From "Gipp's Understandable History of the Bible"
©1987 by Samuel C. Gipp.
Reproduced by permission.
It is truly amazing that a man who believed things completely contrary to the convictions of today's fundamental preachers and educators could be exalted and defended by them. Of course, I believe this is done primarily because our fundamental brethren know little of what either Dr. Westcott or Dr. Hort really believed and taught.
This does not completely describe Brooke Foss Westcott, the man. He was a devout socialist and postmillenialist. Socialism and postmillenialism go hand in hand. Postmillenialism is the belief that we shall bring in the millenial reign of Christ ourselves, without Christ's help. Socialism is usually the means of establishing that thousand-year reign of peace.
A postmillenialist would see a spiritual "coming" of Christ at any great event which drew the world closer to his idea of peace. It is also easy to see why he would believe that a "heaven" was attainable down here, i.e., Westcott's statement: "We may reasonably hope, by patient, resolute, faithful, united endeavour, to find heaven about us here, the glory of our earthly life."
These are only two small glimmers of the socialistic light which burned in Westcott's breast. If they were all of the evidence available, it would make for a weak case indeed. They are not!
Dr. Westcott's "pacifist" nature shows early in his life. He was known as a "shy, nervous, thoughtful boy" while attending school. His hobbies were as follows: "He used his leisure chiefly in sketching, arranging his collections of ferns, butterflies, and moths, and in reading books of natural history or poetry." 129
He developed an interest in social reform early on. He was known about his school for talking about things "which very few schoolboys talk about - points of theology, problems of morality, and the ethics of politics." 130
His son, Arthur, describes him with these words: "As a boy my father took keen interest in the Chartist movement, and the effect then produced upon his youthful imagination by the popular presentation of the sufferings of the masses never faded. His diary shows how he deserted his meals to be present at various stirring scenes, and in particular to listen to the oratory of 'the great agitator,' presumably Feargus O'Connor himself. He would often in later years speak of these early impressions, which served in no small degree to keep alive his intense hatred of every form of injustice and oppression. He even later disapproved of his father's fishing excursions, because his sympathies were so entirely on the side of the fish. On one occasion, being then a little boy, he was carrying a fish-basket, when his father put a live fish into it, and later in life he used to declare that he would still feel the struggles of that fish against his back."131
(The Chartist movement was a campaign for social reform in England from 1838-1848.)
This one paragraph reveals the temperament which could describe Westcott for the rest of his life:
He was ever in favor of any social reform, at any cost, as he himself stated in speaking of the French Revolution: "The French Revolution has been a great object of interest. I confess to a strong sympathy with the republicans. Their leaders at least have been distinguished by great zeal and sincerity. Lamartine, who I fancy you know by name, quite wins my admiration."132
Westcott's Poetical Influences
Westcott was ever a lover of poetry and was deeply influenced by its message. This explains his admiration of Alphonse de Lamartine. Lamartine was a French poet whose writings helped influence the French people into revolution. Ironically, but I am sure not coincidentally, Lamartine had studied under the Jesuits.
He is a fool who thinks a poet's pen is not a mighty weapon!
Westcott's romantic attitude explains why he would make the statement that, "Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than history."
It also explains his susceptibility to the subtle Romanizing influence of the poet Keble. Westcott had a fondness for poetry and an unusual fondness for Keble's poetry. No poet is mentioned more often in his writings than Keble.
Westcott writes concerning Keble, "But I intend reading some Keble, which has been a great delight to me during the whole week, and perhaps that will now be better than filling you with all my dark, dark, dark gloominess."133
It seems Keble's poetry inspired Westcott to see that the Church of England needed to make a change.
"I have been reading Keble for the day, and though I do not recollect noticing the hymn particularly before, it now seems to me one of the most beautiful and especially does it apply to those feelings which so often described to you: that general sorrow and despair which we feel when we look at the state of things around us and try to picture the results which soon must burst upon our Church and country."134
Westcott found time to quote Keble to express his feelings.
"On these look long and well, Cleansing thy sight by prayer and faith, And thou shalt know what secret spell Preserves them in their living death." "That hymn of Keble's contains very, very much. You have read it again and again now, I am sure, and understand it."135
That Keble formed in Westcott a passive attitude toward Christianity's arch-enemy, Rome, is evident by his reaction to a sermon condemning Popery: "As for Mr. Oldham's meetings, I think they are not good in their tendency, and nothing can be so bad as making them the vehicle of controversy. What an exquisitely beautiful verse is that of Keble's, 'And yearns not her parental heart,' etc. We seem now to have lost all sense of pity in bitterness and ill-feeling. Should not our arm against Rome be prayer and not speeches; the efforts of our inmost heart, and not the display of secular reason?"136
It has been often stated that "You are what you read." Westcott's constant exposure to pro-Roman influences set a pattern for his thinking, even though he may not have been aware of it. Westcott even refused to abandon Keble as his writings became more obviously Popish.
- "Keble has lately published some sermons in which, as well as in a preface on 'the position of Churchmen,' I am afraid he will offend many. I can in some measure sympathize with him."137
Remembering the hatred Westcott had for what he considered "injustice and oppression," and his submission to the programming poetry of Keble, we find him slipping farther away from a truly biblical stand after hearing another pro-Roman speaker, Maurice.
- "See Maurice's new lectures, with a preface on development written apparently with marvelous candour and fairness, and free from all controversial bitterness. He makes a remark which I have often written and said, that the danger of our Church is from atheism, not Romanism. What a striking picture is that he quotes from Newman of the present aspect of the Roman Church - as despised, rejected, persecuted in public opinion."138
This constant barrage of Romanizing influences caused Westcott to incorporate many Roman Catholic practices into his thinking.
In February of 1849 he decided to investigate two favorite subjects of the Romanizers: "Inspiration -- Apostolical Succession. May I inquire on all these topics with simple sincerity, seeking only the truth!"139
The result of the first study led to Westcott's believing the Bible to be absolutely true, but he refused to call it infallible.
- "My dear Hort - I am glad to have seen both your note and Lightfoot's - glad too that we have had such an opportunity of openly speaking. For I too must disclaim setting forth infallibility in the front of my convictions. All I hold is, that the more I learn, the more I am con- vinced that fresh doubts come from my own ignorance, and that at present I find the pre- sumption in favor of the absolute truth - I reject the word infallibility - of Holy Scripture overwhelming."140
Our good Bishop has now lost the conviction that Scripture is "infallible." We are never told the result of his study of the Roman Catholic teaching of "Apostolic Succession."
Westcott also had an affinity for statues since his poetic spirit had the ability to read a great deal into that which he saw.
- "Our Cathedral buildings at Peterborough are far from rich in works of sculpture, but among the works which we have there are two which have always seemed to me to be of the deepest interest. The one is a statue of a Benedictine monk, which occupies a niche in the gateway built by Godfrey of Croyland about 1308; the other is an effigy of an unknown abbot of considerably earlier date, carved upon the slab which once covered his grave, and which now lies in the south aisle of the choir. They are widely different in character and significance. The statue of the monk, which Flaxman took as an illustration of his lectures on sculpture, is one of the noblest of medieval figures. The effigy of the abbot has no artistic merit whatever. But both alike are studies from life; and together they seem to me to bring very vividly before us the vital power of early monasticism in England."141
The Jesuit plan is to introduce the ways of Rome into the minds of Protestants and familiarize them with the "High Church" atmosphere. Then, little by little, allow these Roman ideas to intertwine themselves with the worship service. Dr. Wylie aptly describes the plan:
- "Tract 90, where the doctrine of reserves is broached, bears strong marks of a Jesuit origin. Could we know all the secret instructions given to the leaders in the Puseyite movement, the mental reservations prescribed to them, we might well be astonished. 'Go gently,' we think we hear the great Roothan say to them. 'Remember the motto of our dear son, the cidevant Bishop Autun, "surtout, pas trop de zele"(above all, not too much zeal). Bring into view, little by little, the authority of the church. If you can succeed in rendering it equal to that of the Bible, you have done much. Change the table of the Lord into an altar; elevate that altar a few inches above the level of the floor; gradually turn around to it when you read the Liturgy; place lighted tapers upon it; teach the people the virtues of stained glass, and cause them to feel the majesty of Gothic basilisques. Introduce first the dogmas, beginning with that of baptismal regeneration; next the ceremonies and sacraments, as penance and the confessional; and lastly, the images of the Virgin and the saints'."142
This trend was quite apparent in the unsuspecting mind of Bishop Westcott. "I do not say that baptism is absolutely necessary, though from the words of Scripture I can see no exception, but I do not think we have no right to exclaim against the idea of the commencement of a spiritual life, conditionally from baptism, any more than we have to deny the commencement of a moral life from birth."143
- "Dear Mr. Perrott - I had sketched out a plan in my mind for the windows in the chancel at Somersham which I should have been glad to carry out, but now, as you know, my connection with the parish has practically ceased, and in a few weeks will formally cease. My wish was to have a figure of John the Baptist opposite that of the Virgin, to represent the Old Dispensation, and to have the work executed by Heaton and Butler, who executed the window for Mr. Mason."144
These Romanistic leanings eventually led Westcott into allowing the practice of "prayers for the dead." In writing to a clergyman in August of 1900 concerning this Roman Catholic practice which had found its way into an Anglican church, HE STATED, "I considered very carefully, in conference with some other bishops of large knowledge and experience, the attitude of our church with regard to prayers for the dead. We agreed unanimously that we are, as things are now, forbidden to pray for the dead apart from the whole church in our public services. No restriction is placed upon private devotions."145 (Emphasis his.)
Notice that the Bishop advised against prayers for the dead in "public service," but he did not even attempt to discourage the practice in "private devotions!" Would one of today's fundamental preachers who have such high regard for the Westcott and Hort Greek Text respond in the same manner? Would we hear one of our Bible-believing brethren confront the matter with, 'Well, we don't practice prayers for the dead here in our services, but if you want to do it in your private devotions, it's okay.' NEVER! We are to hate the garment "spotted by the flesh." (Jude 23.) Dr. Westcott's garment is spotted to the point of resembling a leopard's skin! Are we to expect an unbiased rendering of the Greek Text by a man whose convictions would rival Jerome's in loyalty to Roman teaching? I trow not!
But to allow prayers for the dead would be futile if there were only heaven and hell. The "dead" in heaven would need no prayers, and the "dead" in hell would be beyond hope.
Benjamin Wilkenson provides the missing link in Westcott's chain of Romanism when commenting on the Revised Version translation of John 14:2:
- King James: "In my Father's house are many mansions."
- Revised: "In my Father's house are many abiding places." (margin)
"In the following quotation from the Expositor, the writer points out that, by the marginal reading of the Revised, Dr. Westcott and the Committee referred, not to a final future state, but to intermediate stations in the future before the final one.
- "Dr. Westcott in his Commentary of St. John's Gospel gives the following explanation of the words. 'In my Father's house are many mansions. The rendering comes from the Vulgate mansiones, which were resting places, and especially the stations on a great road, where travelers found refreshment. This appears to be the true meaning of the Greek word here; so that the contrasted notions of repose and progress are combined in this vision of the future.'
- "'For thirty years now,' said Dr. Samuel Cox, in 1886, 'I have been preaching what is called the larger hope, through good and ill report.
- "The larger hope meant a probation after this life, such a time of purifying, by fire or otherwise, after death as would insure another opportunity of salvation to all men. Dr. Cox, like others, rejoices that the changes in the Revised Version sustain this doctrine. 'Had the new version been in our hands, I should not have felt any special gravity in the assertion,' he said. Doctors Westcott and Hort, both Revisers, believed this larger hope." (This Roman Catholic translation also appears in the NASV).146
Considering the Romanistic ideals which Dr. Westcott possessed, it is no surprise that his close friend and companion, Dr. Hort, would compare him to, of all people, the Roman Catholic defector, John Newman! "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."147
It also seems not surprising that Westcott would call the Jesuit inspired Oxford Movement, "the Oxford Revival!" "The Oxford Revival in the middle of the century, quickened anew that sense of corporate life. But the evangelical movement touched only a part of human interest."148
Another Roman Catholic doctrine is the adoration of Mary. Here also Dr. Westcott did not let the Roman Catholic Church down, as he reveals in a letter to his fiancee Sarah Louisa Whittard.
- "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."149
This condition is also indicated by his son, Arthur, in describing Westcott's reaction to the painting "The Sistine Madonna:"
- "It is smaller than I expected, and the colouring is less rich, but in expression it is perfect. The face of the virgin is unspeakably beautiful. I looked till the lip seemed to tremble with intensity of feeling - of feeling simply, for it would be impossible to say whether it be awe of joy or hope - humanity shrinking before the divine, or swelling with its conscious possession. It is enough that there is deep, intensely deep, emotion such as the mother of the Lord may have had."150
The intensity of Westcott's admiration for Christ's mother is best revealed by his desire to change his fiancee's name to "Mary" as Arthur explains: "My mother, whose name was Sarah Louisa Whittard, was the eldest of three sisters. She afterwards, at the time of her confirmation at my father's request, took the name of Mary in addition."151
The above examples illustrate Dr. Westcott's strong Roman Catholic leanings. Again I must say that I do not believe that if a man lived today with the convictions we have just studied, that he would be welcome in a fundamental pulpit anywhere in America, be his name Bishop Wescott or Hort or Schuler or any other.
Westcott's Communal Living
Few of Bishop Westcott's Twentieth Century supporters know the true thoughts and intents of his heart. If they did, they would know that he was an advocate of communal living! Let the record speak for itself.
His son, Arthur, stated in his book, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott:
- "In later years of his Harrow residence (approximately 1868) my father was very full of the idea of a 'Coenobium.' (Arthur's footnote for the word 'Coenobium' states simply, 'community life.') Every form of luxury was to him abhorrent, and he viewed with alarm the increasing tendency amongst all classes of society to encourage extravagant display and wasteful self-indulgence. His own extreme simplicity of life is well-known to all his friends. He looked to the family and not the individual for the exhibition of the simple life. His views upon this subject are accessible to all who care to study them. I only wish to put it on record that he was very much in earnest in this matter and felt that he had not done all he might have for its furtherance."152
On the idea of the Coenobium, Bishop Westcott's socialism bordered very close to communism as we see by his own description of what a Coenobium was to be.
- "It would consist primarily of an association of families, bound together by common principles of life, of work, of devotion, subject during the time of voluntary co-operation to central control, and united by definite obligations. Such a corporate life would be best realized under the conditions of collegiate union with the hall and schools and chapel, with a common income, though not common property, and an organized government; but the sense of fellowship and the power of sympathy, though they would be largely developed by these, would yet remain vigorous whenever and in whatever form combination in the furtherance of the general ends was possible. Indeed, complete isolation from the mass of society would defeat the very objects of the institution. These objects - the conquest of luxury, the disciplining of intellectual labor, the consecration of every fragment of life by religious exercises - would be expressed in a threefold obligation; an obligation to poverty, an obligation to study, and obligation to devotion."158 (Emphasis mine.)
Little did the esteemed professor realize that the college students of a hundred years later would be more than happy to turn his dream into a reality!
Arthur viewed the establishment of the Coenobium with much fear and trembling. They were assured of its future reality quite often.
- "My own recollections of the Coenobium are very vivid. Whenever we children showed signs of greediness or other selfishness, we were assured that such things would be unheard of in the Coenobium. There the greedy would have no second portions of desirable puddings. We should not there be allowed a choice of meats, but should be constrained to take which was judged to be best for us. We viewed the establishment of the Coenobium with gloomy apprehension, not quite sure whether it was within the bounds of practical politics or not. I was myself inclined to believe that it really was coming and that we, with the Bensons (maybe) and Horts and a few other families, would find ourselves living in a community life. I remember confiding to a younger brother that I had overheard some conversation which convinced me that the Coenobium was an event of the immediate future, and that a site had been selected for it in Northamptonshire; I even pointed out Peterborough on the map."154
In a letter to his old college friend, Dr. E.W. Benson, dated November 24, 1868, Dr. Westcott states his regrets that the Coenobium had not yet been established, and wonders if he wouldn't have done better to have pursued the matter further.
- "My dear Benson - alas! I feel most deeply that I ought not to speak one word about the Coenobium. One seems to be entangled in the affairs of life. The work must be for those who have a fresh life to give. Yet sometimes I think that I have been faithless to call which might have grown distinct if I had listened."155
Two years later he was still promoting the idea through articles in a periodical entitled "Contemporary," as he explains in another letter to Benson dated, March 21, 1870:
- "...the paper on the Coenobium will appear, I think, in the next number of the 'Contemporary.' It was a trial to me not to send it to you and Lightfoot and Wordsworth for criticism, but on the whole I thought it best to venture for myself, and speak simply what I feel. If anything is to come of the idea it will be handled variously, and something is gained even by incompleteness. On the true reconciliation of classes I have said a few words which are, I hope, intelligible."156
Young Arthur's naive sounding prediction in 1868 of the establishing of such a Coenobium in Peterborough, two years later (1870) seemed almost prophetic. In December of 1868, Dr. Westcott became Examining Chaplain in the Diocese of Peterborough! Just prior to the move, he wrote Benson, "The Coenobium comes at least one step nearer."157
Arthur's fears seemed somewhat realized.
- "The move to Peterborough was a great venture of faith on my father's part. He had a large family to educate, and yet he exchanged the comparative opulence of a Harrow house master for the precarious income attached to a canonry in an impoverished Chapter. Our manner of life was already adapted to the idea of the Coenobium in its strict simplicity, so the only luxury that could be abolished was meat for breakfast, which however, was retained as a Sunday treat."158
Thus we see a side of Dr. Westcott which is not too publicized by his followers, yet it was there nonetheless. In addition to his desire to see the Authorized Version replaced, a Romanized Church of England, and the establishment of college Coenobium, he had one other great driving force, the abolition of war.