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William Warburton and the Alliance of Church and State


In January 1736 an anonymous pamphlet appeared under the title, The Alliance between Church and State, or the Necessity of an Established Religion, and a Test Law demonstrated. Its author was William Warburton, a well-to-do but still comparatively obscure country clergyman. Although this was only his second publication in the field of divinity, he was already revealing the taste for controversy which was to characterise his literary career. The Alliance appeared at the height of the campaign by the Protestant dissenters to repeal the Test Act of 1673, and only weeks before the defeat, on 12 March 1736, of a motion for its repeal in the House of Commons. Clearly intending his work as a contribution to this debate Warburton was concerned less with giving an account of the relationship between Church and State than with providing a coherent and forceful justification both of the establishment of the Church of England and of the defence of that establishment by the Test Act. In the preface he claimed to treat the subject ‘abstractedly’.

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1 Gentleman's Magazine vi (1736), 44.

2 At this time he was rector of Brant Broughton, worth £560 per annum, and rector of Frisby, Lincolnshire, worth about £250 per annum: Sarah Brewer, ‘The early letters of Richard Hurd from 1739 to 1762’, unpublished PhD diss., Birmingham 1987, i. p. lxxvi.

3 The best account of Warburton's literary career is still Evans A.W., Warburton and the Warburtonians: a study of some eighteenth-century controversies, London 1932.

4 For the background to the dissenters’ campaign see Hunt N.C., Two Early Political Associations: the Quakers and the dissenting deputies in the age of Sir Robert Walpole, Oxford 1961, 130–53.

5 The Works of the Right Reverend William Warburton, D.D. Lord Bishop of Gloucester, new edn, London 1811, vii. p. iii. All references to the Alliance are taken from the edition of 1766 reprinted in vol. vii of The Works. Warburton sometimes used capital letters for emphasis. Where this has occurred in quotations used in this article, words printed in upper-case have been silently amended into lower-case italics.

6 Warburton, Works, vii. p. viii.

7 Warburton, ‘Dedication to the edition of Books IV. V. VI. of the Divine Legation of Moses; 1765’, in Works, iv. 6.

8 In 1736, 1741, 1748 and 1766. Most of the revisions took the form of often lengthy editorial notes in which Warburton developed points tangential to his main argument or took issue with critics.

9 Warburton, Works, vii. 88, 106.

10 Ibid. 100–40, 90–100.

11 Ibid. 42–3, 45.

12 Ibid. 174, 62, 65–9.

13 Greaves R.W., ‘The working of the alliance: a comment on Warburton’, in G.V. Bennett and J.D. Walsh (eds), Essays in Modern English Church History, London 1966, 163–80, at p. 163;Norman E.R., Church and Society in England 1770–1970, Oxford 1976, 16.

14 Warburton, ‘Dedication to the Divine Legation’, in Works, iv. 16.

15 Chandler, Hoadly and other critics of the church establishment are dealt with more fully in Stephen Taylor, ‘Church and State in England in the Mid-Eighteenth Century: the Newcastle Years 1742–1762’, unpublished PhD diss., Cambridge 1987, 42–9. For a brief outline of the argument of the Divine Legation see Evans, Warburton and the Warburtonians, 52–67.

16 Warburton, Works, vii. 42–3, 55.

17 Samuel Chandler, The History of Persecution… With a Preface, containing Remarks on Dr Rogers’s Vindication of the Civil Establishment of Religion, London 1736, pp. iii, v.

18 Warburton, Works, vii. 87–9, 100–1.

19 Benjamin Hoadly, An Answer to the Representation drawn up by the Committee of the Lower-House of Convocation concerning Several Dangerous Positions and Doctrines Contain'd in the Bishop of Bangor's Preservative and Sermon, London 1718, 152–63, 220–2, 174.

20 Warburton, Works, vii. 246ff., 252.

21 Ibid. 22, 41.

22 Ibid. 282–3, 242–3.

23 Ibid. 169–75, 273; Warburton, ‘Sermon preached on the thanksgiving day for the suppression of the late unnatural Rebellion in 1746’, in Works, ix. 330.

24 The Old Whig; or, the Consistent Protestant, 62, 13 May 1736, 64, 27 May 1736; A Comment on the Rev’d Mr Warburton’s Alliance between Church and State, London 1748, 44.

25 Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity: an abridged edition, ed. A.S. McGrade and Brian Vickers, London 1975, 225.

26 Ibid. 343, 352, 342, 339.

27 This part of the article will also touch on the writings of some lawyers, not because they were necessarily representative of educated lay opinion, but rather because they provide some discussion of the theory of Church–State relations.

28 Warburton, Works, vii. 63.

29 Edward Bentham, A Sermon Preached Before the Honourable House of Commons on Tuesday, January 30, 1749–1750, Oxford 1750, 2930.

30 William Freind, A Sermon Preached Before the Honourable House of Commons on Thursday, January 30, 1755, London 1755, 17.

31 Bennett G.V., The Tory Crisis in Church and State 1688–1730: the career of Francis Atterbury bishop of Rochester, Oxford 1975,41, 120, 204;Edward Bentham, A Letter to a Young Gentleman of Oxford, Oxford 1748; idem, A Letter to a Fellow of a College. Being the sequel of a letter to a young gentleman of Oxford, London 1749; Greaves R., ‘Religion in the University’, in L.S. Sutherland and L. G. Mitchell (eds), The History of Oxford University, V: The Eighteenth Century, Oxford 1986, 407 n. 4.

32 Samuel Squire, A Sermon Preached Before the Lords Spiritual and Temporal on Saturday, January 30, 1762, London 1762, 16;Winstanley D.A., The University of Cambridge in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge 1922, 146; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i (1849), 66: G. Cruch to William Robinson, 12 Oct. 1761.

33 Philip Yonge, A Sermon Preached Before the Honourable House of Commons on Friday, January 30, 1756, London 1756, 1718.

34 Edmund Gibson, Codex Juris Ecclesiastici Anglicani. With a Commentary, Historical and Judicial, London 1713, 2nd edn, London 1761;Richard Grey, A System of English Ecclesiastical Law. Extracted from the Codex Juris Ecclesiastici Anglicani, London 1730, 4th edn, London 1743.

35 Gibson, Codex, i. pp. xviii, xvii.

36 Ibid. p. xviii.

37 ‘Positions touching the Rights of ye Civil Power in matters of Religion’, Gibson Papers, Bodleian Library, Dep. c. 237, fos. 42–3; [Edmund Gibson], The Dispute Adjusted, about the Proper Time of Applying for a Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts; by Shewing, that No Time is Proper, London 1732, 12–13 [my emphasis].

38 Gloucester Ridley, Three Letters to the Author of The Confessional, London 1768. Each letter had been previously published separately.

39 Gloucester Ridley, Constitution in Church and State, London 1746, 13, 54, 6774, 78–9.

40 George Fothergill, The Importance of Religion to Civil Societies. A sermon preached… at the Assizes…on Thursday, March 6th. 1734–1735, 3rd edn, Oxford 1745, 710, 1021, 23, 25–6.

41 Ibid. 28–30, 30–2.

42 William Paley, ‘Principles of moral and political economy’, in The Works of William Paley, D.D. With Extracts from his Correspondence: and a Life of the Author, by the Rev. Robert Lynam, A.M., new edn London 1825, ii. 23, 24–5.

43 Ibid. 23, 50. I do not, therefore, agree with Sykes that Paley's work was no more than a refinement of Warburton's. Paley, in contrast to Warburton, did not confine his definition of ‘utility’ to civil utility: Norman Sykes, Church and State in England in the XVIIIth Century, Cambridge 1934, 326.

44 Thomas Wood, An Institute of the Laws of England, London 1720, i. 6, ii. 859.Cf. Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who stated that ‘The external principles of natural religion are part of the common law: the essential principles of revealed religion are part of the common law; so that any person reviling, subverting, or ridiculing them, may be prosecuted at common law’: The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London 18061820, xvi. 319.

45 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Oxford 1765–1769, iv. 43, 58–9, 43–4, 45–9.

46 Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, 342, 336.

47 John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. James H. Tully, Indianapolis 1983.

48 Blackstone, Commentaries, iv. 52–3, 51.

49 Ibid. 53–4.

50 Ibid. 51–3.

51 Philip Furneaux, Letters to the Honourable Mr Justice Blackstone, 2nd edn, London 1771, 11, v. Mansfield's opinion was delivered in the House of Lords in the case of the Chamberlain of London versus Evans on 4 February 1767. Mansfield argued that the Toleration Act ‘renders that which was illegal before, now legal’. Since its enactment ‘it is now no crime for a man who is within the description of the act to say that he is a dissenter; nor is it any crime for him not to take the sacrament according to the rites of the church of England’: Parl. Hist., xvi. 320, 319.

52 Blackstone, Commentaries, iv. 52.

53 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 14th edn, Oxford 1803, iv. 53 [my emphasis]. By the provisions of the Act Protestant dissenters had to ‘take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and subscribe to the declaration against popery, and repair to some congregation registered in the bishop's court or at the sessions, the doors whereof must be always open: and dissenting teachers are also to subscribe the thirty nine articles, except those relating to church government and infant baptism’: Blackstone, Commentaries 1st edn, iv. 53.

54 See, e.g. SirAubyn's John St speech on the Quakers Tithe Bill of 1736: Gentleman's Magazine vi (1736), 365.

55 John Rogers, Seventeen Sermons on Several Occasions …To Which are Added Two Tracts viz. I. Reasons Against Conversion to the Church of Rome. II. A Persuasive to Conformity, Address'd to the Dissenters, 2nd edn, London 1740, 443–4.

56 Fothergill, The Importance of Religion to Civil Societies, 31.

57 Richard Trevor, A Sermon Preached Before the House of Lords on Friday, Jan. 30, 1746–1747, London 1747, 17. By mid-century it had become common to use 30 January, the commemoration of the execution of Charles I, as an occasion to deprecate lack of charity and toleration, as manifested in the disputes of the previous century. See also Squire, Sermon Before the Lords on January 30, 1762, 16.

58 George Harvest, Protestant and Jewish Blessings Compared, London 1746, 1718;Paley, Works, ii. 50 p. 280 n. 43 above.

59 Warburton, Works, vii. 164–5, 25–6.

60 Kenyon J. P., ‘The Revolution of 1688: resistance and contract’, in Neil McKendrick (ed.), Historical Perspectives: studies in English thought and society, London 1974, 4369;John Dunn, ‘The politics of Locke in England and America in the eighteenth century’, in J. W. Yolton (ed.), John Locke: problems and perspectives, Cambridge 1969, 4580. For a more extreme restatement of this portion see Clark J. C. D., English Society 1688–1832: ideology, social structure and political practice during the ancien regime, Cambridge 1985, 4550.

61 Edmund Gibson, The Bishop of London's Second Pastoral Letter to the People of his Diocese, London 1730, 5; Daniel Waterland, ‘Advice to a young student. With a method of study for the first four years’, in William van Mildert (ed.), The Works of the Rev. Daniel Waterland, D.D., 2nd edn, Oxford 1843, iv. 409.

62 Thomas Sherlock, A Sermon Preached at the Cathedral Church of Salisbury, October 6, 1745, London 1745, 6;Warburton, ‘Three sermons preached on the occasion of the late Rebellion in 1745’, in Works, ix. 305.

63 Warburton, Works, ix. 293–4, 308, 298300;idem, ‘Sermon preached before the right honourable the House of Lords, January 30, 1760’, in Works, x. 19. Warburton did concede that peoples (as distinct from states) were punished for the sins of particulars ‘by, what may be called, the national judgments of famine, pestilence, or any other way that hurts not the Constitution’: Works, ix. 309.

64 E.g. Henry Stebbing, The History of Abraham, London 1746, 100.

65 John Egerton, A Sermon Preached Before the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal on Friday, January 30, 1761, London 1761, 67, 1112.

66 Thomas Fothergill, The Reasonableness and Uses of Commemorating King Charles's Martyrdom. A sermon preached on Tuesday, January 30, 1753, London 1753, 14.

67 John Wilcox, A Sermon Preached Before the House of Commons on Monday, Jan. 30. 1737, London 1738, 13.

68 Cf. Sykes, Church and State, ch. vii.

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