The Bangorian controversy
Hessert, Paul Bernard
Long covered with seldom-disturbed dust, the books and pamphlets of the Bangorian Controversy are a monument to English Church life in the opening decades of the eighteenth century. Like many other monuments bequeathed to our day their ability to draw attention to the men who erected them can compel both admiration and disgust. But in any case they remind us, in spite of our neglect, of a dispute important enough to engage the great men of the Church of England for over three years. Now that the passions which inflamed the authors are gone, their words can speak more clearly of the issues vital in their day at least, and significant in ours.The scope of the subject matter is astounding:The bounds of authority, the nature of the church, its relation to the state, the rights of private judgment and its difficulties, the responsibilities of sincere inquiry, articles of communion, and in what sense they should be subscribed to, and by whom, the power of councils, the power of Convocation, the liberty of freethinking, how a church and how a state should act towards Atheists and towards Deists, questions of toleration, of tests, of church establishments there was not one of these and such other kindred subjects which a writer in this controversy might not enter upon fairly and without wandering from his subject; even a historian who should once enter upon it would scarcely know where to stop.There the problem of organization is set forth as completely as could be hoped. The clue for understanding the controversy lies in the perennial problem of defining the Christian church; and it is this which makes the controversy worth studying today. In this paper, the materials are organized about the doctrine of the church with the attendant notion of author and its natural corollary, the right to dissent. Of course the succession of writings took no such well-defined pattern, but they were all written in defence of the church. This approach to the controversy provides a structure about which the materials can be -grouped with some hope of coherency and comprehensiveness.The historical background material of Chapter I is not intended as an exhaustive treatment of the period, but is provided only to give some picture of the setting in which the controversy took place and some appreciation of the forces which created and sus¬ tained it. Chapter II gives the more or less chrono¬ logical sequence of the controversy, an overall view in which separate writers can be related to the main trend of the argument. Chapters III and IY are more detailed treatments of the principal issues at point: authority and dissent. Chapter V is an attempt not to recapitulate the entire controversy, but to give some perspective to its arguments in relation to both Its own setting and more recent criticisms.In the case of quotations from the original sources, spelling, capitalization, and in most cases -ivpunctuation, have been corrected to modern usage. Care has been taken, however, not to alter the meaning. An earnest endeavour has been made to make the spelling throughout the paper conform to British rather than American usage. The Shorter Oxford Lnalish Dictionary has been used as a standard. The Church of Lna:land is always referred to as "Church", while "church" is used as the more general expression. The Church of Christ, in the sense of an ideal, however, is also referred to as "Church". In most cases the meaning will be obvious, but any confusion in terminology here reflects the same confusion in the minds of the original writers. In the case of citations of anonymous works, if the work is attributed to an author by Halkett and Laing's Diction¬ ary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous Lna'lish Literature, or by Thomas Heme's contemporary bibliographies of the controversy, the reference is made under the author's name. Anonymous works, even when attributed to an author, are marked as such in the bibliography. Where no author is cited, works are listed as "Anon."