Westcott and Hort

IT IS interesting at this juncture to take a glance at Doctors Westcott and Hort, the dominating mentalities of the scheme of Revision, principally in that period of their lives before they sat on the Revision Committee. They were working together twenty years before Revision began, and swept the Revision Committee along with them after work commenced. Mainly from their own letters, partly from the comments of their respective sons, who collected and published their lives and letters, we shall here state the principles which affected their deeper lives.

Their Higher Criticism

Westcott writes to his fiancee, Advent Sunday, 1847:
"All stigmatize him (Dr. Hampden) as a 'heretic'... If he be condemned, what will become of me?... The battle of the Inspiration of Scripture has yet to be fought, and how earnestly I could pray that I might aid the truth in that."(1)

Westcott's son comments, 1903:
"My father... believed that the charges of being 'unsafe' and of 'Germanizing' brought against him were unjust."(2)

Hort writes to Rev. Rowland Williams, October 21, 1858:
"Further I agree with them (authors of "Essays and Reviews") in condemning many leading specific doctrines of the popular theology... Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather than untrue. There are, I fear, still more serious differences between us on the subject of authority, and especially the authority of the Bible."(3)

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, April 3, 1860:
"But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with... My feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable. If so, it opens up a new period."(4)

Their Mariolatry

Westcott writes from France to his fiancee, 1847:
"After leaving the monastery, we shaped our course to a little oratory which we discovered on the summit of a neighboring hill... Fortunately we found the door open. It is very small, with one kneeling-place; and behind a screen was a 'Pieta' the size of life (i.e. a Virgin and dead Christ)... Had I been alone I could have knelt there for hours."(5)

Westcott writes to Archbishop Benson, November 17, 1865:
"I wish I could see to what forgotten truth Mariolatry bears witness."(6)

Hort writes to Westcott:
"I am very far from pretending to understand completely the oft renewed vitality of Mariolatry."(7)

Hort writes to Westcott, October 17, 1865:
"I have been persuaded for many years that Mary-worship and 'Jesus'-worship have very much in common in their causes and their results."(8)

Hort writes to Westcott:
"But this last error can hardly be expelled till Protestants unlearn the crazy horror of the idea of priesthood."(9)

Hort writes to Dr. Lightfoot, October 26, 1867:
"But you know I am a staunch sacerdotalist."(10)

Dr. Hort Falls Under the Influence of
Maurice, Coleridge, Winer, and Comite

Hort writes to Dr. Harold Brown, (Bishop of Eli), November 8, 1871:
"Moreover, Mr. Maurice has been a dear friend of mine for twenty-three years, and I have been deeply influenced by his books."(11) Frederick Maurice, the son of a Unitarian minister, and brilliant student at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, became a clergyman in the Church of England. He had a commanding influence upon the leaders of his day, especially upon Dr. Hort. Maurice was dismissed from his position as principal of King's College, London, on charges of heresy.

Hort's son says of his father:
"In undergraduate days, if not before, he came under the spell of Coleridge."(12)

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, October 21, 1851:
"You cannot imagine his (Carlyle's) bitter hatred of Coleridge, to whom he (truly enough) ascribes the existence of 'Puseyism.'"(13)

Hort writes to W.F. Moulton, July 17, 1870:
"It has long been on my mind to write and thank you for a copy of your Winer which reached me, I am shocked to find, four months ago... We shall all, I doubt not, learn much by discussion in the New Testament Company."(14)

Westcott says in the preface to a volume of Westminster Sermons:
"Those who are familiar with recent theories of social morality will recognize how much I owe to two writers who are not often joined together in an acknowledgment of deep gratitude — Comte and Maurice."(15)

Their Spiritualism

Westcott's son writes:
"The 'Ghostlie Guild,' which numbers amongst its members A. Barry, E.W. Benson, H. Bradshaw, the Hon. A. Gordon, F.J.A. Hort, H. Luard, and C.B. Scott, was established for the investigation of all supernatural appearances and effects. Westcott took a leading part in their proceedings, and their inquiry circular was originally drawn up by him."(16)

Westcott's son writes, speaking of his father:
"The Communion of Saints, seems peculiarly associated with Peterborough... He had an extraordinary power of realizing this communion. It was his delight to be alone at night in the great Cathedral, for there he could meditate and pray in full sympathy with all that was good and great in the past. I have been with him there on a moonlight evening, when the vast building was haunted with strange lights and shades, and the ticking of the great clock sounded like some giant's footsteps in the deep silence. Then he had always abundant company. Once a daughter, in later years, met him returning from one of his customary meditations in the solitary darkness of the chapel at Aukland Castle, and she said to him, 'I expect you do not feel alone?' 'Oh, no,' he said, 'it is full.'"(17)

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, December 29, 1851:
"Westcott, Gorham, C.B. Scott, Benson, Bradshaw, Luard, etc., and I have started a society for the investigation of ghosts and all supernatural appearances and effects, being all disposed to believe that such things really exist, and ought to be discriminated from hoaxes and mere subjective disillusions."(18)

Their Anti-Protestantism

Westcott wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
"It does not seem to me that the Vaudois claim an ecclesiastical recognition. The position of the small Protestant bodies on the Continent, is, no doubt, one of great difficulty. But our church can, I think, only deal with churches growing to fuller life."(19)

Hort writes to Westcott, September 23, 1864:
"I believe that Coleridge was quite right in saying that Christianity without a substantial church is vanity and disillusion; and I remember shocking you and Lightfoot not so long ago by expressing a belief that 'Protestantism' is only parenthetical and temporary."(20)

"Perfect Catholicity has been nowhere since the Reformation."(21)

Their Anti-Anglicanism

Westcott writes to his fiancee, January 6, 1848:
"You can scarcely tell how I felt when I found we had to sign some declaration before the degree (A.B.). I feared it might be of an assent to the Thirty-nine Articles, and that I dare not give now."(22)

Westcott's son writes:
"In 1881 he was appointed by Mr. Gladstone a member of the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission... It did valuable service to the Church of England in that it asserted its continuity, and 'went behind the Reformation.' In speaking of Archbishop Benson's work on this Commission, my father says: 'It was my happiness to sit by Benson's side, and to watch as he did with unflagging interest the gradual determination of the relations in which a national church must stand to the nation... The ruling ideas of the Lincoln Judgment were really defined by these inquiries."(23)

It will be remembered that Archbishop Benson's ruling in this judgment constituted the greatest victory for ritualism, and the most serious defeat for Protestantism. In fact it discouraged the Protestants.

"Nothing remains but to assert our complete independence of Convocation... If the (Revision) Company accept the dictation of Convocation, my work must end."(24) These words he wrote to Dr. Hort when Southern Convocation practically asked them to dismiss the Unitarian scholar from the New Testament Revision Committee.

Hort writes to Westcott, September 23, 1864:
"Within that world Anglicanism, though by no means without a sound standing, seems a poor and maimed thing beside great Rome."(25)

Their Anti-Methodism

Hort writes to his father, December 14, 1846:
"In fact his (Dr. Mill's) whole course lay in misrepresentation, confounding Evangelicalism with Methodism, which last is worse than popery, as being more insidious."(26)

Their Anti-Americanism

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, September 25, 1862:
"It cannot be wrong to desire and pray from the bottom of one's heart that the American Union may be shivered to pieces."(27)

"Lincoln is, I think. almost free from the nearly universal dishonesty of American politicians (his letter to Greely I know nothing about). I cannot see that he has shown any special virtues or statesmanlike capacities."(28)

Their Anti-Bible Doctrines

Westcott writes to Mr. Wickenden, October 26, 1861:
"I was much occupied with anxious thoughts about the possible duty of offering myself for the Hulsean Professorship at Cambridge. I had little wish, and no hope, for success, but I was inclined to protest against the imputations of heresy and the like which have been made against me."(29)

Hort writes to Mr. A. Macmillan:
"About Darwin, I have been reading and thinking a good deal, and am getting to see my way comparatively clearly, and to be also more desirous to say something."(30)

Hort writes to Westcott:
"You seem to me to make (Greek) philosophy worthless for those who have received the Christian revelation. To me, though in a hazy way, it seems full of precious truth of which I find nothing, and should be very much astonished and perplexed to find anything, in revelation."(31)

Their Tendency to Evolution

Westcott writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury on O.T. Criticism, March 4, 1890:
"No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history — I could never understand how any one reading them with open eyes could think they did."(32)

Hort writes to Mr. John Ellerton:
"I am inclined to think that no such state as 'Eden' (I mean the popular notion) ever existed, and that Adam's fall in no degree differed from the fall of each of his descendants, as Coleridge justly argues."(33)

Their Tractarianism

Westcott writes to his fiancee:
"Today I have again taken up Tracts for the Times and Dr. Newman. Don't tell me that he will do me harm. At least to-day he will, has, done me good, and had you been here I should have asked you to read his solemn words to me. My purchase has already amply repaid me. I think I shall choose a volume for one of my Christmas companions."(34)

Westcott writes to Hort, September 22, 1864:
"My summer was not as fruitful as I had wished; or rather, it was not fruitful in the way I had wished. Dr. Newman's 'Apologia' cut across it and opened thoughts which I thought had been sealed forever. These haunted me like spectres and left little rest."(35)

Hort writes to Rev. John Ellerton, February 25, 1869:
"It is hard to resist a vague feeling that Westcott's going to Peterborough will be the beginning of a great movement in the church, less conspicuous, but not less powerful, than that which proceeded from Newman."(36)

Hort writes to his wife, July 25, 1864:
"How inexpressibly green and ignorant (Blank) must be, to be discovering Newman's greatness and goodness now for the first time."(37)

The above quotation shows Hort's contempt for anyone who is slow in discovering Newman's greatness and goodness.

Their Ritualism

We have already noticed Westcott's associated work with Archbishop Benson in protecting ritualism and giving the most striking blow which discouraged Protestantism.

Hort writes to Mr. John Ellerton, July 6, 1848:
"The pure Romish view seems to me nearer, and more likely to lead to, the truth than the Evangelical... We should bear in mind that that hard and unspiritual medieval crust which enveloped the doctrine of the sacraments in stormy times, though in a measure it may have made it unprofitable to many men at that time, yet in God's providence preserved it inviolate and unscattered for future generations... We dare not forsake the sacraments or God will forsake us."(38)

Their Papal Atonement Doctrine

Westcott writes to his wife, Good Friday, 1865:
"This morning I went to hear the Hulsean Lecturer. He preached on the Atonement... All he said was very good, but then he did not enter into the great difficulties of the notion of sacrifice and vicarious punishment. To me it is always most satisfactory to regard the Christian as in Christ — absolutely one with him, and then he does what Christ has done: Christ's actions become his, and Christ's life and death in some sense his life and death."(39)

Westcott believed that the death of Christ was of His human nature, not of His Divine nature, otherwise man could not do what Christ did in death. Dr. Hort agrees in the following letter to Westcott. Both rejected the atonement of the substitution of Christ for the sinner, or vicarious atonement; both denied that the death of Christ counted for anything as an atoning factor. They emphasized atonement through the Incarnation. This is the Catholic doctrine. It helps defend the Mass.

Hort writes to Westcott, October 15, 1860:
To-day's post brought also your letter... I entirely agree — correcting one word — with what you there say on the Atonement, having for many years believed that 'the absolute union of the Christian (or rather, of man) with Christ Himself' is the spiritual truth of which the popular doctrine of substitution is an immoral and material counterfeit... Certainly nothing could be more unscriptural than the modern limiting of Christ's bearing our sins and sufferings to his death; but indeed that is only one aspect of an almost universal heresy."(40)

Their Collusion Previous to Revision

Westcott writes to Hort, May 28, 1870:
"Your note came with one from Ellicott this morning... Though I think that Convocation is not competent to initiate such a measure, yet I feel that as 'we three' are together it would be wrong not to 'make the best of it' as Lightfoot says... There is some hope that alternative readings might find a place in the margin."(41)

Westcott writes to Lightfoot, June 4, 1870:
"Ought we not to have a conference before the first meeting for Revision? There are many points on which it is important that we should be agreed."(42)

Westcott writes to Hort, July 1, 1870:
"The Revision on the whole surprised me by its prospects of hope. I suggested to Ellicott a plan of tabulating and circulating emendations before our meeting which may in the end prove valuable."(43)

Hort writes to Lightfoot:
"It is, I think, difficult to measure the weight of acceptance won beforehand for the Revision by the single fact of our welcoming an Unitarian."(44)

Hort writes to Williams:
"The errors and prejudices, which we agree in wishing to remove, can surely be more wholesomely and also more effectually reached by individual efforts of an indirect kind than by combined open assault. At present very many orthodox but rational men are being unawares acted on by influences which will assuredly bear good fruit in due time, if the process is allowed to go on quietly; and I cannot help fearing that a premature crisis would frighten back many into the merest traditionalism."(45)

Although these last words of Dr. Hort were written in 1858, nevertheless they reveal the method carried out by Westcott and himself as he said later, "I am rather in favor of indirect dealing." We have now before us the sentiments and purposes of the two men who entered the English New Testament Revision Committee and dominated it during the ten years of its strange work. We will now be obliged to take up the work of that Committee, to behold its battles and its methods, as well as to learn the crisis that was precipitated in the bosom of Protestantism.



 (1)  Life of Westcott, by his son,  Vol. I,  pp. 94, 95
 (2)  Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 218
 (3)  Life of Hort, by his son,  Vol. I,  p. 400
 (4)  Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 416
 (5)  Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 81
 (6)  Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 251
 (7)  Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  p. 49
 (8)  Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 50
 (9)  Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 51
(10) Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 86
(11) Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 155
(12) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 42
(13) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 205
(14) Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  pp. 134, 135
(15) Life of Westcott,  Vol. II,  p. 11
(16) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 117
(17) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 312
(18) Life of Hort,  Vol. I,  p. 211
(19) Life of Westcott,  Vol. II,  p. 53
(20) Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  p. 30
(31) Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 32
(22) Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 99
(23) Ibid,  Vol. I,  pp. 315, 316
(24) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 394
(25) Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  p. 30
(26) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 49
(27) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 459
(28) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 458
(29) Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 222
(30) Life of Hort,  Vol. I,  p. 424
(31) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 449
(32) Life of Westcott,  Vol. II,  p. 69
(33) Life of Hort,  Vol. I,  p. 78
(34) Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 223
(35) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 285
(36) Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  p. 108
(37) Ibid,  Vol. II,  p. 18
(38) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 76
(39) Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 231
(40) Life of Hort,  Vol. I,  p. 430
(41) Life of Westcott,  Vol. I,  p. 390
(42) Ibid,  Vol. I,  p. 391
(43) Ibid,  Vol. I,  pp. 392, 393
(44) Life of Hort,  Vol. II,  p. 140
(45) Life of Hort,  Vol. I,  p. 400


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