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Reconstructing the Reformation: F. D. Maurice, Luther, and Justification*

  • Jeremy Morris (a1)


I know well the double danger of giving a mere dry summary of events, or of going into endless disquisitions. … But I do think both may be avoided if we seriously believe that our business is to study our records earnestly and devoutly; because they have a meaning in them which we may be helped to draw out; not because we must put a meaning into them.



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I would like to record my thanks to Mr B. L. Home of King’s College, London, for his comments on a draft of this paper.



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1 Maurice, F. D., Queen’s College, London: Its Objects and Method; a Lecture delivered in the Hanover Square Rooms (London, 1848), p. 25.

2 Young, David, F. D. Maurice and Unitarianism (Oxford, 1992), p. 11.

3 Christensen, Torben, The Divine Order: A Study in F. D. Maurice’s Theology (Leiden, 1973), p. 296.

4 Ramsey, A. M., F. D. Maurice and the Conflicts of Modern Theology (Cambridge, 1951), p. 28.

5 Avis, Paul, Anglicanism and the Christian Church. Theological Resources in Historical Perspective (Edinburgh, 1989), p. 260.

6 Maurice, F. D., The Kingdom of Christ, or Hints to a Quaker respecting the Principles, Constitution, and Ordinances of the Catholic Church, 2 vols (4th edn, London, 1891), 1, pp. 658.

7 Maurice, F. D., Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, 4 vols (London, 1850-62), 4, p. 122.

8 Frappell, L. O., ‘Coleridge and the “Coleridgeans” on Luther’, Journal of Religious History, 7 (1972-3), pp. 30723.

9 Coleridge, S. T., Aids to Reflection (1884 edn), p. 67.

10 Mansel, H. L., The Limits of Religious Thought Examined (Oxford, 1858). In What is Revelation? (London, 1859), Maurice attacked Mansel’s treatment of revelation; there is an adequate account of the ensuring controversy in B. M. G. Reardon, Religious Thought in the Victorian Age (London, 1980), pp. 237–42.

11 Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 1, p. 90.

12 Maurice, F. D., Theological Essays (London, 1853), p. 137.

13 Ibid., p. 137: ‘Of a light speaking to his conscience … Luther knew as much as any Quaker could have told him’; idem, Kingdom of Christ, 1, p. 63.

14 Ibid., 1, p. 69; Ebeling, Gerhard, Luther: An Introduction to his Thought (London, 1970), p. 261.

15 Maurice, F. D., The Gospel of St. John. A Series of Discourses (London, 1857); see especially ch. 2, ‘The Word the Light of Men’.

16 Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 1, p. 88.

17 Ibid., 1, p. 76.

18 Maurice, Theological Essays, p. 198.

19 According to Young, it was Maurice’s Christocentricity which drew him away from Unitarian theology, and not the idea of the filial relation of humankind to God, which he shared with Unitarians and which asserted that ‘God is with and for man, not apart from and against him.’ Young, F. D. Maurice and Unitarianism, p. 232.

20 Flesseman-Van Leer, Ellen, Grace Abounding: a Comparison of F. D. Maurice and Karl Barth (London, 1968).

21 ‘Unless a man has faith, he will never understand the true meaning of the cross, and its mystery will remain forever hidden from him. Equally, unless he has faith, the perceived significance of the cross cannot be appropriated, and translated into the real and redeeming presence of Christ within the believer’: A. E. McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross (Oxford, 1985), pp. 174–5 [my emphasis].

22 Maurice, Theological Essays, p. 200.

23 Idem, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, 4, p. 117.

24 Idem, Kingdom of Christ, 2, p. 175.

25 Idem, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, 4, p. 118.

26 Douglas Powell, unpublished paper on ‘Reformation and Deviation in the Sixteenth Century’, p. 17.

27 Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 1, p. 71.

28 None of the accounts of Maurice’s theology published in the last half-century or so give more than passing attention to his views on history. This is surely related to the almost complete neglect today of his Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, an enormous and far from readable survey of Western philosophy and theology from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, which attempted to expound the leading ideas of each period and to draw them together into a synthetic unity.

29 Maurice, F., The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, 2 vols (London, 1884), 2, p. 264.

30 F. D. Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, 4, chs 1–3; see, for example, ibid., p. 31: ‘May not each nation come at last to understand its own calling, to recognize it as a calling?’

31 F. Maurice, Life, 2, p. 615; ‘the character of the Reformation is interpreted by those [mental conflicts] which tormented the Monk of Wittenberg’: F. D. Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 1, p. 62.

32 Hare, J. C. Vindication of Luther against his Recent English Assailants (Cambridge, 1855), p. 293.

33 Appreciative references to the ‘lion-hearted Luther’ (S. T. Coleridge, On the Constitution of the Church and State [London, 1972], p. 117) are scattered throughout Coleridge’s writings; see especially Frappell, ‘Coleridge and the “Coleridgeans” on Luther’. For Carlyle’s view, see his On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (London, 1908), ch. 4, “The Hero as Priest’, pp. 346–88.

34 See the evaluation of J. H. Newman’s Lectures on Justification (London, 1837) by A. E. McGrath, lustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1986), 2, pp. 121–30.

35 Sykes, Stephen, The Integrity of Anglicanism (Oxford, 1978), p. 16.

36 See especially Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 2, pp. 389–97, section entitled ‘What is the Form of Character which belongs especially to Englishmen? To what kind of Depravation is it liable?’

37 Maurice, F. D., Three Letters to the Rev. William Palmer, 2nd edn (London, 1842), p. 24.

38 Idem, Thoughts on the Rule of Conscientious Subscription, on the Thirty-Nine Articles, and on the Present Perils from the Romish System (Oxford, 1845), pp. 47–8.

39 Maurice, Life, 1, p. 217.

40 Maurice, Kingdom of Christ, 2, p. 240–5.

41 See especially Maurice, F. D., Reasons for not Joining a Party in the Church (London, 1841).

42 Idem, The Prayer-Book Considered Especially in Reference to the Romish System, 3rd edn (London, 1880), p. 12.

43 Nichols, Aidan, The Panther and the Hind. A Theological History of Anglicanism (Edinburgh, 1993), p. 176.

44 Christensen, The Divine Order; D. M. Thompson, ‘F. D. Maurice: rebel conservative’, in S. P. Mews, ed., Modem Religious Rebels (London, 1993), pp. 123–43; Young, F. D. Maurice and Unitarianism.

45 Kenneth Cracknell has recently demonstrated another series of connections, previously unexplored, in Maurice’s influence on the study of comparative religion and on the theological formation of missionaries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: see his Justice, Courtesy and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions, 1846–1914 (London, 1995), ch. 2, ‘Five Theologians and World Religions’.

46 Sykes, Integrity of Anglicanism, passim; Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church, ch. 16, ‘F. D. Maurice and the Shaking of the Seven Hills’.

47 Gilley, S., ‘Nationality and liberty, Protestant and Catholic: Robert Southey’s Book of the Church’, SCH, 18 (1982), pp. 40932 ; Shannon, R. T., ‘John Robert Seeley and the idea of a national Church’, in Robson, R., ed., Ideas and Institutions of Victorian Britain (London, 1967), pp. 23652 ; Phillips, P. T., ‘The concept of a national Church in late nineteenth-century England and America’, Journal of Religious History, 14 (1986), pp. 2637.

48 Butterfield, H., The Whig Interpretation of History (London, 1931; 1973 edn), p. 27.

* I would like to record my thanks to Mr B. L. Home of King’s College, London, for his comments on a draft of this paper.


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