The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 5. Hoadly and the Bangorian Controversy
Benjamin Hoadly was a clergyman in whom the objectionable features of Gilbert Burnet were exaggerated to the verge of caricature. He was a whig and a follower of the government in power first of all, a controversialist in consequence, and only after that was he an ecclesiastic. As a political writer, he opposed Atterbury and Blackall in 1709–10; on the Hanoverian succession being accomplished, he was rewarded by the see of Bangor, which he hardly ever visited. In 1717, his famous sermon entitled The Nature of the Kingdom or Church of Christ caused the acid controversy which was named after him; A Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Nonjurors, a treatise published by him in 1716, called forth the drastic criticism of William Law; and A Plain Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament (1735), the massive treatise of Waterland on the doctrine of the Eucharist. He seemed to live for dispute and preferment; and he accepted both with the placid dignity which is inimitably rendered in Hogarth’s immortal portrait. As a writer, he carries the sobriety of Tillotson to the extreme of pompous dulness; it is safe to say that the volumes of his sermons and other argumentative works which line many old libraries have rested for a century and a half undisturbed by any reader’s hand. Their manner, which is devoid of any original touch, contrasts strangely with their matter. Hoadly’s theory of churchmanship reduced itself to pure individualism tempered by toleration. He was a conscientious advocate for the repeal of the whole range of test acts. He was, in fact, a much better thinker in matters of state than in those which belonged more directly to his own profession. From under the cloud of words and the skilful tangle of qualifications in which his thought is enveloped, there emerges the certainty that he had no coherent idea of a religious society at all. If he had points of affinity with Thomas Arnold, he is, perhaps, not very far away from the reforming theologians or even the theorists of the Middle Age. Church and state are one in his mind; but it is the state which turns church communion into something quite vague, general and ultimately unmeaning; yet he has not risen to the idea of a federation; he remains in a conception of essential fluidity. On the other hand, his advocacy of toleration, on true principles, was, if not an advance in theory on the position of several earlier English writers, of different parties, at least one in actual practice, before whig statesmen as well as anglican bishops were prepared to accept it. Hoadly became bishop of Winchester in 1734 and held the see till his death in 1761. It cannot be said that he rendered any service to the church, and the controversies of which he was the centre had no small share in that eclipse of her literary glory, which was the conspicuous characteristic of the Hanoverian, as opposed to the Stewart, age.