The Portal February 2018 - Page 18

THE P RTAL February 2018 Page 18 Book Review The Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement by Fr Simon Heans “H ow shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Those words from Psalm 137 kept coming back to me as I read through the essays in this superb collection. A very welcome feature of what is an outstanding volume is its starting point. Forget the old scholarship which made Keble’s Assize Sermon, National Apostasy, the start of the Movement. This volume begins with an essay by our own Revd Dr Andrew Starkie on the High Church tradition in the reign of the Stuart monarchs. Starkie tells us about George Bull ‘whose great work of patristic scholarship, Defensio Fidei Nicenae’ was a refutation of the writing of a Jesuit, Petavius, ‘who had claimed that the Council of Nicaea had defined the nature of the divinity of Christ against the consensus of Christian theologians before the council’ and went on to draw the conclusion that dogma could therefore be defined ‘against the voice of tradition’. The great Bishop Bossuet wrote praising Bull’s scholarly demonstration of the errors of ‘hyperubersuperconciliarism (a variant of Fr Hunwicke’s ‘hyperubersuperpapalism, also a Jesuit mistake) and a lively correspondence between them ensued. During it, Bossuet asked how Bull writing ‘so advantageously of the Church… can continue a moment without acknowledging her’. Bull had his answer: he objected to transubstantiation and purgatory. However, as Starkie shows, Bull’s Anglican alternative to Rome came close to eclipse after the Dutch invasion of 1688 forced the de jure monarch, James II, from the throne and the High Church bishops were replaced by men like Gilbert Burnet and Benjamin Hoadly, who had nothing but contempt for Christian tradition and the ecclesiastical structures such as councils by which it had been defended and expounded in the past. England became a ‘strange land’ indeed to these godly men. As Starkie pointedly remarks of the great William Law, who conducted a doughty defence of sacramental theology against the egregious Hoadly, the Bishop of Bangor, the fact that Law did not exercise any ministry in the Church of England ‘was evidence that the theoretical claims of the High Church party… had not been matched by the implementation of those claims’. claim that “every one is orthodox to himself ”. Anxieties about the Church of England were expressed by Thomas Brett: “Can anyone think… that the present Church of England has not departed from the Communion of the Catholick Church in rejecting so many Things, which were always practised by the Catholick Church?” Sharp goes on to suggest that Henry Hammond’s dubium of 1645 (in case it be true, that I am actually convinced that the particular Church wherein I live is departed from the Catholick Apostolick Church then it follows that meekness requires my obedience to the Catholick Apostolick Church, and not the particular in which I live) haunted that later generation of High Churchmen. Professor Nigel Aston, author of the fourth essay in the book (on the High Church of 1760 to 1811), is himself a High Churchman and, as we would expect, he makes the best possible case for the significance of High Churchmen in this period. He certainly shows that England under George III was a more hospitable place for them. However, as he also demonstrates, they were essentially living on the borrowed spiritual capital of the High Church exiles, the Non-Jurors. It was their song they were singing. As Aston remarks, ’the accession of George III could plausibly be presented … as the triumph of Jacobite values, albeit without the Pretender’.  Nevertheless that ‘regal church structure’ (Starkie) on which they depended was soon to come crashing down as, in 1829, Roman Catholics acquired the civil and political rights denied them following the usurpation of the throne by William and Mary. England was soon no longer to be quite such ‘a strange land’ for ‘the Lord’s song’.  But how would those who The following essay about the High Churchmen of had been singing the Lord’s song in exile react to the the next generation (c. 1710 – 1760) by Dr Richard prospect of it coming to an end? Would they take the Sharp takes up this theme of exile, pointing out that chance to depart from their Babylonish captivity and even those High Churchmen who remained members return to Jerusalem?  These were the questions facing of the Established Church, and did not follow the the High Churchmen of the first half of the nineteenth Non Jurors in separating themselves from it, were not century.  comfortable with their situation because of the erosion   Sheridan Gilley, in a magisterial survey of the of ecclesiastical authority resulting from ‘the Lockeian