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Caroline Divines


A term applied to a succession of theological writers, mostly of the 17th century, many of them under Charles I; they maintained that Catholicity, Biblical but non-Roman, rather than Puritan Protestantism, was the chief feature of the Reformed Church of England in its organization and government (episcopal and not presbyterian) and in its ritual and theology, particularly on the Eucharist.

Such ideas as these emerged during the reign of James I and became prominent under Charles I. The pioneers were Richard hooker (15531600); Thomas Bilson (15471616), Bishop of Winchester, who declared that the Anglican disagreement with Rome on Holy Communion was not concerning the fact, but only the manner of Christ's Presence; Lancelot andrewes (15551626); and John Overall (15601619), Bishop of Norwich, who pointed out that his church no longer spoke of the bread and wine as "creatures" after the consecration.

Principal Early Divines. Their terminology recalled the old traditional Catholic theology rather than the new Protestant theology. Chief among them were the following:

Christopher Sutton (15651629) of Westminster, author of the devotional works, Dise Vivere and Godly Meditations upon the Most Holy Sacrament.

William laud (15731645), Archbishop of Canterbury, most prominent of the divines.

Richard Montague (15771641), Bishop of Chichester, historian of Christian origins from which he tried to show that the Anglican position derived. He said his aim was "to stand in the gapp against puritanism and popery." He wrote on the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Gregorio panzani, papal agent at the court of Charles I, reported to Rome that Montague admitted the authority of the pope, and accepted the body of Catholic dogmas except transubstantiation. He suggested a conference in France to bring about reunion, which he thought would be easy.

Thomas Jackson (15791640), president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Dean of Peterborough, moved from a Puritan to a Catholic position through his studies, which produced 12 books of Commentaries on the Apostles' Creed.

William Forbes (15851634), Bishop of Edinburgh, whose writings on purgatory and the Eucharist were published posthumously in 1658 as Considerationes Modestae et Pacificae.

George Herbert (15931640), a typical country parson, was the poet of the Carolines who taught sacramental doctrine in verse (The Temple: Sacred Poems) and in prose (The Priest to the Temple).

Nicholas Ferrar (15921637), a deacon who founded, at the manor house of Little Gidding, Huntingdon, a family religious house where the piety of Caroline theology was put into practice with genuine fervor.

John Bramhall (15941663), Archbishop of Armagh, who upheld the Anglican doctrine of the real presence, repudiated the charge that the Church of England was in schism, and, in reply to the Catholic Bishop Richard Smith, published his Replication (1656), a prayer that he might live to see the reunion of Christendom.

John Cosin (15941672), Bishop of Durham who, at both Cambridge and Durham, introduced ornate altars with crucifix, candles, and vestments. He also put together a Collection of Private Devotions, in effect, the Catholic Breviary. For all of these he was charged by the Puritans with popery, but in fact he was anti-Roman and repudiated the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Herbert Thorndike (15981672), Canon of Lincoln and later of Westminster, wrote, among other similar works, the Epilogue to the Tragedy of the Church of England, a plea for return to the primitive Church, and the Reformation of the Church of England better than that of the Council of Trent. He stated that separation from Rome made a church schismatic before God (cf. Albion, 172.3).

Henry Hammond (160560), Archdeacon of Chichester, public orator at Oxford, Biblical critic and voluminous writer, tolerant rather than polemical, whose best-known work is the Practical Catechism.

Jeremy taylor (161367), Bishop of Down and Connor, perhaps the greatest Catholicizing influence among the Carolines because of the quality of writing in his Worthy Communicant, Holy Living, and Holy Dying. Yet he defended the penal laws against papists and wrote a Dissuasive from Popery.

Later Divines. Among the later Caroline divines, so called because of the same school of thought, were the following:

Dr. Richard Sherlock (161289), "accounted by precise persons popishly affected," who wrote the Principles of the Holy Catholick Religion, as well as a work entitled The Practical Christian.

Thomas Wilson (16631755), nephew of Sherlock and trained by him for the ministry. As Bishop of Sodor and Man, which was exempt from English law, he introduced "the ancient discipline of the Church." His Instruction for the Lord's Supper and Sacra Privata have remained popular devotional works.

Anthony Sparrow (161255), Bishop of Norwich, whose Rationale of the Book of Common Prayer, illustrated from Catholic sources, was reprinted by John Henry newman in 1837.

Thomas Ken (16571711), Bishop of Bath and Wells, best known for his morning and evening hymns.

John Johnson (16621725), Vicar of Cranbrook, Kent, author of The Propitiatory Oblation in the Holy Eucharist and The Unbloody Sacrifice, aroused considerable opposition.

The aim of all these writers was to show the Church of England as reformed yet still Catholic, steering a middle course between Romanism and Presbyterianism and so providing support for the via media argument of the tractarianism and the oxford movement of the 19th century. All are pertinent to the ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics in England following Vatican Council II. (see anglicanism.)

Bibliography: The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, 83v. (Oxford 184163) republished the works of the divines mentioned. The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) lists their works in articles under their names. g. albion, Charles I and the Court of Rome (London 1935). d. carter, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegen-wart (Tübingen 195765) 1:162021.

[g. albion]

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