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Reformation without end reinterprets the English Reformation. No one in eighteenth-century England thought that they lived during ‘the Enlightenment’. Instead, they thought that they still faced the religious, intellectual and political problems unleashed by the Reformation, which began in the sixteenth century. They faced those problems, though, in the aftermath of two bloody seventeenth-century political and religious revolutions.
This book is about the ways the eighteenth-century English debated the causes and consequences of those seventeenth-century revolutions. Those living in post-revolutionary England conceived themselves as living in the midst of the very thing which they thought had caused the revolutions: the Reformation. The reasons for and the legacy of the Reformation remained hotly debated in post-revolutionary England because the religious and political issues it had generated remained unresolved and that irresolution threatened more civil unrest. For this reason, most that got published during the eighteenth century concerned religion. This book looks closely at the careers of four of the eighteenth century’s most important polemical divines, Daniel Waterland, Conyers Middleton, Zachary Grey and William Warburton. It relies on a wide range of manuscript sources, including annotated books and unpublished drafts, to show how eighteenth-century authors crafted and pitched their works.
This introductory chapter uses the Thomas Woolston and Thomas Rundle controversies of the 1720s and 1730s to introduce the book’s historiographical framework. This chapter argues that the eighteenth-century English saw themselves as living within the Reformation, which is why religion predominated the era’s print culture. The English Reformation spurred a long conversation, one which was fundamentally about what constituted truth. Eighteenth-century polemical divinity grappled both with what constituted truth and with the consequences of divisions over what constituted truth. For this reason, some during the eighteenth century feared that they lived in an unending Reformation.
Part I (chapters 2-5) focus on Daniel Waterland. This introductory chapter to Part I offers a sense of eighteenth-century orthodoxy’s doctrinal content and its modes of argument. It does so by sketching the lineaments of Daniel Waterland’s theological approach. It begins by considering Waterland’s 1710 Advice to a young student, a compulsory educational manual for eighteenth-century Magdalene College students. The bulk of the chapter anatomizes the arguments in a set of archidiaconal visitation charges. His message in them was clear: truth is constant; some doctrines are fundamental to Christianity; and those fundamentals are to be found in the primitive sources of the Christian past rightly interpreted. This chapter establishes which truths the eighteenth-century orthodox thought were constant and how they could be recovered in their original purity from the primitive Christian past.
This chapter concerns God’s nature. It focuses especially on the Christological debates between Daniel Waterland and his era’s most influential Christologically heterodox polemical divine, Samuel Clarke. Firstly, it examines how Newtonianism or Lockeanism could produce different conceptions of God. Secondly, it anatomizes the competing historical narratives which demonstrated how and why the ancient, primitively pure of Christian thinking about God got perverted. Finally, it explains why charges of imposture were so prevalent in eighteenth-century English polemical divinity.
This chapter concerns the sources of the triune Christian God’s revealed truth about himself and his creation. In particular, it anatomizes the debates over deism between Waterland and Matthew Tindal, The Tindal-Waterland debate was not simply about how God could be known but about God’s relation to and scope of action within his creation. In Waterland’s defence of the Bible’s truth, he argued for a radically transcendent God, one who could do whatever he wanted; whenever and wherever he wanted; and for reasons that might be wholly inscrutable to human beings. To Tindal, this was an irrational — and, hence, an immoral — argument. This chapter explains why Tindal and Waterland argued as they did. Locating their dispute within eighteenth-century debates over deism, this chapter also shows how Waterland worked out his thinking about Tindal’s Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730) in the margins of his own copy of the work. His initial objections focused on the threat Tindal’s work posed to the nation’s morality. In Scripture Vindicated, though, Waterland confronted what he took to be the underlying hermeneutical challenges posed by Tindal’s work.
This chapter concerns the ways in which the Christian God effected men’s salvation. It reconstructs the Eucharistic debates between Waterland and Benjamin Hoadly. It locates those debates within wider debates during the 1730s about whether or not to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts. It shows how those sacramental debates got refracted through the memory of the seventeenth century which had produced the Test and Corporation Acts. Finally, it demonstrates why Waterland thought that when responding to Hoadly he was merely reiterating Thomas Cranmer’s Reformation-era sacramental theology, which itself had reiterated the pure sacramental theology of the primitive church.
Part II of this book (chapters 6-9) concern Conyers Middleton. This introductory chapter to Part II sets the scene for this story by considering feud between Middleton and Richard Bentley and its implications for Middleton’s later career. It illustrates two salient points. Firstly, it shows how seemingly scholarly debates — Middleton’s dispute with Bentley over Bentley’s proposed edition of the New Testament in Greek and Latin — were sometimes really just proxy wars in more parochial political squabbles. Secondly, it shows how polemical divines used the law to coerce and punish their polemical rivals.
Having lost a legal battle with Richard Bentley, Conyers Middleton went to Rome for a year and a half during the mid 1720s. During his time in Italy, Middleton developed a view of Christian antiquity at odds with the mainstream orthodox one. This chapter examines both the evolution of Middleton’s stance orthodoxy to heterodoxy and the perceptions and consequences of that evolution. It considers the arguments of his Letter from Rome (1729), highlighting their latently heterodox implications. It shows how the Letter from Rome’s latent heterodoxy became manifest in Middleton’s Letter to Dr Waterland (1730). Finally, it details the ways that his attacks on Daniel Waterland destroyed his relationship with his first patron — Edward Harley, second earl of Oxford — and permanently damaged his career prospects.
This chapter highlights the ways that eighteenth-century orthodox clergy tried to coerce or punish their fellow clergy whom they judged heterodox. It opens with a consideration of Middleton’s unsuccessful attempts to secure plum ecclesiastical preferments with the assistance of Sir Robert Walpole’s ally, John Lord Hervey. It then anatomizes the arguments in the heterodox works that Hervey convinced Middleton not to publish in order to better his chances for preferment. Middleton would return to these unpublished manuscripts during the 1740s when he wrote about miracles. The chapter concludes by detailing Middleton’s failed effort during the late 1730s and early 1740s to redeem himself in the eyes of the orthodox by writing about Cicero. The process of bringing his life of Cicero to press also casts light onto the business of publishing with which Middleton and all other polemical divines had to deal.
Conyers Middleton’s History of the Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero (1741) proved not to be a vehicle for personal and professional redemption. Its content rankled the orthodox, and the book failed to remove the heterodox stain to his reputation. While he profited financially from the publication, his ecclesiastical career remained stalled, his resentment metastasized and he returned again to overt polemical divinity. This chapter explores how orthodox coercion and punishment could intensify and deepen a polemical divine’s heterodoxy. It explains what about an ostensibly theologically neutral work bothered the orthodox. It explains why Middleton returned to overt polemical divinity during the mid 1740s, uninhibited by hopes of ecclesiastical promotion. Finally, it shows how his treatment of miracles focused on epistemological and hermeneutical problems that had long consumed him and whose origins he explicitly traced to England’s Reformation.