From Sheldon to Secker: Aspects of English Church History, 1660-1768

From Sheldon to Secker: Aspects of English Church History, 1660-1768

From Sheldon to Secker: Aspects of English Church History, 1660-1768

From Sheldon to Secker: Aspects of English Church History, 1660-1768

Excerpt

To the electors to Ford's Lectureship I owe the privilege and opportunity of giving the lectures of which this volume is an expanded version, and I desire to express to them my gratitude and appreciation of the honour done me by their invitation. To an Oxford historian the Ford Lectures are the blue riband of his profession, and the pleasure of an exile in the prospect of a series of visits to his home is tempered with apprehension lest he should fall sadly below the high standard of the foundation. When the invitation reached me in March 1957 the responsibility of writing six lectures for delivery in Hilary Term 1958 seemed to carry more of onus than honor. For, coming on the eve of the publication of what I had believed to be my magnum ac ultimum opus, a biography of Archbishop Wake, it found the cupboard indeed completely bare, with my note-books empty of facts and my head of ideas. In the short time available I therefore resolved to try and clear up some problems of English church history during the half-century following the Restoration of 1660, which had puzzled me often, and to ascertain, if possible, how far the faults and shortcomings of the Hanoverian church were due to the failure in 1660 and 1688 to effect the necessary reforms in the ecclesiastical constitution. The ensuing chapters represent my suggested answers.

An initial survey of the character of the Restoration Church Settlement indicated its essentially conservative nature, and emphasised the gravity of the problems with which the episcopate had to grapple along traditional lines and without the necessary revision of the Canons of 1603 and those of 1640, or without the reform of ecclesiastical administration and judicial procedure. This failure was particularly underlined by the eclipse of Convocation, thanks to the surrender of its right of taxation and its consequent decline, followed by the disputes during the reign of Anne and its suspension in 1717. The ill-effects of this suppression became clearer as my investigation proceeded. Closely associated with the conservative nature of the church settlements at the Restoration and Revolution were the fluctuating fortunes of Comprehension and Toleration, in which respect I have tried to discover the reasons for the failure to comprehend Presbyterian and Episcopalian within the re-established . . .

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