F. D. Maurice
John Frederick Denison Maurice
29 August 1805
Normanston, Suffolk, England
|Died||1 April 1872 (aged 66)|
|Other names||Frederick Denison Maurice|
|Church||Church of England|
|School or tradition||Christian socialism|
|Notable works||The Kingdom of Christ (1838)|
John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), known as F. D. Maurice, was an English Anglican theologian, a prolific author, and one of the founders of Christian socialism. Since World War II, interest in Maurice has expanded.
John Frederick Denison Maurice was born in Normanton, Suffolk, on 29 August 1805, the only son of Michael Maurice and his wife, Priscilla. Michael Maurice was the evening preacher in a Unitarian chapel. Deaths in the family brought about changes in the family's "religious convictions" and "vehement disagreement" between family members. Maurice later wrote about these disagreements and their effect on him:
My father was a Unitarian minister. He wished me to be one also. He had a strong feeling against the English Church, and against Cambridge as well as Oxford. My elder sisters, and ultimately my mother, abandoned Unitarianism. But they continued to be Dissenters; they were not less, but some of them at least more, averse from the English Church than he was. I was much confused between the opposite opinions in our household. What would surprise many, I felt a drawing towards the anti-Unitarian side, not from any religious bias, but because Unitarianism seemed to my boyish logic incoherent and feeble.
Michael was "of no little learning" and gave his son his early education. The son "appears to have been an exemplary child, responsive to teaching and always dutiful. He read a good deal on his own account, but had little inclination for games. Serious and precocious, he even at this time harboured ambitions for a life of public service."
For his higher education in civil law, Maurice entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1823 that required no religious test for admissions though only members of the established church were eligible to obtain a degree. With John Sterling Maurice founded the Apostles' Club. He moved to Trinity Hall in 1825. In 1826, Maurice went to London to read for the bar and returned to Cambridge where he obtained a first-class degree in civil law in 1827.
During the 1827-1830 break in his higher education, Maurice lived in London and Southampton. While in London, he contributed to the Westminster Review and made the acquaintance of John Stuart Mill. With Sterling he also edited the Athenaeum. The magazine did not pay and his father had lost money which entailed moving the family to a smaller house in Southampton and Maurice joined them. During his time in Southampton, Maurice rejected his earlier Unitarianism and decided to be ordained in the Church of England. Mill described Maurice and Sterling as representing a "a second Liberal and even Radical party, on totally different grounds from Benthamism." Maurice's articles evince sympathy for Radicals such as Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt, and he welcomed the "shattering of thrones, the convulsions of governments" that marked the end of the eighteenth century. He likewise commended the Whig Henry Brougham's support for Catholic emancipation in England, but criticized him for relying too much on the aristocracy and not enough on the people.
Maurice entered Exeter College, Oxford, in 1830 to prepare for ordination. He was older than most of students, he was very poor and he "kept to himself, toiling at his books". However, "his honesty and intellectual powers" impressed others. In March 1831, Maurice was baptised in the Church of England. After taking a second-class degree in November 1831, he worked as a "private tutor" in Oxford until his ordination as a deacon in January 1834 and appointment to a curacy in Bubbenhall near Leamington. Being twenty-eight years old when he was ordained deacon, Maurice was older and with a wider experience than most ordinands. He had attended both universities and been active in "the literary and social interests of London". All this, coupled with his diligence in study and reading, gave Maurice a knowledge "scarcely paralleled by any of his contemporaries". He was ordained as priest in 1835.
Except for his 1834-1836 first clerical assignment, Maurice's career can be divided between his conflicted years in London (1836-1866) and his peaceful years in Cambridge (1866-1872)
For his first clerical assignment, Maurice served an assistant curacy in Bubbenhall in Warwickshire from 1834 until 1836. During his time in Bubbenhall, Maurice began writing on the topic of "moral and metaphysical philosophy". Writing on this topic by "revision and expansion" continued the rest of his life until the publication of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, 2 vols in 1871-1872, the year of his death. Also, Maurice's novel Eustace Conway, begun c. 1830, was published in 1834 and was praised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
In 1836, he was appointed chaplain of Guy's Hospital where he took up residence and "lectured the students on moral philosophy". He continued this post until 1860. Maurice's public life began during his years at Guy's.
In June 1837, Maurice met Anna Barton. They became engaged and were married on 7 October 1837."
In 1838, the first edition of The Kingdom of Christ was published. It was "one of his most significant works." A second enlarged edition was published in 1842 and a third edition in 1883. For Maurice the signs of this kingdom are "the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist, to which must be added the creeds, the liturgy, the episcopate, and the scriptures--in fact, all the marks of catholicity as exemplified in the Church of England." The book was met with criticism when published, a criticism "that lasted throughout Maurice's career."
Maurice served as editor of the Educational Magazine during its entire 1839-1841 existence. He argued that "the school system should not be transferred from the church to the state." Maurice was elected professor of English literature and history at King's College, London, in 1840. When the college added a theological department in 1846, he became a professor there also. That same year Maurice was elected chaplain of Lincoln's Inn and resigned the chaplaincy at Guy's Hospital.
In 1847, Maurice and "most of his brother-professors" at King's College formed a Committee on Education for the education of governesses. This committee joined a scheme for establishing a College for Women that resulted in the founding of Queen's College. Maurice was its first principal. The college was "empowered to grant certificates of qualification 'to governesses' and 'to open classes in all branches of female education'."
On 4 July 1849, Maurice remarried, this time to Georgina Hare-Naylor.
Dismissed from King's College
"Maurice was dismissed from his professorships because of his leadership in the Christian Socialist Movement, and because of the supposed unorthodoxy of his Theological Essays (1853)." His work The Kingdom of Christ had evoked virulent criticism. The publication of his Theological Essays in 1853 evoked even more and precipitated his dismissal from King's College. At the instigation of Richard William Jelf, the Principal of the College, the Council of the College, asked Maurice to resign. He refused and demanded that he be either "acquitted or dismissed." He was dismissed. To prevent the controversy from affecting Queen's College, Maurice "severed his relations" with it.
The public and his friends were strongly in support of Maurice. His friends "looked up to him with the reverence due to a great spiritual teacher." They were devoted to him and wanted to protect Maurice against his opponents.
Working Men's College
Although his relations with King's College and Queen's College had been severed, Maurice continued to work for the education of workers. In February 1854, he developed plans for a Working Men's College. Maurice gained enough support for the college by giving lectures that by 30 October 1854 the college opened with over 130 students. "Maurice became principal, and took an active part both in teaching and superintending during the rest of his life in London."
Maurice's teaching led to some "abortive attempts at co-operation among working men" and to the more enduring Christian Socialism movement and the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations.
In July 1860, in spite of controversy, Maurice was appointed to the benefice of the chapel of St. Peter's, Vere Street. He held the position until 1869.
"On 25 October 1866 Maurice was elected to the Knightbridge professorship of casuistry, moral theology, and moral philosophy at [the University of] Cambridge." This professorship was the "highest preferment" Maurice attained. Among his books he cited in his application, were his Theological Essays and What is Revelation? that had evoked opposition elsewhere. But at Cambridge, Maurice was "almost unanimously elected" to the faculty. Maurice was "warmly received" at Cambridge, where "there were no doubts of his sufficient orthodoxy".
While teaching at Cambridge, Maurice continued as the Working Men's College principal, though he was there less often. At first, he retained the Vere Street, London, cure which entailed a weekly rail trip to London to officiate at services and preach. When this proved too strenuous, upon medical advice, Maurice resigned this cure in October 1869. In 1870, by accepting the offer of St Edward's, Cambridge, where he had "an opportunity for preaching to an intelligent audience" with few pastoral duties, albeit with no stipend.
In July 1871 Maurice accepted the Cambridge preachership at Whitehall. "He was a man to whom other men, no matter how much they might differ from him, would listen."
In spite of declining health, in 1870 Maurice agreed to serve on the Royal Commission regarding the Contagious Diseases Act of 1871, and travelled to London for the meetings. "The Commission consisted of twenty-three men, including ten parliamentarians (from both Houses), some clergy, and some eminent scientists (such as T.H. Huxley)."
Dean Francis Close wrote a monograph about the proceedings of the royal commission. The issue was whether earlier acts legalising and policing prostitution for the armed forces should be repealed. Close quoted a commission member's speech to the House of Commons that praised Maurice as a "model Royal Commissioner". Close ended his monograph with these words: "Professor Maurice remained firmly and conscientiously opposed to the Acts to the very last."
In spite of terminal illness, Maurice continued giving his professorial lectures, trying to know his students personally and completing his Metaphysical and Moral Philosophy (2 vols., 1871-1872). He also continued preaching (at Whitehall from November 1871 to January 1872 and two university sermons in November). His final sermon was 11 February 1872 in St Edward's. On 30 March he resigned from St Edward's. Very weak and mentally depressed, on Easter Monday, 1 April 1872, after receiving Holy Communion, with great effort he pronounced the blessing, became unconscious and died.
In a letter of 2 April 1833 to Richard Chenevix Trench, Maurice lamented the current "spirit" of "conflicting opinions" that "cramps our energies" and "kills our life". In spite of his lamenting "contradictory opinions," that term precisely described reactions to Maurice.
Maurice's writings, lectures, and sermons spawned conflicting opinions. Julius Hare considered him "the greatest mind since Plato", but John Ruskin thought him "by nature puzzle-headed and indeed wrong-headed;" while John Stuart Mill considered that "there was more intellectual power wasted in Maurice than in any other of my contemporaries".
One important literary and theological figure who was favorably impressed by Maurice was Charles Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll. Dodgson wrote about attending morning and afternoon services at Vere Street at which Maurice preached both times with the comment, "I like his sermons very much". Maurice held the benefice of the chapel of St. Peter's, Vere Street from 1860-1869.
M. E. Grant Duff in his diary for 22 April 1855, wrote that he "went, as usual about this time, to hear F.D. Maurice preach at Lincoln's Inn. I suppose I must have heard him, first and last, some thirty or forty times, and never carried away one clear idea, or even the impression that he had more than the faintest conception of what he himself meant."
In the United States, The National Quarterly Review and Religious Magazine, Volume 38 (January 1879), contained this appreciation of Maurice. "Mr. Maurice's characteristics are well known and becoming every year more highly appreciated--broad catholicity, keeness of insight, powerful mental grasp, fearlessness of utterance and devoutness of spirit."
Leslie Stephen in The English Utilitarians,Vol 3, John Stuart Mill. 1900., Wrote " Maurice is equally opposed to the sacerdotalism which makes the essence of religion consist in a magical removal of penalties instead of a'regeneration' of the nature. He takes what may be vaguely called the 'subjective' view of religion, and sympathises with Schleiermacher's statement that piety is 'neither a knowing nor a doing, but an inclination and determination of the feelings' ".
"The demand for political and economic righteousness is one of the principal themes of Maurice's theology." Maurice practiced his theology by going "quietly on bearing the chief burthen of some of the most important social movements of the time."
Living in London the "condition of the poor pressed upon him with consuming force." Working men trusted him when they distrusted other clergymen and the church. Working men attended Bible classes and meetings led by Maurice whose theme was "moral edification."
Maurice was affected by the "revolutionary movements of 1848", especially the march on Parliament, but he believed that "Christianity rather than secularist doctrines was the only sound foundation for social reconstruction."
Maurice "disliked competition as fundamentally unchristian, and wished to see it, at the social level, replaced by co-operation, as expressive of Christian brotherhood." In 1849, Maurice joined other Christian socialist in an attempt to mitigate competition by the creation of co-operative societies. He viewed co-operative societies as "a modern application of primitive Christian communism." Twelve cooperative workshops were to be launched in London. However, even with subsidy by Edward Vansittart Neale many turned out to be unprofitable. Nevertheless, the effort effected lasting consequences as seen in the following sub-section on the "Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations"
In 1854, there were eight Co-operative Productive Associations in London and fourteen in the Provinces. These included breweries, flour mills, tailors, hat makers, builders, printers, engineers. Others were formed in the following decades. Some of them failed after several years, some lasted a longer time, some were replaced.
Maurice's perception of a need for a moral and social regeneration of society led him into Christian socialism. From 1848 until 1854 (when the movement came to an end), he was a leader of the Christian Socialist Movement. He insisted that "Christianity is the only foundation of Socialism, and that a true Socialism is the necessary result of a sound Christianity."
Maurice has been characterized as "the spiritual leader" of the Christian socialists because he was more interested in disseminating its theological foundations than "their practical endeavours." Maurice once wrote,
Let people call me merely a philosopher, or merely anything else.... My business, because I am a theologian, and have no vocation except for theology, is not to build, but to dig, to show that economics and politics ... must have a ground beneath themselves, and that society was not to be made by any arrangements of ours, but is to be regenerated by finding the law and ground of its order and harmony, the only secret of its existence, in God.
Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations
Early in 1850 the Christian socialists started a working men's association for tailors in London, followed by associations for other trades. To promote this movement, a Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations (SPWMA) was founded with Maurice as a founding member and head of its a "central board". At first, the SPWMA's work was merely propagating the idea of associations by publishing tracts. Then it undertook the practical project of establishing the Working Men's College because educated workers were essential for successful co-operative societies. With that ingredient more of the associations succeeded; others still failed or were replaced by a later "cooperative movement. The lasting legacy of the Christian socialists was that, in 1852, they influenced the passage of an act in Parliament which gave "a legal status to co-operative bodies" such as working men's associations. The SPWMA "flourished in the years from 1849 to 1853, or thereabouts."
The original mission of the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations was "to diffuse the principles of co-operation as the practical application of Christianity to the purposes of trade and industry." The goal was forming associations by which working men and their families could enjoy the whole produce of their labour.
In testimony from representatives of "Co-operative Societies" during 1892-1893 to the Royal Commission on Labour for the House of Commons, one witness applauded the contribution of Christian socialists to the "present cooperative movement" by their formulating the idea in the 1850s. The witness specifically cited "Maurice, Kingsley, Ludlow, Neale, and Hughes."
That Maurice left a legacy that would be valued by many was harbingered by responses to his death. "Crowds following his remains to their last resting place, and around the open grave there stood men of widely different creeds, united for the moment by the common sorrow and their deep sense of loss. From pulpit and press, from loyal friends and honest opponents, the tribute to the worth of Mr. Maurice was both sincere and generous."
Maurice's close friends were "deeply impressed with the spirituality of his character". His wife observed that whenever Maurice was awake in the night, he was "always praying." Charles Kingsley called him "the most beautiful human soul whom God has ever allowed me to meet with."
Maurice's life comprised "contradictory elements".
As a professor at King's College and at Cambridge, Maurice attracted "a band of earnest students" to whom he gave two things. He taught them from the knowledge he had gained by his comprehensive reading. More importantly, Maurice instilled in students "the habit of inquiry and research" and a "desire for knowledge and the process of independent thought."
Maurice's written legacy includes "nearly 40 volumes", and they hold "a permanent place in the history of thought in his time." His writings are "recognizable as the utterance of a mind profoundly Christian in all its convictions."
By themselves, two of Maurice's books, The Kingdom of Christ (1838 and later editions) and Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (2 volumes, 1871-1872), are "remarkable enough to have made their writer famous." But there more reasons for Maurice's fame. In his "life-work" Maurice was "constantly teaching, writing, guiding, organizing; training up others to do the same kind of work, but giving them something of his spirit, never simply his views." He drew out "all the best that was in others, never trying to force himself upon them." With his opponents, Maurice tried to find some "common ground" between them. None who knew him personally "could doubt that he was indeed a man of God."
In The Kingdom of Christ Maurice viewed the true church as a united body that transcended the "diversities and partialities of its individual members, factions, and sects". The true church had six signs: "baptism, creeds, set forms of worship, the eucharist, an ordained ministry, and the Bible." Maurice's ideas were reflected a half-century later by William Reed Huntington and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. The modern ecumenical movement also incorporated Maurice's ideas contained in his The Kingdom of Christ.
Interest in the vast legacy of writings bequeathed by Maurice declined even before his death. Hugh Walker, a fellow academic, predicted in 1910 that neither of Maurice's major works, his Theological Essays (1853) and his Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (1871-1872), will "stand the test of time." However, "this phase of neglect has passed."
"Since World War II there has been a revival of interest in Maurice as a theologian." During this period, twenty-three (some only in part) books about Maurice have been published as can be seen in the References section of this article.
Maurice is honoured with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer on 1 April as "Frederick Denison Maurice, Priest, 1872" and a brief biography is included in the church's Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.
Despite Maurice's dismissal by King's College after the publication of his Theological Essays, "a chair at King's, the F D Maurice Professorship of Moral and Social Theology, now commemorates his contribution to scholarship at the College."
King's College also established "The FD Maurice Lectures" in 1933 in honour of Maurice. Maurice, who was Professor of English Literature and History (1840-1846) and then Professor of Theology (1846-1853)."
Maurice's writings result from diligent work on his part. As a rule he "rose early" and did his socializing with friends at breakfast. He dictated his writings until dinner-time. The manuscripts he dictated were "elaborately corrected and rewritten" before publication.
Maurice's writings hold "a permanent place in the history of thought in his time." Some of the following were "rewritten and in a measure recast, and the date given is not necessarily that of the first appearance." Most of these writings "were first delivered as sermons or lectures."