Sunday, July 5, 2009

Battle of the Pulpits

Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4):

WARWICK. This blot that they object against your house
Shall be wip'd out in the next Parliament,
Call'd for the truce of Winchester and Gloucester;
And if thou be not then created York,
I will not live to be accounted Warwick.
Meantime, in signal of my love to thee,
Against proud Somerset and William Pole,
Will I upon thy party wear this rose;
And here I prophesy: this brawl to-day,
Grown to this faction in the Temple Garden,
Shall send between the Red Rose and the White
A thousand souls to death and deadly night.

London's Temple Church has been the site of many notable events, both fictional (including The DaVinci Code) and non-, in its long history. The reason it was chosen by William Shakespeare for being the site of the commencement of the War of Roses in Henry VI has to do with a famous Battle of the Pulpits that took place in the 1580's between Puritan Walter Travers and his cousin by marriage, Anglican Richard Hooker, the ripple effects of which have lingered long after the "battle" ended.

In 1581, Travers became Reader (lecturer) at the Temple Church. After Master (rector) of the Temple Richard Alvey died, Travers Puritan convictions worked against him, and instead of being promoted to Master, Richard Hooker was brought to the Temple and installed in that position on March 17, 1585. Hooker preached his first sermon on March 28, and immediately there was conflict between him and Travers. In the morning, Hooker would preach his views, and in the afternoon, Travers would preach against them. The two men met to confer but were unable to reconcile their agendas despite the family bond. By March 1586 Archbishop Whitgift forbade Travers to preach any further. Travers later became Provost of Trinity College in Dublin. Hooker meanwhile resigned as Master of the Temple in 1591, and was appointed vicar of Bishopsbourne in Kent. Here he developed his thought in his masterpiece, Ecclesiastical Polity, which was in large measure the fruit of his thought as his developed during the conflict with Travers. The Battle of the Pulpits resulted in Travers' removal from the Temple Church, but the issues raised have continued to resonate through the centuries. It was a battle between Canterbury and Geneva, as Thomas Fuller memorably put it, The History of the Worthies of England (1860 ed.), Vol. 1, p. 423: "Here the pulpit spake pure Canterbury in the morning, and Geneva in the afternoon, until Travers was silenced."

Walter Travers himself listed the points of controversy raised after that first sermon by Hooker, as recorded by Hooker's sympathetic biographer Isaac Walton, The Life of Mr. Richard Hooker, in The Works of Richard Hooker, Vol. 1:

Doctrines delivered by Mr. Hooker, as they were set down and shewed by Mr. Travers, Mar. 30, 1585, under this title, A short Note of sundry unsound Points of Doctrine at divers times delivered by Mr. Hooker in his public Sermons.

1. The church of Rome is a true church of Christ, and a church sanctified by profession of that truth, which God had revealed unto us by his Son, though not a pure and perfect church.

2. The fathers which lived and died in Popish superstition were saved, because they sinned ignorantly.

3. They which are of the church of Rome may be saved by such a faith as they have in Christ, and a general repentance of all their sins.

4. The church of Rome holdeth all men sinners, even the Blessed Virgin, though some of them think otherwise of her.

5. The church of Rome teacheth Christ’s righteousness to be the only meritorious cause of taking away sin.

6. The Galatians which joined with faith in Christ, circumcision, as necessary unto salvation, notwithstanding be saved.

7. Neither the church of Rome, nor the Galatians, deny the foundation directly, but only by consequent: and therefore may be saved. Or else neither the Lutherans, nor whosoever hold any error (for every error by consequent denieth the foundation), may be saved.

8. An additament taketh not away that whereunto it is added, but confirmeth it. As he that saith of any, that he is a righteous man, saith, that he is a man: except it be privative; as when he saith, he is a dead man, then he denieth him to be a man: and of this sort of [privative] additaments neither are works, which are added to Christ by the Church of Rome; nor circumcision, added to him by the Galatians.

9. The Galatians’ case is harder than the case of the church of Rome; for they added to Christ circumcision, which God had forbidden and abolished: but that which the church of Rome addeth, are works which God hath commanded.

10. No one sequel urged by the Apostle against the Galatians, for joining circumcision with Christ, but may be as well enforced against the Lutherans holding ubiquity.

11. A bishop or cardinal of the church of Rome, yea, the Pope himself, denying all other errors of popery, notwithstanding his opinion of justification by works, may be saved.

12. Predestination is not of the absolute will of God, but conditional.

13. The doings of the wicked are not of the will of God positive, but only permissive.

14. The reprobates are not rejected, but for the evil works which God did foresee they would commit.

15. The assurance of things which we believe by the Word, is not so sure, as of those which we perceive by sense.

Thomas Fuller, also representing the historiography of the establishment, elaborates on the Battle of the Pulpits, The Church History of Britain (1845 ed.), Vol. 5, pp. 183-185:

53. Mr. Hooker his voice was low, stature little, gesture none at all, standing stone-still in the pulpit, as if the posture of his body were the emblem of his mind, unmovable in his opinions. Where his eye was left fixed at the beginning, it was found fixed at the end of his sermon. In a word, the doctrine he delivered had nothing but itself to garnish it. His style was long and pithy, driving on a whole flock of several clauses before he came to the close of a sentence; so that when the copiousness of his style met not with proportionable capacity in his auditors, it was unjustly censured for perplexed, tedious, and obscure. His sermons followed the inclination of his studies, and were for the most part on controversies and deep points of school divinity.

54. Mr. Travers his utterance was graceful, gesture plausible, matter profitable, method plain, and his style carried in it indolem pietatis, a genius of grace flowing from his sanctified heart. Some say that the congregation in the Temple ebbed in the forenoon and flowed in the afternoon, and that the auditory of Mr. Travers was far the more numerous, the first occasion of emulation betwixt them; but such as knew Mr. Hooker, knew him to be too wise to take exception at such trifles, the rather because the most judicious is always the least part in all auditories.

55. Here might one, on Sundays, have seen almost as many writers as hearers: not only young students, but even the gravest benchers, (such as sir Edward Cook and sir James Altham then were,) were not more exact in taking instructions from their clients, than in writing notes from the mouths of their ministers. The worst was, these two preachers, though joined in affinity, (their nearest kindred being married together,) acted with different principles, and clashed one against another; so that what Mr. Hooker delivered in the forenoon, Mr. Travers confuted in the afternoon. At the building of Solomon's temple, (1 Kings vi. 7,) neither hammer, nor axe, nor tool of iron was heard therein; whereas, alas! in this Temple not only much knocking was heard, but (which was the worst) the nails and pins which one master-builder drave in were driven out by the other. To pass by lesser differences betwixt them about predestination,

Hooker maintained

The church of Rome, though not a pure and perfect, yet is a true church; so that such who live and die therein, upon their repentance of all their sins of ignorance, may be saved.

Travers defended

The church of Rome is no true church at all; so that such as live and die therein, holing justification in part by works, cannot be said by the scriptures to be saved.

Thus much disturbance was caused, to the disquieting of people's consciences, the disgrace of the ordinance, the advantage of the common enemy, and the dishonour of God himself.

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