The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 665 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.

But that which gave Latitudinarianism its chief notoriety, as well as its name, was a direct practical question.  The term took its origin in the efforts made in William and Mary’s reign to give such increased latitude to the formularies of the English Church as might bring into its communion a large proportion of the Nonconformists.  From the first there was a disposition to define a Latitudinarian, much as Dr. Johnson did afterwards, in the sense of ‘one who departs from orthodoxy.’  But this was not the leading idea, and sometimes not even a part of the idea, of those who spoke with praise or blame of the eminent ‘Latitudinarian’ bishops of King William’s time.  Not many were competent to form a tolerably intelligent opinion as to the orthodoxy of this or that learned prelate, but all could know whether he spoke or voted in favour of the Comprehension Bill.  Although therefore in the earlier stages of that projected measure some of the strictest and most representative High Churchmen were in favour of it, it was from first to last the cherished scheme of the Latitudinarian Churchmen, and in popular estimation was the visible badge, the tangible embodiment of their opinions.

The inclusiveness of the Reformed Church of England has never been altogether one-sided.  It has always contained within its limits many who were bent on separating themselves by as wide an interval as possible from the Church of Rome, and many on the other hand who were no less anxious that the breach of unity should not be greater than was in any way consistent with spiritual independence and necessary reforms.  The Reformation undoubtedly derived the greater part of its force and energy from the former of these two parties; to the temperate counsels of the latter it was indebted for being a movement of reform rather than of revolution.  Without the one, religious thought would scarcely have released itself from the strong bonds of a traditional authority.  Without the other, it would have been in danger of losing hold on Catholic belief, and of breaking its continuity with the past.  Without either one or the other, the English Church would not only have lost the services of many excellent men, but would have been narrowed in range, lowered in tone, lessened in numbers, character, and influence.  To use the terms of modern politics, it could neither have spared its Conservatives, though some of them may have been unprogressive or obstructionist, nor its Liberals, although the more advanced among them were apt to be rash and revolutionary.

At the opening of the eighteenth century, all notions of a wider comprehension in favour of persons who dissented in the direction of Rome, rather than of Geneva or Glasgow, were utterly out of question.  One of the most strongly-marked features in the Churchmanship of the time, was the uncompromising hostility which everywhere displayed itself against Rome.  This animosity was relieved by a mitigating influence in

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The English Church in the Eighteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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