The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XIII. The Growth of Liberal Theology

§ 11. The Broad Churchmen

But, while there were many who lost their faith and drifted into a relation of indifference or positive antagonism to Christianity, there was also a fresh and vigorous attempt on the part of those who sought to combine free thinking with a position inside the Christian church. If the first wave of Oxford liberal thought had long spent itself, it was followed at some interval by a larger wave, which made more stir. The new movement bore a new name. The label “broad church” is said by Jowett to have been proposed in his hearing by A. H. Clough, and it came into familiar use in Oxford some years before it received any literary expression. In The Edinburgh Review, in 1853, W. J. Conybeare spoke of a third party in the church, “which is called Moderate or Catholic or Broad Church by its friends, Latitudinarian or Indifferent by its enemies.” He described its distinctive character as the desire for comprehension, and its watchwords as charity and toleration. An organised party they never designed to become: individual independence was their most treasured right. There were many, like Maurice, who unquestionably helped to liberalise theological thought, and yet hated the very notion of party. But there was a fairly coherent band of liberal clergymen, linked by academic friendship or for self-defence, who stood together, both consciously and in the public mind. They advocated a bolder application of critical methods to the Bible than their predecessors would have allowed, and yet their love for the Bible was often conspicuous. spicuous. As preachers or commentators, many of them exhibited notable gifts for interpretation. The concerted appearance on the same day in 1855 of Jowett’s commentary on certain epistles of St. Paul and of Stanley’s commentary on the epistles to the Corinthians, indicated the freer spirit which was beginning to animate English study of the New Testament. The freshness of Jowett’s treatment, especially in the dissertations, is still unexhausted. The Pauline terms, which had become hard and unlovely in the hands of schoolmen and reformation doctors, are again alive, as Jowett submits them to the scrutiny of modern psychology. There is, also, an unforgettable picture of the apostle himself, not more remarkable for its delicate intuition than for its emotional quality.

  • A poor aged man, worn by some bodily or mental disorder, who had been often scourged, and bore on his face the traces of indignity and sorrow in every form—such an one, led out of prison between Roman soldiers, probably at times faltering in his utterance, the creature, as he seemed to spectators, of nervous sensibility; yearning almost with a sort of fondness, to save the souls of those whom he saw around him—spoke a few eloquent words in the cause of Christian truth, at which kings were awed, telling the tale of his own conversion with such simple pathos, that after-ages have hardly heard the like.