The Genesis Of The Oxford Movement Of 1833 -- By: James W. White

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:184 (Oct 1889)
Article: The Genesis Of The Oxford Movement Of 1833
Author: James W. White

The Genesis Of The Oxford Movement Of 1833

The Rev. James W. White

There is a circular, as well as onward, movement of thought that carries with it every sort of floodwood. The new is ever closely akin to the old. “Robert Elsmere,” apparently regarded by the average popular mind as representative of the most advanced thought, sets forth a kind of mental experiences more in vogue half a century ago than at present. Thomas H. Green, an Oxford tutor who was thrown by a reaction from the Anglo-Catholic movement of 1833 into open revolt against all current forms of faith, has been ingeniously identified by Professor McCosh with “Mr. Grey” of Mrs. Ward’s novel, while the positions of the book regarding miracles and biblical criticism generally have far more of the tone of the Tübingen school of the first decades of the century than of later theories.

Let us avail ourselves of this passing popular interest, to recall some of the phases of that remarkable movement of thought centring at Oxford University, which, with much of a local and temporary nature, embodies many elements of perennial value to the philosophic student. All such theological agitations as that which took its name from the “Oxford Tracts” issued in the years from 1833 to 1841 have their larger bearing and relation to more general movements of the age, and gain increased interest as reflections of principles at work in other departments

of thought. It will prove fruitful, before proceeding to examine the nature of the Oxford movement itself, to trace the lines of preparation for it in the political, literary, and theological agitations that immediately preceded it and gave it impetus and direction.

The effects of the French Revolution, in many respects the greatest upheaval of modern thought, have been factors in the history of every great movement since.

In politics, its influence was of course for a long time, after the first outburst of hope and enthusiasm had died out in a wail of agony and carnival of blood, met in England by an overwhelming reaction, and the Tory party was able for a considerable period to stifle all call for reform. But in 1830 the cause of liberty in France seemed to burst anew into full blossom, and the Bourbons were again expelled, this time without the loss of a drop of blood. Forgetful of the past, the effect upon all Europe was magical: the oppressed of every nation took courage, and all the crowned heads of the Continent were thrown into alarm. In England the cry of reform, silenced again and again, could now be repressed no longer. Says Mackenzie in his “History of the Nineteenth Century:” “The need, in truth, was very urgent. Two-thirds of the House of C...

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