Tract Number 1,

Tract 1: Thoughts on The Ministerial Commission, Respectfully Addressed to the Clergy, Newman, 9 Sept 1883 -

This Tract is concerned with the authority of the Church, made newly relevant by “secular advantages” potentially being taken away from the clergy by the state of England. While Newman is not pleased with the possibility - “We know how miserable is the state of religious bodies not supported by the State” - nevertheless he asks, if such support is withdrawn, by what authority do fellow presbyters engage in their task?

The answer for him is Apostolic Succession, especially of the bishops. He then proceeds to show that this doctrine is contained in the rite of ordination that they all shared in. The tract ends with an exhortation to choose a side for or against such a doctrine. The idea that priests may in such a time of crisis choose to refrain from “worldly politics” is distasteful to him.

Tract 2: The Catholic Church, Newman, 9 Sept 1883

Published with Tract 1 (and 3), this continues and expands the thesis of the first tract. Newman here openly calls out the actions of the legislature in its remodeling of the diocese of Ireland - events that also inspired the famous Assize Sermon of Keble as well. Newman forcefully asserts the authority of the Church to determine its own functions and accuses the state of overstepping its bounds. As part of his challenge, Newman states that not only is the Church’s authority a necessary belief of the Catholic Church found in the Creeds, but of the visible Church as an institution going back through the laying on of hands to the apostles themselves.

Here we see the visible Church contrasted with the visible state, and sets the two authorities against each other.

Tract Number 11,

Tract 11: The Visible Church (In [2] Letters to a Friend), Newman, 11 November 1883

The position of Newman’s friend is succinctly put: “Why may I not be satisfied if my Creed is correct, and my affections spiritual?” Doctrine and feelings are enough to unite Christian to another (notice the individuality even here).

Newman says the Bible asks an “additional test of true faith, obedience to God’s word.” Scripture is the only real source for doctrine, and Newman warns against cherry-picking this or that bit of it.

Inasmuch as the sacraments are necessary to salvation, a visible church is a necessary condition for salvation, and schism is a wound against it. Baptism testifies to this because baptism is incorporation “into an existing community.”

Here he moves deeper into biblical material but runs out of paper, ending the first letter by saying believing in Christ is “a social or political principle.”


In the second letter Newman says the sacraments are “not a solitary individual act, it is a joint communion. Surely nothing is more alien to Christianity than the spirit of Independence.” This quote is resonant for our topic because of how often individualism is associated with capitalism in these early years and cooperation pitted against it as the Christian political ideal.

The church continues in perpetuity, until Christ’s return, however corrupt it might be at any point, because it is Christ’s church; not because it is always is faithful.

Then it ends with a litany of Scriptural passages that ‘prove’ the necessity of a visible church.

Tract 20,

Tract 20: The Visible Church (Letters to a Friend No. III), Newman, 24 December 1883

Newman’s friend is now anxious that belief in the visible Church “should lead to Popery.” But Newman reassures his evangelical friend that he himself loathes popery and believes it a corruption of the Gospel.

The visible church was established by Christ to witness to him, and to Truth, when the world turns aside to ignorance and disobedience. He praises the American Episcopal Church for flourishing even amidst rebellion and revolution. Human nature is such that it requires visible guides.

The RCC possesses an admirable unity and visibility but is “infected with heterodoxy.” “Popery must be destroyed; it cannot be reformed.” The Anglicans, however, have been preserved. A true “branch” (nascent seed here of the “Branch Theory”), both “Catholic” and “Apostolic” yet “not papistical.”

Tract Number 47,

Tract 47: The Visible Church (Letter IV), Newman, 1 November 1834

The friend’s latest concern is that if one were to follow Newman’s line of thought, Dissenters would lie outside of salvation. Newman interprets the OT figuratively that just as God had preserved a remnant of faithful under Ahab, so even Presbyterians in Scotland may have the Word of God. But this does not preclude the possibility of judgment against a rebellious state of affairs. Even Dissenters, once dissent has “become hereditary and embodied in institutions,” are able to produce saints.

For Newman there are degrees of conformity to truth. Native Americans, being “theists,” are superior to polytheists; as “Mahometanism” is to “Hindooism.” Judaism better than the lot (Notice the supersessionism here). To inherit dissent is of a different kind than those who intentionally divide and reject. In the final judgment we all will be individuals before the throne, but in this world there are not merely two states, one unmixedly good and the other unreservedly evil.

Tract Number 49,

Tract 49: The Kingdom of Heaven, Benjamin Harrison, Christmas 1834

The bulk of this tract is an exposition of the Gospel of Matthew for the purposes of suggesting the visible Church and apostolic ministry can be found in it. Harrison says St. Peter is the primary actor in the first canonical Gospel. Jesus “appears in the character of a prophet, like Moses, raised up to be a Giver of a new law, and the Founder of a new Kingdom or Polity.”

The tract relies on a supersessionist replacement theology. At times he takes this typology quite far indeed, suggesting not only that the Church “comes into the place of Israel” but the apostles into the office of “Levitical priest and judge,” and Christ’s commandments a new law “in his spiritual meaning.”

Tract Number 59,

Tract 59: Church and State, Hurrel Froude, 25 April 1835

Froude, like the Tractarians more broadly, fully believes the Church of England is the only legitimate heir of true Christianity in the isles, and full legal honor is due it; however in this Tract he tries to address the current state of the relation between the English state and its church by delineating two kinds of relation: State protection, and state interference.

State protection consists in four things:

  1. Legally keeping ancient endowments for the Church of England. This point implicitly assumes a continuity of the pre and post Reformation church.

  2. The power to raise a property tax for parishes. A healthy state recognizes the civil need of religion.

  3. The allowance for the thirty bishops in the House of Lords, per the Magna Carta

  4. The capacity for the state to arrest anyone excommunicated. Froude considers this an antiquated law, “bad and useless, which cannot be done away with too soon.”

There are two ways the state is currently interfering with the Church.

  1. Church patronage: Whereas there used to be public, democratic and religious checks against the improper consecration of an unfit bishop, now any person of any religion or none may appoint bishops and impede the Church. (It’s becoming plain that the Tractarians are most concerned with this fact, not state interference as such. Presumably if they were all “good Anglicans” things could proceed apace)

  2. Church discipline: A curious, minor closing point. Churchwardens are supposed to visit their archdeacon once annually, and give a list of persons living notoriously immoral lives. Froude points out nobody reports anything anymore! Thus either everyone has become saints or churchwardens have become purgerers.

National Apostasy, John Keble, Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, 14 July 1833

So famous as almost not to need annotation. This sermon is also concerned with the legal status of the Church of England, but spends more time with the “practical atheism” of the English people, and especially its leaders. Keble does this by way of a typological interpretation of the story of Samuel and Saul in 1 Samuel. It opens with a defense of such a style of interpretation. Such “spiritual” interpretations of the Old Testament had fallen out of favor and Keble is aware of the sermon’s novelty.

Samuel serves as the model patriot, faithful to God even in the face of a nation bent on impiety. Saul as the model of a weak, ineffectual leader, who bows to the pressure of common people, and who trespasses on the religious prerogative of divinely appointed clerics.

The sermon ends with admonitions to people who would like to be faithful in England. Such people must intercede in prayer, and remonstrate or upbraid neighbors who have gone slack. (He makes a point not to suggest political unrest or rebellion)

Maurice, Frederick Denison. The Kingdom of Christ: or, Hints to a Quaker Respecting the Principles, Constitution and Ordinances of the Catholic Church. S.C.M., 1958.

A foundational text for the later revival of Christian socialism among Anglicans in the late 19th C. It was written as a defense of the “Catholic Church” to a Quaker. It begins with an affirmation of the “pure” insights of Fox and the earliest Quakers, especially with respect to a universal, spiritual kingdom, and proceeds to affirm the “pure” initial insights of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Luther in particular interests Maurice, and he says Luther provides a necessary corrective to Fox in that he, Luther, identifies the universal, divine Word with the incarnate Logos, Jesus of Nazareth. Here, then, is some groundwork for the “incarnational” theology of liberal catholicism and its (largely) reformist socialism.

Maurice proceeds to criticize these four strains for losing their fire and falling into complicated dogmas and systems. Their “true” legacies can be revived by rejecting the party systems they succumbed to.

After the genealogy of “pure Protestantism,” Maurice goes through Unitarianism and modern philosophy, demonstrating - to his mind - where each was right and where they went wrong. All, he said, at root believed in the universal spiritual kingdom that unites all humanity, transcending their merely local manifestations.

Maurice believes that even a spiritual kingdom needs concrete expression. He considers the Scriptures, the two dominical sacraments, the episcopacy, the liturgy, and the creeds to be essential marks of the universal Catholic church (which he does not identify directly with the church of Rome). Thus Anglicanism is a uniquely situated church to embody all the “true” marks of catholicity, and the end of the book is as much an apologia for the Anglican church as Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (though Hooker is a far more sophisticated theologian).

The universal kingdom is one not of party competition and individualism, but of cooperation and unity. He is nothing if not a high Tory paternalist. One could profitably skip most of Part I and refer to the “Recapitulation” beginning in Part II for a brief, lucid precis of it.

Ruskin, John. Works. Wiley, 1891.

Unto This Last, John Ruskin, August - December 1860 (originally in Cornhill Magazine)

A series of four essays on “Political Economy,” it has been generally published as a single work with a preface advocating for a collective of government-funded trade schools. These schools should be in a relationship with government-run factories, by means of which there should be guaranteed work - forced work on the merely slothful. These institutions should also provide a pension for the aged. This is the last we hear, though, of such socialized infrastructure. It is not entirely clear how he gets to these through the arguments of the four essays.

The Roots of Honor quickly sets a case against “political economists” (he generally is arguing with J.S. Mill), charging that in denying the “social affections,” they deal with abstract humans who don’t actually exist, since economic actors do in fact have souls. To what ends, then, do merchants live, and for what can they die? Wherein lies their “heroism” for the nation? The merchant is to “provide for the nation” and give paternal care and guidance to those under his [sic] charge, being willing to risk loss in business for the wellbeing of his laborers.

The Veins of Wealth moves into the nature and purpose of wealth. Using the example of an individual inheriting a great estate, but unable to procure laborers to work the land to illustrate that the mere accumulation of useful objects makes no one truly wealthy, since they would have to live by the same meagre means as a simple peasant. Rather wealth derives its power “from the need or desire another has for it...the art of making yourself therefore the art of keeping your neighbor poor.” Inequality, however, cannot be considered good or bad in abstraction but only on account of whether it is justly acquired and justly used.

Qui Judicatis Terram. The words of the title of this essay are part of a longer phrase that goes “You who judge the earth must give diligent love to justice.” This essay explores what constitutes just remunerative pay. It condemns the moral indolence of those who set laborers against each other in order to maximize their own advantage. The end of the essay unveils Ruskin’s thoughts concerning social hierarchy and private property, which he fiercely defends. There are, for him, those who are truly better, who ought even to compel lesser people to conform to their “wiser will.”

The final essay, Ad Valorem, looks further into value, wealth, price, and produce. To Ruskin, the entire point of wealth is for consumption, and nations are to be judged by how good they make the life of all who belong to them. For this reason hoarded wealth goes against the very purpose of wealth, and makes for an unhealthy society.

There is much to commend in the essays, and much to condemn. Ruskin is keen to maintain social hierarchies without allowing an examination into power structures, assuming that most inequalities result from the natural superior virtue of those who have accumulated power. But read alongside his essay “The Nature of Gothic,” it gives a lively and important vision of the moral considerations of wealth, what their ends ought to be, and thus how those who labor and those who exercise oversight ought to act to preserve a just, communal existence.

Ruskin, John, and J. G. Links. The Stones of Venice. Moyer Bell Limited, 1989.

The Nature of Gothic, 1851-1853

The Nature of Gothic is one essay situated in the middle of Ruskin’s book examining the architecture of Venice. The essay was often printed independently (for instance by Morris and the Kelmscott Press). The Nature of Gothic is broadly divided in two parts, the first on the “spirit” of Gothic and the second on the exterior features of Gothic buildings. For the purposes of our study one could read just the first part.

Ruskins gives six “moral elements” of Gothic architecture. These moral elements are transformed into marks of the builders of Gothic architecture: Savageness or Rudeness, Love of Change, Love of Nature, Disturbed Imagination, Obstinancy, and Generosity.

The creative freedom of the builder in this essay is used to understand the ends of all creative labor. Elements of this essay have often been synthesized by socialists with elements of Unto This Last to give a picture of what an entire society could be if it were dedicated to the love of virtue and to the liberty of all workers to live without fear of poverty; able to devote themselves to life without servility or excessive labor.

Headlam, Stewart D. Theatres and Music Halls: a Lecture given at the Commonwealth Club, Bethnal Green on Sunday, October 7, 1877: with a Letter to the Bishop of London and Other Correspondence. Women's Printing Society, Ltd., 1877.

A brief essay that does not give any great theory about the stage but merely defends the institutions and those who both work at them and frequent them, against a judgmental upper and middle class - especially clergy. For Headlam, music and dance promote grace and beauty for both performers and audience. The working classes deserve to be entertained. It is “the leisure class” that we should actually worry about. Headlam makes his defense with reference to the Incarnation, which he believes hallows all good human activity. Not a systematic treatise, but important as a representation of how the Incarnation was put to work by anglo-catholic socialists. Also important because it was published and circulated with condemnatory letters from the Headlam’s bishop, John Jackson, of London. We see here the “dissenting” position that Anglo-catholics, and the socialists in particular, have had to stake out in relation to a hostile church. The ritualists were being persecuted around this same time and Headlam was one of their defenders.

Headlam, Stewart. The Laws of Eternal Life; being studies in the Church catechism. William Reeves, 1888.

In 1875, Headlam composed an essay (“The Church Catechism and the Emancipation of Labour”) in reaction to to hearing that “during the lock-out of the agricultural labourers it was said that their low condition was owing to the clergy having dinned into them the lesson that they should be content with their lot, and submissive to their employers. Words from the Church Catechism were quoted in order to prove this.” This situation must have continued to stew in his spirit until he decided to compose this work, over ten years later.

The themes of this work are too diverse easily to summarize, but many of the main lines of Headlam’s thought are here expressed. The universal “brotherhood” of humankind; incarnation and sacramentalism as baptizing all human life; the difference between charitable giving and justice; the priority of the Eucharist over biblicism; the grace and power of infant baptism; the social relevance of the Decalogue and Great Commandments, and so on.

Interestingly Headlam uses the Gospel of John quite a bit, where in other works he leans heavily on the Synoptics, especially Luke - the Magnificat was a favorite of the Christian Socialists of the time.

The book is addressed to two main groups: “Secularists” and Anglican teachers. His appeal to the former is that “true” Christian religion is not a hindrance to a just, magnanimous society; and to the latter, that teachers are bound by the catechism to teach something akin to Christian socialism. The idea is that the Catechism was the only thing members of the Church of England were bound to both teach and affirm, and if such principles can be discovered there, then not doing so was an affront to catholic Christianity. It is not a theoretical work so much as a polemical pastoral work, full of good zingers and indicative of the general temperament of Anglican socialists at the time.

Headlam, Stewart. The Socialist’s Church. George Allen, 1907

A book consisting of four essays:

  1. The Church as an instrument of social reform

  2. The Church exists to “carry out the principles of Socialism.” Baptism is the universal sacrament of equality, the Mass that of “brotherhood.” It is for the people, and it is time the people took possession of the inheritance that is rightfully theirs. Through the universality of the parish system, an institution is already in every place ready for organizing social reforms. Proper doctrine and belief, far from working against socialism, is entirely in alignment with it, when properly understood.

  3. Some dangerous popular misrepresentations of the Church’s teaching

  4. Biblicism and mythological thinking are a scandal that prevent reasonable people from participating in the faith that is rightfully theirs. He takes aim at the voluntarism and rationalism of adult baptism in “the sects”, and attacks any who teach the Bible is infallible. Similarly, belief in eternal hell and damnation for all but a few is an error that prevents many from entering the Church. (n.b. - Draws on biblical criticism to suggest that the Gospels, written later than Paul, intentionally modified his harsher teachings!)

  5. On the limitations and the aim of socialism

  6. The fight against marriage is not a key aspect of socialism, and associating it with socialism hinders the cause and distracts from the root causes of inequality. Don’t even let good concession goals like “The Factory” acts misdirect you. They are fine as far as they go, but they don’t adequately address the problem. And the problem is that land and labour are not socialized. Maurice, Ruskin, but above all Henry George, have shown the real issue. Abolish landlords by taxing them out. Take possession of what is rightfully the people’s anyway. Only then will an emancipated cooperative labour force emerge. And once this is done, the Church will have all the more work to do. Indeed it is prevented from its real work because of the conditions of capitalism.

  7. On the emancipation of the middle-class wage slave

  8. The organizing of a middle-class of labourers falls drastically short of the goals of true sociality. A division between lower and middle classes inevitably sets a petty bourgeois against the truly destitute in favor of the moralism and bureaucracy of a mothering state. The Labour Party, on account of its non-radical platform, can’t even deal with inequality of the sexes, and would leave women subject to the whims and power of men. The only answer is a universal society with socialized land and socialized means of production.

Dearmer, Percy. Socialism and Christianity, Tract 133. Fabian Society, 1907.

This tract is a useful, representative piece that gives us tiny glimpses into positions common for the time. It opens with a quote from F.D. Maurice; it shows evidence of sympathetic familiarity with Marx, but nonetheless keeps from full-throated endorsement; it leans heavily on the Gospel of Luke, especially the Magnificat; it attempts to ground Christian socialism in Scripture, with special attention to passages authoritative for Anglicans, such as the Lord's Prayer, used in catechesis; the Epistle of James is utilized - a key text for the Anglican socialists.

Of the Fabian tracts about Christianity this is the longest and the best. Even Headlam’s is not as lucid, neither does Headlam’s cover the same amount of ground. Dearmer conceives socialism in a specifically Christian way, appealing to Scripture and exhorting against vice. It is not a “scientific” tract attempting to say something novel about economics, but an appeal for Christians to become converted to the socialist’s creed of “brotherhood,” and an appeal to the non-religious socialists to see the radical potential for Christianity.

Dearmer, Percy. Patriotism, Papers for War Time No. 13. H.Milford, 1915.

“Patriotism is more easily praised than explained.” So begins this tract written in response to World War I. The series of papers assumed that it was necessary for Britain to enter the war, but just as convinced that the church exceeds all national boundaries. Dearmer’s essay begins by engaging the question of why war has begun in a time of growing international solidarity. It would seem that “intellectual” unity, disconnected from the affections of place and other presumably “organic” forms of belonging, is a failure to the extent that it has not prevented the war. Patriotism, Deamer says, can be neutral, or noble, or evil. He spends a fair amount of time on what it can contribute to peace. He seems to have a positive view of patriotism, or at least what good patriotism can be.

But as the essay progresses the argument shifts slightly to a discussion of the Kingdom of God. This shift has the effect of turning what seemed to be the main thesis of the essay on its head. We are returned to the internationalism of the Kingdom of God, of a unity not bound by mere local custom or family. The benefits of true patriotism are the benefits of seeking God’s kingdom. Only when this universal kingdom is sought can a local, cultural unity be of any use; only then will it be purged of prejudice and pride - and not devolve into war. Dearmer’s essay a useful tonic to the praise Vida Scudder has for patriotism in her Socialism and Character.

Noel, Conrad. Life of Jesus (2nd ed). London, 1939

In 1856 the German scholar David Strauss published The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined, and launched an entire genre of historical Jesus studies. Noel researched his Life for nearly 30 years, but it does not read like a straightforward historical work in a classic sense. Noel’s goal is to show the history of the development and practice of “the Kingdom of God.” To this end he examines the development of Israelite political existence, with special attention to Moses and the prophets - and most of all to the Jubilee laws. He attempts to show that these laws had been practiced well into the Maccabean times. This was key because the Jubilee laws had often been dismissed as merely idealistic, never having been put into practice. Noel is a particularly astute reader of the apocalyptic literature, coming to conclusions that would not become mainstream for many decades. Namely that they are not about the literal dissolution of the cosmos but a way of giving “cosmic significance” to the political turmoil of the author’s age. Noel discusses the rise of the Roman Empire, and especially the way wealth was created as the empire expanded. He excoriates the tepid false neutrality of classics scholars who give tacit approval to Roman expansion, and lays waste any naivety about the capitalist oligarchy that intentionally provoked war and imperialism as a way to enrich themselves. He discusses slavery and taxes and the Roman situation in Palestine leading up to Jesus’ time.