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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XII. Divines of the Church of England 1660–1700

§ 3. Herbert Thorndike, John Cosin and George Morley

Herbert Thorndike is important rather for his opinions than for his literary merits. He was a catholic anglican of the most convinced and complete kind. He was a learned scholar, an important contributor to Brian Walton’s Polyglot Bible, finished in 1657, and an influential, though not self-assertive, member of the Savoy conference. His position in English theology is, perhaps, best expressed in the book he published in 1670: The Reformation of the Church of England better than that of the Council of Trent. He advocated, for example, the practice of confession, using language so strong as

  • in my judgement no Christian Kingdom or State can maintain itself to be that which it pretendeth more effectually than by giving force and effect to the law of private confession once a year by such means as may seem both requisite and effectual to enforce it;
  • the reservation of the sacrament for the sick, in both kinds, and not, after the Roman fashion, only in one; and the appeal to Scripture as interpreted in the primitive church. In his Epilogue to the Tragedy of the Church of England (1659), he had desired the restoration of the episcopate as in ancient times, the use of prayer for the dead and the introduction into the English communion service of the Epiklesis before the consecration. He was a student of liturgies, at a time when they were not well known; and his studies were reflected in a repeated use of quotations from the Fathers which reminds the reader of Andrews and his contemporaries.

    John Cosin, who, born in 1594, died in the same year as Thorndike (1672), was also a liturgiologist, and, as early as 1627, published A Collection of Private Devotions, at the request of Charles I, to supply an English antidote to the Roman devotions of queen Henrietta Maria’s ladies. Cosin, in many respects, resembles Thorndike: in the nature of his interests, in the main principles of his theology, in the character of his influence. But he was a much more attractive writer of English, and has, at times, a touch of Jeremy Taylor; he had an ear for the music of prose, though he did not always take pains to be in tune himself; but he was certainly not, as Aubrey tells us, though unconvincingly, that Thorndike was, “a good poet,” though his compressed translation of Veni Creator has merit.

    Side by side with these two writers may be placed George Morley, the “honest doctor” of the exiled court, who wrote little and that rather in the antique style, but was as witty as he was pious, the friend of Walton and Clarendon, and yet a Calvinist as men were when he learnt his theology. Thorndike was a prebendary of Westminster; Cosin, chaplain to Charles I and master of Peterhouse, became bishop of Durham under Charles II; Morley died as bishop of Winchester.