as a thinker pure and simple, 
although confined in range, his reputation was never more 
deserved than when he was imder their spell.* But 
he could not permanently identify himself with what he 
conceived to be the nebulous theories of a few intellectual 
aristocrats who did not even agree among themselves. As 
an Evangelical, he had far more in conmion with CathoUc 

* " Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman " ; Vol. I, p. 88. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 459 

teaching than with a Rationalism, however disguised, which 
held all fonnularies at arm's length. The same may be said 
of other notable seceders : Sibthorp, Manning, Ryder, Dods- 
worth, Hope-Scott, Noel, Faber, and the Wilberforces "pro- 
ceeded from Oxford to Rome as they had already marched 
from Clapham to Oxford." 

In 1826 Newman resigned the curacy of St. Clement's 
to become one of the four public tutors at Oriel. And now 
the friend and companion who finally vanquished his tenta- 
tive and short-lived liberalbm appeared upon the scene, the 
"bright and beautiful" HurreU Froude, who was destined to 
have a part in Newman's inspiration and recollection analo- 
gous to that which Arthur Hallam had in Tennyson's "In 
Memoriam." He was the eldest son of Archdeacon Robert 
HurreU Froude, of Totnes, Devon, a High Chiu'chman of the 
most extreme and exclusive type, who loathed Puritanism, 
denounced the Evangelicals, and brought up his sons 
to do the same. The aged President of Magdalen College, 
Dr. Martin Routh, a relic of the far past, represented this 
nearly extinct cult at Oxford long before and after the Trac- 
tarians had resuscitated it. HurreU Froude thus conveyed 
to Newman's mind an indoctrination hitherto alien to its 
experience ; he became the living bridge over which Newman 
passed from the Evangelical to the Catholic conception of 
Anglicanism. During the first stages of the Oxford Move- 
ment, Froude was its most pervasive force, and the after- 
^ow of his personality lingered long subsequently to his short 
day. He caricatured and mocked the vacillations and com- 
promises of Erastianism, assailing with imsparing invective 
its surrender of the heroical attributes of High Churchman- 
ship and its insular and egregious complacency. These de- 
fects were contrasted with the bold and consistent policies 
of the Holy See, for which he openly avowed his affection. 
A rash and adventiut)us critic, without accurate information 
on many issues he presumed to determine, Froude rejoiced in 
the little he knew about the Puritans, since it gave him a 



460 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

better right to hate John MUton, whom Newman also re- 
proached as contaminated by evil times and the waywardness 
of a proud heart.^ Froude adored Charles I, and venerated 
Archbishop Laud, whose apparition Newman gravely 
declared might even then be found in Oxford, anxiously 
awaiting the developments of events. 

Froude's extravagances were probably intensified by his 
prolonged illness, which ended his life when he was not yet 
thirty-three. While he lived, the light of battle was in his 
eye, and as though prescient of death, he eagerly spread a 
feverish restlessness among the Tractarians, who received his 
reckless statements with avidity. These he proclaimed in 
the temper of a zealot, describing himself as a priest of the one 
Holy Catholic Church allowed by her Divine Lord tp mani- 
fest herself in Great Britain, and engaging his loyalty to her 
and to her alone. Other Protestant communions, English or 
continental, were the objects of his violent detestation and 
abuse. Their great institutions, no matter how beneficial, 
were viewed satirically. The variety of his gifts, the vehe- 
mence of his ecclesiasticism, and his insatiable craving for 
sympathy endeared him to kindred spirits, who could not 
resist his unrestrained outpourings, even when these did not 
win their entire approval. 

Dean Church has suggested that Froude's intemperate 
language and demeanor, which in some instances came near 
to ill-bred and useless folly, were such as could be easily 
misinterpreted by those not admitted to his confidence, and 
that his insoleilt pronouncements were uttered at random and 
not intended for the public ear. The Dean added that 
friends were pained and disturbed, while foes exulted over 
such disclosures of the animus of the Oxford Movement. But 
the editors of the "Remains," of whom Newman was one, 
asserted that, " right or wrong, they were his deliberate opin- 
ions, and cannot be left out of consideration in a complete 
estimate of Froude's character and principles. The off-hand, 

^ "Letters and Ck)rre8pondenoe " ; Vol. I, p. 195. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 461 

unpremeditated way in which they seemed to dart out of him, 
like sparks from a luminous body, proved only a mind en- 
tirely possessed with the subject, glowing as it were through 
and through." ^ The volmne speaks for itself and for the 
incurable provincialism and ignorance that infest its pages, 
in which violence of assertion was the ideal method, assertion 
that sought no ultimate proof higher than prejudice. It 
abounds in flouts, jibes, and sneers ; exhibiting those pre- 
possessions which corrupted the history and also cramped the 
intellectual processes of the entire group for whom Froude 
was an apostie. Neither he nor they realized that a church- 
mimship imbedded in dread of democracy, in separatism, 
and in uncharitableness toward its rivab and opponents, 
could not withstand the strain of crisis. 

James Anthony Froude, the younger brother, described 
Hurrell as one who went forward, taldng the fences as they 
came, and sweeping his friends along with him. Hugh 
James Rose distrusted him from the first, and the descrip- 
tion of Froude's position as that of a Catholic without the 
Popery and a Church of England man without the Protes- 
tantism made many others distrust him, and irritated those 
who r^;arded these as irreconcilable terms. But he pene- 
trated Newman's proud isolation to such a degree that the 
latter was imable to write with confidence imless he had 
received the imprimatur of Froude: "He was one of the 
acutest and clearest and deepest men in the memory of 
man," avowed Newman. Other equally keen and far more 
sagacious thinkers were avoided or forsaken because their 
ability to conserve spiritual interests was distrusted. New- 
man's self-knowledge was not balanced by a sufficient knowl- 
edge of his fellow creatures. Hence he admitted within the 
sacred walls of his individuality this hectic young dogmatist, 
who helped to make him a resolute and aggressive Church- 
man, aglow for the Catholic Anglicanism Newman was after- 

> Preface, "Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude"; 
p. 20. 



462 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

wards to renounce and ridicule. ''He taught me/' 
Froude's illustrious pupil, ''to look with admiration towards 
the Churdi of Rome, and in the same degree to dislike 
Puritanism. He fixed deep in me the idea of devotion to the 
Blessed Virgin and he led me to believe in the Real Pres- 
ence." ^ How much farther Froude would have proceeded 
toward Rome had he Uved is a speculation. True to his 
origin he seemed well intrenched in Anglicanism, and just 
before his death declared his faith in it as a brandi of the 
Catholic Church, with the right of apostolical succession 
in its ministry and free from sinful terms in its communion. 
But the "Apologia" shows how firmly and how far he 
planted Newman's feet on the road toward secession. It 
also delineates Froude as so many sided that it would be 
presumptuous to attempt to describe him, except under those 
aspects in which he came before Newman himself. He 
speaks of this man of dew and fire as gentle and tender ; of 
the free elasticity and graceful versatility oi his mind, and the 
patient and winning considerateness in discussion which 
endeared him to those to whom he opened his heart. Deinct- 
ing a very different Froude than the one the "Remains" 
presents, Newman extolled him as " a high genius, brimful 
and overflowing with ideas and views, in him original, which 
were too many and too strong even for his bodily strength, 
and which crowded and jostled against each other in their 
effort after distinct shape and expression." * Bereaved of his 
companionship, he took refuge in verse — 



tt 



Oh dearest I with a word he oould dispd 

All questioning, and raise 

Our hearts to rapture, whispering all was wdl 

And turning prayer to praise. 

And other secrets too he could declare, 

By patterns all divine, 

His earthly creed retouching here and there. 

And deepening every line." 

» "Apologia" ; p. 25. « Ibid,, p. 24. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 463 

The significant achievement of Froude's brief career, as 
he himself regarded it, and the one on which he dwelt with 
satisfaction, is related in the ^* Remains," where he inquires : 
"Do you know the story of the murderer who had done one 
good thing in his life? Well, if I were asked what good 
deed I had ever done, I should say that I had brought Keble 
and Newman to understand each other." There was need 
of this, for Keble had suspected Newman of the taint of 
Evangelicalism. Nor did they at any time enter into the 
closest and most sympathetic intercourse; Newman's 
nature precluded such affinities, and rendered him superior 
rather than fraternal. Like Napoleon on his way to Elba, 
his thoughts were his only real companions. He was never 
fully alive to the fact that a man's life consists in the relations 
he bears to others — is made or marred by those relations, 
guided by them, judged by them, and expressed in them. 
That Christianity from the first had been a social and not a 
solitary religion, and that aspirants after its ideals cannot 
run counter to this truth, did not seem to occur to him. The 
instinct for human fellowship was foreign to his breast. 
Hie relaxation, the joy, the refreshment which belong to the 
fellowship of saints were sacrificed to those grand designs 
which he carried from childhood up to manhood and on to 
old age. 

Even Froude was far from being Newman's alter ego ; in 
many respects he was of a contrary as well as a complemen- 
tary temperament, abounding in traits which Newman either 
suppressed or did not have. Froude, as we have seen, was 
nothing if not original, daring, thorough, open ; delighting 
in publicity and abrupt eflFective sallies. Newman's shrewd 
judgments of the foibles and follies of the many were re- 
served for the few : and even they were kept in suspense as 
to what he really thought. Yet like most people who follow 
an elusive labyrinth, he was deficient in prevision, and did 
not anticipate the vigorous resentment which his neatly 
arranged plans excited. Both men, were engrossed with the 



464 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

theory of a complete hierarchical system, and of a sacerdotal 
power which granted the fullest liberty to ecclesiastical 
prerogatives at the expense of every other kind ot freed(Hn. 
Froude, in particular, had an almost superstitious reverence 
for the physical despotisms and spiritual transcendencies of 
the saints of the Middle Ages. 

Thus the Oxford Catholics occupied a region filled in its 
upper ranges with courage, determination, and the spirit of 
saoifice, but poisoned on its lower levels by a miasma 
that has bred misunderstanding and division. The one 
man who by mutual consent of all parties lived on the heists, 
secure and serene, was John Keble, vicar of Hursley. 
Homely and unambitious, it seemed strange that this retiring 
and sequestered clergyman should have been one of the prin- 
cipal factors in the most important religious movement of hb 
day. His personality was not easy to analyze : and as a re- 
sult, opinions about him have not been free from omfusion. 
A rigid sacerdotalist, he divided the human family into three 
classes : Christians, properly so called ; Catholics, Jews, and 
Mohanunedans ; heretics, heathen, and unbelievers. Yet, 
while knowing little of the magnitude of mind which is in- 
comparably above any other intellectual endowment, he had 
generous views of life within certain marked limitations, 
disapproving the severities of William Law, and remarking 
that even the "Imitation of Christ" should be read with 
caution. He adopted Butler's dictum that Probability, 
not demonstration, is the guide of life, to which he always 
adhered, and the robust polemic of Warburton was also 
congenial to the more masculine features of his nature.* His 
writings were as diversified as his intellectual character. 
They contained the most exquisite passages and stanzas 
mingled with almost unintelligible references based upon his 
conceptions of the infallibility of the Church and the Bible. 
Acting under an impulse that had its source in beliefs which 
many educated men had abandoned, he endeavored to substi- 

> "Dictionary of National Biography" ; Vol. XXX. pp. 291-295. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 465 

titte for the creeds of Protestant Anglicanism those of his 
Cavalier forefathers. But everything was forgiven, if not 
forgotten, by all Christians to whom his Evening and Morn- 
ing Hynms had been a benediction, and one of his strongest 
opponents described him as '' a great and good man whose 
memory will last as long as Christian devotion expresses itself 
in the English tongue." Bom in a secluded country parish 
of Gloucestershire just before the close of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, Keble was the f ortimate child of an old-fashioned rectory 
where his father represented scholarly culture. Prayer Book 
piety, Carolinian Churchmanship, and congenital Toryism. 
From the first the son was nurtured in conceptions which 
afterwards breathed in his poetry and were exemplified in his 
character. As Methodism sprang from Epworth rectory, 
so the Oxford Movement sprang from the vicarages of Coin 
St. Aldwins and Totnes. Keble and Froude were High 
Churdmien by ancestral right ; the tenets they conveyed to 
Newman were theirs by inheritance; his doctrinal ante- 
cedents differed in many essentials. But the three men 
found a unity of place and of ideas at Oxford; she 
vefashioned and blended them and gave them to the 
Catholic Revival, and with them, Miller, Palmer, Pusey, 
Hook, and Ogilvie. Like Froude, Keble remained unshaken 
in his allegiance to his Church. When others bent to the 
storm, or asseverated from their pulpits that, although faint, 
they were still pursuing, or silently stole away to Rome, he 
gave full proof of his staunchness as an Anglican priest, and 
this notwithstanding that the logic of his beliefs pointed 
directly to the refuge in which his friends and prot6gfe found 
shelter. But though he admitted the strength of Rome's 
canonical position, and objected to her doctrinal corruptions 
with a timid and deferential air, he chose the domestic 
inivacy which suited his pacific disposition, forsook further 
preferment in his University, married, and stayed in his lot 
to the end of his days. 
Testimony to his importance as the actual founder of 



466 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Tractarianism has been given by Dean Church and also by 
Newman. " Long before the Oxford Movement was thou^t 
of y or had any definite shape, a number of its characteristic 
principles and ideas had taken a strong hold of the mind 
of a man of great ability and great seriousness . . . John 
Keble." ^ "The true and primary author of it, as is usual 
with great motive powers, was out of sight. Having carried 
off as a mere boy the highest honors of the University, he had 
turned from the admiration which haunted his steps and 
sought for a better and a holier satisfaction in pastoral work 
in the country. Need I say that I am speaking of John 
Keble." ^ Pusey confirmed these statements and so did 
Dr. James B. Mozley, who was regarded by competent 
judges as the most stimulating thinker the Church of 
England had produced since Butler. 

When Oriel was the center of Oxford's talent and learning 
Keble was hailed as the glory of the college, for whom every 
visitor inquired and expected to see. "The slightest word he 
dropped was all the more remembered from there being so 
little of it, and from it seeming to come from a different and 
holier sphere."' Yet such giants as Copleston, Hawkins, 
Davison and Whately gathered around the fire in the 
Oriel Common Room ; they gave tone to the University, 
and it was impossible that Keble, a recently elected 
fellow, could be equal to their skill in disputation. Truth to 
tell, he was not, and Sir John T. Coleridge hinted that he 
sometimes yearned for the less exacting society of his old 
friends at Corpus. His intellectual endowments were inferior 
to his classical knowledge. In scientific matters he was a 
tyro. Thomas Mozley recites his amusing argument with 
Buckland, the geologist, which lasted all the way from Oxford 
to Winchester. Keble took his stand on the certainty of the 
Almighty having created the fossil remains of former exist- 
ences in the six days of Genesis.* He was an elegant scholar, 

1 " The Oxford Movement " ; p. 32. * " Apologia *' ; p. 17. 

* Thomas Mosley: " Remiuiscenoes " ; Vol. I, p. 38. * Ibid., p. 179. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 467 

who could discourse with wisdom to congenial listeners, but 
nothing original was in him, nor was he fitted for leadership 
in large affairs. He rather served as an embodiment of 
usages and institutions first deemed Laudian and then 
Apostolic, and as such he was regarded by Froude and New- 
man. Disliking speculation and the competition of trained 
minds, he embraced with childlike trust the teachings of 
the Church he apostrophized as his mother, retained untar- 
nished the impressions of his youthful goodness, and relin- 
quished the University eminence to which his consecrated 
character entitled him, that he might bury himself in his 
curacy at East Leach and Burthorpe. This decision, while 
entirely in harmony with his wishes, was a genuine self- 
effacement. Yet by it he gained what he most desired, 
nearness to his family, escape from the turmoil of a belUger- 
ent world, and a suitable environment for imintemipted 
communion with God. 

In 1831 he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 
succession to Dean Milman, and held the chair for ten years. 
His motives and experiences as an author were indicated by 
his definition of poetry as the vent for siu'charged feelings or 
a full imagination. His muse was a gracious gift dedicated 
to the sanctuary and the inner life : serving faith and the 
objects of faith with chasteness and purity of speech. "The 
Christian Year," published in 1827, was the first literary 
expression of Neo-Anglicanism, and the volume made him 
the central sim of his then contracted but rapidly enlarging 
sphere. Newman mildly remonstrated that its doctrines, 
although lovely, were not suflSciently thorough, but he cheer- 
fully conceded that the popularity of Tractarian ideas was 
due to Keble's poetry. Those ideas centered around material 
phenomena as both the types and the instruments of things 
unseen, and embraced in all its fullness whatever was received 
by Catholics as well as Anglicans concerning the Sacraments, 
the conoununion of saints, and the mysteries of religion. 
Although the lyrics in which these were expressed were 



468 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

thoughtful and soothing, their awkward meter and construc- 
tion and occasional obscurity were so marked that Words- 
worth offered to correct their English. Nor were they poetry 
of the inevitable kind: they lacked the highest play of 
passion or pity, and their placklities were far removed from 
''the Dantean flame in which all things are transmuted to 
the colors of a supernatural world." Despite these draw- 
backs they were favorably received not only by the Church 
in general but also by the literary world. All felt that Keble 
had struck an original note and aroused a new music in the 
hearts of multitudes. 

Taking the Book of Conunon Prayer for his guide, he com- 
posed a poetical manual of religious sentiment which, though 
sometimes degenerating into sentimentalism, became an un- 
doubted source of pious inspiration. The winsome tenderness 
he displayed toward the ideals of High Anglican worship was 
couched in moving and imaffected language. Antique prej- 
udices and extreme opinions occasionally protruded, yet they 
were not so pronounced as to arouse sectarian resentment, 
which was lulled to slumber by the imction of the writ^'s 
melodies. The well-known truth already mentioned in the 
chapters on Wesley, that sacred poetry is blind to hetero- 
doxy, was seldom better illustrated. His habit, however, 
of mapping out the slightest allusion in the Gospels so as 
to have a well defined and appropriate mood of poetry 
for as many days as possible in the calendar evoked the 
rebuke of son^e critics, who complained, not without justice, 
that the smallest item of historic incident or moral epithet 
was forced into the service of thin and feminine verse, which 
was often vague and formless. Bagehot's pungent comment 
was that it translated Wordsworth for women. The poems 
contributed to the "Lyra Apostolica" and the "Lyra Inno- 
centium," which followed those of "The Christian Year," 
added nothing to Keble's fame. This was permanently 
secured by his best lyrics, which will long be associated with 
those of Bishop Ken for their fragrant devotion and in- 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 469 

eistence upon the daily consecration of Christian f dlowship. 
Full of spiritual suggestiveness, replete with sweetness and 
delicacy^ happy in their references to the nobler aspects 
of Nature, and steeped in the sacramental usages of the 
Church and in the letter and spirit of the Bible, they have 
heightened, adorned, and hallowed the praises of the Church. 
Resentful of the preponderant inteUectualism of the day, 
with its attendant egotism and sterility in motive power; 
given to allegorical and fanciful interpretation; subservi* 
ent to patristic illustrations of ritual and worship ; as a rule 
meek as a lamb, but liable to outbreaks of temper when his pet 
theories were assailed ; and separated from the social exist* 
ence of the majority of his fellow countrymen; such was 
John Keble, the saint and singer, who lived to see his princi- 
ples promulgated in countless parishes and his ministrations 
extended throughout England and America. His spiritual 
elevation, his laudable consecration of visible means, his 
passion for the holiness of Christian adoration helped to 
remove from the Church the stagnation and dearth he 
deplored. He passed his days surrounded by the propi- 
tious circumstances of an orderly and somewhat aristo- 
cratic society, in which he dwelt at peace, yet resentful 
toward many aspects of the actual life of his time. The lov- 
ing eulogies lavished on him were not always wise or dis- 
criminating, for the Tractarians sometimes used very exalted 
terms about one another, and few of them could be trusted to 
sit in judgment on their patron saint. Notwithstanding 
these misapprehensions, the real man was singularly lofty 
and unassuming ; in most respects worthy not only of esteem 
but of affectionate reverence. Keble College, Oxford, 
erected after his death, was raised, said Canon Liddon, 
"to the memory of a quiet country clergyman, with a very 
moderate income, who sedulously avoided public distinc- 
tions, and held tenaciously to an unpopular school all his 
life. . . . The more men really know of him, who, being 
dead, has, in virtue of the rich gifts and graces with which 



470 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

God has endowed him, summoned this college into being, 
the less will they marvel at such a tribute to his profound and 
enduring influence." ^ In these words we fed the orientation 
of Keble's spirit ; by them we are made aware of his saint- 
liness and of his nobler aspirations, which 

"... come transfigured bade, 
Secure from change in their high-hearted ways. 
Beautiful evermore, and with the rays 
Of Morn on their white shields of Ejq>ectatioa." 

ni 

One of the first fruits of Newman's friendship with Froude 
and Keble was a marked increase in the sense of his p^^onal 
responsibility for the spiritual welfare of pupib conunitted 
to his care. Esteeming his coUege duties a pastoral privilege, 
he refused to merge the cleric in the scholar. A loSty pro- 
phetic strain began to pervade his utterances. The law of the 
Churchy which he construed yet more and more according 
to the standards of Catholic Anglicanism, prevailed in his 
conduct and in that of those whom he influenced. Writing 
to his mother he informed her that his engagements pre- 
empted his time and energy, making him an exile from those 
he so much loved .^ Everything else was eclipsed by his 
devotion to the inmiediate service of God, which expelled all 
lesser affairs as a strong plant in a hedgerow drives out or 
sterilizes the rest. Froude, who had been elected to an Oriel 
fellowship and tutorship in 1826, entered enthusiastically 
into the propagandisms which were the daily bread of both 
men, and when he deemed it desirable did not hesitate to 
urge his companion to still greater lengths. In relation to his 
age, Newman may be regarded as a pioneer of the High 
Anglican movement then gathering its first impetus. But 
his was not a happy, full-blooded spirit, and in his struggle 

» "Clerical Life and Work" ; pp. 363-364. 

* *' Letters and Correspondence'* ; Vol. I, p. 116. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 471 

against a vigorous opposition, he abandoned himself to that 
belittling view of human nature which is frequently an 
evidence of religious fatigue rather than of religious dis- 
cernment. Other and very different personalities of the 
nineteenth century shared his despair over a general 
condition which offered large opportunity for discontent as 
well as renunciation. Though some new truths which sounded 
dolefully to him were grateful to them, aU alike were dis- 
tressed by the moral and spiritual enigmas their times pre- 
sented. George Eliot, who somewhat resembled and greatly 
admired Newman, distilled through fiction a stoical resigna- 
tion and a calm resolve to endure the worst. Arthur Hugh 
Clough gave up the whole problem, yet still dimg to it in 
blank bewilderment. Tennyson eventually succeeded in 
reaching a stage of faith where, on the whole, the odds were in 
favor of heaven. Browning's optimism, so often lauded, was 
sometimes too insistent to be coi^vincing. Newman, like 
Matthew Arnold, at this moment was dejectedly 

"Wandering between two worlds, 
One dead, the other powerless to be bom." ^ 

He complained of the present state of things, which his change 
of opinion obliged him to represent in its worst form, and 
retreated to an obscure past, over which he threw the legend- 
ary halo of an exceeding sanctity. Harassed by modernity, 
and its supposed preference for material aggrandizement, 
he resorted to antiquity and its supposed preference for 
qualitative perfection. The future, being supreme, became 
as nothing; the past became everything. In journey- 
ing toward this goal, he forsook to a large degree the 
wider areas of human life and forfeited that wholeness of 
contemplation which becomes the historian and the thinker. 
The large majority of men who must be content to dwell far 
below the summits of achievement, but who instinctively 
renew their youth and perform the cyclopean tasks of the 

1 John F. Genung : " Stevenson'e Attitude to life'' ; p. 6. 



472 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

race, were of little moment compared with the few outstand- 
ing figures to whom he attached the entire meaning of exist- 
ence. Beneath his failure to accommodate himself to his 
surroundings operated a vivid retentive mind, content to 
dweU in the primitive organizations of Christianity, finding 
in their persecutions and conquests the example and the 
stimulus for a present readjustment. The mighty drama 
of God's ceaseless working was thus woefully circum- 
scribed, and many of the forces which have helped to 
weave the fabric of Christian civilization were treated as 
negligible quantities. 

He voiced his dissatisfaction with the barren levity and the 
thirst for false and worthless things and the blindness to all 
majestic or tragical tendencies in the following sentiments: 
''We can scarce open any of the lighter or popular publica- 
tions of the day without falling upon some panegyric on our- 
selves, on the illumination and humanity of the age, or upon 
some disparaging remarks on the wisdom and virtue of 
former times. Now it is a most salutary thing under 
this temptation to self-conceit, to be r^ninded, that in 
all the highest qualifications of hiunan excellence, we 
have been far outdone by men who lived centuries 
ago ; that a standard of truth and holiness was then set 
up, which we are not likely to reach; and that, as for 
thinking to become wiser or better, or more acceptable to 
God than they were, it is a mere dream." ^ He ear- 
nestly wished that St. Paul or St. John could rise from the 
dead to show this untoward generation that its boasted 
knowledge was but a shadow of power, and cause the minute 
philosophers who dared to scrutinize the traditions of the 
faith to shrink into nothingness. " Are we not come to this," 
he asked, " is it not our shame as a nation, that, if not the 
Apostles themselves, at least the Ecclesiastical System they 
devised, and the Order they founded, are viewed with cold- 
ness and disrespect? How few there are who look with 

' " Parochial and Plain Sermons " ; Vol. II, Sermon XXXII. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 473 

reverent interest upon the Bishops of the Church as the 
Successors of the Apostles; honoring them, if they honor, 
merely because they like them as individuals, and not from 
any thought of the peculiar sacredness of their office." ^ 
The dexterity of these statements is apparent, and much 
they contained enlists approval. But his identification of 
the Apostles, who were the immortal servants of mankind 
and the personal sources of an unparalleled reconstruction of 
religion, with his own ecclesiastical order was a gratuitous 
assumption which deft phrasing could not conceal. His 
adoration of former times and depreciation of the present 
and the future led him to ignore one half of history. The 
services of justice and freedom, knowledge and philanthropy 
in nineteenth century England were left outside his con- 
sideration. He felt that she had few affinities with 
Apostolic life and thought, but many with Greek and Roman 
paganism. That she also had, as have all nations, organs 
and proclivities for living the life of the spirit apart from 
sacerdotal governance, he would not concede. Tlie theory 
of universal depravity he had retained from Calvinism over- 
looked some better elements which must be present in men's 
soub if they are to recognize, understand, and obey the over- 
tures of divine love. And in addition, Newman was always 
liable to an emotional logic which blurred important facts 
and lamed his conclusions. 

A serious illness which befeU him about this time left him 
with a quickened realization of his religious needs. Never 
robust in body, always an endless toiler, he spent himself 
until what health he had was seriously impaired. His 
eyesight failed, his voice grew faint, his form was worn to 
emaciation. At last he collapsed, but despite everything, he 
still felt the impulse of his purposes, and the contrition of a 
genuine seeker after God, who confessed to Him what he 
would never confess to man, and having done so, renewed his 
vows and resumed his quest. Then came the death of his 

1 "Parochial and Plain Sermons" ; Vol. II, Sermon XXXII. 



474 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

much loved sister Mary, bringing with it the moral elevation 
of a lasting sorrow, and ingeminating those indefinite, 
vague, and withal subtle feelings which made the soul 
within him forlorn and wdl-nigh comfortless. Nor did he 
find relief in the rural haunts of the west country, where he 
spent a brief holiday while convalescing. Tragic occurrences 
were associated with pastoral sights and scenes; they re- 
minded him of the dear one who had gone : "Mary," he said, 
"seems embodied in every tree and every hill. What a veil 
and curtain this world of sense is! beautiful, but still a 
veU." 1 

His campaign for the high doctrines of the Church now 
became more direct, shaped as it was by these causes that 
separated him from other contentions and interests not 
germane to the main concern. Alarmed by the n^ativism 
of the rationalists and by the destructive tendency of 
philosophers who considered intellect and enlightened virtue 
all their own, he passed out of the shadow of liberalism 
which had hitherto darkened his orbit into a resentful mood 
which confused constructive and sympathetic teaching with 
the errors of infidelity and looked upon all theories an- 
tagonistic to his own as one chaotic mass. Though uncon- 
scious of it, he and his allies were themselves in bondage to 
the deistic notion of an infinite separation between the Cre- 
ator and creation. Schleiermacher's doctrine of Divine 
Immanence, and also that developed by Coleridge, seemed 
to High Churchmen a presumptuous and pantheistic denial 
of the personality of God but one remove from athebm. 
The open-mindedness of the German theologian toward the 
Holy Scriptures was equally repugnant. Tractarians claimed 
that they could understand a Bible miraculously indited and 
preserved intact throughout its wonderful history; they 
could not understand that the Holy Spirit directed the sacred 
authors without emptying them of their individuality. Any 
attack upon the accepted position that the Bible was through- 

> "Letters and Correspondence'* ; Vol. I, p. 161. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 475 

out an unimpeachable revelation of the will of God they 
vigorously resented. The idea that its contents were the 
more convincing because the writers were not reduced to the 
level of automata, but freely exercised their several gifts 
and graces, was obnoxious to them. In a word, the differ- 
ence between their viewpoint and that of the new scholar- 
ship was the difference between hypnosis and inspiration. 

Again, revivals of religion such as the one which swept 
through Britain and her colonies in the preceding century 
were denounced by Anglo-Catholics as detrimental to the 
life and action of the Church : emotional whirlwinds, raising 
the dust of fanaticism, heresy, and schism. Periodical re- 
generations had a Scriptural and historic sanction quite as 
traceable as that of apostolic succession, and one which was 
by no means as open to valid objections. The power to move 
men and women to spiritual decision has always been a hall- 
mark of New Testament authority and benediction. Never^ 
theless clerics of the type of Newman, Keble, Froude, and 
Pusey, together with many educated and ignorant laymen in 
the Church of England, were thoroughly set against these 
manifestations and all that they portended. The Tractarians 
enunciated the principle that formal law obtains in the 
spiritual as in the physical realm. Irregular and spasmodic 
outbreaks of religious fervor contradicted their main premise 
that the divine life in man was part of an external process, 
and as such, acted independently of his transient states of 
mind. They believed that the sources of spiritual renewal 
and sustenance were as stable and irrevocable as the opera- 
tions of nature, and, like these, were universal, not provincial ; 
continuous, not intermittent ; primarily obtained by submis- 
sion and obedience to ostensible authority, rather than 
through inward experience. This sacerdotal rule suited the 
complexion of minds content to rest on its assumptions, and 
not repelled by its mechanical and materialized processes. 
But it destroyed the New Testament democracy of believers 
by treating the dispensation of Divine grace as a hierarchi- 



476 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

cal monopoly, and by denying the right of approadi to God 
unless mediated through an ordained priesthood. Loyalty 
to concrete objectives of faith, which asserted unbrok^ 
relations with the very presence and word of Jesus Christ 
while He actually walked on the earth, was substituted for 
the wrestlings and pleadings of guilty sinners who, like Jacob 
at the brook Jabbok, invoked for themselves the Everlast^ 
ing Mercy. Yet, as in his case, the discipline of these more 
heroical ventures obtained for men their divinest gifts 
and produced the grand personalities of the Church. They 
were not as general in their scope as was the easier method 
which depended upon the guarantees of a visible organizap- 
tion. But though they had no such width of application, 
their certitudes were enshrined in the human soul, their in- 
securities were on the surface. 

At this moment Romanticism appeared, creating a senti- 
mental appreciation for Catholic peculiarities, and flinging 
a delusive glamour over the so-called ages of faith. Re- 
fined spirits of an aesthetic turn, whether in Germany, France, 
or England, were enraptured with the sensuous beauty and 
seemliness of medievalism. Loving every era better than 
their own, they turned from the rush of surrounding forces 
which they dreaded to bewitching presentations of the 
chivalry they adored. Their literature and art idealized the 
triumphs, the tragedies, the gay loves, the deadly hates 
of the period, until it began to assimie the appearance 
of a golden age, wherein men wrought greatly because 
they greatly obeyed and believed. Its strange veneering 
of both tenderness and ferocity by religious rites and 
observances gave scope to those whose actual knowledge 
of the events they treated was too often a thing of shreds 
and patches but whose fancies were no longer fettered. 
There was also a revulsion against the debased taste 
in architecture that had bestudded the land with squat 
ugly meeting-houses and nondescript Georgian churches, the 
very hideousness of which was supposed to be a protection 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 477 

against the lure of Rome's gorgeous fanes and ritualistic 
decorations. The paramount influence of Sir Walter Scott 
was due to the fact that "he turned men's thoughts in the 
direction of the Middle Ages. The general need of something 
more attractive than what had offered itself elsewhere may be 
considered to have led to his popularity ; and by means of his 
popularity he reacted on his readers, stimulating their 
mental thirst, feeding their hopes, setting before them visions, 
which, when once seen, are not easily forgotten, and silently 
indoctrinating them with nobler ideas, which might after- 
wards be appealed to as first principles." ^ This raUying to 
fiction as the storehouse of first principles was the infirmity 
of some Romanticists, who, had they known more, would 
have imagined less. Impervious to the verdicts of knowledge 
and reason, they attempted to turn the tide and again im- 
Tpoae upon the church and nation those forms of supremacy 
that had been thrown off by the resurgent energies of life 
itsdf. The degradation, the cruelty, the oppression which 
characterized medievalism were ignored, while its stately 
iQnnbolism and sacramental authority were lauded and imi- 
tated by clerics, artists, poets, essayists, and novelists who 
viewed them through the media of pontifical and princely 
display, knights in shining armor, Gothic minsters, and 
Pante's poetry. They had much to say which gave veri- 
^militude to their pleas for the soul of honor and of virtue in 
past days of mingled good and evil. But what they said 
was not always substantiated by the facts which divide and 
compound man's dual nature. Prophets who prophesied 
falsely, they eluded disagreeable realities; fomented the 
dissensions which have weakened the structure of English- 
speaking society and aggravated the religious divisions they 
proposed to obliterate. Their god was resplendent to the 
uninstructed eye, but its feet were of clay. Scott was con- 
scious of this misdirection, and, contrary to his predilections, 
gave the laurel to the Covenanter rather than to his perse- 

>"Apolo8U"; pp. 96-97. 



478 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

cutors. Thus while the work of the Romanticists was in many 
instances injurious to religion, it was conducive to a renus- 
sance of Catholicism. Professor McGiffert properly ob- 
serves that "the Oxford Movement gave delayed but some* 
what distorted expression to certain elements of the romantic 
spirit." 1 

Newman, who felt a growing attachment to Christian 
antiquity, contrasted its unity, continuity, and effectiveness 
with the hazardous experiments of intellectualism then being 
inflicted upon the faith. To offset these he returned to the 
precedents of third and fourth century chiurchmanship, ad- 
vocating them without sufficient allowance for the organic 
changes which had since been evolved. It was not alto- 
gether native to his habit to reason in this fashion ; for he was 
instinctively distrustful, and showed at intervals that his be- 
lief in the heroic epochs of Catholicism was not only deter- 
minative of his new creed, but still more a refuge from the 
tempestuous doubts and questionings to which his soul was 
susceptible. He had rebelled i^inst those who, as he 
conceived, were endeavoring to undermine the principle of 
authority to which he rendered special reverence. If the 
Church was not the guardian of ethics and religion, the quali- 
fied censor of morals, the natural champion of faith, the 
mentor of mankind in spiritual matters, what could be said 
for organized Christianity ? Separated from his former com- 
panions and from much of the actual life of his fellow men; 
entranced, as he was, by the ideal of a living, growing Ecclesia 
either opposing or controlling the world, Newman knew not 
for the moment where his true strength lay. Beset by such 
trying circumstances, his subjective faith broke down beneath 
the weight of extemalism. That assurance which is not 
an energy of intellect, or heart, or imagination, but rather 
the spontaneous and irresistible vitality which uses these 
faculties, was not his at the crisis. At the beginning of his 
ministry, with the doctrines of Evangelicalism retreating into 

1 "The Rise of Modern ReligiouB Ideas" ; p. 194. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 479 

those subconscious realms from which they were never en- 
tirely eliminated^ he whose mission it was to proclaim salva- 
tion to others was no longer sure of it himself. In his 
distress he renewed his youthful fondness for the Fathers 
whom Whately had flippantly termed ''certain old divines/' 
and found in them the remaining source of his reconstructed 
theology. Having little or no confidence in a progressive 
development that was not controlled by the Church, and 
an ever-present fear of scientific investigations as entailing 
moral anarchy, he miust needs flee with unspeakable relief 
to the ancient masters who became his Strong Rock and 
House of Defense. Beginning with St. Ignatius and St. 
Justin, he read them in their chronological order until he 
arrived at the broad philosophy of St. Clement of Alexandria 
and Origen. Their homilies and meditations carried him 
back from present evils to their own times, and in his re- 
cession he conceived a still greater detestation for modem 
methods which created more difficulties than they settled. 
The Fathers' discourses " came like music to my ear," he 
declared, '^ as if the response to ideas which I had cherished 
80 long. They were based on the mystical or sacramental 
imnciple, and spoke of the various Economies or Dispensa- 
tions of the Eternal." His search for the heart of Religion 
ended in the dreams of his childhood, now realized in 
these Elder Brethren of the household of God whose writ- 
ings exhibited an ideal of Christian regnancy in im- 
pressive contrast with the fears and doubts of Oxford's 
churchmanship. In them was found the antidote to the 
baneful practice of resting religion on an intellectualism that 
was everything in turn and nothing long, for the supernatural 
order had revealed itself more freely and convincingly in 
than than in their derelict successors. He was enthraUed by 
such saints as Irenseus and Cyprian, supremely typical of the 
Christianity which molded society and subdued the hearts 
of men, and to their guidance he imreservedly submitted his 
judgment. Hereafter precedent and tradition dictated his 



480 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

arguments ; and, individualized though he was» the use at 
independence became a temptation to be withstood. 

This fragmentary story of his momentous change may be 
regarded as an illustration of the saying that the most singu- 
lar lapses are those of gifted men. With all his brilliance and 
insight, Newman had accomplished nothing more than the 
kindling of his churchly zeal to its utmost. The real battle 
was not yet in sight ; many imperfectly known antagonisms, 
including the philosophical and moral conceptions of his own 
day, had yet to be faced, nor could he escape the obligations 
arising out of that fact. Every system or creed, however 
ancient and well tried, must be prepared to reckon with new 
conditions of constantly evolving life. Meanwhile, despite 
heresy, lukewarmness, and failure, the Church of his baptism 
was still for him the living representative of the Apostles; 
she had not lost for a moment her vital nexus ; she was still 
capable of recovery, restitution, and compliance with the 
divine commandment. Her spirit freed, her confidence re- 
gained, the future opened before her with an illimitable 
prospect. 

Thus believing, he pushed the issue to its limits, adding to 
his conceptions of clerical sanctity and prerogative, and 
defending them against the learned who derided him. Dis- 
cerning the perils that menaced faith, he contended that 
scholarly coteries with strong inclinations toward the rejec- 
tion of pious heritages were no schools for saints. Their 
detrimental measures must be overthrown by the doctrines 
of past ages, providentially preserved, and communicated 
through chosen men, who, while not acceptable to profane 
wisdom, had faithfully guarded the deposit committed to 
them. In a letter to his mother, under date of March 13, 
1829, he set forth the situation as it appealed to him. 
"We live in a novel era — one in which there is an advance 
towards universal education. Men have hitherto depended 
especially on the clergy for religious truth; now each man 
attempts to judge for himself. Now^ without meaning of 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 481 

course that Christianity is in itself opposed to free inquiryi 
still I think it is in fact at the present time opposed to 
the particular form which that liberty of thought has now 
assumed. Christianity is of faith, modesty, lowliness, sub- 
ordination ; but the spirit at work against it is one of latitu- 
dinarianism, indifferentism, and schism, a spirit which tends 
to overthrow doctrine, as if the fruit of bigotry and discipline 
— as if the instrument of priestcraft. All parties seem to 
acknowledge that the stream of opinion is setting against 
the Church. . . . And now I come to another phenomenon : 
the talent of the day is against the Church. The Church 
party (visibly at least . . . ) is poor in mental endowments. 
It has not activity, shrewdness, dexterity, eloquence, practi- 
cal power." * 

FVom the Fathers, Newman also derived a speculative 
angelology which described the unseen universe as in- 
habited by hosts of intermediate beings who were spiritual 
agents between God and creation, and determined to some 
extent the character of various peoples. Of these inter- 
mediaries some were good, directed by a superior wisdom, 
and content to serve the Supreme Will in the economy of 
material worlds ; others were neither angelic nor reprobate, 
partially fallen, capricious, wayward; noble or crafty, 
benevolent or malicious, as their qualities were evoked by 
differing environments; the remainder, being farthest 
removed from divine contact, were lowest in the scale; in 
essence evil, and an active hindrance to the higher progress 
of mankind. The Angels proper were the real causes of 
motion, light, and life and of what are caUed the laws of 
nature. Those who were neither banned nor blessed gave 
a sort of intelligence to nations and classes of men. The 
case of England was cited as an example of their operations. 
*'It seems to me,'* he commented, "that John Bull is a spirit 
neither of heaven nor heU." The third order represented the 
jxinciple of evil ; and it was of infinite moment to man that 

1 "Letters and CorrespoDdenoe"; Vol. I, pp. 17S-180. 
2i 



482 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

he should know how to avoid their seductive overtures 
and thus keep his religious nature undogged and unsullied.^ 
It is obvious that this attenuated hypothesis had no neces- 
sary connection with the faith; it was theosophical rather 
than Christian in its development, and renewed some features 
of the heresy which St. Paul rebuked and corrected in his 
Colossian Epistle. Indeed, Newman's cosmogony was essen- 
tially Gnostic, and echoed the teaching of Cerinthus, who 
is best entitled to be considered as the link between the 
Judaizing and Gnostic sects.^ 

His earlier intention to become a missionary had now 
vanished ; he felt that his vocation was at Oriel, and this 
seemed likely enough until Dr. Edward Hawkins was elected 
Provost of the college. Hawkins, who united a limited power 
of decisive thinking with great talent for action, held the 
provostship within four years of half a century, from 1828 
to 1874. He magnified his office and introduced many re- 
forms, usuaUy opposing, however, such as did not originate 
with himself. A man of practical intelligence, he showed his 
discrimination in the oft-quoted prediction that if Thomas 
Arnold were elected to be Master of Rugby he would change the 
face of education all through the public schools of England.' 
But the University in which the distinguished Provost ad- 
ministered was sorely vexed about many things, and its 
turmoils helped to turn his activity into "a channel of obsti- 
nate and prolonged resistance and protest, most conscientious 
but most uncompromising, against two great successive 
movements, both of which he condemned and recoiled from as 
revolutionary — the Tractarian first and the Liberal Move- 
ment in Oxford." ^ The last trace of Newman's connection 
with the Noetics was seen in his support of Hawkins for 
Provost, whom they had adopted as their candidate in pref- 
ix Apologia"; pp. 28-29. 

' Lightfoot : "Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles to the Coloosiaofl and 
PhUemon"; pp. 71-111. 

» Dean Stanley : "Life of Thomas Arnold" ; Vol. I, p. 61. 
* Dean Church : "Occasional Papers" ; Vol. II. pp. 344-^347. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 482 

erenoe to Eeble. When Froude criticized the choice, 
Newman replied that had they been electing an angel 
he would have voted for Keble; but it was only a Pro- 
vost. He did not believe that Keble could manage men, 
whereas, about Hawkins he had no doubt, and the interests 
of Oriel demanded a strong and capable head. A little 
later he would probably have reversed his judgment and 
selected a candidate of High Church principles. As it was, 
Keble retired to Hursley, and Hawkins proved to be far more 
aggressive than some desired. The pulpit of St. Mary's, 
rendered vacant by Hawkins' transfer to Oriel, now feU to 
Newman, who made it his throne of power for some years 
prior to the "Tracts for the Times." A considerable amount 
of ingenuity has been expended on what might have been had 
events shaped themselves differently. Keble as Provost 
might have remained unmarried, and would certainly have 
been in closer contact with Newman, in which case Dr. E. A. 
Abbott surmises that their joint composition of the "Apolo- 
gia'' was within the bounds of possibility. As a matter of 
fact, Keble never dreamed of seeking relief in the Roman 
communion, and Newman's secession grieved him beyond 
measure. Again, if Hawkins had stayed at St. Mary's, he 
would have deprived Newman of his matchless opportunity 
to set forth, as he alone could, the Via Media so nobly em- 
bodied by Richard William Church, as a desirable compro- 
mise between the Papacy and Puritanism. This Newman 
did, and did marvelously weU, until the Anglican Church 
ceased to be any longer the prophetess of God for him. 
However, these conjectures must not divert us from what 
actuaUy happened. Newman's indignation was aroused 
by the want of system, waste of effort, and paucity of results 
in the responsible affairs of the University. Above all else, 
he objected to the religious formalism and lassitude which 
left the undergraduates over-shepherded yet shepherdless. 
They were compelled to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles 
as a preliminary to admission to the University, and to attend 



484 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

the Holy Communion, whatever their state of life and eon- 
duct. After these requirements had been observed, they 
were free to follow their own inclinations, with results that 
might have been expected. Drunkenness and vice were 
prevalent ; idleness and distaste for scholarly pursuits ended 
in repeated failures and humiliations. Newman's protests 
against these abuses enlist approval now : many will share 
his feeling that tutorial work in an Oxford college implied far 
more than its leaders were willing to admit, and justified such 
aims at the growth of virtuous character as might fairly 
occupy a clergyman.^ Accordingly he suggested that the 
tutors of Oriel should divide into groups the men under their 
care, each tutor being responsible for the religious as well as 
the educational guidance of those intrusted to him. In 
conjunction with Froude and Robert Isaac Wilberforce, he 
sought to remodel the lectures, introduce new textbooks, and 
revive other important academic interests which were sacri- 
ficed by conservatism and negligence. Hawkins rejected 
these proposals, whereupon the three tutors tendered their 
resignations. This ultimatiun did not daunt the Provost, 
who promptly called in Hampden to give lectures, and though 
he could not compel the tutors to relinquish the pupils they 
had, he announced his intention to send them no more. 
Out-generaled and defeated, Newman surrendered, and 
Hawkins doubtless felt relieved that he was rid of a teacher 
who attempted to act on his own discretion, and whose 
theological opinions were too radical for the welfare of the 
college. Newman, on his part, declared that the Oxford 
Movement never would have been had he not been practically 
dismissed from his tutorship, or had Keble, not Hawkins, been 
Provost. 

More than half of 1830 had now gone, a year of trials and 
troubles. "I am desponding," he wrote to Froude. "All 
my plans fail. When did I ever succeed in any exertion for 

^ E. A. Abbott: **The Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman" ; Vol. I, 
p. 206. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 485 

others? I do not say this in complaint, but really doubting 
whether I ought to meddle." He steadied himself with the 
reflection that disappointment and self-denial were necessary 
for the reception and retention of spiritual truth; and, re- 
leased from his duties at Oriel, awaited other employment. 
Dr. Jenkyns invited him to participate in a projected Eccle- 
siastical History, the outcome being, as far as Newman was 
concerned, his volume on the Arians. In writing it he felt an 
intense intellectual pleasure he had not previously known. 
Yet the task was not altogether congenial for so versatile and 
discursive a mind as his. He had to deal with such un- 
fathomable truths as the Triple Personality and the Divine 
Unity, those vast and remote ideas in the revelation and 
philosophy of religion which have taxed even greater spirits. 
Nor did he enjoy that thorough acquaintance with patristic 
literatiu^ at which his sister Jemima hinted when she reminded 
him that Archbishop Usher had spent eighteen years in read- 
ing the Fathers. In the December of 1831 he wrote, '' I was 
working too hard at the 'Arians.' It was due next sununer, 
and I had only begun to read for it, or scarcely so, the sum- 
mer past." Froude grew impatient with his "dallying," 
declared against his "fiddling" any longer with the introduc- 
tion to the work, and predicted his ending in "a scrape." 
Newman was resolved, however, to muster all the learning 
within his reach : he toiled with a vengeance, and where his 
learning was at fault, his rhetorical gifts admirably served 
his immediate purposes. Yet two defects could scarcely be 
concealed : his neglect of scientific research, and the irrele- 
vancy of some of his dissertations. Desirous always of lean- 
ing on authority in religious matters, he forgot that history 
has no prejudices in behalf of ecclesiasticism, and he intro- 
duced a sort of reasoning, best described as heart-foam, to 
supply the lack of that strict historical accuracy which checks 
undue speculation and is content to set down the thing that 
actually occurred. 

His general treatment of the Arian period was based on St. 



486 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

Clement's theory that aU religion was bom God, and that 
Christianity did not supersede so mudi as it corrected and 
sanctified other forms of belief. While divine in its CMigiD, 
it depended on human agents for its transmission, and con- 
sequently suffered some diminution of content and quality. 
The teachings of the New Testament w&e limited by the 
intellectual processes that conveyed them, since these were 
necessarily unequal to their full comprehension. The creeds 
likewise were in spirit and essence far below the level of the 
august propositions they attempted to embody, hence the in- 
troduction from time to time of orthodoxy's multiplying and 
minute articles as a protection against specific errors and 
heresies. With their growth Christian societies naturally 
became more complex, and required additional exi^anation 
and defense. Exactitude of credal expression was elevated 
to a theological virtue, requisite for the permanence ot 
primitive Christianity and but for that exactitude the duuv 
acter and meaning of the Apostolic age would have been 
lost to mankind. Upon these grounds Newman [beaded tor 
a rigid enforcement of formulae. "K the Churdi," he 
averred, "would be vigorous and influential, it must be 
decided and plain spoken." The corrosive effects of liber- 
alism, so energetic in Arian days, were stiU in evidence, still 
demanding precedence and sanction. Left unchecked, 
they would destroy not only the basis of revealed religion, 
but ultimately everything that could be called religion at all. 
His study of the Arian controversy strengthened his convic- 
tion that Apostolic precept and practice were in complete ac- 
cord with the characteristic conceptions of Anglo-Catholicism. 
He saw, or thought he saw, instructive parallels between the 
sees occupied in the fourth century by Arian bishops and 
those of his own communion. In both instances the purity 
of faith was preserved by a few valiant reformers, who had 
confidence in a divine intervention for their cause. Atha- 
nasius had arisen in solitary grandeur against the defilers of 
Grod's heritage; similarly some holy warrior would be 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 487 

found, equipped, and sent forth, to deliver the distressed 
Anglicanism of the earlier nineteenth century. 

The volume, which was the result of a little over six 
months' strenuous effort, might well have taken him more 
than as many years. "Tired wonderfully," he says of 
himself, "continually on the point of fainting, quite worn 
out." He had been relieved of a crushing burden none too 
soon, and at the same time he was also giving up the last of 
his pupils at Oriel. The cessation left him free to brood in 
theological gloom over the forbidding prospects of the faith, 
the result, as he supposed, of the ever widening opposition 
between the Churdi and the world. 

IV 

His pent-up feelings found their outlet in the incomparable 
parochial sermons which he began to deliver at St. Mary's 
in 1828. They enforced his contention that things could 
not stand as they were, that Christ's Church was indestructi- 
ble, that she must rise again and flourish, when the po<H* 
creatures of a day who opposed her had cnunbled into dust; 
As a preacher he was profoundly conscious of the sacredness 
of his vocation, and in its fulfillment was superior to any other 
divine of his day. Oxford's foremost pulpit had several 
famous occupants during the nineteenth centiuy: among 
them, Pusey, saint and scholar, whose personality for a 
time overshadowed Anglicanism; Mozley, the deepest 
yet clearest thinker of the group ; Manning, self-conscious, 
politic, and facile of speech; Liddon, "with the Italianate 
profile, orator and ascetic." But none approached Newman 
in his analysis of the human heart, his exquisite rhetoric, his 
tender or indignant fervor. He united simple earnestness 
and refinement with a sense of reserved power on the verge 
of being released. Although his audiences were often smaU, 
they were influential, and eventually he brought Oxford to 
his feet. "His hearers felt," said Principal Shairp, "as 



488 THREE REUQIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

though one of the early Fathers had returned to earth." 
He appealed to them with a directness and force, and a 
passionate and sustained earnestness for a high spiritual 
standard, to be seriously realized in ccmduct, the more im- 
perative because the nation had come to the verge of religious 
dissolution, and was resting complacently in its own pride 
and might, while divine judgment threatened its recreancy. 
Mr. Gladstone said of him : ''Dr. Newman's manner in the 
pulpit was one which, if you considered it in its separate parts, 
would lead you to arrive at very unsatisfactory conclusions. 
There was not very much change in the inflection of the 
voice ; action there was none ; his sermons were read, and his 
eyes were always on his book ; and aU that, you will say, is 
against efficiency in preaching. Yes ; but you take the man 
as a whole, and there was a stamp and a seal upon him, there 
was a solemn music and sweetness in his tone, there was a 
completeness in the figure, taken together with the tone and 
with the manner, which made even his delivery, sudi as I 
have described it, and though exclusively with written ser- 
mons, singularly attractive." ^ The stamp and seal were, 
indeed, manifestly impressed by nothing less than conse- 
crated genius. His two discourses on " Holiness Necessary 
for Future Blessedness," and "The Ventures of Faith," are 
worthy examples of a new type of prophetical speech, heard 
with strained attention, and long remembered and repeated. 
Holiness he defined as an inward separation from the world, 
and in answer to the question, "Why salvation is impossible 
without this frame and temper of mind ? " he replied : " Even 
supposing a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, 
he would not be happy there, so that it would be no mercy to 
permit him to enter. ... He would sustain a great dis- 
appointment, he would find no discourse but that which he 
shunned on earth ; no pursuits but those which he had dis- 
liked or despised ; nothing which bound him to ought else in 
the universe and made him feel at home, nothing which he 

> Justin McCarthy : "History of Our Own Times" ; Vol. I, p. 142. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 489 

oould enter into and rest upon. He would perceive him- 
self to be an isolated being, cuf away by Supreme Power from 
those objects which were stiU entwined around his heart." ^ 

The second sermon, "The Ventures of Faith," is a search- 
ing and inspiring challenge to all who would direct their 
heavenward path by that high and unearthly spirit which is 
the royal, unmistakable sign of the children of the Kingdom. 
The text, taken from the reply of James and John to the 
words of Jesus, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall 
drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am 
baptized with?" was used to emphasize the wisdom of 
endeavors after the Christian life even when they are at- 
tended by no promise of absolute attainment. "No one 
among us knows for certain that he himself will persevere 
unto the end ; yet every one among us, to give himself even a 
chance of success at all, must make a venture." Faith is the 
essence of a Christian life, and our duty lies in the hazardous 
directions where faith is demanded, since fear, risk, danger, 
anxiety, require its presence and attest its nobility and 
excellence.' 

"No one," conmients Dr. Alexander Whyte, in speaking of 
other discoiurses in this series, " can feel the full force of New- 
man's great sermons on 'The Incarnation' and on 'The 
Atoning Death of God the Son' who has not gone with New- 
man to the sources of the sermons in Athanasius, and in Basil, 
and in Cyril." * Nothing in his homilies showed any sign of 
the youth and comparative inexperience of the preacher, or 
was immature and technical in treatment. The creeds, 
confessions, and catechisms were vitalized; reclothed with 
the beauty and the majesty of genuine sacred oratory. They 
were poems, and better still, transcripts from the most in- 
spired souls, as well as from the souls to which they min- 
istered ; reasonings in a lofty dialectic ; views of life and 
of goodness, of sin and its malefic ^nsequences, which, in 

> "Parochial and Plain Sermons" ; Vol. I, Sehnon I. 

' Ibid,, Vol. I, Sermon XX. ' "Newman, An Appreciation" ; p. 125. 



490 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

numerous instances, marked the bq^inning of a new life in 
those who heard them. Their chaste yet glowing diction 
and spiritual perception were employed to such effect that 
Newman's followers crowded St. Mary's as the Piagnoni did 
San Marco at Florence to listen to Savonarola, and exhibited 
an equal enthusiasm, if not extravagance. 

On December 2, 1832, when preaching before the Univer- 
sity, on "Wilfidness, the Sin of Saul," he entered upon a 
sweeping condemnation of English society and a defense of 
religious partisanship: ''The present open resistance to 
constituted power, and (what is more to the purpose) the 
indulgent toleration of it, the irreverence towards Antiquity, 
the unscrupulous and wanton violation of the oonmiands and 
usages of our forefathers, the undoing of their benefactions, 
the profanation of the Church, the bold transgression of the 
duty of Ekxdesiastical Unity, the avowed disdain of what is 
called party religion (though Christ undeniably made a 
party the vehicle of His doctrine, and did not cast it at random 
on the world, as men would now have it), the growing indif- 
ference to the Catholic Creed, the skeptical objections to 
portions of its doctrine, the arguings and discussings and 
comparings and correctings and rejectings, and all the train 
of presumptuous exercises, to which its sacred articles are 
subjected, the numberless discordant criticisms on the 
Liturgy, which have shot up on all sides of us ; the general 
irritable state of mind, which is everywhere to be witnessed, 
and craving for change in all things; what do all these 
symptoms show, but that the spirit of Saul still lives ? — that 
wilfulness, which is the antagonist principle to the zeal of 
David, — the principle of cleaving and breaking down all 
divine ordinances, instead of building up." * It wiU be 
remembered that one of the sins of Saul was his refusal to 
perpetrate a wholesale massacre on the Amalekites, an act 
which compared very favorably with Samuel's demand that 
the unfortunate captives should be ruthlessly exterminated, 

* "University Sermons" ; Sermon IX. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 491 

or with David's betrayal of the unsuspecting Uriah. The 
misuse of the word party suggested that our Lord Him- 
self originated religious factions because He employed a smaU 
group of His countrymen as the immediate emissaries of Hb 
Gospel. The preacher's exaggerated references to the crav- 
ing for change in all things were characteristic of the Univer- 
sity don who is proverbiaUy blind to widespread interests 
beyond his narrow domains, and on the other hand, so alert 
to whatever occurs within their boundaries, as to overrate its 
actual importance. Even as a preacher Newman harbored 
these incapacitating sentiments, refusing to view from any 
other standpoint than his own the measures he denounced 
in adroit periphrasis. 

Three days after this deliverance he was at Falmouth 
awaiting Hurrell Froude and his father, and hourly 
expecting the vessel which was to take them and him to 
the Mediterranean. He found it hard to leave Oxford; 
a brief visit to Cambridge had only intensified his longing 
for the former place, but rest and recreation were im- 
perative both for him and for Hurrell Froude, who had 
been out of health for some months. They set sail at a 
moment when the Anglican Church, in Mozley's phrase, was 
folding her robes about her to die in what dignity she could. 
The bill for the suppression of the Irish sees was in progress, 
and the English bishops were warned by Lord Grey that they 
too must set their house in order. "I had fierce thoughts 
against the Liberals," confessed Newman, and again, "We 
have just heard of the Irish Church Reform Bill. Well 
done ; my blind premier, confiscate and rob, tiU, like Samson, 
you pull down the Political structure on your own head." ^ 
For the moment his attention was turned to less troubled 
prospects, yet go where he would, he could not escape him- 
self. The subjective world in which he dwelt, into which he 
fully admitted none — a world quick and intense beyond the 
ordinary — created its own pain, welcomed its own infre- 

> "Letten and Correspondence" ; Vol. I, p. 310. 



492 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

quent gleams of joy, and indulged its own reveries. "'He 
dianged his climate, but not his mind." 

His letters and the poems he composed while journeying 
abroad give a sufficient account of his sentiments and ex- 
periences at this stage. During the voyage he enlarged in 
his correspondence with his mother upon the pleasures of 
external things, avowing that he had never spent hapiner days 
than those he described. Nature's ministries had evidently 
refreshed him, and for a brief space his interests ceased to 
be piu^ly personal. He spoke of the ocean's entrancing as- 
pects and varied colors ; of the rich indigo of its placid sur- 
face, of its white-edged waves ruffling into foam under a stir 
of wind, and again, curling into flashing, momentary rain- 
bows. The sun was setting in a car of gold ; the horizon 
above changed from pale-orange tints to a penally heighten- 
ing dusky red. As night closed in upon these ravishing 
scenes the evening star appeared high and pwre in the deepen- 
ing gloom. The Portuguese coast slipped past like a veiled 
pageant, tantalizing in its dim outline, over which stood the 
summits of Torres Vedras, where Wellington had kept at bay 
the valor of France. At the foot of the reddish brown cliffs 
the breakers dashed and rebounded in erested spume which 
rose like Venus from the sea; "I never saw more graceful 
forms, and so sedate and deliberate in their rising and falling. " ^ 
Yet these delights could not long detain him ; the mood was 
transient ; his mind soon reverted to its introspective habit, 
and he began to fear the dangers concealed beneath sensuous 
perceptions. Penetrating but a little way into reality it- 
self, these might easily distract him from the more preg- 
nant elements of being. The principle of dualism had so 
infected his reasonings that where inspired psalmists and 
prophets had seen in Creation the wisdom and beneficence of 
God, Newman frequently discerned "the craft and subtlety 
of the Tempter of mankind." He touched on natural won- 
ders not so much for their own sake, as to explain the motions 

* "Letters and Correspondence" ; Vol. I, p. 267. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 493 

of his breast. ''I have good hope/' he writes, ^'I shall not 
be unsettled by my present wanderings. For what are aU 
these strange sights but vanities, attended to, as they ever 
must be, with anxious watchfulness lest the heart be cor- 
rupted by them." * 

He was still on the verge of the thirties, and had only 
recently undergone his metamorphosis into the extreme 
clerical form. Yet one might imagine that the ecclesiastic 
had been organized in this new made divine by a hereditary 
transmission of long descent. He was a compound of the 
evangelicalism of his youthful home and the sacerdotal- 
ism of his University circle. His negative feeling of 
antagonism to the sensible world, and his positive feel- 
ing of a divinely appointed mission combined to separate 
him from the most charming surroundings. Even when he is 
on the track of Ulysses, gazing on Ithaca, and aware that at 
last his earliest visions were made actual before his eyes, he 
turned back to the memories of his father's garden at Ham ; 
memories so f amt, so shadowy, that they evaded his pursuit ; 
memories of that twilight before the dawn "when one seems 
almost to realize the remnants of a preexisting state.'' ' 
The historic landscapes teeming with classic reminiscences 
which have usually fascinated poets and scholars could not 
prevail against his inwardness; he was interested in them, 
but nothing more, and would have been well satisfied to find 
himself suddenly transported to his rooms at Oriel.' "I 
shrink voluntarily from the contact of the world, and, whether 
or not natural disposition assists this feeling, and a per^ 
oeption almost morbid of any deficiencies and absurdities — 
anyhow, neither the kindest attentions nor the most sublime 
sights have over me influence enough to draw me out of the 
way, and, deliberately as I have set out about my present 
wanderings, yet I heartily wish they were over, and I only 
endure the sights, and had much rather have seen th^ see 

1 '* Letters and Correapondenoe*' ; Vol. I, p. 266. 

s Ibid., Vol. I. pp. 27»-280. « Ibid., Vol. I. pp. 281-282. 



494 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

them, though the while I am extremely astonished and abnost 
enchanted at them." ^ 

This paradoxical state increased his determination to sedc 
afresh the benefits of self-seclusion, and he seized the occa- 
sion to write a eulogistic sonnet on Melchizedek, the legend- 
ary king and priest, of whom he sings, 

"Thrice blest are they, who fed their loneliiiess ; 
To whom nor voice of friend nor pleasant scene 
Brings that on which the sadden'd heart can lean. 
Yea, the rich earth, garb'd in her daintiest dress 
Of light and joy, dotli but the more oppress, 
Claiming responsive smiles and rapture hi^. 
Till, sick at heart, beyond the veO they fly. 
Seeking His Presence Who alone can bless. 
Such, in strange days, the weapons of Heaven's grace : 
When, passing by the high-bom Hebrew line, 
He forms the vessel of His vast design. 
Fatherless, homeless, reft of age and place. 
Severed from earth, and careless of its wreck. 
Bom through long woe His rare Melchizeddc." ' 

Although such isolation was conducive to atrabilious views 
and an open rebellion against the conventionalities, neverthe- 
less it was measurably justified. For Newman was at 
bottom neither a complacent egoist nor an ambitious ecclesi- 
astic, but an earnest servant of truth, as he imderstood it. 
The extent of his influence has been variously estimated, and 
his career has given rise to numerous and contrary inferences. 
Yet it would be a desecration to make capital out of the worst 
of these, nor should it be forgotten that one of his most 
relentless critics has testified that in his conduct of the Trac- 
tarian Movement he showed few, if any, symptoms of a wish 
to be the head of a party, but, on the other hand, a laudable 
desire to do anything that seemed likely to please Grod.' For 
this end he sacrificed otherwise desirable projects, and ex- 



1 "Letters and Correspondence" ; Vol. I, p. 282. « Ibid., Vol. I, p. 28S. 
•Edwin A. Abbott: '*The Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman' 
Vol. I, pp. 256-257. 



(t 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 495 

posed himself to serious misunderstandings, holding his 
int^rity at heavy charges to himself, and facing the issue 
that in dealing with unseen verities the human mind is 
bound to accept truths beyond its powers of demonstra- 
tion. Like the microscopist who carefully separates the 
organism he investigates, shuts off superfluous light and 
adjusts his instrument to what light he requires, Newman 
economized by consecrating imagination, intellect, memory, 
and utterance to those transcendencies which were, as he 
believed, jealous of any diversion from themselves. 

His reflections soon turned from obvious historical asso- 
ciations to others of Scriptiut^l or Churchly origin. "What 
has inspired me . . . these two days is the thought that I 
am in the Mediterranean. Consider how its coasts have 
been the seat and scene of the most celebrated empires 
and events which are in history. Think of the variety of 
men, famous in every way, who have had to do with it. 
Here the Romans and Carthaginians fought; here the 
Phoenicians traded ; here Jonah was in the storm ; here St. 
Paul was shipwrecked; here the great Athanasius voyaged 
to Rome.'' At the mention of Athanasius, he broke into 
somewhat halting verse, and pathetically asked, 

"When shall our Northern Church her Champion see. 
Raised by Divine decree 
To shield the ancient Truth at his own harm?" ^ 

Hie ferment in that '* Northern Church " from which he was 
temi>orarily absent was ever present in his mind. In his 
highest flights of vision or his most mournful soliloquies he 
intentipted himself to fling an admonitory parenthesis at 
"frowning Gibraltar," " infidel Ammon," and " niggard Tyre/' 
alike pressed into the service of the " Bride of Heaven," who 
was exhorted to be patient and to bide her time. The one 
thing now needful for her, as for him, was to find the basis 
of sufficient Authority upon which to rest her religious de- 

1 '* Letters and Correepondenoe" ; Vol. I, pp. 26&-267. 



406 THREE RBUQIOUB LEADERS OF OXFORD 



vdoiHnent, and no kmger be driven to himt for it indefi- 
nitdy beyond the bounds of possibilHy , or attempt illogicaUy 
to construct it with the aid of Prtoofe JudgmenL^ ICtheito 
he had said very little about the sinister ude of the Gredc 
or Roman Churches, but the spectades he and Froude 
in Sicily and Naples both men lamented. Froude 



wrote to Keble: ^'Tbe Church of Eni^and has foDen low, 
and will probably be worse before it is better; but let the 
Whigs do thdr WOTst, th^ cannot sink us so deep as these 
people have allowed themselves to foil while retaining aD 
the superfidals of a rdigious countiy/' ' Newman seocmded 
Froude's views: '"The state of the Church is dqdorsble. 
It seems as if Satan was let out of prison to range the whole 
earth again. As far as our little expeswace goes, ev^- 
thing seems to confirm the notion received among ourselveB 
of the priesthood, while on the other hand the Chuidi is 
stripped of its temporalities and reduced to distress.'' ' 

Rome was reached at last, the city of divine iqxxmlypses; 
too comjiia, manifold, contradictory, magnificent, for New- 
man's understanding. As he walked along the Appian Wsy 
over the Pontine marshes and looked iqxm the metropolis 
of Christianity, a mingled throng of bitttf thoughts and 
sweet besieged him: he hesitated whether to name her 



"light of the wide West, 
Or heinous enoi^-fleat." 



Her titles glowed in the stem judgment-fires which would end 
earth's strife with heaven and open the eternal woe.^ Eventu- 
ally the place of celestial traditions subdued his questionings ; 
the superstitions of his youth that Rome was the ''Beast'' 
which stamped its image on mankind, the ''Great Hariot" 
who made drunk the kings of the earth, were dispelled, and 
he began to regard her as vicariously bearing, in her corrup- 



•t 



> Edwin A. Abbott: "The AnsJioan Career of Cardinal Newman' 
Vol. I, p. 240. 

« "Remaina" ; Vol. I. p. 2W. 

• " Letters and CorTeq;>ondenoe" ; Vol. I. p. 3ia « Jlrid,, Vol. I, p. 315. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 497 

tion and distress, the sins of the whole world. He wrote to 
Frederic Rogers, who next to Froude was his confidant, 
^' There is such an air of greatness and repose cast over the 
whole, and, independent of what one knows from history, 
there are such traces of long sorrow and humiliation, suffer- 
ing,.punishment, and decay, that one has a mixtiu^ of feelings, 
partly such as those with which one would approach a corpse, 
and partly those which would be excited by the sight of the 
spint which had left it. It brings to my mind Jeremiah's 
words, . . . when Jerusalem, or (sometimes) the prophet, 
speaks as the smitten of God. Oxford, of course, must ever 
be a sacred city to an Oxonian, and is to me. It would be a 
strange want of right pride to think of disloyalty to it, even 
if our creed were not piu^r than the Roman ; yet the lines 
of Virgil keenly and a£fectionately describe what I feel 
about this wonderful city." ^ He begged that Rogers would 
repeat to himself the passage from the Eclogues to which he 
referred and dwell upon each word : 

"Urbem quam dicunt Romam, Meliboee, putavi, 
Stultus ego, huic nostrae similem/' etc. 

The quotation describes the change in a rustic of northern 
Italy who had been presumptuous enough to imagine that 
Rome was like his own city, but who soon knew that she was 
to the latter as a cypress tree to a bramble bush. The com- 
parison is informing : Newman never ceased to love Oxford, 
but another love was now beginning to divide his loyalty. 
It was not the Rome of the Emperors, nor that of Michel- 
angelo and Raff aelle ; it was the Rome of the Apostles and the 
Martyrs that impressed his prepared imagination, and made 
a bid for his heart. 

The "Apologia" omits some important facts connected 
with this visit, and, although it states that Newman and 
Froude twice waited upon Dr. Wiseman, then Rector of the 
English College, and afterwards famous for his pastoral 

> "Letters and Ck>iTe8poiidenoe" ; VoL I, pp. 31S-319. 
2k 



498 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

letter to England dated ''from out the Flaminian Gate/' no 
hint is given of the object or the result of their interviews. 
From Froude's "Remains," however, we learn that they 
sought to ascertain whether or not the perversions of the 
truth, which were adapted for Rome but not for England, 
could be r^arded as non-essentials ; and as to what were the 
fundamental differences between Catholicism and Anglican- 
ism, and whether these were so great as to prevent all hope 
of union. They discovered to their dismay that not one step 
could be gained in that direction, unless their Church 
"swallowed the Council of Trent as a whole." Froude 
frankly expressed his resentment and disgust in the ensuing 
note: 

. " We made our approaches to the subject as delicately as 
we could. Our first notion was that the terms of conmtiun- 
ion were within certain limits under the control of the Pope, 
or in ca9e he could not dispense solely, yet at any rate the 
acts of one Council might be rescinded by another ; indeed, 
that in Charles the First's time it had been intended to negoti- 
ate a reconciliation on the terms on which things stood before 
the Council of Trent. But we found to our horror that the 
doctrine of the infallibility of the Church made the acts of 
each successive Council obligatory for ever, that what had 
been once decided could never be meddled with again; in 
fact, that they were committed finally and irrevocably, . . . 
even though the Church of England should again become 
what it was in Laud's time, or indeed, what it may have been 
up to the atrocious Council." ^ " Right pride " in Oxford and 
the Establishment of which it was the citadel had certainly 
met with a fall when two Anglican clergymen could seek inter- 
views with a distinguished Roman theologian, afterwards a 
Cardinal, in order to discuss the terms on which their Church 
could obtain reconciliation with the Papal See. Froude, as 
we have noted, made no effort to conceal his feelings ; New- 
man said little, but the probabilities are that he was even 

» "Remamfl" ; Vol. I. p. 307. 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 499 

more profoundly depressed. "I ought to tell you/' he wrote 
to his sister Jemima, " about the Miserere at Rome, my going 
up St. Peter's, and the Easter illumination, our conversations 
with Dr. Wiseman and with M. Bunsen, our search for the 
Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, my pilgrimage to the 
place of St. Paul's martyrdom, the Catacombs, and aU the 
other sights which have stolen away my heart, but I forbear 
till we meet. Oh that Rome were not Rome I but I seem to 
see as clear as day that a union with her is impossible. She is 
the cruel Church asking of us impossibilities, exconmiunicat- 
ing us for disobedience, and now watching and exulting 
over our approaching overthrow." The conversations with 
Wiseman were one of the significant events of Newman's 
journey ; they afterwards echoed in his heart, and begot that 
uneasy questioning which ended with his repudiation of 
Anglicanism. The mental peculiarities which are produced 
by granting to dogma, resting on a very puzzling structiu^ of 
evidence, the place and power of primary truth, had already 
become apparent in him. The wholesome, regulative co- 
cq[)eration of the intellect with the heart by which the impulses 
of the latter are carefully examined with the view of deter- 
mining their legitimacy, came to be regarded by him as 
savoring of presumption. When men, however richly en- 
dowed, slip into this state of mind, and require no other pass- 
port for theological statements than that they shaU accord 
with their own fixed conceptions of the revelations of Deity, 
they are apt to search not for facts as such, but for facts that 
appear to support their position. Adverse evidence can only 
be encountered by stratagems that demoralize healthy thinks 
ing, and the last expedient is to throw the burden upon 
conscience, thus depriving reason of its proper function and 
devating questionable articles of faith to the dignity of re- 
I^on. 

Froude and his father having started for England, Newman, 
full of uncertainty about the future, returned for a while to 
Naples. He was repelled by its glitter and glare, which were 



500 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

in painful contrast with the grave melancholy of the capital 
''Oh, what a change from the majestic pensiveness of the 
place I have left, where the Church sits in sackcloth calling 
on those that pass by to say if any one's sorrow is like her 
sorrow I" ^ "How shall I describe the sadness with which I 
left the tombs of the Apostles? Rome, not as a city, but as 
the scene of sacred history, has a part of my heart, and in 
going away from it I am as if tearing it in twain/' ' He 
elaborated this latest opinion in order to dismiss his lingering 
belief that in some sense the Papal Church was recreant. 
The city itself, he asserted, had possessed but one character 
for two thousand five hundred years; of late centuries the 
Christian Church had been the slave of this character. The 
day drew near, however, when the captive would be freed. 
Meanwhile Rome's memory would ever be soothing to him ; 
Jerusalem alone could impart a more exalted comfort. Thus 
he sums up : ''In point of interest I have seen nothing like 
Ithaca, the Straits of Messina, and Egesta (I put aside Rome), 
and in point of scenery nothing like Corfu. As to Rome, I 
cannot help talking of it" . . . and once more he utters the 
plaintive cry — " O Rome, that thou wert not Rome I " * She 
stood out like a towering mountain on a receding shore and 
outvied them all in the endlessness and power of her 
appeal. 

He had drawn away from his companions that he might 
see again the towns and hill country of Sicily, and there plan 
the campaign on which he and Froude were jointly resolved. 
When Monsignore Wiseman expressed the courteous hope 
that they would visit him again, Newman replied, with great 
gravity, "We have a work to do in England." * How seri- 
ously they took themselves and their projected crusade 
appeared in their choice of Achilles' proud speech as the 
motto for the "Lyra Apostolica": "They shall know the 

* "Letters and Correspondence" ; Vol. I, p. 338. 

* Ibid., Vol. I, p. 336. » Ibid., Vol. I, p. 344. 

* "Apologia"; p. 34. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 501 

difference now that I am back again." ^ The saying was not 
inappropriate to the warfare that ensued, which was to cause 
so many wounds, and leave so many ugly scars behind. 

His heart thus full of the portents of this conflict, Newman 
fell ill of a fever, a circumstance which he regarded as provi- 
dential and afterwards repeatedly described in most solenm 
and searching words. It marked another sovereign moment 
in his life, appearing to him partly as a judgment on his past 
faults, and partly as an assurance of heaven's forgiveness and 
direction. ''I felt God was fighting against me, and felt at 
last I knew why — it was for self-will.'' The sense of his 
frailty, the peril of his pride, the burden of his mission, and his 
insufficiency for its discharge, instigated a severe examination 
of his motives. Nor was this the result of hasty decision 
induced by physical weakness, for he remanded the case un- 
til he returned to Oxford : his illness occurred in May, 1853, 
his account of it was not begun until August 31 of the year 
following, and was continued at intervals as late as 1874. 
''I felt and kept saying to myself 'I have not sinned against 
light,' and at the one time I had a most consoling overpower- 
ing thought of God's electing love, and seemed to feel I 
was His. . . . Next day I seemed to see more and more 
of my utter hoUowness, I began to think of all my professed 
principles, and felt they were mere intellectual deductions 
from one or two admitted truths. I compared myself with 
Keble, and felt that I was merely developing his, not my 
convictions. . . . Indeed this is how I look on myself; 
very much as a pane of glass, which transmits heat, being 
cold itself. I have a vivid perception of the consequences of 
certain admitted principles, have a considerable intellectual 
capacity of drawing them out, have the refinement to admire 
them, and a rhetorical or histrionic power to represent them ; 
and having no great {i,e, no vivid) love of this world, whether 

> niad XVin. L. 125. **TwoUp d* wt 6^ 6fit>6w iyCi wo\4fjmo yerav/icu" 
the assertion of Achilles to Thetes when he returned to the fray that he might 
avenge himself on Hector for the death of Patroclus. 



502 THREE REUGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

riches, honours, or anything else, and some firmness and 
natural dignity of character, take the im>f ession oi them upcm 
me, as I might sing a tune which I like — loving the Truth, 
but not possessing it, for I believe myself at heart to be neariy 
hollow, i.e. with little love, little self-denial. I believe I have 
some faith, that is all; and, as to my sins, they need my 
possessing no little amount of faith to set against them and 
gain their remission." ^ 

Studied impartiality was foreign to Newman's character; 
his strong sense of what was real, or of what he wished to 
believe was real, prevented him from always doing justice 
either to himself or others, so that his confessions, like many 
similar ones, were excessive in their self-depredation. As- 
suredly he was prepared for any sacrifice which would bene- 
fit his soul ; and despite his skeptical tendencies faith was his 
in abundance, whatever may be urged against some objec- 
tives to which he attached it. His love, however, was not 
of that quality which 

"Gives to every power a double power 
Above their functions and their offices." 

Toward men, except for his closest friends, it was narrow and 
embarrassed, and lacked the glow of sympathy ; even when 
offered to God it did not have that restful response of the 
heart made perfect in the charity which casts out fear. 
His dread that essential truth was not his has been shared 
by devout thinkers whose conceptions of the truth and of 
the nature of its sanctifying power have widely differed. 
But "wisdom is sometimes nearer when we stoop than 
when we soar," and nothing testified more clearly to the 
genuineness of Newman's religious nature, or to the presence 
of the life of God in him, than did these admissions and 
penitences. 
Four-fifths of his published poems, if the "Dream of 

1 "Letters and Coirespondenoe" ; Vol. I, pp. 366-366. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 503 

Gerontius" is excluded, were written during his tour in 
Southern Europe. Many of them first appeared in the Briir 
tah Magazine as lyrical compositions of the " proper kind." 
Although they were spontaneous effusions, springing directly 
from the thoughts and events of the moment, and dealing 
with sentiments then present in his heart, competent critics 
have given them a high place in literature, and Mr. R. H. 
Hutton asserts : " For grandeur of outline, purity of taste, and 
radiance of total e£fect, I know hardly any short poems in the 
language that equal them." ^ Nor were they without pres- 
ages of the future. Despite weakness and hiuniliation, 
Newman felt that he was being divinely led onward to some 
enterprise, he knew not what, but for which grace and wisdom 
would be given. His wistful yet resigned longing to see 
the way before him, the pathetic but uncomplaining en- 
treaties for guidance of an eager soul caught and confused in 
the darkness, found permanent form in the beautiful hynm 
which he wrote on the orange boat that carried him from 
Palermo to Marseilles, when becalmed in the Straits of Boni- 
facio. Familiar as the lyric is, it must be transcribed here, 
since it has long enjoyed the grateful appreciation of a multi- 
tude oi similarly seeking or sorrowing ones who are content 
to wait until the day breaks and the shadows flee away. 

"Lead, kindly light, amid th' encircling gloom, 

Lead Thou me on ; 
The night is dark, and I am far from home; 

LcAd Thou me on ; 
Keep Thou my feet ; I do not ask to see 
The distant scene, — one step enough for me. 

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou 

Shouldst lead me on ; 
I loved to choose and see my path ; but now 

Lead Thou me on. 
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, 
Pride ruled my will : remember not past years. 

i^Caidinal Newman"; p. 44. 



« 



504 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

"So long Thy power hath bkst me, sure it still 

WiU IcAd me on 
Cer moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till 

The night is gone ; 
And with the mom those angd-f aoes smile. 
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.** 



CHAPTER XI 
TRACTARIANISM AND ITS RESULTS 



605 



<«, 



Old coBtaam and institntioiiSy even of Ae most trivial kind, Vogat 
long aftor thor origin has been forg ott en and aome new juatifioation 
has been invented for tiiem. Forms of language and of tfaoii|^ have 
a similar vitality, and persiat long after they are leoognised as cuuk 
farous and mirieading. Every diange must originate with some indi- 
vidual who, by virtue of his originality, must be in imperfect sympatiqr 
with the mass of his eontemporaiies. Nor can aqy man, however 
versatile his intellect, aoocmmiodate his mind easily or speedily to a 
new method and a new order of ideas." 

Sot Tjbiii Sikphbi. 



ii 



Thou flhah leave eadh thing 
Beloved most dearly; this is the first shaft 
Shot from the bow (A exile. Thou afaalt prove 
How salt the savour is of otho^s bread; 
How hard the passage to desomd and climb 
By other's stairs." 



506 



CHAPTER XI 

TRACTARIANISM AND ITS RESULTS 

Suppression of Irish bishoprics — Abuses of Anglicanism — Keble's 
sermon on National Apostasy — Formation of the Tractarian party — 
The Tracts and their teachings — The sources of Anglicanism — Cath- 
olicity of Anglicanism — Impeachment of Ph>te8tantism — Pusey's 
part in the movement — Hugh James Rose — William Palmer — Rob- 
ert Isaac Wilberforce — Charles Marriott — Isaac Williams — William 
John Copeland — The Hampden and other controversies — Appear- 
ance of Tract Ninety — Newman's trend tovard Rome — Condemna- 
tion of the Tract — Opposition of the bishops — Establishment of the 
Jerusalem bisho|Hic — Defeat of Williams and Pusey — Degradation 
<rf Ward — Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine — New- 
man's secession — His career in the Roman Catholic Church — B^i- 
Ic^gue. 

I 

Fully restored to health and eager for the conflict, New- 
man returned to England in July, 1833, to find that political 
developments were helping to mature the projects over 
which he and Froude had brooded. The long-expected 
blow at the Establishment had fallen; ten Irish suffragan 
bishoprics and two prospective archiepiscopal sees were 
about to be suppressed ; a contingency which outraged the 
feelings of many Anglicans, tended to sever other friendships 
besides that between Whately and Newman, and crystallized 
the action of clergymen who were intent on a larger measure 
of independence for the Church in her relations to the 
State. They were not agreed on this question : advanced 
Churchmen favored a practical autonomy ; with the rest it 
was a matter of convenience rather than conviction. The 
disestablishment of a State Church which did not muster 
more than half the Protestants south of the Tweed, and an 

507 



k 4. t ) n 1 1 1 [ r. I i 



508 THRBB RBUGIOnS LBABBB8 OF OXFORD 

infinitdy leas number across tbe Irish Chaimd, appealed to 
the sense ot justioe in many puMkasts, wfaik to leaders sndi 
as Keble, Froude» and Newman the pw y osition savored of 
disroption and anarchy. The problem was further compli> 
cated by the rai^d growth of population in the United King- 
dom during the nineteenth century, a condition that inten- 
the hitherto nq^ected demajid for additional churdi 
ktion, which lealous men of various parties vigo^> 
ousiy urged. Friends and foes alike were also disturibed fay 
the anomalous inequalities of Churdti funds. Hie income 
of bishoprics ranged from thirty-two thousand pounds for 
Canterbuiy and tw^i^ thousand pounds for Duriiam to 
sums whidi were bardy suflBdent to cover eipenses. The 
deaneries of Westminster, Windsw, and St F^*8 netted 
from seven thousand to twdve thmisand pounds each, and 
a number of rectories from five thousand to ten tftonaand 
pounds. At the other extreme the poorer defgy were mis- 
erably paid, not less than four thousand of the livings in 
England and Wales having a stipoid under one hundred 
and fifty pounds a year. Large numbers <rf these fdl be- 
low fifty pounds, and as a consequence parochial woric was 
pauperised. One third of the dergy were pluralists, some 
holding as many as five benefices. Tlie law that required 
incumbents to reside in their parishes was openly violated, 
canons and rectors living where they chose and leaving their 
duties to curates on a starvation wage. One dergyman 
holding two rectories bringing in twdve hundred pounds 
was said to have paid eighty-four pounds for the work done 
in both. Bishop Sparke of Ely, his son, and his son-in-law 
jointly recdved annually over thirty thousand pounds of 
Church moneys. Archbishop Moore is reputed to have 
died a millionaire, and that mild but rapadous prelate. 
Archbishop Manners Sutton, jM^sented seven of his relatives 
to sixteen benefices besides several cathedral dignities.^ 

> F. W. Cornish: "The EngjUsh Churoh in the Ninefeeenth Century'*; 
Vol. I. pp. 102-109. 



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 509 

This nepotism and greed became a scandal, and in 1831 
a Royal Commission was appointed to report upon its 
causes and consider what remedies should be adopted. 
Parliamentary control was responsible for such rank 
abuses : it now endeavored to abolish them by legislation. 
The long-continued evil and their helplessness to eradicate 
it evoked from indignant hearts the query. Has the Church 
no voice in her own a£fairs ? Evangelicals were not partic- 
ularly concerned to reply ; as a party they had taken little 
interest in ecclesiastical changes, so long as the status quo 
favored or at least did not interfere with their doctrinal 
preferences. But Oxford inhaled an atmosphere which made 
it distrustful of all reforms and especially of those which 
affected the Church or the Crown. Its strictest loyalties 
centered around the former; idealized as the fond mother, 
who had inspired the best creations of the past, and who 
maintained the highest and widest possible relations with 
religion, learning, art, architecture; while the Crown was 
revered as the fountain of national honor and security. 
Both were so interdependent that neither could be touched 
without weakening the other, and the marauding hand that 
was raised against them must be prompted by ignorance, 
impiety, or treason. The misguided or deliberate enemies 
of settled government who went about to suppress bishoprics 
antedating the State itself, and to confiscate or redistribute 
endowments derived from the gifts of pious founders, would 
presently, without doubt, find in University affairs the next 
object of their unlicensed interference. Such sentiments 
were current, not only in Oxford, but in a thousand town and 
country parsonages throughout the land. They found a 
historic expression in John Keble, who, despite his disinclina- 
tion to public controversy, emerged from seclusion, and 
challenged parliament and the nation in behalf of the rights 
and liberties of Anglicanism. He believed that the Establish- 
ment, although in dire need of purification, was not only a 
formal recognition of religion by the State, but its bulwark 



510 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

against liberalism and moral d^eneracy — conditions whkh 
he identified as cause and e£Pect. After repeatedly discua»* 
ing these and kindred themes in the Common Room at 
Oriel, Keble and his friends pledged themselves to write and 
speak for the Church. Their situation was somewhat incon- 
sistent, inasmuch as they conceived their communion to be a 
divine ordination, and esteemed its spiritualities above every- 
thing else, yet these were of necessity closely associated with 
the temporal authority which nominated deans and bishops, 
and regulated doctrine and discipline. Moreover, her union 
with the State made the Church the ally of the powerful 
and the rich. And for the Tractarians to company with 
these, while condemning others who ardently desired her re- 
generation as anti-Christian in their policy, involved the 
definition of what Christianity really was and how its teach- 
ings affected the entire question. 

This Keble undertook to some extent in his Oxford Assize 
sermon, delivered on Lord's Day, July 14, 1833. He feh 
that the duty and the hour for its discharge had been granted 
him, and he used the opportunity to the full in his discourse, 
entitled "National Apostasy." To his utterance Newman 
attributed the actual origin of Tractarianism, saying that 
he had ever considered and kept the day as the start of 
the religious movement of 1833. A superficial view has 
ascribed Keble's impeachment to the suppression of the 
Irish bishoprics, but actually its main causes were to be 
found in the spiritual dearth of Anglicanism, which enabled 
imscrupulous politicians, as he deemed them, to take advan- 
tage of the general weakness. Further, he believed that 
faith and order were jeopardized when the episcopate was 
reduced in nmnbers or in authority by civil decrees. On 
this matter he and his colleagues were sincere, inexorable, 
and imited. The consideration that no changes in ecclesi- 
astical methods could permanently impair the vitality and 
energy of the New Testament Evangel had no weight with 
clerics who were swayed by the influences, good or bad, of 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 511 

their unique surroundings. Tliey invested their sacerdotal 
daims with the sanctity of an absolute revelation, and held 
that the totality of God's working force in the world was, 
in essence, a priestly possession. The ability to see every 
side of a question, so necessary for comprehensive and safe 
conclusions, was not a gift of the Tractarians, yet their nar- 
rowness of outlook was not due to any conscious paltering 
with the facts, but to certain mental and moral limitations. 
That all men are more or less the victims of these limita- 
tions is a truism that should restrain impatience at what 
naturally seems the astonishing infatuation of the Tractar 
rians, and Keble's observations can be judged accordingly. 
Churchmen, said the preacher, and by this he meant 
Anglicans, had hitherto taken it for granted that England 
'' had for centuries acknowledged, as an essential part of her 
theory of government, that, as a Christian nation, she is also 
a part of Christ's Church, and bound in all her legislation 
and policy by the fundamental laws of that Church." This 
proposition practically asserted that Anglicans should dic- 
tate the laws of England, and it could have been extended 
with equal legitimacy to the Presbyterianism established in 
Scotland. " When a government and people, so constituted,'' 
he added, ''threw o£P the restraint which in many respects 
such a principle would impose upon them, nay, disavowed 
the principle itself," such conduct was a "direct disavowal 
of the sovereignty of God. If it be true that such enactments 
are forced on the legislature by public opinion, is Apostasy 
too hard a word to describe the temper of such a nation?" 
These extracts present the substance of a remonstrance con- 
ceived in the strictest partisanship, yet addressed to all 
England. Its language disclosed no careful study of those 
stages in national evolution which had rendered unavoidable 
the changes painfully resented by Keble. It manifested 
a temper belonging to the genial days of the Act of Uniform- 
ity rather than the nineteenth century. Community of in- 
terest and sympathy, which is the root of social justice, was 



612 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

destroyed by such extraordinary prejudices. Contemptu- 
ous toward that excellent and persistent spirit operating m 
human progress, the strength of which no circumstances, 
however adverse, and no creed, however infleadUe, can 
permanently overcome, Keble and his disciples refused to 
credit their generation with any good thing, and mourned 
over its shortcomings with a mistaken grief. Same among 
them were inordinately lachrymose: deprived of domestic 
joys and feeding on the despair of their own hearts, they 
were wont to display an ill-regulated emotion over events 
out of all proportion to the tears expended on them. 

"No matter where ; of comfort no man speak : 
Let's talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs ; 
Make dust our paper, and with raining eyes 
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth." 

• 

They applied themselves to their theories with unswerving 
vigor, and regarded them as living verities, never to be 
doubted, always to be obeyed, whatever the consequences. 
History is plentiful in similar examples showing how merci- 
less and unjust theories can be: how they can cut like a 
scythe, separating men and nations, once they are allowed 
to obsess the mind and to become the watchwords of reli- 
gious or political cliques. 

Twelve days after Keble's sermon was preached, and seven- 
teen after Newman's return from the continent, Hugh 
James Rose convened a gathering at his rectory of Hadleigh 
in SufFolk, to consider the state of the Church and what 
measures should be adopted for its betterment. William 
Palmer, Arthur Philip Perceval, and Hurrell Froude accepted 
the invitation ; Keble and Newman, though absent, actively 
cooperated with the rest. "The meeting was the first 
attempt to combine for the preservation of great principles," 
remarked Palmer ; but small in nmnbers though it was, its 
members were not agreed, and finally they adjourned to Ox- 
ford. Those who maintained that sacred beliefs and ordi- 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 513 

nances were not subject to fluctuations of ideas, or to sdentific, 
economic, and political conditions, and that apart from 
hierarchical authority there could be nothing but confusion 
and loss, encountered a show of resistance from the more 
cautious brethren. Nevertheless, ''the Hadleigh conspir- 
apy," as Froude and his foes alike termed it, cleared the way 
for simultaneous action, and Rose and his companions after- 
wards spoke of themselves as ''the Society." During the 
long vacation of 1833 they met again at Oriel, and by the 
third of September or thereabouts, Newman had put forth 
the first three in the series of "Tracts for the Times." ^ 

Resentment against modem thought and a sense of 
its danger to religion were their main burden. This 
danger was manifested in the secularization of the Church 
and the proposed alteration of the Prayer Book in a latitu- 
dinarian sense by authority of parliament. * Existing heresies 
and infidelities were to be overcome by archaic shibboleths 
duly refurbished ; the doctrines of apostolical succession and 
sacramental grace, taking the place of evangelical theories of 
conversion by means of prayer and preaching, were trusted 
to put to confusion enemies within and without the Church, 
which, purged of the one and defended from the other, 
would return to her ancient beliefs and renew her forgotten 
services. 

Newman's first Tract, respectfully addressed to his 
brethren in the sacred ministry, struck this note at once. 
It was an imperative summons to forsake imgodliness, and 
to set the example of unworldly men taking their solenm 
office seriously and sacrificially. They were exhorted not 
to rest upon that secular respectability, or cultivation, or 
polish, or learning, or rank which gave them a hearing 
with the many; and to have done forever with the false 
notion that present palpable usefulness, producible results, 
aeoeptableness to the flock are indubitable evidences of 

* Authorities differ as to this date ; Dean Burgon gives September 3d ; 
Deao Cburoh, September 9th ; Wilfred Ward, " the December following." 

2l 



514 THREE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF OXFORD 

divine approval. In the last day, Scripture warns us, the 
recital of such proofs will in many instances be met by 
the stem sentence, " Depart from me, for I never knew you." 
The Tract was as intentionally provocative as Keble's 
sermon, and also as exclusive and uncompromising. It as- 
sailed whatever was unworthy and much that was customaiy 
in the Church, and boldly exalted the ages of intolerance and 
asceticism. This backward gaze on denser times was a pre- 
vailing trait in the Tractarians. A surprising passage occurs 
in one of Keble's homilies, entitled "The Religion of the 
Day," which would have made an appropriate motto for his 
cause, and wherein he declares that it would be a gain to 
England "were it vastly more superstitious, more bigoted, 
more gloomy, more fierce in its religion, than at present it 
shows itself to be." 

The second Tract applied the principles of the first to 
practical Church politics. Was the State the Church? 
Had the State the right to create a clergy, to regulate dio- 
ceses, to determine in any way the propaganda of the 
Church? The answer did not tremble; it was emphatic, 
even defiant. The Holy Catholic Church was a living 
reality, placed in the Creed as an article of faith immedi- 
ately after the belief in the Holy Ghost ; Apostolic, because 
founded by the Apostles; Catholic, because it knew no 
limitation of race ; Visible, in its divinely instituted orders 
of bishops, priests, and deacons ; and essentially above all 
civil authority in matters of doctrine and ritual. Further- 
more, communion with the Church, thus defined, was 
"generally necessary to salvation in the case of those who 
could obtain it." In short, the Tract was a declaration of 
war against the right of parliament to any voice in religious 
matters, and against the Evangelical and Broad sections of 
Anglicanism. "I stand amazed," wrote Arnold to Pusey, 
"at some apparent efforts in this Protestant Church to set 
up the idol of tradition." 

In the third Tract Newman deplored a current pro- 



JOHN HENRT NEWMAN 615 

posal to revise the liturgy. "In a day like this," he 
wrote, "there are but two sides, zeal and persecution, the 
Church and the world ; and those who attempt to occupy 
the ground between them at best will lose their labour, 
but probably will be drawn back to the latter. Be practical, 
I respectfully urge you." Any changes in the liturgy 
would lead, he felt, to controversy and unbelief; the way 
would be opened to objectors who disliked its teaching 
rather than its form to tamper with both. 

Diuing 1834 twenty Tracts were published, nine of them 
being from Newman's pen. The theology and practice of 
the eighteenth century were discarded and denounced, and 
the clergy