Professor Rowland Williams, one of the most influential theologians of the 19th century, was a supporter of the new Biblical criticism and a pioneer of comparative religious studies in Britain.
After being charged with heresy along with the Editor of ‘Essays and Reviews’, they were acquitted on appeal to the Privy Council. It proved to be a turning point in protecting the liberty and conscience, of those within the Church of England.
Four months after Darwin’s publication on evolution, ‘Essays and Reviews’ was published in March 1860. It was a Broad Church volume of seven essays on Christianity by seven academics and Anglican churchman, reflecting the new theological thinking.
Today in 1862 Professor Rowland Williams, vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew at St.David’s, Lampeter, Wales, was found guilty along with theologian, Henry Bristow Wilson on 3 out of the 8 Articles brought against them in the dissertation on the ‘National Church’ in the influential ‘ Essays and Reviews’.(1)
They were prosecuted by Walter Kerr Hamilton, Bishop of Salisbury for heterodoxy, three of which were admitted, and cited before The Arches Court of Canterbury. The trial occupied ten days between the 19th and 21st of December 1861, and between the 7th and 16th of January 1862-constituting a cause-celebre at the time.
However the Judgement handed down, sanctioned most positions of Biblical criticism and the relationship of scripture to science. Later hearings dealt with those relating to the three indictments concerning the admitted articles.
The charges related to the ‘Essays and Reviews’ published in February 1860 by seven theologians who had been influenced by the new German Higher Biblical criticism, contributors who included academics such Benjamin Jowett and Frederick Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury, and Baden-Powell (father of Boy Scouts’ founder.
The early 19th century was the age of the ‘scriptural geologists’ many of them Anglican clergymen, such as Cockburn, Dean of York, and the influential and Evangelistic Rev.Thomas Gisborne who wrote ‘Testimony of Natural Theology to Christianity (1818), and Concerns on the Modern Theories of Geology (1837), which went against the trend of the new scientific geologists whose work on strata was demonstrating processes over millennia, thus conflicting with Biblical accounts.
(1) Williams was in office, at Lampeter, between 1849 and 1862. Bristow was a Fellow of St. John’s, Oxford.
Ref: Rowland Williams/ wikipedia.org/wikipedia/d-n-b
Ref: Essays and Reviews wikipedia.org
Next Post looks at the General who ‘Gott’ Away or ‘Monty’s’ luck.