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

XIII. The Growth of Liberal Theology

§ 17. Westcott and Hort; Lightfoot

A notable part in the creation of an improved theological scholarship was played by three Cambridge contemporaries and friends, Brooke Foss Westcott, Fenton John Anthony Hort, and Joseph Barber Lightfoot. The tractarian scholars had been chiefly interested in the age of the councils; the Cambridge scholars devoted themselves to the study of Christian origins. Westcott and Hort’s main work was the recension of the Greek text of the New Testament; Lightfoot was concerned with the Pauline epistles and the apostolic Fathers. Their work was timely and valuable, but they would have been the last to regard it as final. They shared the characteristic belief of the liberal theologians in the progressive apprehension of Christian truth. “Let us all thank God,” said bishop Westcott to his clergy, at the close of his long life of teaching, “that He has called us to unfold a growing message, and not to rehearse a stereotyped tradition.” “Christianity,” wrote Hort, “is not an uniform and monotonous tradition, but to be learned only by successive steps of life.” Hort’s passion for meticulous accuracy and his extreme caution caused him to publish little, and his shyness stood in the way of his influence as an oral teacher. Yet his posthumous Hulsean lectures, The Way the Truth the Life, revealed him as a master of pregnant phrase. Centuries of speculation on the doctrine of atonement are arraigned by the terse judgment: “Theologies which have sundered God’s righteousness from His love have done equal wrong to both.”