Friday, July 1, 2011

The Hutchinsonians and Hackney Phalanx

One of the tactics used by the Tractarians to give credit to their movement was to discredit earlier High Churchmanship. They came up with names like, “high and dry,” and the “Z’s” for the older High Church tradition, however, Tractarianism is indebted to High Churchmanship. Likewise, the rumors they spread about High Churchmanship were not true. High Churchmanship had blossomed during the later 1700’s and early 1800’s and probably made the general population more receptive to what the Tractarians were saying. However, there was a nugget of truth to the Tractarians’ names, for during the latter part of the 18th century and the early 19th, the High Churchmen showed an antipathy to subjective religion and emotion which probably resulted from the Evangelical Movement, Methodism, and other factors in that time. It is also important to note that churchmanship was not as clearly defined before the Oxford Movement as after so we see people who blurred the lines and know of High Churchmen who associated freely with liberals and Evangelicals.

There were two groups of High Churchmen who were active around the same periods of time, the Hutchinsonians and the Hackney Phalanx, the latter succeeded the former and lasted into the latter part of the 19th century. Likewise, the Non-jurors were active during this time but represent a different strand of High Churchmanship than those in the Established Church. The former group owes its existence to a John Hutchinson, who died in 1737, who sought a revival of High Church political theology based on the thought of the Caroline divines, although his followers did not find their theological and political principles from Hutchinson rigidly but followed in his footsteps. William Jones of Nayland and a host of other divines associated with this group. Unlike the characterization of the Tractarians, High Churchmen were on the ascendancy in the Church of England in the 1700’s. The Hutchinsonians occupied many high positions and towards the turn of the century, the episcopate was mostly High Church. They are noted for opposing John Locke’s political theories and the religious consequences that followed it (thus opposing the American Revolution). Like all Establishment High Churchmen, the Hutchinsonians saw an intrinsic link between the Church and State which manifested for them in the celebration of the state services in the appendix of the Book of Common Prayer, such as the commemoration of the martyrdom of King Charles I (1649) on January 30. The Hutchinsonians cultivated a “martyr cult” around the late King. The Hutchinsonians were immensely important in the latter part of the 18th century when King George III ascended the throne consequently allowing for a revival of High Church thought within the Established Church now that the fear of Jacobitism had ceased. With all other strands of High Churchmanship, the Hutchinsonians sought to be genuinely spiritual, the Evangelicals often complained of High Churchmans’, “fasting, long prayers, observance of days, [and] great show of devotion” (Nockles, 184).

The second major group of High Churchmen before the Oxford Movement was the Hackney Phalanx, which was active from the beginning of the 19th century until the 1830’s. It was a loose group of people, lay and clergy, residing in, or connected to persons, in the metropolis of London, specifically the village of Hackney (now a suburb of London). The principle leaders of the group were Joshua Watson and Henry Handley Norris. The Hackney Phalanx was known for their association with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and for their journal, The British Critic, later taken over by Anglo-Catholics. The Hackney group became more prominent as the leaders of the Hutchinsonian generation began to pass away at the beginning of the 1800’s. Unfortunately, for the High Church movement, this new generation of Hackney leaders was not comparable to their predecessors and would not be able to adequately defend High Church views from the Oxford Movement in the 1830’s and beyond. Like the Hutchinsonians, the Hackney Phalanx adopted the general High Church royalism and likewise viewed the monarchy as a sacral, quasi-sacramental office meant to nurture the Church. The Fathers and early Church were very important for the Hackney group but they did not depart from Protestant orthodoxy, although they criticized the Evangelicals’ reliance on private judgment and “Bible onlyism.” There was an exchange of words between different groups, centering on the issue of “Bible onlyism.” Marsh, a Cambridge professor, wrote in opposition to Evangelicals, saying, “For Churchmen, the Prayer Book [is] the appointed ‘clue’ for guidance through the labyrinth of Biblical interpretation” (Varley, 58). Hackney divines agreed and added more, such as the appeal to catholic antiquity, generally affirming, “the value of catholic consent in scripture interpretation.” Van Mildert and others all agreed with Marsh, when he said, “the rejection of Tradition, as a Rule of Faith, was the vital principle of the Reformation,” Van Mildert added, “[Scripture is] the only Rule of Faith: and whatever benefit may be derived from other writings, reported to us, as apostolical traditions, additional matters, illustrative of of our faith and worship; to them is to be assigned no more than a secondary rank, as being subsidiary, not essential to our Creed” (Varley, 59). Unlike Marsh, however, Van Mildert was willing to allow more authority to apostolic tradition. “Though the Word of God is itself a perfect rule of Faith, yet to the far greater portion of mankind it can only become so through some medium of human instruction. That medium the Scripture itself has pointed out to be the Christian ministry.” Even though the Church is certainly fallible because to grant it infallibility equal to Scripture would cause, “sacerdotal, intellectual, and spiritual Pride,” however, the Church is still, “that, which from age to age has borne rule, upon the ground of its pretensions to Apostolical Succession.” However, again it is important to remember that Hackney divines never attributed to the Early Fathers or the Church in general an infallible voice in guiding truth, while never denying the authority of either. “[The primitive Fathers are] not to be regarded as Divinely-inspired; since otherwise their writings would necessarily have formed a part of the Sacred Canon,” a few more statements from Varley’s book will illustrate the general attitude towards the Fathers and Tradition in a way which separates them from the later Tractarians. For example, Orthodox theology did not, “claim for them [the Fathers] any infallibility, any commission to make further revelations of the Divine will, or any absolute authority as Scripture-interpreters,” and Van Mildert denis the infallibility of General Councils in conjunction with the Articles, “The appeal still lies… from all religious instructors, to that Word itself, which was no less their Rule of Faith than ours” (Varley, 60). Van Mildert stood in what Newman called, “the school of Waterland,” which was a moderate appeal to Tradition between Puritan and Non-juror extremes. Newman later differentiated between the static view of truth in old High Churchmanship and the dynamic view taken by Roman divines. Likewise, the Hackney group opposed the spreading of Bibles by the Evangelical Bible Society without notes or commentary to point the heathen in the right direction. The Non-jurors went further in their exaltation of Tradition to an equal level with Scripture, a position which the Hackney divines noted in Tractarian writings. In relation to the Tractarians, the Hackney elders also complained that the Tractarians claimed to revive certain “lost doctrines” in the Church of England such as apostolic succession, however, High Churchmen retorted by saying that this and other doctrines had been held without doubt in the Church under their care. Hackney members such as Van Mildert and Horsley promoted the Book of Common Prayer as “conforming to Catholic antiquity,” but other High Churchmen viewed its legitimacy from the lens of Establishment, however, these were regarded as private opinion because High Churchmen universally championed liturgical conservatism. Some Hackney divines came under the influence of Non-juror Eucharistic theology, which was virtualist and espoused a propitionatory sacrifice. However, the majority adopted the receptionist position as explained in Daniel Waterland’s classic, Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist (1737), which authors such as Van Mildert contended were the proper interpretation of the Prayer Book and the Articles, likewise, the receptionist position did not advocate a material sacrifice in the Eucharist but a spiritual sacrifice in the oblation of the Church as the Body of Christ. Consequently, they rejected the later Tractarian views on the eucharist as outside Anglican orthodoxy. The Hackney Phalanx is also known for their work in English Universities, promoting High Church doctrine there and also their advocacy for the construction of new parish churches. They dominated the episcopal bench during the formative years of the Oxford Movement (1833-1845) and generally opposed the Movement. However, this was not universal for many Hackney elders appreciated the early stages of the Movement and they agreed with the Tractarians’ stance on baptism.

That defines broadly, the Hackney Phalanx’s position theologically on certain points. They were also active in society promoting High Church principles, beginning in 1787, with Jones’s Society for the Reformation of Principles and the founding of the British Critic. The Society for the Promoting of Christian Knowledge was founded in 1698, however, by the end of the 18th century it had lost most of its life. Both Norris and Watson, the leaders of the Hackney group wanted to rejuvenate the society and consequently poured the energy of the Phalanx into it. There was a controversy over the publication of a large number of Welsh Bibles for distribution which caused Evangelicals to leave the SPCK. The SPCK was not excited about encouraging “enthusiasm” in Wales, much less cooperating with Dissenters, so it lagged in the publication of the Welsh Bibles. Evangelicals had had enough and withdrew support from the SPCK. In 1799, the Religious Tract Society was founded by Joseph Hughes which published and distributed the Welsh Bibles. Later, the Society was reorganized into the British and Foreign Bible Society, which was notable for its ecumenical cooperation with Dissenters. There was much bickering between the BFBS and the SPCK due to the fact that the former allowed Dissenting ministers to join and have the same treatment as Anglican ministers. Likewise, High Churchmen saw no justification for another society, claiming that the SPCK, “was the appropriate authoritative Bible Society for Churchmen” (Varley, 68). The societies competed for membership and as the BFBS grew, the Hackney reformers fought for the SPCK to grow. The Hackney Phalanx had a special relationship with the bishops and enjoyed their blessing with the SPCK.

In 1811, the Hackney Phalanx began work with the National Society which sought to improve education for the poor and the generally provide better education for the nation. The society was founded in response to the work of Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker, who was advocating nonsectarian teaching for English Schools. The Phalanx employed Andrew Bell, an Anglican priest, to begin work on providing schools which taught the Anglican faith for the Hackney Phalanx believed that, “the national religion should be made the groundwork of national education” (Varley, 72), their work sought to provide schools which taught in accordance with the Established Church. The Society raised money for the construction of new schools and encouraged parishes to build and maintain their own schools in addition to promoting Sunday Schools.

In conjunction with their desire to build and fund more schools, the Hackney Phalanx noticed that there were not enough Established parishes in the country to provide space for the growing population. The Hackney Phalanx responded with the Church Building Society which labored in Parliament for the construction of new parishes to provide for the increasing population in addition ot looking for priests to pastor these new parishes. From its inception until 1857, the Church Building Society provided for the construction of 612 new churches and also labored for the repair and renovation of parish churches in poor condition.

This post was meant to give a brief view of what was going on in Establishment High Churchman circles in the later 18th century and early 19th to show that despite what the Tractarians claim, there was an active and vibrant High Church party which was influential in constructing schools and churches providing for the spiritual needs of the nation. Likewise, the SPCK, although bickering with BFBS, also labored for missionary activity around the Empire and within the realm.

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