Walsh’s “Secret History Of The Oxford Movement” -- By: A. E. Whatham

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 056:222 (Apr 1899)
Article: Walsh’s “Secret History Of The Oxford Movement”
Author: A. E. Whatham


Walsh’s “Secret History Of The Oxford Movement”1

A. E. Whatham

Way’s Mills, Quebec

The General Impression.

That Mr. Walsh has contributed an interesting, and indeed a somewhat important, addition to the already existing numerous histories of the greatest ecclesiastical movement of our century, we are glad to bear testimony, especially as his entire volume is characterized by a general fairness quite unusual on the part of such a distinctly party writer. At the same time, this latest contribution to the elucidation of Tractarianism is by no means the formidable exposure which its somewhat startling title was evidently chosen to signify, since, in the present writer’s opinion, Mr. Walsh has entirely failed to substantiate the main purport of his volume,—a purport partly inferred and partly expressed,—viz., to show that the founders of the Oxford Movement were from the first consciously disloyal to the church in which they had been born, and in which most of them were ministering.

But Mr. Walsh’s failure, however, springs not from any lack of that general intelligence indispensable on the part of a writer who would venture to gauge the history of the Oxford Movement, since his volume shows considerable skill in collecting and summarizing details, but rather from his apparent lack of the specialist’s knowledge without which it becomes impossible to write intelligently upon the theme chosen by Mr. Walsh. Tractarianism was not a movement to introduce into the Church of England novel doctrines and practices, but, on the contrary, to awaken a nation which had well-nigh forgotten both her theology and ecclesiastical history, to the actual catholicity of her formularies of faith. That there was urgent need for such a movement within the Church of England at that time is further proved to the student of ecclesiastical history by the present call for such a movement in both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, especially the latter. Startling as it may appear to some, yet I have not the slightest hesitation in affirming that the bulk of the laity of both these ecclesiastical bodies are absolutely unacquainted with the doctrines contained in the Methodist Disci-

pline on the one hand, and the Westminster Confession of Faith on the other. Nay, I can go further, and say, that having repeatedly during many years referred members of both of these bodies to the teaching of their formularies of faith, in most cases they have expressed their ignorance to me as to the teaching of these formularies, and in almost all cases they have scouted their respective doctrines and disciplines to which I have called their ...

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