F.D. Maurice Study Archive

The principal historical allusions in these Lectures are to the state of the Roman world during the years preceding the fall of Jerusalem.


Frederick Denison Maurice

English Anglican Theologian | Prolific Author | Founder of Christian Socialism |  Since World War II, interest in Maurice has expanded | In 1853, F. D. Maurice was dismissed from his professional chair at King’s College, London, for what was little more than a cautious modification of the traditional doctrine of hell: a storm of controversy brake over this ‘proto-martyr of the wider hope’ (Affirms Reprobation, but denies Universalism)

“the stress upon the ‘Kingdom of Christ’ as a present reality was such that his eschatology was lacking in sufficient future reference”


(On ‘the Last Time.’ 1 John ii. 18)
‘How could St. John say that his time was the last time? Has not the world lasted nearly one thousand eight hundred years since he left it? May it not last yet many years more?

‘You will be told by many that not only St. John, but St. Paul, and all the apostles, laboured under the delusion that the end of all things was approaching in their day. People say so who are not in general disposed to undervalue their authority; some adopt the opinion practically, though they may not express it in words, who hold that the writers of the Bible were never permitted to make a mistake in the most trifling point. I do not say that; it would not shake my faith in them to find that they had erred in names or points of chronology. But if I supposed they had been misled themselves, and had misled their disciples, on so capital a subject as this of Christ’s coming to judgment, and of the latter days, I should be greatly perplexed. For it is a subject to which they are constantly referring. It is a part of their deepest faith. It mingles with all their practical exhortations. If they were wrong here, I cannot myself see where they can have been right.

‘I have found their language on this subject of the greatest possible use to me in explaining the method of the Bible; the course of God’s government over nations and over individuals; the life of the world before the time of the apostles, during their time, and in all the centuries since. If we will do them the justice which we owe to every writer, inspired or uninspired,—if we will allow them to interpret themselves, instead of forcing our interpretations upon them, we shall, I think, understand a little more of their work, and of ours. If we take their words simply and literally respecting the judgment and the end which they were expecting in their day, we shall know what position they were occupying with respect to their forefathers and to us. And in place of a very vague, powerless, and artificial conception of the judgment which we are to look for, we shall learn what our needs are by theirs; how God will fulfil all His words to us by the way in which He fulfilled His words to them.

‘It is not a new notion, but a very old and common one, that the history of the world is divided into certain great periods. In our days the conviction that there is a broad distinction between ancient and modern history has been forcing itself more and more upon thoughtful men. M. Guizot dwells especially upon the unity and universality of modern history, as contrasted with the division of ancient history into a set of nations which had scarcely any common sympathies. The question is, where to find the boundary between these two periods. About these, students have made many guesses; most of them have been plausible and suggestive of truths; some very confusing; none, I think, satisfactory. One of the most popular,—that which supposes modern history to begin when the barbarous tribes settled themselves in Europe, would be quite fatal to M. Guizot’s doctrine. For that settlement, although it was a most important and indispensable event to modern civilisation, was the temporary breaking up of a unity which had existed before. It was like the re-appearance of that separation of tribes and races, which he supposes to have been the especial characteristic of the former world.

‘Now, may we expect any light upon this subject in the Bible? I do not think it would fulfil its pretensions if we might not. It professes to set forth the ways of God to nations and to mankind. We might be well content that it should tell us very little about physical laws; we might be content that it should be silent about the courses of the planets and law of gravitation. God may have other ways of making these secrets known to His creatures. But that which concerns the moral order of the world and the spiritual progress of human beings falls directly within the province of the Bible. No one could be satisfied with it if it was dumb respecting these. And accordingly all who suppose it is dumb here, however much importance they may attach to what they call its religious character,—however much they may suppose their highest interests to depend upon a belief in its oracles, are obliged to treat it as a very disjointed fragmentary volume. They afford the best excuse for those who say that it is not a whole book, as we have thought it, but a collection of the sayings and opinions of certain authors, in different ages, not very consistent with each other. On the other hand, there has been the strongest conviction in the minds of ordinary readers, as well as of students, that the book does tell us how the ages past, and the ages to come, are concerned in the unveiling of God’s mysteries,—what part one country and another has played in His great drama,—to what point all the lines in His providence are converging. The immense interest which has been taken in prophecy,—an interest not destroyed, nor even weakened, by the numerous disappointments which men’s theories about it have had to encounter, is a proof how deep and widely-spread this conviction is. Divines endeavour in vain to recall simple and earnest readers from the study of the prophecies by urging that they have not leisure for such a pursuit, and that they ought to busy themselves with what is more practical. If their consciences tell them that there is some ground for they warning, they yet feel as if they could not heed it altogether. They are sure that they have an interest in the destinies of their race, as well as in their own individual destiny. They cannot separate the one from the other; they must believe that there is light somewhere about both. I dare not discourage such an assurance. If we hold it strongly, it may be a great instrument of raising us out of our selfishness. I am only afraid lest we should lose it, as we certainly shall if we contract the habit of regarding the Bible as a book of puzzles and conundrums, and of looking restlessly for certain outward events to happen at certain dates that we have fixed upon as those which the prophets and apostles have set down. The cure for such follies, which are very serious indeed, lies not in the neglect of prophecy, but in more earnest meditation upon it; remembering that prophecy is not a set of loose predictions, like the sayings of the fortune-teller, but an unfolding of Him whose going forth are from everlasting; who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever; whose acts in one generation are determined by the same laws as His acts in another.

‘If I should ever speak to you of the Apocalypse of St. John I shall have to enter much more at large on this subject. But so much I have said to introduce the remark that the Bible treats the downfall of the Jewish polity as the winding-up of a great period in human history and as the commencement of another great period. John the Baptist announces the presence of One “whose fan is in his hand; and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The evangelists say, that by these words he denoted that Jesus of Nazareth, who afterwards went down into the waters of Jordan, and as He came out of it was declared to be the Son of God, and on whom the Spirit descended in a bodily shape.


‘We are wont to separate Jesus the Saviour from Jesus the King and the Judge. They do not. They tell us from the first that He came preaching a kingdom of heaven. They tell us of His doing acts of judgment as well as acts of deliverance. They report the tremendous words which He spoke to Pharisees and Scribes, as well as the Gospel which He preached to publicans and sinners. And before the end of His ministry, when His disciples were asking Him about the buildings of the temple, He spoke plainly of a judgment which He, the Son of man, should execute before that generation was over. And to make it clear that He meant us to understand Him strictly and literally, He added,—“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” This discourse, which is carefully reported to us by St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke, does not stand aloof from the rest of His discourses and parables, nor from the rest of His deeds. They all contain the same warning. They are gracious and merciful,—far more gracious and merciful than we have even supposed them to be; they are witnesses of a gracious and merciful Being; but they are witnesses that those who did not like that Being just because this was His character,—who sought for another being like themselves, that is, for an ungracious and unmerciful being—would have their houses left to them desolate.

‘When, therefore, the apostles went forth after our Lord’s ascension, to preach His Gospel and baptize in His name, their first duty was to announce that that Jesus whom the rulers of Jerusalem had crucified was both Lord and Christ; their second was to preach remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit in His name; their third was to foretell the coming of a great and terrible day of the Lord, and to say to all who hear, “Save yourself from this untoward generation.” It was the language which St. Peter used on the day of Pentecost,; it was adopted with such variations as befitted the circumstances of the hearers by all who were entrusted with the Gospel message. It was no doubt peculiarly applicable to the Jews. They had been made the stewards of God’s gifts to the world. They had wasted their Master’s goods, and were to be no longer stewards. But we do not find the apostles confining their language to the Jews. St. Paul, speaking at Athens,—speaking in words specially appropriate to a cultivated, philosophical, heathen city,—declares that God “has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world by that Man whom he hath ordained,” and points to the resurrection from the dead as determining who that Man is. Why was this? Because apostles believed that the rejection of the Jewish people was the manifestation of the Son of Man; a witness to all nations who their King was; a call to all nations to cast away their idols and confess Him. The Gospel was to explain the meaning of the great crisis which was about to occur; to tell the Gentiles as well as the Jews what it would imply; to announce it as nothing less than the commencement of a new era in the world’s history, when the crucified Man would claim an universal empire, and would contend with the Roman Caesar as well as with all other tyrants of the earth who should set up their claims against His.

‘This Scriptural view of the ordering of times and seasons entirely harmonizes with that conclusion at which M. Guizot has arrived by an observation of facts. Our Lord’s birth nearly coincided with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the person of Augustus Caesar. That empire aspired to crush the nations and to establish a great world supremacy. The Jewish nation had been the witness against all such experiments in the old world. It had fallen under the Babylonian tyranny, but it had risen again. And the time which followed its captivity was the great time of the awakening of national life of Europe,—the time in which the Greek republics flourished,—the time in which the Roman Republic commenced its grand career.

‘The Jewish nation had been overcome by the armies of the Roman Republic; still it retained the ancient signs of its nationality, its law, its priesthood, its temple. These looked ridiculous and insignificant to the Roman emperors, even to the Roman governors who ruled the little province of Judea, or the larger province of Syria, in which it was often reckoned. But they found the Jews very troublesome. Their nationality was of a peculiar kind, and of unusual strength. When they were most degraded they could not part with it. They would stir up endless rebellions, in the hope of recovering what they had lost, and of establishing the universal kingdom which they believed was intended for them, and not for Rome. the preaching of our Lord declared to them that there was such an universal kingdom,—that He, the Son of David, had come to set it up on the earth. The Jews dreamed of another kind of kingdom, with another kind of king. They wanted a Jewish kingdom, which should trample upon the nations, just as the Roman Empire was trampling upon them; they wanted a Jewish king who should be in all essentials like the Roman Caesar. It was a dark, horrible, hateful conception; it combined all that is narrowest in the most degraded exclusive form of nationality, with all that is cruellest, most destructive of moral and personal life in the worst form of imperialism. It gathered up into itself all that was worst in the history of the past. It was a shadowing forth of what should be worst in the coming time. The apostles announced that the accursed ambition of the Jews would be utterly disappointed. They said that a new age was at hand—the universal age, the age of the Son of man, which would be preceded by a great crisis that would shake not earth only, but also heaven: not that only which belonged to time, but also all that belonged to the spiritual world, and to man’s relations with it. They said that this shaking would be that it might be seen what there was which could not be shaken—which must abide.

‘I have tried thus to show you what St. John mean by the last time, if he spoke the same language as our Lord spoke, and as the other apostles spoke. I cannot tell what physical changes he or they may have looked for. Physical phenomena are noticed at that time,—famines, plagues, earthquakes. Whether they, or any of them, supposed that these indicated more alteration in the surface or the substance of the earth than they did indicate, I cannot tell; these are not the points upon which I look for information if they gave it. That they did not anticipate the passing away of the earth,—what we call the destruction of the earth,—is clear from this, that the new kingdom they spoke of was to be a kingdom on earth as well as a kingdom of heaven. But their belief that such a kingdom had been set up, and would make its power felt as soon as the old nation was scattered, has, I think, been abundantly verified by fact. I do not see how we can understand modern history properly till we accept that belief.” ( The Epistles of St. John, by F.D. Maurice, M.A., Lect. ix.)

“I can never be thankful enough for having arrived.. at the conviction that the words, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” were used by the Evangelists in the strictest sense; that the Apostles were not wrong in believing that the end of an age was approaching; that they had no exaggerated anticipations respecting the age which was to succeed it ; that if we accepted their statements simply, we should understand far better in what state we are living.” (Lectures on the Apocalypse, vii)

“I take the words (the time is at hand) in their most direct and straightforward sense.  I believe that the time of which St. John wrote was at hand when he wrote.   I as little suppose him to have been mistaken about its nearness, as I suppose him to have been a wilful deceiver.” (Apocalypse, p. 3)

“Behold, he cometh with clouds ; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him : and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.”  Adhering to the order of the words, and to the letter of them, I cannot doubt that they were intended to tell the seven Churches how they should contemplate the dark events which were to happen in their time ; the time of a tremendous crisis in the Roman Empire ; the time of the overthrow of the Jewish Polity.  In the dark clouds of that time they were to own the coming of the Son of Man.  The Judge was there ; confessed by the consciences of all men  ; confessed by the consciences of those who had pierced Him as a blasphemer and a malefactor.  The churches should be able to interpret these signs.  They should know what luminous form was behind the clouds ; should hear, in the wailings of the kindreds of the earth, the wailings after that very King and Deliverer whom they had rejected, and before whom they trembled.” (p. 12)

“To see the SON OF MAN walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks was at once to proclaim that these candlesticks had an actual signification, and that they had no more a merely limited Jewish signification.  They were no longer any part of the furniture of the Tabernacle or of the Temple.  The one candlestick, with its six and its ten branches, had been lighted long enough in Jerusalem.  The flame there had burnt itself out.  He who had kindled it to be a witness of Himself and His own presence with men, was indeed present.  The Son of Man, and not some other, some secondary substitute for Him – some formal image of Him – was dispensing light to the sons of men.” (p. 19)

“His eyes were as a flame of fire;” looking into the heart and spirit, discovering whatever is false ; burning it with their love.” (p. 20)

“We will be far less tormented with the question, “If these things concerned Jerusalem or Rome in the day of Emperor Vespasian, how can they concern London in the days of Queen Victoria?”  The mystery of the seven golden candlesticks must relate to both if it relates to either.  Supposing Churches still to exist ; supposing the Bible to be the book from which we are to derive our knowledge of the end for which they exist, o fthe methods in which they may promote that end, of the sins by which they may frustrate it ; we need not doubt that we shall find as many lessons about Mediaeval Churches and Reformed Churches, about the relation of particular Churches to the Catholic Church, about Imperial and Papal domination, as the commentators who have shaped the  whole Apocalypse into a testimony concerning them have been  able to work out.  We shall find these lessons, not by changing present tenses for future, but by observing that the present tenses are tenses of continuance ; that the principles which were developed at one moment must govern all succeeding moments.  We shall find them when we are not looking for them : they will force themselves upon us most, when we are the least trying to make them square with events of history, or events of history with them.  Above all, we shall understand them best and be most capable of using them to connect different events and epochs in the records of mankind, when we allow them to bear with the most direct force upon ourselves.” (p. 26)

“If we are permitted to understand them, to feel in any degree their force upon our own lives, it will be because the Spirit who spoke them to the Churches of old is speaking them to us now” (p. 32)

“In (Smyrna) there was a persecution ; it would seem, not a Roman persecution at all ; one proceeding from a synagogue of Jews, from men who clung to that venerable name, though they denied the King of the Jews.  Such men, by their influence in particular cities before or after the fall of Jerusalem, might easily raise a violent storm against the sect of Nazarenes, might easily procure them to be cast into prison.” (p. 37)

(On Aion/Age)
“To Maurice, the Greek scholar and the Platonist, it was abundantly clear that the Greek word αίώνιος is wrongly rendered by “everlasting,” because the English word introduces the idea of duration, totally absent from the Greek.  “Eternal,” he says, “is a key-word of the New Testament.  To draw our minds from the temporal, to fix them on the eternal, is the very aim of the divine economy.  How dangerous to introduce the notion of duration into a word from which Our Lord has deliberately excluded it!”


“The spiritual world is not subject to temporal conditions.  This is no discovery of philosophers.  Every peasant knows it as well as Newton.” (Freethinkers)

Alexander Brown
“Let us not forget that once in the Church’s history it was the common belief that John’s 1000 years were gone. Dorner bears witness that the Church up to Constantine understood by Antichrist chiefly the heathen state, and to some extent unbelieving Judaism (System iv.,390). Victorinus, a bishop martyred in 303, reckoned the 1000 years from the birth of Christ.

Augustine wrote his magnum opus ‘the City of God’ with a sort of dim perception of the identity of the Christian Church with the new Jerusalem. Indeed we know that the 1000 years were held to be running by the generations previous to that date, and so intense was their faith that the universal Church was in a ferment of excitement about and shortly after 1000 A.D. in expectation of the outbreak of Satanic influence. Wickliff, the reformer, believed that Satan bad been unbound at the end of the 1000 years, and was intensely active in his day. That this period in Church history is past, or now runs its course, has been the belief of a roll of eminent men too long to be chronicled on our pages of Augustine, Luther, Bossuet, Cocceius, Grotius, Hammond, Hengstenberg, Keil, Moses Stuart, Philippi, Maurice.” (Alexander Brown, Great Day of the Lord, p. 216.)

Martin Spence
“Such resonances were not coincidental, Maurice formulated his views about the kingdom of Christ under the tutelage of Joseph Adam Stephenson (1783-1838), a Somerset Evangelical who articulated a variant of premillennialist eschatology. A brief introduction to Stephenson is therefore necessary to explain why Maurice adopted the accent of millennialism.

The core of Joseph Adam Stephenson’s thought was a conviction that Christ ruled the world now. To support this view Stephenson turned to a mode of prophetical exegesis called praeterism. Praeterism was an interpretation of Scripture that contended that the prophecies of the Old and New Testament were fulfilled in events that occurred relatively quickly after the prophecy was made. Like futurism, praeterism was an exegetical position that was originally popular with Roman Catholic scholars because it avoided identifying the Roman Catholic Church or the Pope with any of the negative symbols of the Apocalypse. It was first popularized by a Jesuit Monk, the Sevillian Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613) in Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi [Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse] (1614). The scheme was adopted by Protestant Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), who saw it as a way of bringing peace to the wars of religion racking Europe in the seventeenth century, and by English biblical critic Henry Hammond (1605-60), who believed it to be an Anglican antidote to Puritan fanaticism. The praeterist interpretation was taken up in the eighteenth century by Johan Samuel Herrenschneider who published a work in 1786 interpreting Revelation as describing the overturning of Judaism, the overthrow of heathenism, and the final universal triumph of the Christian church.1*” this encouraged further German praeterist scholarship, most notably the works of German romantic thinkers Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827) and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). It was perhaps to these two German scholars to whom Stephenson alluded in acknowledging his debt to continental thought.

Stephenson’s adoption of praeterism had some affinity with amillennialism in that it downplayed the coming millennium in favor of interpreting the present era as the time of Christ’s earthly reign. However, it would be misleading to describe Stephenson as an amillennialist in so far as this term might be construed to imply an eschatological disposition distinct from the themes of historicist premillennialism discussed in this book. In fact, in making his claims about the kingdom of Christ the author of the preface to Stephenson’s the Christology of the Old and New Testaments in 1838 claimed that he was “sympathising in those very feelings which had given birth to the popular notions respecting the Second Advent of our Lord.”1”-1 Stephenson’s outlook shared with historicist premillennialism

“Contemporaries recognized the praeterist clement of Maurice’s eschatology. “I think I can give you something more of Maurice’s views about the Millennium and second coming of Christ” wrote his protege, Edward Strachey (1812-1901). “he says … that Christ’s reign upon earth began after the destruction of Jerusalem. All the Book of Revelation Maurice understands to refer to the dispensation that then commenced, and that is still going on.”21” Of course the notion of Christ’s kingship was the central theme of his 1838 Kingdom of Christ published in the same year as Stephenson’s work, and the title of which was drawn from the central conviction of Stephenson that this age was that of the kingdom of Christ in distinction to the kingdom of Clod, although this was not a distinction to which Maurice drew particular attention.

Maurice combined what he had learnt from Stephenson with a range of other influences to produce this wide-ranging theological synthesis. His Kingdom of Christ did not, therefore, deal particularly with the prophetic basis upon which Stephenson had established his own exegesis of Scripture. Rather, the notion of the kingship appeared to have acted as a leaven to the whole of Maurices thought. In particular, it shaped his belief that the starting point of theology must be the inviolable fact of Christ’s Lordship over the world, rather than beginning with the depravity of humanity. “Christ is already king of the world,” argued Maurice, “I cannot believe the devil is in any sense king of this universe. I believe Christ is its king in all senses, and that the devil is tempting us every day and hour to deny Him, and think of himself as the king.*220 This led Maurice to place eschatological emphasis on the search for the hidden existing kingdom. “I am obliged to believe,” he wrote, “that we are living in a restored order; I am sure that restored order will be carried out by the full triumph of God’s living will.”221

To understand the role of preterist “millennialism” in shaping F. D. Maurice contributes to understanding more of his seemingly paradoxical theological views, particularly in helping to reconcile an emphasis in his thought upon divine initiative and revelation on the one hand, and the power of humanity to participate in building a kingdom of righteousness” (Heaven on Earth, pp. 196-200)


Reference code(s): GB 0100 KCLCA K/PP83
Held at: King’s College London College Archives

Title: MAURICE, Professor Frederick Denison (1805-1872)

Administrative/Biographical history: Born at Normanston, near Lowestoft, 1805; Trinity College Cambridge, 1823; Trinity Hall Cambridge, 1825; went to London to read for the bar, 1826; returned to Cambridge and took a first class in the civil law classes, 1826-1827; joint editor of the Metropolitan Quarterly Magazine from 1825; wrote several articles, attacking Bentham and praising writers including Samuel Taylor Coleridge; contributed to the Westminster Review, 1827-1828; contributed to and then edited the newly-launched Athenaeum, 1828; entered Exeter College Oxford, 1830; baptised in Church of England, 1831; took a second class degree, 1831; ordained to the curacy of Bubbenhall, near Leamington, 1834; his novel Eustace Conway, begun c1830 and published in 1834, was praised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, although they never met; became chaplain to Guy’s Hospital, London, 1836; lectured the students on moral philosophy; The Kingdom of Christ stated his fundamental convictions, which were opposed to the tenets of all the chief church parties, 1838; its publication stimulated attacks from the religious press, which were to endure for the rest of his life; editor of a newly founded Educational Magazine, 1839-1841; believed that the school system should not be transferred from the church to the state; elected professor of English literature and history at King’s College London, 1840; the suggestion of Julius Hare in 1843 that Maurice might succeed to the principalship of King’s College and the preachership to Lincoln’s Inn was countered by his belief that his unpopularity with the chief parties in the church would cause divisions within the College; became acquainted with Charles Kingsley, 1844; appointed Boyle lecturer and Warburton lecturer, 1845; became a professor at the newly-founded theological department at King’s College, 1846; elected chaplain of Lincoln’s Inn and resigned the chaplaincy at Guy’s Hospital, 1846; with other professors at King’s College, founded Queen’s College to meet the needs of governesses, 1848; affected by the revolutionary movements of 1848, but believed that Christianity rather than secularist doctrines was the only sound foundation for social reconstruction; spiritual leader of the `Christian Socialists’ and – sometimes reluctantly – presided over many of their practical endeavours, 1848-1852; Maurice was growing in disfavour with the chief religious parties, his Christian Socialism represented as implying the acceptance of various atheistic and immoral revolutionary doctrines; attacked in the Quarterly Review, 1851; the principal of King’s College, Richard William Jelf, solicited an explanation and pointed out the undesirability of his connection with Kingsley (wrongly suspected of contributing to the freethinking Leader), suggesting resignation of his professorships as an alternative to disavowal; Jelf accepted Maurice’s denial of some charges; the council of King’s College appointed a committee of inquiry which reported in Maurice’s favour; the matter was dropped for a time, but the publication of Maurice’s Theological Essays, 1853, brought a new attack; Jelf brought before the council Maurice’s defence of his doctrine that the popular belief in the endlessness of future punishment was superstitious and not sanctioned by the strictest interpretation of the articles; following a long correspondence with Jelf, a council meeting voted that Maurice’s doctrines were dangerous, and that his continued connection with the college would be detrimental, 1853; Maurice was hurt by Jelf’s decision that he should not even finish his course of lectures; he challenged the council to say which of the articles condemned his teaching, but they declined to continue the discussion; on Maurice’s departure he received sympathy from friends and former pupils; his offer to resign the chaplaincy was declined by the benchers of Lincoln’s Inn; resigned the chairmanship of the committee of Queen’s College and his lectureship there but later resumed the position, opposition having been withdrawn, 1856; drew up a scheme for a Working Men’s College, gave lectures in its behalf, and delivered its inaugural address at St Martin’s Hall, 1854; Maurice became principal and was active in teaching and superintending; countered H L Mansel’s Bampton lectures, 1858, with his What is Revelation?, and a controversy ensued; controversially appointed to the chapel of St Peter’s, Vere Street, London, 1860; elected, almost unanimously, to the Knightbridge professorship of ‘casuistry, moral theology, and moral philosophy’ at Cambridge, 1866; retained the Vere Street Chapel until 1869; agreed to serve on the commission upon contagious diseases, 1870; accepted St Edward’s, Cambridge, with no income and little parish work but regular preaching, 1870; also gave professorial lectures and saw undergraduates personally; by 1870 his health was declining, but accepted the Cambridge preachership at Whitehall, 1871; continued to preach, 1871-1872; resigned St Edward’s, 1872; died, 1872; buried at Highgate. Cf Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, chiefly told in his own Letters, edited by his son, Frederick Maurice (1884). Publications: Eustace Conway, or the Brother and Sister, a novel (1834); Subscription no Bondage (1835); The Kingdom of Christ, or Hints to a Quaker respecting the Principle, Constitution, and Ordinances of the Catholic Church (1838 and later editions); Has the Church or the State power to Educate the Nation? (1839), a course of lectures; Reasons for not joining a Party in the Church; a Letter to S Wilberforce (1841); Three Letters to the Rev W Palmer (1842), on the Jerusalem bishopric; Right and Wrong Methods of supporting Protestantism (1843), letter to Lord Ashley; Christmas Day, and other Sermons (1843); The New Statute and Dr Ward (1845); Thoughts on the Rule of Conscientious Subscription (1845); The Epistle to the Hebrews(1846), Warburtonian lectures, with preface on J H Newman’s Theory of DevelopmentLetter on the Attempt to Defeat the Nomination of Dr Hampden (1847); Thoughts on the Duty of a Protestant on the present Oxford Election (1847); The Religions of the World, and their Relations to Christianity (1847), Boyle lectures; The Lord’s Prayer (1848), nine sermons; Queen’s College, London; its Objects and Methods (1848); The Prayer Book, considered especially in reference to the Romish System (1849), nineteen sermons at Lincoln’s Inn; The Church a Family (1850), twelve sermons at Lincoln’s Inn; Queen’s College, London (1850), reply to the Quarterly ReviewThe Old Testament (1851), nineteen sermons at Lincoln’s Inn (second edition as Patriarchs and Law-givers of the Old Testament, 1855); Sermons on the Sabbath Day, on the Character of the Warrior, and on the Interpretation of History (1853); Theological Essays (1853, second edition 1854 with new preface and concluding essay); The word Eternal and the Punishment of the Wicked (1853), letter to Dr Jelf; The Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament (1853), sermons at Lincoln’s Inn; The Doctrine of Sacrifice deduced from the Scriptures (1854); Ecclesiastical History of the First and Second Centuries (1854); The Unity of the New Testament, a Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, and the Epistles of St James, St Jude, St Peter, and St Paul (1854); Learning and Working, six lectures at Willis’s Rooms, with Rome and its Influence on Modern Civilisation, four lectures at Edinburgh (1855); The Epistles of St John: a Series of Lectures on Christian Ethics(1857); The Eucharist (1857), five sermons; The Gospel of St John (1857),
sermons; The Indian Mutiny (1857), five sermons; What is Revelation? (1859), with letters on the Bampton lectures of Dr Mansel; Sequel to the Enquiry, What is Revelation? (1860); Lectures on the Apocalypse (1861); Dialogues on Family Worship (1862); Claims of the Bible and of Science(1863), on the Colenso controversy; The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (1864), eighteen lectures on the Gospel according to St Luke; The Conflict of Good and Evil in our Day(1864), twelve letters to a missionary; The Workman and the Franchise; Chapters from English History on the Representation and Education of the People (1866); Casuistry, Moral Philosophy, and Moral Theology (1866), inaugural lecture at Cambridge; The Commandments considered as Instruments of National Reformation (1866); The Ground and Object of Hope for Mankind (1867), four university sermons; The Conscience, Lectures on Casuistry (1868); Social Morality (1869), lectures at Cambridge; the article Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy for the Encyclopædia Metropolitana was expanded into three volumes published in the second edition of the Encyclopædia, firstly Ancient Philosophy (1850), secondly Philosophy of the First Six Centuries (1853), and thirdly Mediæval Philosophy (1857), continued by Modern Philosophy (1862), with the four published as Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (2 volumes, 1871-1872); Sermons preached in Country Churches (1873); The Friendship of Books, and other Lectures, edited by Thomas Hughes (1874); and a few occasional sermons. A bibliography of Maurice’s writings by G J Gray was published by Messrs Macmillan in 1885.


Scope and content/abstract: Correspondence and papers of and relating to Frederick Denison Maurice, c1830-1972, including a letter from Maurice to his mother, 1833; the manuscript, c1830-c1834, of Maurice’s novel Eustace Conway (published in three volumes, Richard Bentley, London, 1834); ordination certificates and licences to preach, 1834-1871; various pamphlets by Maurice, 1841-1859, including a letter to Samuel Wilberforce on reasons for not joining a party in the church, 1841, one on education, 1847, and a plan for a female college, 1855; five manuscript letters, undated [? 1843], to Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on religious subjects and bereavement and commenting on her Essay on Rationalism (1843); King’s College London correspondence, comprising letters from Maurice, 1841-1853 and undated, pertaining to teaching, students, academic and College matters, including his professorship of Divinity, 1846, and correspondence between Maurice and Richard William Jelf, Principal of King’s College London, to be laid before Council, 1853; printed material including copies of the correspondence between Maurice and Jelf, 1853; manuscript letter from Maurice to ‘My dear Friends’ via Brooke Lambert on leaving King’s, 1853; manuscript letter from J[ulius] C Hare to [Derwent] Coleridge (son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge), 1853, concerning a protest against Maurice’s expulsion from his theological professorship at King’s College; newspapers and news cuttings on Maurice’s dismissal by the Council of King’s College, 1853; a copy of Maurice’s The Doctrine of Sacrifice(1854), inscribed by him; manuscript letter from Charles Kingsley, 1859, soliciting Maurice’s help in finding a curate; engraving of Maurice, 1860; manuscript sermon by Maurice on Proverbs c XII v 20, ‘Deceit is in the heart … ‘, given at St Peter’s, Vere Street, [1860s]; copy of Maurice’s The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (1864), inscribed to his son J F Maurice. A scrapbook contains two letters from Maurice to Miss Duncan, one dated 1868 and thanking her for a gift; printed obituaries of Maurice, including news cuttings; portraits of Maurice, including a photograph; a printed catalogue of his works; a printed leaflet on the Working Men’s College, London, 1872; manuscript notes (not Maurice’s) on sermons preached by him; a printed sermon on Maurice by Charles Kingsley, 1873, for an industrial school for girls in Charlotte Street, Portland Place, London (established by Maurice in 1867); manuscript extracts of letters from T[homas] Hughes (the author?) to Maurice. Other printed material comprises articles and sermons on Maurice’s death in 1872, and items relating to a dinner held at Lincoln’s Inn, 1972, for its centenary. A manuscript letter from Emily Hill to Mrs Shaen, 1872, describes Maurice’s death and a manuscript letter from Charles Kingsley to Maurice’s widow, 1872, thanks her for a Greek testament. Other memorabilia relate to Maurice, his family, and friends.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The scrapbook was given to King’s College by Edwyn R Bevan. Some papers, including Maurice’s letters of orders, were given to King’s College in 1949 by the Rt Rev John Victor Macmillan, Bishop of Guildford (whose wife was the daughter of Major-General Sir Frederick Maurice, grandson of Frederick Denison Maurice). Maurice’s letters to Sara Coleridge and the Hare letter were given to King’s College by the Reverend Anthony D Coleridge in 1951. The letter from Charles Kingsley to Maurice was given to King’s College Library via the Dean by Professor R P Winnington-Ingram in 1972. The Eustace Conway manuscript and other items including letters from Emily Hill to Mrs Shaen and Charles Kingsley to Mrs Maurice, 1872, the letter from Maurice to his mother, 1833, pamphlets by Maurice and other printed material relating to him, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven (1864), The Doctrine of Sacrifice (1854), and other memorabilia of Maurice’s family and friends were given to King’s College Archives in two accessions in 1999 and 2000 by Christopher Graham, a direct descendant of F D Maurice.


Existence and location of copies: Copies of some items, including Maurice’s letters to Sara Coleridge, are stored with the originals.

Related material: King’s College London Archives, KAL/AD6/F52, documents the provenance of some of the papers and includes information such as the supposed date of Maurice’s letters to Sara Coleridge. King’s College London Archives holds the Council minutes of the College (Ref: KA/C/M), which include an extensive account of Maurice’s resignation. In 1854, 55 volumes were presented to King’s College by F D Maurice and in 1926 Major General Sir F Maurice gave to King’s College Library c350 volumes on theology from the library of F D Maurice, which were dispersed through the library’s collection. The bulk of the collection is probably no longer identifiable. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, holds papers of Major John Frederick Maurice (1841-1912), eldest son of Frederick Denison Maurice, and of Major General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice (1871-1951), eldest son of John Frederick Maurice (collection level descriptions are available at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma). British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds correspondence of Maurice and his family with Charles Kingsley, a letter from R W Jelf to Maurice, 1853, a printed sermon of Maurice, 1848 (Ref: Add MS 41297), and correspondence of Maurice with Macmillan and Co, 1842-1871 and undated, and of his wife with Macmillan and Co, 1872-1881 (Ref: Add MSS 55090-1). Lambeth Palace Library holds correspondence with A C Tait, 1847-1868 (Ref: Tait). Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds correspondence with J M F Ludlow, 1847-1872 (Ref: Add 7348) and five folders of family and other correspondence (Ref: Add 7792). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Department of Western Manuscripts, holds letters to Samuel Wilberforce, 1840-1853 (Ref: MSS Wilberforce; Don e 164-65). Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA, holds 36 letters, 1854-1862.

WIKIPEDIA: Early life and education

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.[2] 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.[3]

Michael was “of no little learning” and gave his son his early education.[4] 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.”[2]

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.[5][6]

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.[2]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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”.[9] He was ordained as priest in 1835.[10]

Career and marriages

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 1871–2, the year of his death.[11] Also, Maurice’s novel Eustace Conway, begun c. 1830, was published in 1834 and was praised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.[6]

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.[12][6] Maurice’s public life began during his years at Guy’s.[13]

In June 1837, Maurice met Anna Barton. They became engaged and were married on 7 October 1837.”[2]

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.”[2]


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.[6]

In 1845, Maurice was made both the Boyle lecturer by the Archbishop of York’s nomination and the Warburton lecturer by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s nomination. He held these chairs until 1853.[2]

Maurice’s wife, Anna, died on 25 March 1845, leaving two sons, one of whom was John Frederick Maurice who wrote his father’s biography.[2]

Queen’s College
During his London years, Maurice engaged in two lasting educational initiatives: founding Queen’s College, London in 1848 and the Working Men’s College in 1854.

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’.”[14]

One of the early graduates of Queen’s College who was influenced by Maurice was Matilda Ellen Bishop who became the first Principal of Royal Holloway College.[15]

On 4 July 1849, Maurice remarried, this time to Georgina Hare-Naylor.[2]

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).”[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

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.”[18]

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.[12]

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.[18]

Cambridge Universit

“On 25 October 1866 Maurice was elected to the Knightbridge professorship of casuistry, moral theology, and moral philosophy at [the University of] Cambridge.”[2] 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.[19] Maurice was “warmly received” at Cambridge, where “there were no doubts of his sufficient orthodoxy”.[18]

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,[20] where he had “an opportunity for preaching to an intelligent audience” with few pastoral duties, albeit with no stipend.[2]

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.”[21]

Royal Commissioner

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.[18] “The Commission consisted of twenty-three men, including ten parliamentarians (from both Houses), some clergy, and some eminent scientists (such as T.H. Huxley).”[22]

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.”[23]

Final years

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., 1871–2).[2] 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.[18]

Conflicting opinions of Maurice’s thinking[edit]

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”.[24] 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.”[12]

Hugh Walker in a study of Victorian literature found other examples of conflicting opinions.[25]

  • Charles Kingsley pronounced Maurice “a great and rare thinker”.
  • Aubrey Thomas de Vere compared listening to Maurice to “eating pea-soup with a fork”.
  • Matthew Arnold spoke of Maurice as “always beating the bush with profound emotion, but never starting the hare.”

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”.[26] Maurice held the benefice of the chapel of St. Peter’s, Vere Street from 1860–1869.[18]

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.”[27]

John Henry Newman described Maurice as a man of “great power” and of “great earnestness”. However, Newman found Maurice so “hazy” that he “lost interest in his writings.”[28]

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.”[29]

Social activism

Maurice (right) depicted with Thomas Carlyle in Ford Madox Brown‘s painting Work(detail)

“The demand for political and economic righteousness is one of the principal themes of Maurice’s theology.”[30] Maurice practiced his theology by going “quietly on bearing the chief burthen of some of the most important social movements of the time.”[31]

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.[12] Working men attended Bible classes and meetings led by Maurice whose theme was “moral edification.”[2]

Christian socialism
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.”[6]

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.[2] 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.[32]

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[16]), 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.”[33]

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.”[18] 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.[34]

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.”[18][35]

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.[36]

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.”[37]


1854 portrait of Maurice by Jane Mary Hayward

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.”[38]

Personal legacy
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.”[12]

Maurice’s life comprised “contradictory elements”.[12]

  • Maurice was a man “of peace, yet his life was spent in a series of conflicts”.
  • He was a man “of deep humility, yet so polemical that he often seemed biased”.
  • He was a man “of large charity, yet bitter in his attack upon the religious press of his time”.
  • He was “a loyal churchman who detested the label Broad yet poured out criticism upon the leaders of the Church”.
  • He was a man of “a kindly dignity” combined with “a large sense of humour”.
  • He possessed “an intense capacity for visualizing the unseen”.

Teaching legacy
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.”[12]

Written legacy
Maurice’s written legacy includes “nearly 40 volumes”, and they hold “a permanent place in the history of thought in his time.”[1] His writings are “recognizable as the utterance of a mind profoundly Christian in all its convictions.”[39]

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.”[40]

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.[33] The modern ecumenical movement also incorporated Maurice’s ideas contained in his The Kingdom of Christ.[1]

Decline and revival of interest in legacy
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 (1871–72), will “stand the test of time.”[41] However, “this phase of neglect has passed.”[39]

“Since World War II there has been a revival of interest in Maurice as a theologian.”[33] 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.[42]

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.”[43]

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).”[44]


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.[18]

Maurice’s writings hold “a permanent place in the history of thought in his time.”[1] 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.”[12]

The Unity of the New Testament, 1st American ed in one volume (1879) 

Extensive review of The Unity of the New Testament in The Unitarian Review (June 1876), 581–594.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *