William George Ward

Charles Anderson Scott
1891 Expository Times  
No one who has read the contemporary account in the F'diobrrr;~Ir Reaieze~, or the later reminiscences of the same episode from the pen of A. P. Stanley, can forget the scene in the Oxford Convocation of February 18+5' Meetings of Convocation are, as a rule, tame and formal enough, possessing little beyond a local interest; but this one was historical, and its proceedings anything but tame. The occasion of it was known and discussed throughout the length and breadth of England. The summons to
more » ... perturbed the peace of remotest vicarages. The roads converging on the University town from all points of the compass were blocked with coaches and gigs, four-in-hands, and bishops' chariots, floundering through the snow. Gibbon's famous description of the dignitaries of the Church flocking to Nicaea was reproduced in miniature during these days, when lawyers and statesmen, peers and parsons flocked to the summons of their Alma Mater to cast out a new heretic. &dquo A great proportion of those who arrived,&dquo writes an eye-witness in the Times of the following day, &dquo were men distinguished in public life,&dquo including Lord Shaftesbury, Archdeacon Manning, Dr. Tait, afterwards Archbishop, and Mr. Gladstone. The Arius, to whose attack or defence these hosts were summoned, was William George Ward, who, being a Fellow of Balliol. and in deacon's orders of the Church of England, had published a book containing such sentences as the following :-&dquo I know no single movement in the Church, except Arianism in the fourth century, which seems to me so destitute of all claims to our sympathy and regard as the English Reformation.&dquo &dquo For my own part I think it would not be right to conceal, indeed I am anxious openly to express, my own most firm and undoubting conviction, that were we as a Church to pursue such a line of conduct as has been here sketched, in proportion as we did so we should be taught from above to discern and appreciate the plain marks of divine wisdom and authority in the Roman Church, to repent in sorrow and bitterness of heart our great sin in deserting her communion, and to sue humbly at her feet for pardon and restoration.&dquo The work from which these and other extracts were taken, on which to found the &dquo libel,&dquo The Ideal of a CllrÙtil1ll Church, was a closely printed volume of 600 pages. It was described by Dean Stanley in r 88 i as &dquo one of the obsolete curiosities of literature,&dquo but none the less it was epoch-making in the history of the English Church. It fell as a dissolving acid on that heterogeneous combination of opposing systems, doctrines, and ideals. It threw a light far in advance of the spot which the main body of the Tractarians had reached, and showed the goal to which their steps were moving. Whether they knew it or not, that goal was reconciliation with Rome, but this premature disclosure of the end both hastened and checked the movement. It checked the movement as a purpose to educate the Church in general towards reconciliation. But by the operation of this check, as well as by its logical exposure of the untenableness of their position, it helped to precipitate many individuals into submission to Rome. In this respect it was of doubtful service to the cause in whose name it was issued. Newman shook his head over it, saying, &dquo It won't do.&dquo Yet all that Ward had done was to push Newman's premises relentlessly to their conclusion. He was a disciple whose loyalty of spirit carried him so far beyond his master that it approached disloyalty of action. What would have been the result if the &dquomovement&dquo had been allowed to ripen slowly to maturity it is impossible now to say. But it is not too much to say that V'ard's Ideal changed its whole development. He &dquo brought in a general action with a merciless disregard of strategy.&dquo
doi:10.1177/001452469100300202 fatcat:i3co6zabwbcqtaidpiwpijlqcq