Project Canterbury

William Law's

Defence of Church Principles:

Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor, 1717-1719.

edited by

Of the Pusey House, Oxford


Transcribed by John D Lewis
Murdoch University, Western Australia
AD 2000

The Bangor Controversy: If you know nothing of the controversy which rocked the Ecclesiastical establishment of England in the early 18th century then read this Introductory essay by Nash and Gore. Bishop Hoadly was a controversialist on the Whig side of politics in the era of the Non-jurors. The opposition he aroused among churchmen of his day, the generation following the Restoration, brought the condemnation of the Convocations of Canterbury and York on his head, and the suppression of Convocation as the Government response in defence of their champion.

Hoadly was a Latitudinarian and became Bishop of Bangor following the accession of George I to the English throne in 1714. Apart from his support of the Hanoverians and his relentless search for preferment, a search which took him successively from Bangor, to Worcester, to Salisbury and finally to the plum job of Bishop of Winchester, Hoadly is best known for the fact that he never once set foot in his diocese of Bangor. To be fair to the Bishop, the Northwest corner of Wales is a long way from London, and the revenues of such a poor diocese did not allow much entertainment at court, let alone travel to such a remote region. In addition, the diocese was full of wild hairy Welshmen who insisted—then as now—on speaking a barbaric language he could not understand and had no intention of learning.

The letters of William Law, in response to a sermon of Bp Hoadly, were published between 1717 and 1719. They are some of Law’s earliest works, written shortly after he became a Non Juror.

Page numbers are enclosed in square brackets and indicate the first word on the page. Footnotes are collected at the end, and numbered sequentially. In the original the footnotes are separately numbered for each page.—John D Lewis



Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor




Of the Pusey House, Oxford




LETTER I. ‘The Bishop of Bangor’s late Sermon and his Letter to Dr Snape in defence of it, answered in a Letter to his Lordship.’

6th ed. 1717.
7th ed. 1718.

LETTER II. ‘A second Letter to the Bishop of Bangor, wherein his Lordship’s notions of Benediction, Absolution, and Church Communion, are proved to be destructive of every principle of the Christian religion.’


LETTER III. ‘A reply to the Bishop of Bangor’s answer to the Representation of the Committee of Convocation, addressed to his Lordship.’


The three Letters form Vol. I. of the complete edition of Law’s Works in nine Vols. 1762.
The three Letters were reprinted in Vol I. of ‘The Scholar Armed,’ which reached a 2nd ed., 1800, and a 3rd ed., 1812.

The revived interest in Law’s Writings is shown by the announcement, made when this volume was forward in preparation, that all Law’s works are to be reprinted in a cheap and useful form. The editor is Mr G. Moreton, of Setley, Hants (for whom the edition is privately printed).



IT is a fact which may be realized by personal enquiry, that very few, I do not say of the public, but of the reading public—nay, I do not say of the reading public merely, but of the reading public who are also zealous Churchmen—have read William Law’s once famous letters to Bishop Hoadly. It is this fact which justifies the present edition. For undoubtedly the letters are not at present easily accessible, and it is saying very much less than the truth to say that they deserve to be had in remembrance.

1. They deserve it from the merely literary point of view. I suspect that on an impartial review of the controversial pamphlet literature of England they would be found among the dozen best specimens for wit, brilliancy, and force. They constitute an "ad hominem" argument of a Socratic kind, such as may be studied with interest and advantage irrespective of the question of the reader’s agreement, even in general, with Law’s position. Gibbon understates the case when he says that "at every weapon of attack and defence, the Non-juror [i.e., Law] on the ground which is common to both, approves himself at least equal to the prelate." Hoadly was an Anglican bishop pledged to the use of the Anglican formulas; but he was also a Latitudinarian, disparaging [8] the importance of Church communion, sacramental ordinances, episcopal ordination. On this class of subjects he had used a great deal of the sort of loose language which, one may say, has been not uncommon, nor unpopular, in most epochs of the Church of England since the Reformation. It is upon this loose language that Law brings to bear a cross-examination which is as brilliant as it is Socratic. He is not concerned with demonstrating the first principles of churchmanship, so much as with convicting the Bishop of loose thought and language, inconsistency with himself, inconsistency between his civil and ecclesiastical principles in the matter of authority, inconsistency between his own opinions and the language of the Church which he is bound to use. This cross-examination is, beyond question, a brilliant specimen of vigorous and racy rhetoric, put at the disposal of a clear-headed logic and a keen sense of the bearing of principles in all directions—it is such a specimen of rhetoric put at the service of close thought and intense feeling as a man may enjoy simply as an example of legitimate controversy, simply as an example of the play of mind, of the sort of intellectual cross-examination of which popular teachers of all sorts stand in such constant need. And the sparkle of the wit! The picture of his Lordship’s "well-instructed laity" transported back to apostolic days, and contemplating with inclination the "senseless and chimerical claim of the apostles" to confer divine grace by the laying on of hands (Letter ii. p. 82), or the sudden exclamation, "Surely your Lordship must have a mighty opinion of Naaman the Syrian," on account of his "wise remonstrance" with the absurd importance attached by the prophet Elisha to the waters of Jordan (ii. § iii.)—this is real wit, if it is also unsparing.

2. Law’s argument, then, can be appreciated by any [9] man merely for its intellectual merits, even if he be an English Churchman who more or less agrees with Hoadly. But this will require great self-restraint on his part. It will be easier for a High Churchman or an Agnostic to enjoy the reading; for, in fact, the anti-sacramentalist or anti-ecclesiastical position is hit very hard here, and, as it seems to the present editors—though they would not commit themselves to justify every one of Law’s arguments—with uniform force and substantial fairness. We do not pretend to edit these letters from no other than a literary motive. We have endeavoured to make them better known than they are as a splendid specimen of argument on behalf of Church principles: an argument which has lost hardly any of its force, as the position against which it is directed is still in full vitality. It has been recently suggested that the real insistence upon the "necessity" of Episcopal succession, and what goes with that in ecclesiastical principles, is a modern growth in the Anglican Church. But here we have a representative Anglican of the eighteenth century, an Anglican who has no doubt at all about the legitimacy of our sixteenth century Reformation, an Anglican who is always concerned to vindicate the principle of a Church authority which is none the less real for being moderate (i. 66 sqq.; iii. c. 2), an Anglican who is zealous to maintain the checks which our system provides against clerical absolutism (ii. 81, 85)—such a genuine Anglican maintaining without any hesitation the necessity of the episcopal succession and of communion with the visible Church (ii. P.S., and passim), flouting, indeed, the idea of the "invisible" Church with the most brilliant raillery (iii. c. 1 § iv.). We do not suppose any, even the extremest, disciples of the Tractarians want to go beyond the principles of William Law. Nor is he less to be claimed as a characteristic Churchman because he was a Non-juror. [10] For the tradition of churchmanship as it was at the close of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century was preserved nowhere so unimpaired as among the Non-jurors.

3. The editors of a work that is or ought to be classical are not expected to criticise or justify what they offer to the public. They do but make easily obtainable again what needs on their part neither praise nor criticism. But it is fair to William Law to point out that if he seems to use rigorist language in the first letter in speaking of the necessity of faith and Church communion, he has in view and expresses in the second letter his recognition of mercies "uncovenanted and unpromised" (ii. § ix.). Without such recognition it always seems to the present writer that it is impossible to be loyal to the fundamental truth of the. divine equity; while, on the other hand, such recognition diminishes not one whit the importance of the "Covenant," of the express and overt revelation of the will and claim and offer of God. I suppose it is the case that the idea of the universal relation of God to man, prior to and behind all "special dispensations" was that element in Law’s mind which in his latest period accounts for its becoming what Gibbon calls "darkly tinctured" with the universalistic mysticism of Jacob Boehmen.

4. It is a remark of Mark Pattison’s with reference to Joseph Scaliger’s refutation of Scioppius that "as a refutation it is most complete; but it had no success with the public. An answer never has." This generalisation would require a good deal of qualification to make it true to fact. William Law’s answer—not indeed an answer like Scaliger’s, to an attack on his person, but to an attack on his principles—obtained originally a brilliant success, and in result more or less [11] eclipsed the production which called it forth. Still the fact that it was an answer in a controversy presumably temporary, may account for its having passed into something like oblivion, from which the present issue is an attempt to rescue it.

I need only add that it was originally by the repeated request of the late Dr Liddon that I was led to contemplate an edition of these letters. In the event, however, it is my colleague Mr Nash who has practically done the work almost alone.


Epiphany 1893.



| Top | Preface | Summary |


1. Meaning of the whole matter. 2. The Deists. 3. State of the Church. 4. Law represents the then mind of the Church of England. 5. Political side of the Bangorian Controversy. 6. The Nonjurors. 7. William Law. 8. His Letters to the Bishop of Bangor. 9. Occasion of the Bangorian Controversy, Hoadly’s Preservative, and Sermon on the Nature of Christ’s Kingdom. 10. Dr Snape’s Letter. 11. Law’s answer to the Bishop. 12. Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor. 13. Result of the Controversy.

I. "HOADLY had the ill-luck," says Mr Leslie Stephen,1 "to encounter two of the ablest—probably if Bentley be excepted, the two ablest controversial writers of the time. Sherlock and Law attacked different parts of his argument with singular vigour; and in their writings and Hoadly’s we may find whatever deserves to survive the general wreck." There would be use in republishing Law’s letters to Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor, were it only that they contain a brilliant survey of that famous Bangorian Controversy which brought such disaster to the Church. But indeed the letters have also a present value, for, if this controversy itself died, it did not die childless. We still believe that it was God’s method to restore mankind to Himself and their true life by establishing on earth the kingdom of God. And here is raised the whole matter of what is meant by the kingdom of God on earth. Is it, or is it not, an organised society with a definite constitution administered by rulers, nominated indeed by the people, but commissioned only from above, who, by [14] Christ’s appointment, use divinely given powers for man’s salvation? Men controvert still. We who hold that it is such a society are not allowed to forget that this, as well as the other articles of our creed, demands perpetual restatement to generation after generation of the children of the kingdom. For they keep asking, ‘What mean ye by this service ?’ And there are never lacking men to push forward and answer as this Bishop of Bangor answered, ‘In truth we mean little enough.’ This is how Hoadly’s position is interpreted by the above-mentioned writer, one who is friendly to his point of view: "He is lowering the priesthood as he had formerly lowered the Monarchy, to the ordinary level of humanity. He is striking at the heart of sacerdotalism. A priest is one who claims divine authority for his words, whose privileges are secured by a divine grant, and who can wield certain powers in virtue of his sacred character. Hoadly substantially denies the validity of these claims. Though forced to admit that Christ and the Apostles enjoyed supernatural powers and privileges, he denies, like the other rationalists of the time, that those powers had been transmitted to their successors."2 "Every vestige of supernatural endowment is stripped off the priesthood; the power of the keys is an absurdity, no magical influence remains in church ceremonials"3 "With the claim to supernatural privileges goes naturally, the claim to a supernatural monopoly of truth, for faith in any church can be no more necessary to salvation than submission to its ordinances.... Sincerity, therefore, is the only moral duty connected with faith. A man is not bound to accept certain opinions, but to accept those opinions which commend themselves to his unbiassed reason. God, he argued in [15] the ‘Preservative,’ cannot favour a man because he belongs to a particular communion, but because he has chosen his communion honestly."4

II This was in fact one struggle in the general war which Rationalism at the time was levying against the kingdom of God. Without were the Deists assaulting the whole idea of a Revelation, of any order of things being more divine than any other. "Christianity is not mysterious," said Toland. Tindal is soon to join in with his "Christianity as old as the Creation; or, the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature." Natural religion is all that men want. "The natural law of right and duty, argued the Deists, is so absolutely perfect that God could not add anything to it. It is commensurate with all the real relations in which man stands. To suppose that God has created artificial relations, and laid upon man positive precepts, is to take away the very notion of morality"5 By their doctrines of the Fall, of miracles, of eternal judgment, said Shaftesbury, the divines blaspheme man and Nature and God. There was war at the gates, and within were the Arians under Clark conspiring to betray their King’s divinity. And here it seemed to churchmen was another traitor, with reasonings in his mouth borrowed direct from the Deists. He is by name coupled with the Deist Toland in a paper styled "An Introduction to Bishop of Bangor’s intended Collection of Authorities, recommended to the consideration of his Lordship, Mr Pillonière, and Mr Toland, by a Member of the late Committee." Speaking of the "Rights of the Christian church" by the famous Deist Tindal, Law says to Hoadly, "You have not one notion I can recollect that [16] has given offence to the world but what seems taken from that pernicious book." It was a bishop of the Church confederate with the Church’s foes saying in effect, If there must needs be a Revelation, let it be a code and stay shut up in a book; if the miraculous be granted, let it be to the Founder and His fellows and there let it end; if there has to be a kingdom, keep it well out of the way, do not let us have it about now, let it be a kingdom not of or in this world.’ Hoadly was obnoxious enough already to a church which for the most part was High and Tory; theologically, for he was the declared friend of the Arian Clark, and had for his ally Dr Sykes, who defended Arian subscription to the Articles; politically, for he was the clerical mouthpiece of the Whigs and the favourite of the Hanoverian Court. This sermon of his filled up the cup of wrath, and there was a rush to suppress him. But it was not Hoadly that was suppressed. If the Bangorian Controversy were forgotten for all else, it would be remembered for this, that the Church, in her attempt to judge her officer, fell foul of the Government, and Convocation was suppressed for nigh a century and a half.

III. The Government interfered, judging, and with much reason, that political interests were at stake, and once more since her reform had the Church of England to thank her own stubborn political temper for the blighting of a great religious revival. For these attacks on the Church must not be thought to have been courted by her helplessness or decay. On the contrary, it was on one of the brightest periods of her history that the stroke of judgment fell.6 Scarce ever had her power in [17] the nation been stronger, and for years Walpole and his fellow-statesmen were influenced by disturbing memories of 1710, when the cry of "the Church and Sacheverell" had wrecked the Whig ministry. To Nonconformists like Dr Calamy, their cause seemed to be almost hopeless. And abroad also, perhaps, never have her claims gained such respectful consideration as was now yielded by Protestants and Latins and Easterns alike. It was a time when the Sorbonne doctors, Du Pin and De Girardin, were treating with Archbishop Wake for a reunion of the Gallican and Anglican Churches, and Courayer was writing in defence of Anglican orders. Unofficially too, but with the warm approval of the Czar, the Non-jurors were negociating for the same end with the Oriental Patriarchs. The Prussian Lutherans, led by Dr Jablonski, had gained the king’s consent to the introduction of the Anglican Liturgy; and on being told by the Prussian ambassador that the English clergy regarded Episcopacy as an essential condition of union, were prepared to receive the succession from the Anglican bishops. Nor was the appearance of strength and vigour deceptive: it was the outward manifestation of a very deep and real spiritual recovery. Queen Anne’s conscientious churchmanship had been gradually replacing the Latitudinarian bishops of King William’s reign by an order of men whose learning and godliness earned the respect of all classes. The Church, too, had been asserting against reluctant archbishops and statesmen her right to govern herself through her own synod of Convocation, in place of being governed through Parliament or by Royal Injunctions. And as the Church was becoming better ruled and more free to take corporate action, so also were her people more alive to divine things. The frequency of weekly Communion and of [18] daily services, (in 1714 we are told there were sixty-five churches in London which had daily prayers,)7 marked and fed a revival of worship, which again bore fruit in works of charity and a purer morality. It was the time when some of the greatest of the Church’s charitable and educational and missionary institutions, such as the S.P.G. and S.P.C.K., were founded. Especially was it the day of those many guilds and societies for prayer and holy living which had already done so much for the Church, and after this time kept the embers of faith smouldering through the cold night, till the Methodist Philistine spirit blew upon them and kindled the flame again.8

IV. Blemishes and faults there were, yet perhaps to no period since her reform could churchmen point with more pride and say, "This is what our Church desires to be to the English nation." But if the Church of Anne’s time worthily represents the aspirations of the Church of England, so also do William Law’s letters represent that Church’s mind regarding the ministry and sacraments, It was the Non-juror not the bishop who spoke what the Church wanted said. His letters were read with the greatest glee by churchmen, and went through edition after edition. He is taunted with holding a brief for Convocation; a pamphlet of the day by "a free thinker of Oxford," styles him "the Rev. Mr Law, Counsel for the Committee of Convocation, and the two famous Universities, in a cause depending [19] between them and the Bishop of Bangor." And this has its interest to-day. It has been loudly declared that to speak of "Episcopacy as the only lawful form of Church government," and "as necessary to the validity of the sacraments" is "an entirely novel doctrine in our Church, dating from Oxford somewhere about the year 1840." If the Church of Queen Anne’s day may speak for the Church of England, and if William Law may speak for that Church, then these letters will help to lift that doctrine at all events a century nearer to the real date of its acceptance by the Church of England.

V. But beyond other faults and blemishes there was the one sore disease which amid all the Church’s vigour was tainting her springs of life. It was that political temper, "that unhappy alliance of religion with politics" whereby, as Bishop Lightfoot says,9 "the divine right of settled orderly government, as taught by S. Paul, was travestied in the divine right of kings, even of tyrants, as held by churchmen of the Stuart period. The rude shock which it received by the Revolution of 1688 and the non-juring schism was needed to loosen its hold on the mind of the Church." Loosened it might be, but it still was an awful affliction. A bond of iron union had been forged far back in English history, riveted in Hooker’s theory, "sealed by Laud’s compact with absolutism": and until it should be exchanged for honourable alliance, the Church’s life was always in danger of being crushed in that hard embrace. It daunts us to see the changes in the character of the bishops, what good Anne could do with good bishops, what harm again the Georges with bad bishops. Doubtless historical events had forced churchmen to some kind of compromise. It was impossible since [20] the Revolution to hold as absolutely as before to divine right and passive obedience. But this controversy seems to show how difficult it was both to churchmen and their opponents to realise that the Christian and civil kingdoms are not one and the same. Hoadly denied the divine right of kings: it seemed to. him inevitable to deny the divine rights of the order of bishops. In the "Preservative" he complains that what the Non-jurors give to the prince with one hand they take away with the other by exalting bishops. It would be equally true to say that what the Church claimed in divine prerogative she threw away by identifying her claims with those of one particular form or political Government. There were two questions at issue here, and a modern churchman would probably feel divided in sympathy, because the two were treated as one. He would side with Hoadly against the Tory churchman, as he maintains the liberty of the citizen. He would be for the churchman against Hoadly when the latter asserts the boundless right of the subject to remodel the Christian kingdom.

It adds much to the present value of William Law’s letters that he does separate so unmistakeably the two issues. He is content, he says in the second letter, to leave the political aspect to be dealt with by Sherlock, Dean of Chichester. In the first letter he hints that even if the Stuarts be Papists, yet Papists have been known to turn Protestants, or even should they not, all Papists are not such zealots as to endanger the Reformed Church. In the third letter he rallies the bishop on the fertility of his zeal for the Revolution and he derides the idea of the Church’s authority being based on laws of the State. It may indeed, he thinks, be reasonably supported by State laws, but it overrides them in case of conflict. But in general, as a Non-juror [21] and in disagreement with the order of the State, he avoids the question. Moreover, the recent severities against the Non-jurors perhaps made it prudent for him to be not more explicit. The Bangorian controversy on its political side resolved itself largely into a battle over the Test and Corporation Act, and here Sherlock was the chief Church combatant.

VI. It is curious that the Non-jurors should have contributed to shake the Church out of its servitude to kings, for it was their own scruple for divine right which drove them into schism. The Church had been roused to struggle against both the tyranny and the Popery of James II. But 1688 and the passing of the crown to William III. brought fresh complications.10 The officers of the Church were called upon to swear allegiance to the new king. Most of them complied, many lightly enough it may be, many judging that they had only pledged themselves to loyalty to the de facts monarch, and arguing as did the Bishop of Carlisle, that "whenever a sovereign de facto is universally submitted to by all the three estates, I must believe that person to be the lawful and rightful monarch of the kingdom." But there were others of the clergy who held that nothing had released them from their oaths to King James. "They were ready," said Lathbury, "to conduct themselves as peaceable citizens though they could not promise to do so under oath." The intensity of their repugnance may be gathered from what the old Bishop of Worcester said as he lay dying: "If my heart do not deceive me, and God’s grace do not fail me, I think I could suffer at a stake rather than take this oath." The Government was counselled by many to pass them over; for "their refusal," says [22] Hallam, "was not so dangerous to the government of William III. and George I. as the false submission of less sincere men," and it was undesirable to proceed to extremities when among the nine recusant bishops were men so revered as Bishop Ken, or as Lake, one of the famous seven imprisoned by James in the Tower. But the Government, either misjudging the strength of their convictions, or afraid to be lenient, would make no terms. All who would not swear were suspended on August 1, 1690, and six months later, February 1, 1691, the bishops and four hundred clergy were deprived. So began the deplorable Non-juror schism. In 1710, when all the deprived bishops had died or had resigned, there was a movement towards reunion. Dodwell, Nelson, and others did come back. But most would not: the bad blood engendered would not suffer the wound to heal. With all desire to be fair, as Lathbury says, "our sympathies cannot be of the same character with the later Non-jurors, who continued the separation on principles which were repudiated by such men as Ken, Frampton, Dodwell, Nelson, and Brokesby." The separatists perpetuated their succession till 1779, when the last regular bishop died. For long years the party exercised an influence out of proportion to its numerical strength, and turned away from the Church the love and service of some of the most learned and devout men in the land.

VII. William Law had only a short time been a Nonjuror. On the accession of George I. there was a fresh summons to take an oath of allegiance, and an oath abjuring the Pretender. These he did not feel able to take, especially the latter. "What can be more heinously wicked," he writes to his brother,11 "than heartily [23] to wish the success of a person upon the account of his right, and at the same time, in the most solemn manner, in the presence of God, and as you hope for mercy, to swear that he has no right at all." He understood what his refusal would cost him. He was a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and it meant the loss of his fellowship; he was a priest, and it meant the loss of his power to minister. "My prospect," he says sadly, "is indeed melancholy enough; …. the benefits of my education seem partly at an end; …. I expected to have had a greater share of worldly advantages than what I am now likely to enjoy"; and he begs his brother, "Say as many comfortable things as you can to my mother." He was some thirty years of age when he first became known as a writer, with these letters to Hoadly, which at once placed him in the front rank of English controversialists. Ten years after this he wrote the "Christian Perfection," and his famous book the "Serious Call," and about that time became tutor in the family of the Gibbons, to which the historian of the Roman empire belonged. In 1740 he retired to his native place of King’s Cliff, in Bedfordshire,12 where he lived till his death in 1761, engaged in prayer, theological study and writing, and works of education and charity. His later mind and writing were considerably affected by Böhme, the mystic, but Mr Overton thinks he has scarcely received justice,13 and at least it may be pleaded that in the dissensions among the Non-jurors he stoutly upheld the Church of Eiigland use against the "usagers," and to the last was constant at service and Comrnunion in his parish church. And we should think kindly of one who did such service as he for the kingdom of God, who struggled so well for the [24] constitution and order of that kingdom as he did in these letters, and who in his life and writings strove to lift high the pattern of holiness for all Christians. By no means did he influence High churchmen only. "The great Mr Law," George Whitfield the Calvinist always called him, while he was also the teacher of John Wesley, the enemy of Calvinism. "William Law begat Methodism," said Warburton; "Mr Law was their parent," said Dr Trapp of the Methodists. Wesley himself admitted there was truth in this, and spoke with great respect of his old master even when they had parted; Wesley’s biographers also, Coke and More, in 1792, write that William Law was "the great forerunner of the revival which followed, and did more to promote it than any other individual whatever."

VIII. Law’s three letters had great success on their appearance. Among the multitudinous pamphleteers against Hoadly, he is singled out by Pyle for answer in his "Vindication of the Bishop of Bangor," because "his was thought to be the strongest and most impartial piece that has appeared against his lordship."14 Dean Sherlock congratulates Hoadly on having had "discretion enough to let some things go unanswered, and particularly Mr Law’s two letters; a writer so considerable, that I know but one good reason why he does not answer him."15 Hoadly, in fact, never did answer them. They were reprinted in the collection of his works in 1762; and again in the "Scholar armed ,against the Errors of the Time; or, a Collection of Tracts on the Principles and Evidence of Christianity, the Constitution of the Church, and Authority of Civil Government" (edited by Jones of Nayland, third edition, 1812, and published by "A Society for the [25] Reformation of Principles"). The preface says, "The use of the Church, and the sin and danger of schism ought to be better understood by the learned and more diligently taught among the people than hath been the custom of late years. Nothing can be more effective for the purpose than the three letters of the Rev. Wm. Law against Bishop Hoadly, which, though incomparable for truth of argument, brightness of wit, and purity of English, and honoured with the highest admiration at their first appearance, are now in a manner forgotten." This seems to be the last time they were printed, though their keenness and force have been admired since by men like Dean hook and F. D. Maurice, and Bishop Ewing would compare them for power, wit, and learning with Pascal’s "Lettres Provinciales."16

IX. The Non-jurors were the immediate occasion of the Bangorian controversy. The death of Queen Anne in 1714 found the Tories unprepared with their measures for a Stuart restoration, and the superior energy of the Whigs secured the succession to the House of Hanover. But immediately, in 1715, there was a Jacobite rising in the highlands. Among the treasonable literature seized in the course of suppressing this rising were papers by Dr Hickes, non-juring bishop of the second generation, published after his death, which charged the Church of England with schism.17 It does not appear that the Non-jurors, as a body, were implicated in the movement, but they thus incurred the special hostility of the Government. A champion of the Crown and of the Church arose in the person of Hoadly, [26] who for past services had been raised in 1715 to the post of King’s Chaplain, and the same year had been made Bishop of Bangor.

In 1716 he published his famous "Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Non-jurors, both in Church and State; or, an Appeal to the Conscience and Common-sense of the Christian Laity." He thus states its three parts in the Preface: "The first relates to our present civil establishment, and endeavours to state the cause between the Protestant branches of our royal family and the Popish. The second maintains the right of all civil Governments to preserve themselves against persons in ecclesiastical offices as well as others. The third concerns the very vitals of true religion, and is in truth the cause between Jesus Christ and those who, professing themselves His followers and His ministers, substitute themselves in His place and assume the authority of their great Legislator and judge." Leaving aside now the question of the Protestant succession, and of the validity of lay deprivation of bishops, or the relation of Church and State, it is with the third of these that we are here concerned,—the constitution, ministry, and ordinances of the Church. He sums up,18 "The result of the whole is this. God is true and just and good .... He cannot put into the hands of weak fallible men privileges and powers which cannot be exercised as they ought to be without infallibility. He reserves to Himself the authoritative dispensation of His favour and of His anger .... From all which it follows that the benefits of His ordinances, His benediction, His absolution are in His own hands, come from Himself .... When you are secure of your integrity before God, and of your sincere disposition to search [27] after His will, and to receive the truth in the love of truth, whensoever and from whomsoever it is offered, this will, I confess, lead you, as it ought all of us, not to be afraid of the terrors of man, or the vain words of regular and uninterrupted successions," &c.

Hoadly followed up his "Preservative" by a sermon on the text, "My kingdom is not of this world," preached before the king, March 31, 1717. Words change their meaning, he says, religion, worship, prayer, love of God have got a meaning now very different from their sense in Scripture. But no phrase more cries out for restoration to its true Christian value than this one of the "kingdom of Christ." This is the same thing as the "Church of God," and the text will enable us to gather two fundamental truths concerning it.

1. That it is "not of this world," tells us there are no vicegerents of the kingdom amongst men, no visible human authority, because indeed Christ is king, and is Himself sole lawgiver, sole judge over His subjects.

2. Since it is "not of this world," both its laws and the sanctions of them must be of corresponding nature. "The laws are declarations relating to the favour of God in another state after this." The sanctions cannot be earthly rewards, or fines and prisons, or even the "lesser negative discouragements which belong to human society." "As soon as ever you hear of the engines of this world," you must think that "so far the kingdom of this world takes place." It is especially necessary to resist those who "contend for such an authority as indispensably obliges all around them to unity of profession."

X. The fury of the churchmen burst out in a storm of pamphlets. By July of the same year no less than seventy-four had appeared on one side or the other. [28] Dr Snape, Provost of Eton and Chaplain in Ordinary to the king, immediately wrote a clever "Letter to the Bishop of Bangor occasioned by his Sermon before the King." It is the one mentioned by William Law; in one year it ran through seventeen editions, and produced at once seven replies. The bishop might seem, he says (p. 6), to grant "entire freedom in the matter of religion and conscience. Notwithstanding, I shall proceed as with a due regard to your episcopal character, so with some to my own safety, and not presume too far that none of the ‘engines of this world’ would be made use of against me." He then attacks the bishop’s account of prayer, the Church, church authority, his use of the word ‘absolute,’ and makes the home-thrust that (p. 31). the bishop’s enthusiasm for the Protestant settlement should be tempered by the reflection that here is religion degraded with the reward of an earthly crown.

XI. William Law’s answer is briefly this: (1) To make sincerity the sole criterion of religion is not only to dissolve the Church as an organised society, but to overthrow Christianity itself. "I hope, my Lord, there is mercy in store for all sorts of people, however erroneous in their way of worshipping God, but cannot believe that to be a sincere Christian is to be no more in the favour of God than to be a sincere Deist or a sincere destroyer of Christians." (2) As to the authority of the Church: to deny to her absolute authority is to deny what she never claimed. But the bishop’s arguments tell equally against all authority. Yet the appeal to Scripture shows that church authority, though limited, is real. (3) On the sacraments and positive institutions of the Church, it is clear that a crushing reply is to hand when the assailant of them is a bishop who has had to submit to these [29] rites and is pledged to administer them. And Law does not spare him: "When people should come to your Lordship for confirmation, your Lordship ought, I humbly conceive, to make them this declaration—‘My friends, for the sake of decency and order I have taken upon me the episcopal character, and according to custom which has long prevailed against commonsense, am now to lay my hands upon you. But I beseech you, as you have any regard to the truth of the Gospel and to the honour of God, not to imagine there is anything in this action more than a useless empty ceremony.’" Law is fond of ad hominem argument and the reductio ad absurdum; but, of course, it is the power of his positive defence of the Church from reason and Scripture and custom which gives his letters their main value.

XII. It must be admitted that Law hits very hard. It was an anxious moment; men were angry and meant to hurt. Also the polemic of the time was apt to be rough. Law’s warfare would show mild beside some of the tracts of this day. "Bang as bang can, or wo be to the Convocation," write Hoadly’s partisans, or "A Vindication of the Bishop of Bangor in answer to the Eruptions of Mr Law"; while Hoadly’s experience recalled such papers as "A Letter of Advice presented to Mr Hoadly, with an abundance of that sort of humility for which his own writings are remarkable," or "Tom of Bedlam’s Answer to his brother Benjamin Hoadly."

But there was another reason why Law should strike with all his might, though it was generally conceded that he did not strike dishonourably. He would feel he had to do with a Goliath of controversy. Hoadly had been a warrior from his youth, and wrote with a force which made even Waterland, who would not [30] agree with him, recommend his writings as a model, saying, "Hoadly is very exact and judicious, and both his sense and style just, close, and clear."19 He first entered the lists in an onslaught upon the Dissenters with his "Reasonableness of Conformity to the Church of England," perhaps by force of circumstances the most churchly thing he ever wrote. In 1705 he drew down upon him the censure of Convocation by a sermon preached before the Lord Mayor (mentioned at the end of Law’s first letter) in which he inveighs against the apathy of Englishmen in suffering Popery to flourish without and within the Church of England. By 1710 we find him established in the Church of S. Peter’s Poor as leader of the Whig and Latitudinarian party against the Tory high churchmen, whose popular spokesman was the violent Dr Sacheverell. "Chuse which you please; or, Dr Sacheverell and Mr Hoadly drawn to the life; being a brief representation of the opinion of each party" is the name of a contemporary tract.

And Law would be moved to grip tight, because Hoadly had the reputation of being not only a clever but a very slippery adversary. It is difficult to read his various contributions to this controversy without admitting suspicions as to his straightforwardness. In the third letter Law taxes him, and with good warrant, with two distinct evasions concerning the Church and absolution: he also grimly hints that if sincerity is the only title to divine favour, it is a bad case for the bishop. In like manner Dean Sherlock says ironically,20 "I shall now show his Lordship’s opinion from the sense which his words seem to me to convey; not intending [31] hereby to preclude his Lordship from any other sense or meaning which he shall think fit to insist on." And Dr Snape indignantly protests,21 "Let me beseech your Lordship to consider whether this shifting way of writing, this art of being misunderstood, with one meaning for your reader to run away with, and another to bring yourself off by if called in question, is agreable to the qualifications required of a minister of Christ." Especially over the word absolute there was furious recrimination, and great was the excitement in London when the Bishop of Carlisle was swept into the fray, and publicly stated in the newspapers that the word was not originally in Hoadly’s sermon, but had been inserted at Dean Kennet’s suggestion as a fastness into which he might retreat in case of danger.22 Law alludes to this more than once.

And the deepest reasons would make earnest Christians burn with the desire for Hoadly’s utter silencing, for it was their profound conviction that he was a veiled Deist and Socinian who, under cover of a zeal for religious freedom, masked his disbelief in Christ and Christianity altogether. It was a conviction not merely begotten of party rancour. In calm years, when Hoadly was Bishop of Winchester, it was said by Archbishop Secker of the Monthly Reviewers that if they were Christians it was "secundum usum Winton."23 And the presumption becomes of the strongest when his royal patrons say the same thing. If the Court was willing to protect and promote so useful an adherent in the Church camp, it was scarcely from reverence for his person. In George II.’s reign, one evening in 1735, Lord Hervey tells us in his [32] Memoirs,24 Queen Caroline had been bantering him on the severe handling met with by Bishop Hoadly’s late treatise on the Sacrament. (This had been published anonymously; it is called "A plain Account of the Lord’s Supper," and is quite rationalistic. Amongst various answers was one by his old enemy William Law.) The queen explained to the king she only "wished Lord Hervey to know that his friend’s book had not met with that general approbation he had pretended. ‘A pretty fellow for a friend,’ said the king, turning to Lord Hervey. ‘Pray, what is it charms you in him?’ (Here follow some personalities.) ‘Or do you admire his conscience, that makes him put out a book that till he was Bishop of Winchester, for fear his conscience might hurt his preferment, he kept locked up in his chest? Is his conscience so much improved beyond what it was when he was Bishop of Bangor, or Hereford, or Salisbury (for this book I hear was written so long ago), or was it that he would not risk losing a shilling a year more while there was anything better to be got than what he had…. It is very modest in a canting hypocrital knave to be crying ‘the kingdom of Christ is not of this world’ at the same time that he as Christ’s ambassador receives £6ooo or £7ooo a year. But he is just the same thing in the Church that he is in the Government, and as ready to receive the best pay for preaching the Bible though he does not believe a word of it as he is to take favours from the crown, though by his republican spirit and doctrine he would be glad to abolish its power.’ During the whole time the king was speaking the queen, by smiling and nodding in proper places, endeavoured all she could, but in [33] vain, to make her court by seeming to approve everything he said and well indeed might she approve it, for it was almost word for word what she had said to Lord Hervey on this subject in the summer when the book first came out." It was this same Queen Caroline who controlled ecclesiastical appointments and mainly secured for Hoadly his successive promotions. Indeed wrong beliefs would rather commend him to her as they did Dr Clark, for Lord Chesterfield said of her that25 "after puzzling herself with all the whimsies and fantastical speculations of different sects, she fixed herself ultimately on Deism, believing in a future state."

XIII. The result of the conflict was a great triumph for Hoadly. The sermon was on March 31. Convocation met on May 3, and the Lower House at once appointed a committee to deal with the bishop. In a week it had agreed on its report—that the ‘Preservative’ and sermon (1) subverted all government and discipline in the Church of Christ, and (2) impugned the royal supremacy and authority of the legislature to enforce religion by civil sanctions. The report was accepted nem. con., and sent up to the bishops. If the second charge was meant to blacken Hoadly in the eyes of the Government, it signally failed. Convocation was suppressed, four king’s chaplains, who had written against Hoadly—namely, Snape, Sherlock, Hare, and Mosse—were dismissed, and Hoadly, delivered from immediate peril, tranquilly set to work to indite a very long ‘Answer to the representation of the Committee of Convocation,’ which is criticised by Law in his third letter. A dedication, addressed to Hoadly in after years, and printed with the collection of his works,26 [34] thus describes the event. After recalling how Hoadly’s defence of his country’s freedom had earned him the public thanks of Parliament, but at the same time weighted him with the enmity of many evil men, it proceeds: "However, it was not long before these disturbers of our peace—these sworn enemies of British liberty—received a fresh provocation in a sermon preached before the king at S. James’, and published by his special command, intituled, ‘The Nature of the Kingdom of Christ.’ Herein you had proved, beyond all reasonable contradiction, that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; a doctrine new and surprising even to the greatest part of the clergy. What could your Lordship now expect but judgment without mercy? .... Here your enemies lost all patience, and instead of reason and argument, discharged against you their whole artillery of affronts and indignities? ... Your Lordship’s enemies did not intend things should stop here. The Lower House of Convocation appointed a committee, consisting of Dr Mosse, Dr Sherlock, Dr Friend, Mr Spratt, Dr Cannon, and Dr Biss, to draw up a representation to be laid before the Upper House, concerning several dangerous positions advanced by your Lordship, at that time Bishop of Bangor, which representation was approved of by the Lower House, and was voted to be entered in their books nemine contradicente. The attention of the public was engaged, and persons of the highest rank were extremely solicitous for your protection. And here also your Lordship had the honour to have one of the best, the wisest, the bravest men that ever the world produced appear on your behalf: I mean the late King George, who was graciously pleased by his royal writ to the Archbishop, of Canterbury to prorogue the Convocation, whereby the designs of your enemies were at once defeated;—a [35] noble instance of royal justice and paternal affection to his subjects.... His generous soul was inflamed by all those sentiments of humanity and compassion with which Christianity never fails to inspire its real votaries. He could not forbear voluntarily and unasked to interpose in behalf of an innocent and abused subject. This single instance of his royal virtue will ever be remembered in the British annals to his immortal honour, for which generations to come will call him blessed."

The king has not always been called blessed on this score; for through him two great evils befel the Church, and so befel England. The Church lost her Parliament and all power of corporate action, not to regain it till 1852; and Hoadly, after being six years Bishop of Bangor, during all which time he was never inside his diocese, was raised up and up from Bangor to Hereford, to Salisbury, and finally to the great See of Winchester, where he died at the ripe age of eighty-five, full of years, riches, and dignity. As to the years which followed, after taking account of the motives which might colour the history, it is still hard to doubt that it was a dark time, when godliness was put to shame, and therefore wickedness abounded.

Note.-For facility of reference and reading, the letters have been divided into sections, and the argument has been summarized. Also the quotations from Hoadly have been verified, and the pages given in the collection of his works, 1772 (three vols. folio). The reprint of Law’s letters is taken from the first editions of 1717 for the first and second letters, and 1719 for the third. They do not appear to have been altered in subsequent editions.

1 "English Thought in the Eighteenth Century," x. 31.

2 Ibid. x. 32.

3 Ibid. x. 33.

4 Ibid. x. 34.

5 Mark Pattison, "Essays and Reviews" ‘Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750,’ p. 325, 10th ed.

6 See Hore, "Church of England, William III. to Victoria," Pt. 1. chap. ix.: The Church at its height. Perry, "English Church History," Vol. II. chap. xxxix.; III. chap. iii. Abbey and Overton, "English Church in the Eighteenth Century," chaps. i. v. x.

7 Sixty-five out of the two hundred and one, as given by Paterson in his minute review of all the London churches, ‘Ritas Londinensis,’ 1714.

8 Woodward, ‘minister of Popler,’ in his ‘Account of the Religious Societies of London,’ 1696, describes their rise and growth during the twenty years past, their defence of the Church of England against Popery and particular innovations, their efforts for the reformation of manners. Chap. v. gives the ‘Order’ or rule of life of these earlier Methodists. They were not peculiar to London.

9 John Cosin, "Leaders of the Northern Church."

10 See Lathbury, "History of the Non-jurors," chap. ii.

11 Overton, " Life of William Law," chap. ii.

12 (actually, Northamptonshire JDL)

13 "Life of William Law." For general account of his mysticism, chap. xxii. and pp. 216, 398, 418, 437; for his wide influence, chap. vi.

14 Overton, "Life," chap. iii.

15 Hoadly, "Works," ii. 694.

16 Overton, "Life of Law," chap. iii.

17 Hoadly, "Works," Vol. II.: Account of Bangorian Controversy, p. 381 et seq.

18 "Works," ii. p. 595, cf. 588.

19 Mark Pattison, "Essays and Reviews," p. 338.

20 "Considerations occasioned by a Postscript from the Bp. of Bangor to the Dean of Chichester," p. 8.

21 Second Letter, p. 39.

22 Hoadly, Works, II. p. 429 et seq.

23 Quoted Hervey "Memoirs," ii. p. 47.

24 Hervey, "Memoirs of the Court of King George II.," chap. xxi.; see Hore, "Church of England," Part II. chap. i., to whom the reference is due.

25 Hervey "Memoirs," Preface, lxv.

26 Works I. xxxi.—It was appended to the art. Hoadly, in Biog. Britt.

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